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8 Dec 2016

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 8 December 2016

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873a. Cork GPO, c. 1916


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 8 December 2016

Remembering 1916: Questions of Gender


    One hundred years ago this month the focus of gender swept into the newspaper media. In early November 1916, Miss Jeannette Rankin, Independent candidate, was elected Representative from Montana. This was the first time in the history of the United States of America that a woman has been elected a member of Congress. Miss Rankin was a suffrage campaigner through whose untiring efforts women won the fight for the ballot in Montana. This was also four years before the ratification of the amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.

    Across the Atlantic Ocean, in Ireland and Britain, the exodus of males to the fronts of World War I led to a shortage of workers (approx. 1.6 million) across a myriad of services, professions and trade. Hence large numbers of women were recruited into jobs vacated by men who had gone to fight in the war. New jobs were also created as part of the war effort, for example in munitions factories. The high demand for weapons resulted in munitions factories becoming the largest single employer of women during 1918. In addition, the introduction of conscription in 1916 made the need for women workers urgent.

   In the first few days of November 1916, the innovation of female letter-carriers reached Cork. Thirty aspirants, under the superintendence of the regular male staff, started at 6am to learn the work and finished at 9am. The introduction of what the postal system described as “post-women” to Cork was not to result in their permanent employment. They were only taking the place of postmen, whose services were not available. They were paid 5d per hour during their period of duty. The authorities stated the “post-women” were not to be asked to handle heavy parcels; their duties were confined to letters and letter packets. An editorial in the Cork Examiner on the 7 December remarked on the heavy weights of packages questioning the inequality indirectly; “During Christmas the long hours and weights carried are excessive, and tire out strong men who are used to years of that work. Therefore, if the women are only to carry light loads, who is to bear the brunt of the load that was hitherto divided between the eighty male auxiliaries and the permanent staff?”

   On 9 December, the Cork Examiner highlighted the exclusion of female students as resident pupils. A letter by Sir Bertram Windle, President of University College Cork, appeared in the press: “I have been favoured with a copy of the letter, which is being sent by the Munster branch of the Irish Association of Women graduates in connection with the admission of women graduates as residents in the South Infirmary. The number of women medical students is rapidly increasing and it will be enormously to their advantage to have an opportunity of seeing the practice of a great medical institution, as can only be seen by those living within its walls. If, therefore, your committee can at all find it possible to accommodate them I can only say that you will gain the gratitude of all those who are interested in the education of women”.

    The House Committee of the South Infirmary discussed the situation and recommended that there was no suitable accommodation for resident female students. They suggested that female students be admitted as day boarders from 9.30am, until such an hour as may be agreed on by the committee. Females students were to assist in the work of the hospital in the same way as the male students, and to be provided with meals on payment of one guinea per week, if desired.

   On the afternoon of 12 December 1916, through the courtesy of Captain F Downie, Director of Munitions (no.10 Area, Ireland), Lieutenant Hinge, Lord Mayor Thomas Butterfield and a representative of the Examiner were conducted around the Cork National Shell Factory, where 150 people are employed. This was located at St Peter’s Market, now the Bodega Bar on Cornmarket Street. They were taken from machine to machine, at each of which several girls were employed. The gas heaters registered a heat of 1,000 degrees centigrade, and into which the nose of each shell was inserted and heated to a great temperature before being placed into dies.

      Captain Downie expressed regret that he was unable to obtain skilled labour in Cork and pointed out that the men who were working hard at the bottling press and gas heaters were men who were trained at the Dublin National Shell Factory, and that more skilled workmen would be required. The factory aimed to employ 250 persons, who were to work in three shifts. Each shift was to be under the superintendence of a matron who is a trained nurse, and who will look after the general health of the workers. The scale of the wages paid to the girl workers was 10s 6d per week of forty-five hours as probationers. At the conclusion of the probationary period, they were to take their places in one of the three eight-hour shifts, when their wages according to the shift in which they were engaged, namely – those on the shift from 6am to 2pm were to receive 2s 6d per day, 2s 9d per day if on 2pm to 10pm shift; and 3s 3d per day if on the shift from 10pm to 6am.

