Staball Hill (“Stab ‘em all”)

The arrival of the 1600s saw an influx of settlers, mainly from England, but a significant number were protestants fleeing persecution from Catholic France. A powerful family named Swanton, from Norfolk in England, came and succeeded in subjecting much of the area to themselves and even changed the name of the village to ‘Swantons Town’. The last use of this was in the census of 1821.

As always the natives resisted the the dominance of foreigners. In those days before police forces, a garrison of twelve British soldiers attempted to uphold and enforce the law in Ballydehob. Robert Swanton, the leader of the group, and the instigator of quite a few questionable projects earning himself the nickname ‘Black-hearted Bob’, enlisted the help of the garrison to take over Ballydehob. A group of six local men, who were trained to arms, issued a challenge to the garrison and black-hearted Bob and a pitched battle was fought on Staball Hill. The year was 1642.

In 1628, the first Huguenots appeared on the southwest coast, mainly in small boats to escape detection from the French. They bought with them jewelery and other valuables which they traded with the Irish for plots of land. They were entrepreneurs and set up small industries. One of their number Pierre Camier noticed the exploitation of the natives and took side with the Irish defenders on the battle of Staball Hill.

Black-hearted Bob took flight from the fray and Pierre Camier pursued him and caught up with him between the present St. Bridgets Church and the Garda station and there he attacked and killed him. He came back to the fray and shouted “I’ve killed the yellow duck”.

Meanwhile the battle was going well for the Irish band. They killed all the garrison losing just one man of their own. The leader of the band shouted “stab em all” and it is alleged that it is from that moment that Staball Hill got it’s name. The term yellow duck is often applied to coward in France, and to this day the spot where ‘Black-hearted Bob’ was killed is know as ‘laca bhui’ which is the gaelic for ‘yellow duck’.

Let us hasten to add that all the Swanton landlords were not as bad as ‘Black-hearted Bob’!