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19 Oct 2017

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 19 October 2017

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917a. Advertisement for Dunn’s Tannery, Watercourse Road, late nineteenth century


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 19 October 2017

The Wheels of 1917: Dunn’s Tannery of Blackpool

    One hundred years ago this week, a handover of industry occurred. Alderman R H Beamish acquired Dunn’s Tannery in Blackpool. He intended not only to revive the leather manufacture there, but to develop and extend it. At one time the tanning industry give employment to hundreds of hands in Cork, and the leather manufactured not only acquired a high reputation through Ireland, but found its entry into Great Britain and the Continent.

   In 1917 thousands of cattle were killed for their hides in the city and the districts surrounding it. The hides were exported, while tons upon tons of leather were imported. Critics, quoted in the Cork Examiner in 1917, highlighted that there were no economic advantages in sending away hides to be tanned and bringing them back again to be manufactured into boots and shoes, or what was happening to a large extent, importing the boots and shoes. They expressed that was no adequate reason why Cork should not turn out material for all classes of footwear.

   Eighty-two years previously in 1835, records of industrial enterprises reveal that there were possibly forty-six tan yards in various parts of the city, the most extensive being located in the North Gate Bridge vicinity where there were 615 tanners in constant employment. The average number of hides tanned annually amounted to 110,000 and from 1835 onwards tanners found it necessary to import hides from as far afield as Montevideo and Gibraltar in order to supplement local supplies.

  Richard Griffith’s Valuation of land in 1852 lists twenty-one tanneries in the Blackpool area. However, by the late nineteenth century, owing to a series of causes, this once flourishing industry declined, and many of the old tanneries were closed down. By the turn of the twentieth century only a handful of tanneries remained in production.

  The principal tannery in nineteenth and early twentieth century Cork was Dunn’s at 26 and 38-40 Watercourse Road. It had been founded in 1808 by Patrick Dunn at Clarence Street (now Gerald Griffin Street) and moved to above in 1810. Another one of the most extensive tanyards in Cork belonged to Daniel, fourth son of Jeremiah Murphy. A partnership formed with the firm of Dunn Brothers who amalgamated their business and what emerged became the largest tanning concern in the country at the time.

   At the 1883 Cork Exhibition, the newspaper coverage on the exhibits refers to Dunn’s leather butts as long having been the standard article of sole leather in the South of Ireland. All the hides used by Messrs Dunn were obtained from the River Plate in South America, where the thickest hides in the world were produced. Messrs Dunn rounded the greater portion of their hides, i.e. they cut off the inferior portions, which when tanned were called offal, and when only limed and dried were called glue pieces, and these were used by paper manufacturers in sizing their paper.

   In 1892, in a guide by authors Stratten and Stratten of the leading mercantile houses and commercial enterprises, they described the Dunn Tannery in Watercourse Road as a “large and well-constructed hollow square covering about two acres. The centre formed the tan pits, around which group the various drying sheds workshops, stores, leather warehouses and offices. The various works were laid out on a very extensive scale and were complete with the latest machinery of the day”. The Dunn Brothers’ great speciality were still sole leather in butts and bends. They purchased exclusively the best South American hides, and employed only the most effective and highly-reputed astringents, such as bark and valonia. Stratten and Stratten remarked: “The firm has a substantial right to the high reputation and eminent position it has so long enjoyed in the commerce and industry of the country”.

    Messrs Dunn Brothers continued to turn out a class of leather for which there was a good demand, but their business closed down some time before the death of Mr Christopher J Dunn in November 1916. Christopher Dunn had been identified with the commercial and industrial life of Cork for very many years and was chiefly concerned in the tanning business. He was a director of the Cork Steam Packet Company, and from time to time acted on the public boards of the city. He was educated at Clongowes, was President at one time of the Cork Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping, President of the Literary and Scientific Society, was elected Governor of the Munster Institute in 1907, and was Vice-chairman of the machinery section of the Cork International Exhibition of 1902. He was a member of the City Magisterial Bench, the Cork Butter Market Trustees, the directorate of the Cork Gas Company, and Messrs. Eustace and Co. He was also High Sheriff of Cork at one time, and a member of the Governing Body of the University College since 1910. He was the author of a work entitled Machinery and the Masses and on many occasions contributed papers and essays on industrial matters. As a mark of respect to his memory the flags in the harbour were hung at half-mast.