 Cork 1916, A Year Examined (2016) by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan is now available in Cork bookshops.

 Cork City History Tour (2016) by Kieran McCarthy is also available in Cork bookshops.


 873a. Cork GPO, c.1916 (source: Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen)

 873b. Picture of World War I munitions factory, London, c.1916 (source: Getty Images)


873b. Picture of World War I munitions factory London, c. 1916


7 Dec 2016

Tramore Valley Park Update, December 2016

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   In a recent Cork City Council debate on the potential opening of Tramore Valley Park for 2017, the Director of Services said they were generally “hopeful” of an opening. Citing funding, staffing and infrastructure, he could not give the timeline for opening.

Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted:

   “It is frustrating to get the same standard answer from the Executive with regard to the timeframe to open the park- there is no date again given for 2017. Millions of tax payer’s money have been invested into converting the landfill into one of the largest public parks in the country. I see this investment now under threat. The park is an ambitious plan of conversion using top level environmental engineers and experience and still and all we are not at the point to open the park, deal with the crowd and parking situation; we have a half empty park and ride across the way to host park visitors”.

  Thousands of people who live adjacent the site want this park opened, no mind residents in the wider area. I have met many many people who are excited about the potential of this public space but are disillusioned by its lack of opening; the lack of a forthcoming opening date does no justice to the normal great work of the City Council’s Parks Department”.

   Cllr McCarthy continued; “I have called earlier this year that there needs to be a lot more pressure now by all quarters to get this park opened in the immediate short term and to secure the small scale finances needed to open it. More than ever heavy pressure is needed”.

6 Dec 2016

Boole House on track for next chapter, December 2016

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   Work is ongoing on the Conservation of Boole House on Batchelor’s Quay with the building scheduled for completion by April 2017. The aim is to create a George Boole visitor and exhibition centre on the ground floor, with offices and education facilities on the upper floors.

   In a response to Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy by the Director of Planning in Cork City Council it was noted that the Consolidation and Conservation Repair Works contract (Phase 1) commenced on site in July 2016 and is progressing well and is approximately 50 % complete. The contract is dealing with the main structural elements along with roofing and weathering issues such that the building will be in a sufficient good state in preparation for a larger contract for the completion of the building by UCC at a later stage (phase 2).

   The unstable rear wall has been removed and the structure stabilised, with the addition of a new steel frame, which also supports the new floors and roof. The bow-fronted section is being restored in line with RIAI Conservation best practice. The building is due to be invested over to UCC on completion of the current works with completion programmed for April 2017. Cllr McCarthy noted: “this is a great project for this corner of the city and has many win-win situations – cleaning up the derelict corner around St Vincent’s Bridge and Batchelor’s quay, bringing a sustainable use to old Georgian building whilst highlighting a giant in international mathematical history, that of George Boole”.


1 Dec 2016

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 1 December 2016

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872a. Map of site of propopsed Ford plant 1917

 Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 1 December 2016

Remembering 1916: From Racecourse to Factory


   The 22 November 1916 brought the members of Cork Corporation to debate the proposed agreement with the Trafford Engineering Company on behalf of the Ford Company (see last week). The attachment of the name Fords was played down in the press especially as the deal with the Corporation was being negotiated. The Cork Examiner and the minutes of the meeting reveal a palpable excitement to the topic of debate. Chairing the Corporation meeting was Lord Mayor Thomas Butterfield. The Town Clerk of the day read the correspondence, which included: (1) a letter from the meeting of Transport Workers held in the City Hall on Tuesday night, calling on the Corporation and other public bodies to facilitate the scheme; and (2) from Mr Maguire, secretary of the University College Engineering Society, also asking the Corporation to facilitate the scheme and thereby provide much-needed employment for students of the College, very many of whom had to emigrate their native city.

