DINGLE, or DINGLE-I-COUCH, an incorporated sea-port, market, and post-town, (formerly a parliamentary borough), and a parish, in the barony of CORKAGUINEY, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 22 miles (W.) from Tralee, and 173 miles (S. W. by W.) from Dublin; containing 6719 inhabitants, of which number, 4327 are in the town. This place was anciently called Dangean-ni-Cushey, or "the castle of Hussey," from a castle built here by an old English family of that name, to whom one of the Earls of Desmond had granted a considerable tract of land in the vicinity. On the rebellion and consequent forfeitures of the Desmond family and its adherents, it was, with divers lands, granted to the Earl of Ormonde, from whom it was purchased by Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry, who had also a castle in this town. After the destruction of the Spaniards at Smerwick, in 1581, the lord-deputy rested here, where many of his men died from sickness, notwithstanding the supplies brought in by the Earl of Ormonde. Soon after this event, Queen Elizabeth granted £300 to the inhabitants to surround the town with walls; but in 1600, the sugan Earl of Desmond having been refused admittance into the Knight of Kerry's castle, revenged the affront by setting fire to the town; the Knight subsequently delivered up the castle to Sir Charles Wilmot, who for some time made it his head-quarters. Dingle is the most westerly town in Ireland; it is situated in lat. 52° 10' 30" and lon. 10° 15' 45", on the northern coast of the bay of the same name, an inlet from which forms the harbour; and may be called the capital of the extensive peninsula which comprises the entire barony of Corkaguiney. This district is generally supposed to have been colonised by the Spaniards, who formerly carried on an extensive fishery off the coast, and traded with the inhabitants, who still retain strong indications of their Spanish origin, and some of the old houses are evidently built in the Spanish fashion. The town occupies a hilly slope, and is surrounded by mountains on all sides except that towards the harbour, which here presents the appearance of a lake; the outlet being concealed by a projecting headland. The streets are irregularly disposed, but as there are more than the usual proportion of respectable slated houses, with gardens attached, the town has from a short distance a very pleasing appearance. The number of houses, in 1831, was 699, since which several others have been erected: the inhabitants are well supplied with excellent water; though not lighted, and but partially paved, it has been much improved within the last 20 years, is generally considered a very healthy place of residence, and has an excellent bathing strand. A news-room is supported by subscription. The manufacture of linen was formerly carried on to a considerable extent, and at one time exported to the amount of £60,000 annually; but since the great improvement of the cotton manufacture, it has gradually declined, and is now nearly extinct: a small quantity of coarse linen is still made in the town and neighbourhood, and sent to Cork. The present export trade, though not considerable, is increasing: it consists chiefly in corn and butter, of which about 10 cargoes, averaging 200 tons each, are annually sent to England, chiefly to Liverpool. The principal imports are iron, coal, salt, and earthenware. An extensive fishery is carried on in the bay and on the coast, in which about 100 boats, averaging six men in each, are exclusively employed; and which also affords employment to upwards of 1000 persons in curing and conveying, the fish to various parts. The greater portion is sent by sea to Cork and Limerick, but a considerable supply is conveyed by land to Tralee and Killarney. The pier, originally built by the corporation, aided by a grant of £1000, in 1765, from the Irish Parliament, was enlarged by the late Fishery Board, and subsequently improved by the customs' department: it has been found beneficial for mercantile and agricultural purposes, as well as the fisheries: vessels of 300 tons' can come up to it. The harbour is well adapted for vessels of moderate burden, but not being discoverable from the sea, is what is nautically termed a "blind" one; it is, however, extremely difficult of access during a strong west wind, and vessels passing by it and running to the eastward are in danger of being lost on Castlemaine bar.
