Live the History that Shaped Us

“But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.”

– Benjamin Disraeli

A maritime gateway to Ireland’s Ancient East, Youghal is much-loved medieval town in East Cork, Ireland. With strong walls to protect it and control trade, the town is a reminder of our heritage: a heritage brought to life in the magnificent Youghal Clock Gate Tower.

With its root in the 1500s, the tower is 24 metres high, with four storeys and a fifth floor viewing panel treating you to a magnificent 360-degree view over Youghal Bay and County Waterford.

Playing many roles in the town over the years, from centre of trade to local gaol, the tower is an icon of changing times. Our Youghal Clock Gate Tower Tour lets you explore it all in a fascinating, interactive and personal way.

Through story, costume, audio visual displays, exhibits and important historical artefacts, you’ll travel through the Clock Gate Tower’s different life-stages:

The Clock
Gate and

From 1400 to the early 1700s, Youghal was a busy harbour town that traded with France, Amsterdam, Norway, Germany, Portugal and Spain. It was also an important military post protecting all loyal to the crown.

Our tour immerses you into the bustling trade of days long gone – treating your senses to colours, textures, visuals and sounds that place you right in the moment. Touch the rich silks from the East, smell the aromatic herbs, feel the roughness of ancient oak and cold earthenware. Hear the drumming of the nightwatchman, calling his guards to patrol, and the clattering of horses’ hooves across the cobbles.

The Clock
Gate and its

In the 18th Century the tower entered its dark days as a Gaol. As wealthy trade grew, crime was common and the punishment harsh – for even the pettiest of crimes. The Tower’s Gaol – known as the Clock Gate – opened in 1777, and was used to detain “vagrants, criminals, offenders, and persons charged with small offences.” Life was rough and times were tough for many – culminating in the 1798 Rebellion, involving over 5000 Irish troops. Our tour gives you a privileged encounter with this grim part of history: the cold, dank misery of tiny cells, the cries of hungry people, the fascinating written accounts of the gaoler.

The Clock Gate

and Family

Places are about people, and people tell the best stories. That’s why we give you the rare opportunity to share the incredibly moving personal anecdotes of the McGrath family and their years growing up in the tower in the 1940s. A Family that has lived to the rhythm of our great clock.

At a time when the fire of World War 1 was sweeping across Europe, John McGrath and his family moved into Clock Gate. His job was to wind the clock and ring the bell to sound the alarm. In time this job was passed down through the family – and John’s grandson, also called John, was born in the tower. As part of your tour, John will bring you into his home to sit at his table and hear his tales of the love, fear, poverty, humour, hope and triumph that defined life in the Clock Gate.

“My father recalls a man often standing beneath the arch singing at the top of his voice. This was perfect entertainment for dwellers of the Clock Gate, in the absence of the television.

This clock has ticked through the generations of the McGrath family. The building stands as a reminder of Youghal’s heritage and the heritage of my family.”

– Patricia McGrath

A Story

in Time

1400Youghal is the sixth largest port in Ireland with extensive shipping trade.
1400Site of the now tower is occupied by building called Trinity Gate, controlling access to the town.
1563-1616Melchoir Bluett leases the building to store his goods.
1618A sun dial is made for the tower which houses a prison in the North Gate.
1619Peter Wingrove is commissioned to make a clock for the tower.
1691James Lyons paid 30 shillings to keep clock and bell in order.
1773Deterioration of town wall and demolition of gates/ towers.
1777Designed by William Meade, the new Clock Gate Tower is opened, housing a gaol and the building’s original clock and bell – an important part of town life.
1850sFlorence McCarthy is ‘Caretaker of the Town Clock’. The dials of the clock are lit for the first
time, by oil and then gas.
1915-59John McGrath and his son Christy are in charge of winding the clock and ringing the bell.
1950sThe clock dials are lit by electricity.