    The Lord Mayor Butterfield rose to propose a resolution which stood in his name to sell the park to the Trafford Engineering Company. He considered that Cork was extremely fortunate in having this offer made to it. He highlighted it as an epoch-making offer, and called upon his colleagues not to give any excuse to anybody for withdrawing these proposals. He articulated that in the hands of the Corporation’s solicitor the interest of the citizens of Cork would be safeguarded by Mr Barry Galvin. He would now move that the standing orders be suspended.

    Debate ensued and by the end the resolution was agreed to unanimously. The Town Clerk read the heads of agreement to be made between the Cork County Borough Council and Richard Woodhead of No 91 Lord Street, the other (dated 17 November 1916). Below are some of the conditions. It was proposed to sell to the buyer the freehold of the City Park Racecourse. The development was also subject to the British Parliament granting permission – hence within a few ensuing weeks, the Cork Improvement Bill was passed. The buyer was given the right to construct an access route into the factory but it was to be their job to maintain it. The lands were to be used for the purpose of creating commercial, shipping and manufacturing premises and offices and generally in connection with industry or the housing of industrial workers. The price to be paid by the purchaser to the vendors for the transfer of the lands was agreed at £10,000.

   Payment of £250 was to paid within seven days after the agreement had been approved by the vendors and £1,750 upon signing of formal contract. The estimated cost of such buildings to be erected on the lands were computed at £400,000, and the Corporation asked that at least £200,000 be spent within a period on construction within the first three years from the completion of the transfer. It was stipulated that at least 2,000 adult males be employed with a minimum wage of one shilling (1s) per hour to be paid to all such employees. A fair wage clause in the terms and conditions had to be inserted by the purchaser in any contracts.

    As for the Racecourse, it had been for a period of 47 one of the most notable and popular race tracks between Britain and Ireland. Prior to its construction of what was known as the Navigation Wall, a part of which is now The Marina, the place was overrun by tidal waters. It was many years before the reclaimed mud back became coverered with grass. When the first race meeting was held, the mud was ever present that the pedestrians were told to exert caution. There was no systematic drainage of the Park till many years after its initiation. Reports of race meeting in the early races of 1869 report that there was no barrier to prevent people from wandering all over the running tracks. The clearing of the tracks before each race was undertaken by stewards, who were mounted and dressed in hunting kit and they were assisted by mounted police. Fixtures could attract up to 30,000 people. Every hotel and lodging house was crammed. The stakes in the early days were very generous, reaching a total at times of £1,600 a fixture. The best horses were attracted from all parts of Ireland, and many from England.

    It was on 22 March 1869 that Cork Corporation leased the city’s swampy park to Sir John Arnott for the purpose of establishing a race-course for the recreation and amusement of the public, for the term of five years. As the years progressed the lease was renewed from time to time. On Arnott’s death in the 1890s, the management of the races passed to the Arnott Family. In 1902 a company was incorporated called the Cork Racecourse Ltd, of which the Arnott family retained the controlling influence and the lease terms were for 25 years. However due to multiple complaints by the public the Race Company surrendered their lease in 1913. A new lease was struck with William Green for a period of 31 years at a yearly rent of £175. This lease contained a provision that if the centre of the Park was required for the purpose of a factory it could be taken by the Corporation, without compensation giving three months’ notice to the Race Company.

 Cork 1916, A Year Examined (2016) by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan is now available in Cork bookshops.

 Cork City History Tour (2016) by Kieran McCarthy is also available in Cork bookshops.



 872a. Map of site of Ford Plant 1917 (source: Cork City Library)





27 Nov 2016

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 24 November 2016

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871a. The Marina. c.1910

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article

Cork Independent, 24 November 2016

Remembering 1916: A Proposal from Southport


   The agenda of the special meeting of Cork Corporation held on 22 November 1916, this week one hundred years ago, was about revolutionising industry in Cork City and the region. Standing orders were suspended in order to consider a certain proposal from Mr R Woodhead of 91 Lord Street, Southport. The pitch was made on behalf of undisclosed principles with the aim of purchasing a portion of the freehold of Cork Park Racecourse. The building site was to be on the Marina, and also sought to take a portion of the public roadway on the Marina, and a portion of the public roadway on Victoria quay, at a price of £10,000. In essence this was a historic meeting as the City Councillors began their discussion of Mr Woodhead’s proposal who was working on behalf of the Ford Motor Company and their attempts to create a branch of their world wide industry in Cork.

