O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Cork 1646-49)


Introduction:

The silver sixpences and shillings of this issue are more easily obtained at auction than the much less well preserved farthing issues. Modern fakes exist, so do make sure to buy from a reputable source. See below (Coins of Necessity: Cork) for details of the genuine coins.

Protagonists of the Great Rebellion 1641-52

It should, however, be borne in mind that there were at least five opposing parties during the rebellion, which have been described by Carlyle as follows :

  • The Catholics of the Pale demanding freedom of religion
  • The Old Irish Catholics demanding not just religious freedom but also full independence from Protestant England, and unable to agree with the Catholics of the English Pale
  • The Ormonde Royalists of the Episcopalian and mixed creeds, strong for King
    without Covenant
  • Ulster Presbyterians, strong for King and Covenant
  • Michael Jones and the Commonwealth of England (Cromwell’s Parliamentarians), who wanted neither King nor covenant

Leaders from each group switched sides, and some even switched back again in order to progress personal ambition and/or to survive the pendulum of fortune of the English Civil War. Military actions in Ireland were seasonal and individual campaigns ebbed and flowed in sych with happenings in England and Scotland – hence the term War of the Three Kingdoms.

Cork in 1641

From 1641, the English had put into action a scorched earth policy to cripple the insurgents: starvation and famine were recognised throughout Europe as a brutally effective stratagem of bringing rebels to heel.

  • By September 1642 England had descended into Civil War.
  • The leaders of the Crown forces in Ireland realised, too late, that their tactic of scorched-earth was ultimately self-destructive. British supply ships that had previously succoured the soldiers of the Crown armies were needed back home, and the supply of munitions and victuals from Britain fell to a trickle.
  • Agriculture in many regions of Ireland had been devastated, so there was little relief from that quarter.
  • Essentially, the Crown army in Ireland now found themselves in the same boat as the Irish Insurgents.
  • The shortage of food invariably led to outbreaks of deadly disease.

Murrough O’Brien, the Baron of Inchiquin and leader of the Munster Protestant forces described his condition as desperate in a letter to Parliament in May 1643. In reality, his forces seem to have been in a better shape than those of the other regions of Ireland, having by then taken control of most of the towns of the province of Munster. Killamock, a central Munster town located almost exactly halfway between the chief Munster Cities of Limerick and Cork, was Inchiquin’s next target.

  • The capture of this town would allow the Protestant army to expand their quarters and increase their food supply.
  • In 1644, the English garrison of Cork, under Lord Inchiquin, unhappy with the Royalist truce with the Irish Confederates, declared for the English Parliament, who were to remain hostile to Irish Catholic forces throughout the 1640s.
1595 City of Cork (map).jpg

By the 17th C, the City of Cork was a well defended place – with high walls, watch towers and drawbridges guarding all entrances to the town. Map: 1595, City of Cork (map, Pacata Hibernica)

Coins of Necessity: Cork

According to Nelson this coinage was struck during the stay of Murrough O’Brien, 6th Baron & Lord Inchiquin (1618-1674), in May 1647. This infamous O’Brien leader was also known as Murrough of the Burnings – testimony to his ‘scorched earth’ policies in Munster and beyond. The City of Cork, in the 1640s was a strongly fortified town surrounded by waterways and could be supplied by sea. It was a safe haven for refugees from its surrounding rural hinterland.

Like the Lord Justices’ Money in Dublin (1642) and the Ormonde Money of 1643/44, the emergency issues of Cork were struck from pieces of silver plate. Unlike Dublin, they also produced smaller denominations from base metals.

