The Bandon – Toronto connections

Posted on: 7th July, 2014

Category: The History Corner

Contributor: Samuel Kingston

Samuel Kingston studied history at NUI Galway and has a keen interest in oral and local history. He is also interested in the Irish historical experience abroad especially in Canada and South America. The aim of this column is to tell the stories of West Cork people both famous and forgotten who, through their lives at home or abroad, made an impact on their time.

IMAGES ABOVE: (l)William Warren Baldwin (r) Robert Baldwin Sullivan.

Toronto is the largest city in Canada, in fact it’s one of the largest cities in North America. It’s a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural city. In the 1800s its development was greatly influenced by the Irish and three men who played an important role in the development of the city were both born in the Bandon area.

Robert Baldwin Sullivan was born in Bandon in 1802. He came to York, as Toronto was then known, with his family in 1819. In 1834, York became a city and renamed Toronto. He studied law and was called to the bar in 1828. In 1835, he was elected to the council and was chosen to be mayor. He was the second mayor of the new city. He added a business like atmosphere to council with the official ‘robes of office’. The council worked on matters like tax rates, grants and the removal of ‘filth and nuisances from the city streets’. On May 6, 1835, council’s committee on draining and paving approved construction of the city’s first main sewer on King Street into which all drains and sewers were to be connected. At the time, Canada was divided into Lower and Upper and Baldwin Sullivan supported the Union of the two which duly occurred in July 1840. He served briefly as the first Commissioner of Crown Lands for the united province. He died in 1853.

His uncle, William Warren Baldwin (born 1775) also born in Cork (probably Bandon), made a big impact on Toronto and Canada in general. He was a keen advocate of ‘Responsible Government’ for Canada. At a more local level, he was heavily involved in many institutions in York (Toronto). He was President of the York Board of Health established to contain the 1832 Cholera epidemic, plus he was involved in Home District Saving Bank, the Mechanics Institute and the House of Refuge and Industry.

William Warren Baldwin’s son Robert continued his father’s good work. Together with his political partner Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, he led the first responsible ministry in Canada. ‘Responsible Government’ marked the country’s democratic independence, without a revolution, although not without violence. This achievement also included the introduction of municipal government, the introduction of a modern legal system and the Canadian Jury system, and the abolishing of imprisonment for debt. Baldwin is also noted for resisting a decades-long tradition of Orange Order terrorism of political reform in the colony that went so far as to burn the Parliament buildings in Montreal in 1849.

Poster for O'Keefe's signature beer Old Vienna

Poster for O’Keefe’s signature beer Old Vienna

The next Bandon man to impact Toronto arrived in the city in 1834, the year before our first Bandonian was made mayor. This man was Eugene O’Keefe; he was six years old when he arrived. In 1861, he was one of the purchasers of Toronto’s Victoria Brewery, at the corner of Victoria and Gould Streets, with had an annual production of 1,000 barrels. Although he had no knowledge of the brewing industry, his dedicated work ethic and forward thinking saw the brewery grow to be one of the biggest in Canada. In 1891, he incorporated it as O’Keefe Brewery Company of Toronto Limited. The brewery would expand to a capacity of 500,000 barrels. In January of 1909, O’Keefe received a prestigious honour when the Vatican named him a Private Chamberlain of the Pope, reportedly the first Canadian to receive this honour.  The premature death in 1911 of his only son, Eugene Bailey, effectively ended O’Keefe’s interest in his brewery’s long-term future. He sold his shares to his partners. The company would evolve to be part of Carling O’Keefe Breweries. Which in turn would merge with Molson Breweries Canada. Molson would later merge with Coors to become Molson Coors Brewing Company.

The O’Keefe name is well established in Toronto due to his many charitable donations. The sizeable proceeds were applied to O’Keefe’s favourite charities, such as Peter’s Pence, St Michael’s Hospital, and the repair of the rectory of St Michael’s Cathedral, of which he was a member. O’Keefe, who rarely did anything on a small scale, had already set out to erect new Catholic churches. For example, in 1907 he built St Monica’s Church on Broadway Avenue as a memorial to his wife. Four years later he purchased West Presbyterian Church on Denison Avenue and turned it over to immigrant Poles, who renamed it St Stanislaus Kostka Church. His most impressive and lasting legacy is St Augustine’s Seminary which opened in August 1913. He also built Toronto’s first low-income housing development.

As a tribute, his name was used on the performing arts centre, the O’Keefe Centre, when it was built in 1960. In 1996, the name was changed to the Hummingbird Centre. In 2007 the name was changed to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. His former mansion (O’Keefe House), located across from the former O’Keefe Brewery serves as a residence for students at Ryerson University and the brewery itself is now the Image Arts faculty building.

By the time of his death in 1913, he had become one of Canada’s most successful brewers and one of Toronto’s most prosperous citizens—no mean feat in an era when Toronto was still predominantly Protestant. It is only recently that people have rediscovered O’Keefe and the vital role the man played in shaping the city during the Victorian period.

O’Keefe and the Baldwin family left Bandon for different reasons yet both left a strong, identifiable mark on their new home. A city that today prospers thanks to the groundwork of people like O’Keefe and the Baldwins.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

Did you know..... ... See MoreSee Less

Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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