    Earlier in 1916, the original discussion paper presented by Mr Woodhead to Cork Corporation and the Cork Industrial Development Association involved the northern and southern banks of the River Lee, just east of the Port of Cork Building and Custom House structures. The initial idea was to build a factory on one or the other sides of the river to employ 2,000 adult males. On the northern side of the river for half a mile there extended the yards of the Cork Harbour Commissioners. These were formerly the site of shipbuilding yards conducted by the Pike family in the early nineteenth century. On the southern bank it was pitched to utilise a portion of Cork Park Racecourse to build an industrial village for the Ford plant workers. The idea of industrial housing was present en mass in Britain and Ireland. Two firms were mentioned as examples in the Council debate, both of whom, provided workers’ housing – Messrs Bradbury and the Lever Brothers.

    Bradbury of Wellington Works in Oldham in Greater Manchester was the birthplace of the sewing machine industry and made clones of Singer sewing machines. Circa 1910 they extended their business into the manufacture of light weight motorcycles. Lever Brothers were one of several British companies that took an interest in the welfare of its employees. The model village of Port Sunlight in Merseyside was developed between 1888 and 1914 adjoining their soap factory to accommodate the company’s staff in good quality housing, with high architectural standards and many community facilities. Between 1889 and 1914, 800 houses were built to house a population of 3,500. William Lever introduced welfare schemes and provided for the education and entertainment of his workforce, encouraging recreation and organisations, which promoted art, literature, science or music. In the Cork context, in the early twentieth century many farm labourers needed housing. In 1906, Cork County Council agreed to build four such groups named model villages at Bishopstown, Clogheen, Dripsey and Tower.

    With the Cork Ford plant project, the impact on diminishing poverty and employment at an enormous rate was not underestimated. The city’s traditional industries such as butter export had been in decline for some years. Media reports in the Cork Examiner throughout the year 1916 noted the continuous and slow demise of the Cork Butter Market. Large supplies of fresh butter were in excess. Danish butter was much lower in price and unsalted French butter together with big arrivals from New Zealand, Argentina and Australia out competed the Cork Market.

    For the new Cork Ford plant, the media calculated an eight hour day at a shilling an hour, which would equate to each man’s wages amounting to £2 8s 0d per week. The total earned by 2,000 workers would amount to £4,800 per week, or roughly £250,000 per annum. It was projected that the effect of the expenditure of such a sum spent amongst the traders and shopkeepers of Cork would make the city in a few short years one of the most prosperous and progressive centres in Ireland, and the standard of living would be vastly improved amongst all classes. Other municipalities in Ireland were more than willing to place suitable sites at the disposal of Fords whom Mr Woodhead represented. All agreed not to impose rates on the factory if they could secure the establishment of such a gigantic industry within their jurisdiction. However Cork had been selected by Fords on account of the broad waterway it possessed and they hoped to create a business in the city on even a larger scale than they had been doing at Manchester.

    An assembly plant in Trafford Park in Manchester opened in 1911 (closed in 1946) employing 60 people to make the Model T Ford. In the wider park 12,000 workers were employed making it one of the most significant engineering facilities in Britain. It was the first Ford Factory outside of North America. Six thousand cars were produced in 1913 – a doubling of output within a year and the Model T became the country’s biggest selling car with 30 per cent of the market. After the First World War, the Trafford Park Plant was extended, and in 1919, 41 per cent of British registered cars were Fords. By 1924 the plant had reached its limits and a new factory was opened in Dagenham in 1931. The plant was served by the Manchester Ship Canal, which had opened in 1894, to make Manchester the third busiest port in Britain despite being about 64 kilometres inland.