Cork, Octagonal Silver Shilling, 4.41g, obv. CORK 1647 in two lines, rev. XII (DF. 328; S. 6561), very fine, very rare

Cork, Octagonal Silver Shilling, 4.41g, obv. CORK 1647 in two lines, rev. XII (DF. 328; S. 6561), very fine, very rare

Cities of Refuge, Cork, Sixpence, 2.46g., CORK 1647 in two lines, rev. VI in circle of pellets (S.6561A), weakly struck in one quarter as is the often the case for this emergency issue, good very fine, very rare

Cities of Refuge, Cork, Sixpence, 2.46g., CORK 1647 in two lines, rev. VI in circle of pellets (S.6561A), weakly struck in one quarter as is the often the case for this emergency issue, good very fine, very rare

Cities of Refuge'.. Struck 1645-1647. Æ Farthing (18mm - 2.65 g). CORK within beaded border / Turreted castle within beaded border. D&F 331; SCBC 6562A. Near Fine, rough surfaces. Very Rare

Cities of Refuge. Struck 1645-1647. Æ Farthing (18mm – 2.65 g). CORK within beaded border / Turreted castle within beaded border. D&F 331; SCBC 6562A. Near Fine, rough surfaces. Very Rare

Cities of Refuge'. 1642-1649. Æ Farthing (19mm, 4.82 g, 9h). Cork issue. Struck 1645-1647. CORK within circle of pellets / Castle within circle of pellets. SCBC 6562A. Fine, rough green and brown patina. Very rare

Cities of Refuge’. 1642-1649. Æ Farthing (19mm, 4.82 g, 9h). Cork issue. Struck 1645-1647. CORK within circle of pellets / Castle within circle of pellets. SCBC 6562A. Fine, rough green and brown patina. Very rare

Cities of Refuge, Cork, Farthing, 4.70g, struck on heavy rectangular flan, cork within circle of pellets, rev. castle within circle of pellets (D.F. 331; S.6562A), good detail for this coinage, good fine

Cities of Refuge, Cork, Farthing, 4.70g, struck on heavy rectangular flan, cork within circle of pellets, rev. castle within circle of pellets (D.F. 331; S.6562A), good detail for this coinage, good fine

Even after the Great Rebellion was over and Cromwell’s forces finally subjugated Ireland there was a very uneasy peace and, when Cromwell’s son resigned from the Commonwealth, Charles II was invited back to reign as King, albeit with a very strict covenant. With rumours rife of him being a secret Catholic and his likely successor James II being ‘outed’ as a practising Catholic, Ireland became engulfed in a sectarian conflict known as the Williamite Wars – an extension of a greater, European War – of which, Ireland was the last battlefield. Once again, Cork became a Protestant City of Refuge in the south of Ireland and, once again, the citizens of Cork were forced to issue ’emergency coinages’ in order to facilitate local commerce. Typically, these pieces comprise 17th C Irish traders tokens countermarked with “Corke” on the obverse.

Cork. Farthing. Lion's head and CORKE within a beaded oval countermarked on a Brass Cork Penny Token of William Ballard (1677). S.6562B. C/m weakly applied at bottom and at left. Crude Fine.

Cities of Refuge, Cork. Farthing. Lion’s head and CORKE within a beaded oval countermarked on a Brass Cork Penny Token of William Ballard (1677). S.6562B. Countermark weakly applied at bottom and at left. Crude, but considered Fine for this issue.

Modern Forgeries

These are rare coins and seldom seen at auction. Sadly, they have been subject to forgery during the 20th C and collectors need to be very careful when buying coins from an unreliable source, i.e. from someone other than a reputable dealer or established auction house.

Fake Cities of Refuge over-strike on  Elizabeth I. 1558-1603. AR Shilling Sixth Issue

Fake CORKE (Cities of Refuge) over-strike on a genuine Elizabeth I donor coin – 1558-1603 silver shilling (sixth issue). Caveat emptor.