   Next historical walking tour with Kieran: From Our Lady’s Hospital to Atkin’s Hall, the story of the Cork Lunatic Asylum (new tour), Saturday 21 October, meet at gates of former Our Lady’s Hospital, Lee Road, 12noon, free.



917a. Advertisement for Dunn’s Tannery, Watercourse Road, late nineteenth century (source: Cork City Library).

917b. Section of Ordnance Survey Map of Watercourse Road, c.1900 showing the Dunn’s Tannery and Watercourse Distillery; some of these which was excavated during the construction of the Blackpool Bypass. For more information check out the edited book in Cork City Library, Old Blackpool, A Historic Cork Suburb (2006) by M Hurley, G Johnson & C Brett.


917b. Section of Ordnance Survey Map of Watercourse Road, c.1900 showing the Dunn’s Tannery and Watercourse Distillery


17 Oct 2017

Storm Ophelia Update, 17 October 2017

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PRESS RELEASE, 09.30 on 17 October 2017

Cork City Council crews were active yesterday evening and before nightfall to deal with the fallout from Storm Ophelia.

Council crews were out again early this morning clearing trees and other debris. Key traffic arteries have been cleared and are open to traffic again.

Power outages are continuing to pose a challenge in the days ahead. This situation will be kept under review.
The City Council will today be assessing possible infrastructural damage to public buildings.

Public parks will be closed in cases where there have been instances of fallen trees.
Normal public services have resumed today at City Hall.

Cork City Council is requesting the public to continue to remain vigilant in relation to fallen trees, storm debris and possible structural damage and to bear with us over the coming days as we continue to deal with the fallout from Storm Ophelia.
Cork City Council (021) 496 6222, 492 4000.

15 Oct 2017

Status Red Weather Warning, 15 October 2017

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October 15 2017
Status Red Weather Warning

Cork City Council’s Severe Weather Alert Team met this morning to review operations in light of the red light weather alert which could cause severe winds and storm in the city tomorrow.

Cork City Council emergency crews are on standby. Cork City Council’s Crisis Management Team is also due to meet this afternoon.

Cork City Hall is advising citizens to remain vigilant and to keep themselves updated  in regard to the evolving weather situation.

At present, data suggests that Morrison’s Island and South Terrace are the areas of the city most likely to be effected by any flooding tomorrow afternoon.

The public will be updated via the Corkcitynow mobile and email messaging service ( which can be signed up to at www.corkcitynow.ie , Cork City Council’s Twitter account which also be viewed on the  www.corkcity.ie  homepage and via regular radio updates.

12 Oct 2017

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 12 October 2017

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916a. View of Our Lady's Hospital from County Hall, present day


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 12 October 2017

Walking Tour of Our Lady’s Hospital Complex


    Etched into the northern skyline overlooking the Lee Fields is Ireland’s longest and one of its most atmospheric buildings. The old Cork Lunatic Asylum was built in Victorian times. As part of the last set of public free historical walking tours for this season and in association with the owners of Atkins Hall, I have a new walking tour telling the story of the old Asylum and what emerged in time as Our Lady’s Hospital complex (Saturday 21 October, 12noon, meet at main gate on Lee Road). The complex closed in the late 1980s and in recent years, parts of the main grey building have now been redeveloped into apartment units.

     The first asylum for what contemporary Cork society deemed “insane” in Cork was founded under the Irish Gaol Act of 1787/8. The Cork Asylum was the second of its kind to be established in Ireland and was to be part of the South Infirmary on Blackrock Road. The Cork Asylum in the late 1840s lacked finance and space to develop a proper institution. A Committee of the Grand Jury of Cork County (leading landlords and magistrates) examined the existing asylum and began a verbal campaign for its replacement. In 1845, a Westminster Act was enacted to create a District Asylum in Cork for the City and County of Cork.