 Cork 1916, A Year Examined (2016) by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan is now available in Cork bookshops.

Cork City History Tour (2016) by Kieran McCarthy is also available in Cork bookshops.

Historical Walking Tour of Blackrock with Kieran, Sunday 27 November, 2.30pm. meet at Blackrock Castle (free: two hours)



871a. The Marina Walk, c.1910 (source: Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen)

871b. St Patrick’s Quay, c.1910 (source: Cork City Through Time)

871b. St Patrick's Quay, c.1910

20 Nov 2016

Blackrock Historical Walking Tour, Sunday 27 November 2016

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   As a contribution to marking the restoration of the tram lines as a heritage feature in Blackrock Cllr Kieran McCarthy will conduct a historical walking tour of Blackrock Village on Sunday 27 November, 2.30pm (starts at Blackrock Castle, two hours, free). Cllr McCarthy notes: “A stroll in Blackrock is popular by many people, local and Cork people. The area is particularly characterised by beautiful architecture, historic landscapes and imposing late Georgian and early twentieth century country cottages to the impressive St Michael’s Church; every structure points to a key era in Cork’s development. Blackrock is also lucky that many of its former residents have left archives, census records, diaries, old maps and insights into how the area developed, giving an insight into ways of life, ideas and ambitions in the past, some of which can help us in the present day in understanding Blackrock’s identity going forward”.

   One hundred years ago, the Corporation of Cork had to foresight to connect the city’s suburbs with the city centre through a tram network. The story of how the trams connected the old fishing village of Blackrock with the city is a worthy one to tell- connected in terms of the wealth of history in this corner of the city and connected in terms of experimenting with the provision of new transport networks. The trams were developed in connection with the Corporation’s roll-out of electricity in the city in 1898. The tram lines themselves were electricity cables. The Corporation of Cork established a large electricity generating plant on Albert Road (now the site of the National Sculpture Factory). The Electric Tramways and Lighting Company Ltd was registered in London and had a close working relationship with eminent electrical contractors, the British Thomson-Houston Company. Cllr McCarthy highlights: “By 1900, 35 electric tram cars operated throughout the city and suburbs. They were manufactured in Loughborough, UK and all were double deck in nature, open upstairs with a single-truck design”. Cllr McCarthy’s walk will finish at Natural Foods Bakery at 4.30pm in time for tea, coffee and poetry to mark the restoration of the old tram lines with Douglas Writers club.

18 Nov 2016

President of EU Committee of the Regions Comes to Cork, EU Citizen’s Debate

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  Independent Cork City Councillor Kieran McCarthy welcomes the President of the EU Committee of the Regions, Mr Markku Markula, to Cork this Saturday 19 November to showcase the innovation hubs of Cork city and region and to host him at a Cork City debate on the role of small cities and towns within the EU. Mr Markula also accepted the invite of Cllr McCarthy and Cork Innovates to speak at the Global Start Up Nations event taking place at Cork County Hall this weekend. 

   In a recent debate on the future of the EU in the EU Committee of the Regions Mr Markula’s noted of the importance of listening to EU citizens: “citizens should have an inclusive, smarter, and safer Europe. We should channel politically our citizens’ critical assessment on the EU and its added value on the ground, but also their ideas for its better functioning and delivering.  One way we could listen more to our communities’ concerns about Europe, for instance is through citizens’ dialogues or town hall debates”. Cllr McCarthy on hearing his call for action has invited Mr Markula and his team to Cork to such a city debate to listen to the concerns of a small EU city and region. Cllr McCarthy, a member of the EU Committee of the Regions, noted: “Cork is pursuing much work in the realms of start-ups and innovation and wishes to scale up within the EU. I have concerns that small cities such as Cork – small cities are plentiful within the EU – could be forgotten about in future cohesion policy debates. Cities and regions such as Cork have huge heart, passion, and energy to contribute positively to the bigger EU tapestry of policy making especially in evolving business, enterprise, employment and social policy models.  Mr Markula will debate with Mr Dara Murphy TD, Minister for European Affairs at 2pm (duration: 1 hour), Saturday 19 November at the Gateway Building, UCC. The event is free but for registration, please email sarah.holden@iro.ie.