Other Coins in this Series:

  • 1646-47 Coinage of the Southern Cities of Refuge
    • Bandon (Bandon Bridge)
      • Farthing (three castles)
    • Cork
      • Shilling (octagonal)
      • Sixpence (octagonal)
      • Farthing (rectangular, Cork in double circle)
      • Farthing (rectangular, Cork in circle of pellets)
      • Cork countermarked on a copper coin
    • Kinsale
      • Farthing (chequered shield)
        • Pellet between (and after) KS within a circle of pellets / Rev: Shield
        • Similar, but dotted circle + heavier flan
    • Youghal
      • Square Farthing (Bird above YT, facing right / Rev: ship)
        • Pellet between KS and date below / Rev: galley in double circle
        • Similar but no date / Rev: galley in double dotted circle
      • Square Farthing (Bird above YT, facing left / Rev: ship)
        • No Pellet between YT
      • Square Farthing (No Bird, YT / Rev: ship)
        • Pellet between KS and date below / Rev: galley in double circle
      • Square Farthing (Branch above YT / Rev: ship)
        • Pellet between YT, within 2 pellet circles / Ship in circle of triangular pellets
      • Round Farthing (YT / fish or whale?)
        • Pellet between YT / Fish in dotted circle

Further Reading:

    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Bandon 1646-49)
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Cork 1646-49)
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Kinsale 1646-49)
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Youghal 1646-49)
      • Timeline 1647 – The Great Rebellion in Ireland & Civil War in England
      • Timeline 1648 – The Great Rebellion in Ireland & Civil War in England
      • Timeline 1649 – The Great Rebellion in Ireland & Civil War in England
  • Charles I Executed / The ‘Interregnum’ Begins
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: The Posthumous Ormonde Money of 1649
      • Timeline 1650 – The English Civil War is extended to Ireland
      • Timeline 1651 – The Cromwellian Campaign in Ireland
      • Timeline 1652 – The Cromwellian Campaign in Ireland
    • Blog Post: Monetary Crisis (1652), as Cromwell’s Irish Council limits the amount of foreign coin that can be used in a single transaction
    • Blog Post: Monetary Crisis (1652), as Cromwell’s Irish Council complains about “counterfeit and clipped English money and base Peru pieces in Ireland”
    • Blog Post – Selected Biographies of the Great Irish Rebellion & English Civil War
    • Blog Post – Economic Ruin, Land Confiscation, Transportation & More Adventurers
      • Famine & Disease in Ireland (25% of the population die)
      • Act of Settlement
      • The Civil Survey & the Down Survey
      • Trans-Plantation to Connacht, or Transportation to the West Indies

2 thoughts on “O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Cork 1646-49)

  1. Hello,
    I have been following your posts for a while, but I must ask, where do you source all the images? Are they from auctions, if so, how do you get the copyright for that. Would it be possible for you to link the image source in future posts?
    Thanks,
    Mark

    Like

    • Hi Mark,
      I have been accumulating digital images of Irish coins since the mid-1990s. They come from a variety of sources, e.g. people sending me photo’s and photo’s I have copied from social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and news feeds (Reddit). I have also (periodically) canvassed collectors to (anonymously) send me photo’s of their coins in order to create lists of varieties.

      I have thousands of digital images that I have yet to identify properly, i.e. from ongoing research projects. For example, I had started a list of gunmoney variations but, in the interim, two different authors published books on the topic. I am currently working on “illustrated lists” of the variations of the Hiberno-Norse coinages – hence the constant updates to this page.

      Some are probably from auctions (incl. eBay) but its difficult to tell from which ones. I have compiled price guides for modern coins but prices vary so much for hammered, I haven’t bothered. I had toyed with the idea of compiling ‘prices realised’ from auctions but this has already been done by the auctions themselves and some third party ‘consolidators’ and grading companies. Some charge a fee for access.
      – My website is free of charge and open to all
      – I do not use cookies
      – I do not ask subscribers to give personal details (name, email, etc)
      – I do ‘moderate’ replies, since 99% of them are spam with links to non-numismatic content

      My website is primarily to inform and educate people about Irish coins, their varieties and their history. The idea is to get people interested in Irish coins and talking about Irish coins… and, hopefully, collecting Irish coins.

      Best regards,
      James

      Like

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