   In April 1846, a Board of Governors of the Asylum at the South Infirmary purchased and commenced work at a new site in Shanakiel. The Board set up a competition of tender for an architectural design. Mr William Atkins was appointed, with Mr Alex Deane as builder. Work commenced in mid-1848.

   The asylum was located on a commanding location on a steep hill, overlooking the River Lee. The building was three floors high and was divided into four distinct blocks. Three blocks were located at the front and were designed to contain the apartments for patients, along with the residences for the physicians, matron and other officials of the Asylum. The building materials were reddish sandstone rubble, obtained near the site, and grey limestone quarried from sites from the opposite site of the River Lee. Internal fittings such as fireplaces were said to be of marble supplied also from the southside of the city. The fourth building block was located at the rear of the central block, and comprised the kitchen, laundry, workshops, bakehouse, boiler house and other rooms of an office nature. Heating was steam generated in a furnace house.

   The new Asylum was named Eglinton Lunatic Asylum after the Earl of Eglington, and was opened in 1852. The principal types of people admitted which made up the highest number comprised housewives, labouring classes, servants, and unemployed. Forty-two forms of “lunacy” were identified from causes such as mental anxiety, grief, epilepsy, death, emigration to “religious insanity”, nervous depression, want of employment and desertion of husband or wife.

   Plans for an extension to Eglington Asylum were put together in the 1870s. The aim was to accommodate over 1,300 patients. The three blocks were connected into a single building. In 1895, the Cork Asylum described as one of the most modern asylums in Western Europe. Conditions in the institution were deemed good by critics. Making up staff, there were 72 men and 56 women. Lectures were given to staff by lecturers of mental illness at Queen’s University College Cork now University College Cork. A Church of Ireland chapel was completed in November 1885 with William Hill as architect. In 1898, a Roman Catholic Church was designed by Hill and St Kevin’s Asylum was also constructed. In 1899, a new committee of management for the Asylum was established under the newly formed Cork County Council. In 1926, the Asylum became known as Cork District Mental Hospital. In 1952, The Hospital’s name was changed to Our Lady’s Psychiatric Hospital.

    Like everyone else on Cork’s Lee Fields last July, I watched with great sadness the burning of the old St Kevin’s Asylum (built c.1895-1899) and had that deep sense of shock and loss, not just at one level but across a number of levels – Yes – St Kevin’s Asylum had a harrowing past but it’s future should not have played out this way.

   Chatting to Corkonians they expressed their sadness and frustration that a part of Cork’s social history was burning and being destroyed; they were sad to see a burnt scar of a landmark emerging on the cityscape in one of the city’s scenic spots, dismayed that it was a potential arson attack out resulting out of someone’s boredom, frustrated that campaigns over the years by resident community groups and public representatives did not gauge muster with the owners of the site, sad that the owners of the site, the HSE, did not get to pursuing a plan for the site (despite having completed some really tasteful renewal works in the old Cork workhouse at St Finbarr’s Hospital), upset for the memory and almost forgotten memory of former patients and former staff members, frustrated that in the national context, there are many other old asylum buildings that are decaying and not being utilised for a myriad of potential uses. The new walking tout is an attempt to re-awaken interest in the heritage of the site and revalorize its importance to the city.


Next historical walking tour with Kieran: From Our Lady’s Hospital to Atkin’s Hall, the story of the Cork Lunatic Asylum (new tour), Saturday 21 October, meet at gates of former Our Lady’s Hospital, Lee Road, 12noon, free.



916a. View of Our Lady’s Hospital from top of County Hall, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

916b. Burning of Our Lady’s Hospital, 4 July 2017 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)


916b. Burning of Our Lady’s Hospital, 4 July 2017

11 Oct 2017

Daly’s Bridge/ Shakey Bridge, Urgent Concerns

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Cork’s iconic Shakey Bridge may be one ‘shake’ from collapse

There have been calls for an urgent health-and-safety audit of Cork’s iconic Shakey Bridge amid fears it could be one shake from collapse, writes Eoin English.

Historian and city councillor Kieran McCarthy said it was shocking to see one of the city’s best-known landmarks and tourist attractions — the city’s only suspension bridge, famous for its wobble — decay to such a dangerous state“.