17 Nov 2016

Kieran’s Budget Night Meeting, Cork City Council, 16 November 2016

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Thanks Lord Mayor.

I would like to thank the CE and John Hallihan for their work on this draft document and the Chair of the Finance Functional Committee, Sean Martin for agreeing to long discursive evenings around savings, cuts and compromises.

One would like to think we we’re at the bottom of barrel of large scale cuts –I feel we are – however this base is very different to previous years where there were easier choices of cuts – now the landscape at the base is scraping the barrel looking for anything else we can use to balance our books.

It is quite clear that local Government not taken seriously enough by central government– the daily local government email updates offer an interesting lens at the moment to see other Councils across the country desperately trying to make ends meet on budget night.

The Putting People First project has equalled cutting people first.

It is becoming more and more clear LPT for cities such as Cork are not enough to fund Councils and their work – even if you put it up by 15 per cent. It’s not enough.

Our revenue reserves are scarily exhausted, our patience is exhausted and we are physically and mentally exhausted and frustrated.

For next year we can add another piece of Roads to the central government agenda– the maintenance programme as being dictated upon – piece by piece, the discretion decisions of cllrs has been eroded.

Is anyone fighting the case for local government in Dail Eireann? nope not really

And one could go on and on with reality and negativity and one could be right.


 I am reminded as well we also need to be positive on what services we do provide.

On the positive side though reading the draft budget book, the dearth of services we provide to communities in Cork is vast.

Continued emphasis on the turn around of vacant social housing units and their return to stock is very welcome. We continue to collaborate with agencies to resolve our homelessness problems.

We continue to provide support to those aspects of building community capacity through community grants – we collaborate with agencies on community policing plans, public participation networks, Age friendly programmes, the local economic and community development plan – it is a council for all.

We do festivals well – we have seen the recent buzz this year around 1916 events, Jazz festival, and the switch-on of the Christmas lights.

We have struck very good partnerships in creating local enterprise partnerships, arts and heritage programmes, promoting science and technology; we are fully engaged in Lifelong Learning, encouraging formal and informal education. We invest 1m euros in visitors centre, events and community and arts grants.

And indeed one could say all we do well of what I have listed doesn’t really stay on the agenda as regular points – they only all appear together in draft budget books like this evening – it’s kinda like everything we do is diluted down to just housing and roads – and that is something we need to avoid – the Council is more than just two directorates.

From looking at some of the conclusions in the draft book – there are number of points sticking out – need for continued collaboration need with CBA and Cork Chamber going forward – the need to market even more business and enterprise in the city – would love to see the South Mall as a start-up incubation street. We need to promote parking in the city more – and build an alternative marketing plan to the shopping centres.

We need to build upon our tourism offering and festivals – scale two or three of them up to international standards – 30 odd festivals, which celebrate the city’s urbanity and cultural thinking

Tonight has also historical resonances or a sense of Déjà vu as well – this week one hundred years ago – city cllrs spoke at length about poverty in their Council meeting about poverty in the city and declining industry – but Trafford Engineering Co of Manchester – came to discuss their proposals for a tractor factory in what is our North Docklands and a worker’s village upon the city park racecourse to employ 2,000 adult males with a wage bill of £200,000. The cllrs of course heralded this proposal and led to its tweaking – the factory to be upon the Marina – worker’s housing never came to pass.

Cllrs heaped praise on the project – the value of it to communities, local economic development, business communities, social policy, enterprise, poverty reduction – but they couldn’t have foreseen the vast opportunities and scalability within all those concepts, all of which Fords wove together to re-imagine an ancient port city.

Fast forward to today I do think the value element and the interweaving of different elements is one we need to champion more as Ireland’s second city.

Thank you.