The market is on Saturday, and is well supplied with stock and provisions of every description; there are no fairs, the market being considered a sort of weekly fair for cattle and pigs: about 800 of the latter are sent annually to Cork. The market and court-house were erected by the late Knight of Kerry. There are two flour-mills, and an ale and porter brewery in the town, and branches of the National and Agricultural Banks have been lately established. Here are chief stations of the constabulary police and coast-guard; the latter being the head of the district, extending along the coast from the bay of Dingle to Brandon Head, and comprising the stations of Minard, Dingle, Ventry, Ferriter's-Cove, Ballydavid, and Brandon. Dingle is the residence of the inspecting commander. Queen Elizabeth, in the 28th year of her reign, (1585) signed a warrant for the grant of a charter of incorporation to the inhabitants of the town, with privileges similar to the borough of Drogheda, and with a superiority over the harbours of Smerwick, Ventry, and Ferriter's-Creek , but the charter was not actually granted until the 4th of Jas. I. This charter, which is the only one known, was granted to the "Sovereign, Burgesses, and Commonalty," from which it would appear that the corporation was then in existence, probably under the authority of the warrant of Elizabeth. The town, however, under the name of Dingle-i-couch, is found among those that sent members to Parliament in the 27th of Elizabeth. The style of the corporation is "The Sovereign, Burgesses, and Commonalty, of the Town of Dingle-i-Couch;" it consists of a sovereign, 12 burgesses (including the sovereign), and an indefinite number of freemen. The officers are a recorder, town-clerk, two serjeants-at-mace, weighmaster, and pound-keeper, none of whom are mentioned in the charter. The sovereign is elected from among the burgesses by the corporation at large, annually on the feast of St. James; but by the charter he may be also elected from the freemen. The charter does not contain any provisions as to the number of burgesses, or the mode of their election; but the number has always been limited to 12, who are elected for life by the corporation at large. No right of freedom has been recognised, and freemen are elected by the body corporate, without reference to qualification of residence or otherwise. The recorder is elected for life by the corporation; the town-clerk, formerly elected by the whole body, has of late been appointed by the sovereign alone; by whom also the serjeants-at-mace, weighmaster, and pound-keeper are appointed. The borough sent two representatives to the Irish Parliament until the Union, when it was disfranchised, and the entire compensation of £15,000 paid to Richard Boyle Townshend, Esq., several other claims having been disallowed. His representative, Lieut.-Col. John Townshend, and Lord Ventry are the principal proprietors of the town; the Earl of Cork has a small portion along the sea-shore. The jurisdiction of the corporation comprises a circle of two Irish miles radius by sea and land, measured from the parish church in the town, and includes the parishes of Dingle, Kildrum, Garfinagh, the south part of Cloghane and part of Kinnard; and the admiralty jurisdiction of the sovereign extends as far as an arrow will fly from the harbours of Dingle, Ventry, Smerwick, and Ferriter's-Creek. The sovereign is by the charter the sole justice of the peace within the borough, with power to try all but capital offences; he is also escheator and coroner, and has the exclusive return of writs: but these powers have not been strictly exercised, as the magistrates, coroner, and sheriffs of the county act by courtesy within the corporate limits. The civil court, called "The Tholsel Court of the Borough and Corporation of Dingle," is held every alternate Thursday by the recorder (who is always the sovereign, or deputy sovereign), and the jurisdiction is stated to extend to pleas of any amount: the mesne process is by service or attachment of the goods; but, the latter process is only issued for debts exceeding 40s. late currency. The recorder also holds a court of conscience for demands under 5s. late currency: the process is by summons. Petty sessions are held by the county magistrates every alternate Friday, into which the criminal jurisdiction of the sovereign (who is also, but not ex officio, a magistrate for the county) has merged. Quarter sessions of the peace were in former times regularly held for the borough, when the vaults of Hussey's castle were used as the town gaol. Within the last half century these sessions have rarely been held; the last was in 1824, when a schedule, of tolls and customs was settled by the grand jury. Under the new act, two sessions are to be holden annually here, in April and October. The new bridewell is a small but substantial building, containing two day-rooms, two yards, and six cells. Adjoining the town are some tracts of rocky and indifferent mountain land, called "The Commons," the boundaries of which are not defined; they are occupied indiscriminately by the poorer class of inhabitants, by whom some encroachments have been made in the erection of cabins, and the enclosure of small portions of ground for gardens: these are chiefly on the part called Milltown, where about 30 cabins have been built.