Urgent action is required before we have to make the sad call to close it off to the public completely,” he said. “That would be a shame.”

As talks continue over the city’s 2019 budget, he plans to ask the city council’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, to urgently identify and set aside funding to repair the bridge which was officially opened 90 years ago.

Daly’s Bridge is a 48m-span wrought-iron suspension pedestrian bridge which was built by a London-based company over the northern channel of the River Lee in 1927 to a design by former Cork City architect Stephen Farrington.

Its construction at the site of an ancient ferry crossing was funded by butter merchant John Daly, who was asked to provide money to help build a bridge to facilitate increased pedestrian traffic coming from the Sunday’s Well area of the city to cross the river to the Mardyke.

It was officially opened in April 1927 and quickly became known locally as the Shakey Bridge, because of the movement or wobble in its wooden slat platform caused as pedestrians cross.

This quirky feature made it one of the city’s must-see tourist attractions.

It is in constant use by people visiting Fitzgerald’s Park and by students crossing from the northside of the city to the Mardyke to access UCC’s sports facilities, its Western Gateway building, and its main campus.

Rust on Daly’s Bridge means the ironwork at key joints crumbles at a touch.

An inspection report over five years ago highlighted corrosion to its iron latticework, prompting calls for repairs. Those calls have been repeated over the years, but funding was never secured.

The corrosion has steadily worsened and the rust has eaten through several bars on the bridge’s railings, exposing dangerous gaps. The ironwork at key joints crumbles to the touch.

Mr McCarthy said it has now become a serious health-and-safety issue.

“Cork has many bridges, but Daly’s Bridge is celebrated in the city’s historical life. People have a strong affection for it,” said the Independent councillor.

“It’s very disappointing to see how it’s been left to decay like this. I wouldn’t like to see the bridge closed, but from a safety perspective, we may have no option.”

He said UCC has invested millions in developing its Mardyke sports campus, and that the city council has invested millions in revamping nearby Fitzgerald’s Park and revitalising the Mardyke area.

“As the economy picks up, and as funding becomes available, we must prioritise investment in Daly’s Bridge,” said Mr McCarthy. “It would be a terrible shame if the bridge was closed off for lack of investment.”

Last week, city officials unveiled major restoration and repair plans for St Patrick’s Bridge, which will be funded by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, and they said they are trying to identify funding streams to carry out the necessary repairs to Daly’s Bridge.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner

11 Oct 2017

Cork Butter Exchange, Future Challenges

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Press Release

    There have been tentative discussions with Failte Ireland to develop a heritage unit at the old Butter Exchange site. But nothing has been discussed in a concrete way. The building needs serious investment to re-roof it (e2-3m). It has been a very frustrating slow process in putting a plan to raise the money and move forward with the site. From walking tours in the area of Shandon, disappointment is consistently expressed by groups such as the Shandon Area Renewal Association, Tidy Towns, Shandon Street Festival and managers of the Firkin Crane, Butter Market Museum and St Anne’s Church, Shandon. The building is so iconic in its nature that is a lynchpin in opening up and telling the story of this corner of the city. But the building is also an iconic piece of Irish architecture, which is also overlooked. The building’s story connected, through butter, to the four corners of the known world in its day.

 The city tour bus stops outside the Firkin Crane. Those who embark only find the imposing Exchange building closed.

   I feel very angry especially when you meet the members of local groups who have enormous ideas for the site and the area. The array of ideas by local community activists in Shandon is striking. They always renew my continued interest in the quarter and I would strongly argue that City Hall needs to listen more to their ideas. The Council’s ideas on developing a Diaspora Centre or a technology hub have fallen through in recent years.

    Such has been the growth of the festival activity in Shandon, the area also perhaps needs a summer co-ordinator to bring together the publicity of the festivals, showcase summer events and meet and greet large tour buses in the area. In fact, more and more I am being pulled to the idea that perhaps the best function for the old Exchange building is to develop community facilities in there; At least that would bring locals into the area and serve as a platform for tourists to learn about community activities and the strong sense of place, which exists in the area. The more the building remains undeveloped, the more structural problems the site will develop. The clock is ticking on the old Butter Exchange Building.

10 Oct 2017

Cork Public Museum, Challenges

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Press Release

   Developing new ways to increase footfall to the Cork Public museum is essential. There is no doubt in my mind that the museum is a professionally run operation within the City Council remit. The museum over several years now has been developing and hosting great exhibitions, has pursued best practice, made connections with the archaeology department of UCC, and has attempted to engage the public.

 But like all things heritage in the city, more money needs to be invested in publicising the various exhibitions and the public relations surrounding such exhibitions.

    I don’t think we have maximised what the Museum can do to promote heritage in our city. We haven’t maximised its potential to work with City Schools and heritage organisations. The museum really needs an educational officer. It needs a digital development officer; some of its objects needs to be photographed and collections need to be digitised and all placed online. I would love to see an online catalogue of key objects and documents. It’s seems to me the museum is understaffed. There is essentially one very enthusiastic staff officer doing everything from admin to exhibition preparation. This has had a huge effect on limiting the potential of the site.

    I don’t subscribe moving the museum to the city centre I think the museum is in a great location in Fitzgerald’s Park and the Mardyke nearby is also UCC,  Banks of the Lee walkway, Sunday’s Well Boating and Tennis Club, Cork Cricket Club, the Shaky Bridge, Cork City Gaol Heritage Centre, Lifetime Lab and the Lee Fields. This is a really beautiful quarter of the city, which the City Council and other agencies needs to promote more. In 2019, the Mardyke Walk will be 300 years old and if are unable to promote the stories of three centuries in this quarter of town, then there is a major problem in how we approach our heritage.

   The revamp of Fitzgerald’s Park has brought new audiences to use the park but many of these uses (music concerts, showing films) should connect more with the museum as well. Recent walking tours I have had of Fitzgerald’s Park show that the public have a huge interest in the story of the Cork International Exhibition. Plus also way back in the 1960s the park was chosen as the unofficial sculpture park of the city being fed by donations by such sculptures such as Seamus Murphy. The park is also an open air art museum, which also has a great indoor museum.

    I await with interest the response by the Council executive to developing new innovative ways of increasing footfall  developing educational programmes and showcasing the heritage of this corner of the city are crucial to the debate.

9 Oct 2017

Kieran’s Question to CE, Cork City Council Meeting, 9 October 2017

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Question to CE:

To ask the CE for an update on last year’s proposal by TEAM to erect new signage for tourist sites in the city  – the legible city plan? (Cllr Kieran McCarthy)


That the Council create a Coal Quay Stakeholders forum bringing together the various traders and residents on this historic street. It is clear that some plans by different stakeholders are similar but others are not aligned (Cllr Kieran McCarthy)

Is there any possibility of improvements to the footpath and a safe crossing to the Mahon greenway from St Luke’s Nursing Home? St Luke’s Nursing Home in Blackrock has been fortunate to acquire a trishaw thanks to the huge generosity of PFH. This trishaw, which will be piloted by volunteers, will allow senior members of the community the opportunity to enjoy the Mahon greenway. At present there are four trishaws in Ireland with eight pending. Wheelchair access to the greenway from St Luke’s requires crossing the road four times, whereas one crossing would be possible – this would also be of benefit to nearby sports clubs (Cllr Kieran McCarthy).

5 Oct 2017

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 5 October 2017

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915a. Postcard of Cork Carnegie Library adjacent Cork City Hall, c.1900

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 5 October 2017

The Wheels of 1917: Checking the Public Health of a City


    One hundred years ago, issues of housing, homelessness, public health and fair wages for women prevailed in media debates just like today. The Cork Examiner for early October 1917 describes the response by Cork Corporation to the Sanitary Officer’s report concerning the poor condition of houses in the West Ward and the need to rehouse people. The Chairman noted that it was impossible for many citizens to rent good housing, and asked that the Corporation could not throw people out on the side of the road. The only thing he believed they could do was to leave the people in their ‘insanitary condition’. Commenting the chairman noted; “they in Cork should do something to house the people”.