The parish contains 11,779 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, of which about one-fourth consists of coarse mountain pasture, partly reclaimable; there is a portion of bog, but not sufficient to supply the inhabitants with fuel. Sea-weed is extensively used for manure, and the state of agriculture is gradually improving. Good building stone is found in the parish. The principal seat in the vicinity is Burnham House, the property of Lord Ventry, and now the residence of his agent, D. P. Thompson, Esq., who has much improved the house and demesne. Burnham is situated on the S. W. side of the harbour (on the border of the adjoining parish of Kildrum), and commands a fine view of the town and harbour of Dingle, and the range of mountains at the foot of which they lie. The other seats are, the Grove, the former residence of the Knights of Kerry, now of J. Hickson, Esq., situated in a finely wooded demesne immediately adjoining the town; Monaree, of the Hon. R. Mullins; Farinikilla, the modern mansion of P. B. Hussey, Esq.; and Balintagart, of S. Murray Hickson, Esq. The living is an impropriate cure, in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and in the patronage of Lord Ventry, in whom the rectory is impropriate: the tithes amount to £315, payable to the impropriator, who allows the curate £50 per annum (late currency), and has allotted him the vicarial tithes, amounting to £75, of the neighbouring parish, of which his Lordship has the nomination. Lord Ventry also maintains a chaplain, at a salary of £150 per annum, who is resident in the town, and assists in the performance of the clerical duties. The old church, which was dedicated to St. James, is said to have been built by the Spaniards: it was originally a very large structure. A part of it, called St. Mary's Chapel, was kept in repair until the erection of the present parish church, on the site of the ancient edifice, in 1801: the latter was built by a gift of £1100 from the late Board of First Fruits; it is a plain structure, and, having become too small for the increasing congregation, is about to be enlarged and thoroughly repaired; for which purpose a grant of £317. 17. 4. has been recently made by the Ecclesiastical Board. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, which also comprises the parishes of Ventry, Kildrum, Garfinagh, the south part of Cloghane, Kinnard, and the greater part of Minard. The chapel at Dingle is a handsome and spacious modern edifice, and there are chapels at Ventry and Lispole. Adjoining the chapel at Dingle is a convent for nuns of the order of the Presentation, a branch from that of Tralee, established here in 1829; a neat chapel is attached, which contains a finely and well executed altar-piece of the crucifixion.
The parochial school is supported by subscription, and is under the superintendence of the curate. A school for boys, and a school at the convent for girls, have been hitherto chiefly supported by the parish priest; the girls are gratuitously instructed by the nuns, and are also taught plain and ornamental needlework. A new schoolhouse, for the accommodation of about 500 boys, has been lately erected in connexion with the National Board, by whom two-thirds of the expense of its erection have been defrayed, and the remaining third by subscription: the total expense was about £300. Attached to Burnham House is a school for Protestant female orphans, originally established by Mrs. D. P. Thompson at Tralee, during the cholera (in consequence of the number of female orphans left destitute by that awful visitation), and recently removed to Burnham House. They are received on the recommendation of respectable parties, who guarantee the payment of £5 per annum for each towards the expense of their board, the deficiency being made up by the patrons: the number is at present limited to 16. The mistress receives from 25 to 30 guineas per annum, from Mr. Thompson, at whose expense, also, the school-house was fitted up and furnished, and who provides the children's clothing. The gross number of children educated in the parish, including three private schools, is 400, of which about 290 are boys and 110 girls. The late Matthew Moriarty, Esq. left a house in Dingle as a dwelling, rent-free, for eight poor widows; it is kept in repair by his representatives, but the inmates have no pecuniary allowance. Here is a dispensary. In the churchyard is a tomb of the Fitzgerald family, with an inscription in Gothic characters, bearing the date 1504. Of the ancient monastery which formerly existed here, as a cell to the abbey of Killagh, near Castlemaine, there are no remains. At Ballybeg, north-east of the town, is a strongly impregnated mineral spring, of a chalybeo-sulphureous nature, but not much used for medicinal purposes; and along the shore of the bay are several caves, in which are often found the beautiful crystallizations called "Kerry stones." From Connor Hill to the north-east of Dingle, on the road to Castle-Gregory, a splendid view, embracing both sides of the peninsula, is obtained. On one side is seen the bay of Dingle, as far as the island of Valentia, with the great Skellig rock in the distance, and the town and harbour of Dingle lying immediately beneath; and on the other side, Brandon bay and several bold headlands. On each side are mountains, with wide and deep valleys intervening, and numerous tarns or small lakes lying in the hollows of the hills.