   The City Law Agent, present at the meeting, highlighted that there were too many generalities spoken about the housing question. He suggested that the Housing Committee should formulate a scheme and then approach the Local Government Board and show how they had done their part; “We should present a watertight scheme and ask the Local Government Board to give us a loan, or if they would not do that, to pitch Cork on the top of the list for a grant in aid after the war is over”. The Committee requested the Medical Officer of Health and the Executive Sanitary Officer report on the issues for next meeting. The Committee decided to ask the Lord Mayor to call a meeting of the Housing Committee.

    At the Public Health Committee meeting, the Vice-Chairman, Mr J Horgan, presided. A letter was received from the Commissioners of National Education, Ireland stating representations had been made to them as to the desirability of school children in Cork being afforded opportunities of learning to swim. The letter inquired whether the Corporation of Cork would be prepared to grant similar privileges to children attending the primary schools in the city as those granted by the Belfast Corporation. The Chairman asked as to the feasibility of putting the matter into operation, and whether it involved the Corporation in any cost. Mr Goggin said the only expense was the price of bathing costumes. In London, he observed it was compulsory to teach boys and girls attending the County Council schools to swim. It was regrettable so many lives were lost owing to not being able to swim. They had a fine-equipped baths in the form of the Eglantine Baths in Cork; he commented: “the expense would be very little, and the advantages would be very great”.

   Coroner McCabe wrote to the Public Health Committee regarding a financial settlement with the owners of the horses who were contracted to engage in the scavenging system of collecting rubbish and depositing it in suburban sites. The owners decided to accept the sum of 13s a day for the horses, which had been offered at the last meeting of the Public Health Committee. They desired that the Corporation holidays, save bank holidays, should be abolished, as it was a loss to them. As to the men who led the horses, they were also contractors. The Corporation had been prepared to pay the men 28s a week, which Mr Houston, the representative of the men, had declined to accept. The employees wished to get 31s per week, the same as Corporation men. Corporation Solicitor Mr Galvin said the Corporation were obliged to pay the standard rate of wages, but in the making of the last contract the contractors refused to sign any form, so they had no written contract with them on improving employment matters.

    A special meeting was also held at the Carnegie Library Committee at the Library on Anglesea Street. Its purpose was to appoint a juvenile female assistant to children using the library. Cork City pioneered children’s library services in Ireland. It was the first public library in Ireland to introduce a collection specifically for children, in 1893, at the premises which were then located at Nelson Place now Emmet Place. The foundation stone of the Cork Carnegie Library was laid by Andrew Carnegie in 1903 with the building opening in 1905. The new library included a dedicated children’s department and reading room.

      Miss Hosford, of 2 Cotter Street, having secured a clear majority over the other candidates, was declared elected to the assistant post at 7s a week. Over the ensuing few weeks, the four female members of the library initiated a request for wages similar to men. It was not granted in the immediate term.

    The report of the Cork Carnegie Library for 1917 reported that the collective issue of the books in the library increased by over ten thousand over the figures for the previous year, and stood 334 higher than the issues for the year before the war. The number of borrowings from the lending library was up by 9,873 whilst the consultations of volumes in the reference library increased by 320. Fiction and juvenile literature accounted for about eight-ninths of the increased issues. There was a slight decrease as regards works on sociology, which was a very popular branch the previous year. The attendance at the newsrooms showed further slight falling off, and it was expected that this would not return to the pre-war number until sometime after the close of the war.

Next historical walking tour with Kieran: From Our Lady’s Hospital to Atkin’s Hall, the story of the Cork Lunatic Asylum (new tour), Saturday 21 October, meet at gates of former Our Lady’s Hospital, Lee Road, 12noon, free.

Kieran’s new book, Secret Cork (2017), is now in Cork bookshops.



915a. Postcard of Cork Carnegie Library adjacent Cork City Hall, c.1900 (source: Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen)

915b. Cork Carnegie Library in Ruins 1920 (source: Cork City Library)

915b. Cork Carnegie Library in Ruins 1920

1 Oct 2017

Douglas Pool Carpark Upgrade Works

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    Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed the beginning of the upgrade works at Douglas Pool car park; “this has been a very difficult project to secure funding for and there has been much frustration by local residents, pool users and I in trying to get the project in place. E300,000 is now in place by Cork City Council; the works have started and are due to be completed in December”.