17 Nov 2016

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town 17 November 2016

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870a. Honan Chapel, UCC, present day


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 17 November 2016

Remembering 1916: An Ornament to Cork


    The opening event of the Honan Chapel on 5 November 1916 was marked with great speeches and insights into the work involved in its construction from the funders to the craftsmen. There are so many beautiful features of the Honan Chapel and UCC over the years have published articles, online resources and a book edited by Virginia Teehan and Elizabeth Wincott Heckett, and held conferences on the beautiful building. Indeed, the next conference is on this Saturday 19 November in UCC (details at end of column).

    The Honan Chapel is a national icon of Irish craftsmanship, some features of which I relate below and all warrant articles and multiple column inches in years to come. The erection of the chapel was entrusted to the well-known building firm of Messrs John Sisk and Son. The work was carried out under the superintendence of Mr Peter O’Flynn as Clerk of Works. John Sisk set up his construction business in 1859 and by the early twentieth century had an impressive record of work around the province of Munster, building schools, hotels, banks and 30 churches.

    An open letter on 30 May 1916 in the Cork Examiner by the members of the Cork branch of Stonecutters’ Union of Ireland, recorded their appreciation to Sir John O’Connell for providing much needed employment to their members for close on two years and a much-needed stimulus to the stone cutting industry. They noted their pride in the distinctive national style of architecture and its construction in Cork limestone and marble, which meant the circulation of such a large sum of money in Cork at a time of difficult economic conditions.

   Cork Examiner reviews of the building on the 6 November point to the beauty of the interior and that it may strike the visitor as very simple but to execute the ornamentation “required painstaking care and skill and possession of the artistic faculty as well”. The carving was carried out by workmen under Henry Emery, an architectural sculptor and decorator. Liverpool born Henry Emery was active across the country from the 1870s until the 1930s and had his practice in Dublin. He was apprenticed initially to the stone and marble works of Alfred P Sharp of 17 Great Brunswick Street, Dublin. Sharp was also a builder. Circa 1877 Henry Emery was placed in charge of the stone and wood-carving side of the business. He was taken into partnership by Sharp in the late 1890s.

    The Honan Chapel interior adopted the most decorative features in Cormac’s famous Chapel at Cashel in the arcading. Hence the walls were painted in a simple white with grey tints by artificial colouring. In each of the capitals of the pillars nearest to each stained glass window, on which a coat of arms of one of the diocese of Munster is displayed, part of the same coat of arms is carved. The most effective use of the arcading was to use it as a framework to a beautiful series of Stations of the Cross made of the inlaid art technique opus sectile. The altar was built of the same white limestone of which the rest of the fabric was built. The tabernacle was also of limestone modelled in the form of an early Celtic reliquary. The door bears a beautiful enamel by Mr Oswald Reeves.

The series of stained glass windows of the Munster Saints from the eminent studios of Harry Clarke and Sarah Purser begin on the north wall of the nave near the chancel with the window in honour of the Patron Saint of the Diocese – St Finbarr. Then it runs to St Albert, the Patron Saint of Cashel, St Declan of Ardmore, St Ailbe of Emly, St Fachtna of Ross and St Munchin of Limerick. The first window on the south side is devoted to St Ita of Killeedy, St Colman of Cloyne, St Brendan the Navigator, St Gobnait of Ballyvourney, St Carthage of Lismore and St Flannan of Killaloe. The east window over the Altar shows the Redeemer, while the three lights over the west entrance bear the three great Irish saints, Patrick, Brigid and Columcille.

   The altar-plate, the vestments, altar coverings, everything down to the seating accommodation is not only Irish in design, but Irish in workmanship. As far as possible local craftsmanship were employed. The vestments for use in the chapel was made at Messrs William Egan and Son’s factory in Cork. The same firm made the chalice and ciborium, both exceptionally fine specimens of silver and gilt. As an interesting aside, on 21 January 1916 Mr Barry M Egan principal of the firm of William Egan and Sons passed away at his residence, Carrig House, Tivoli. Born in Cork seventy-three years previously, Mr Egan came from a family that for generations had been connected with the trade and art of working with metals. At the early age of 12 years he entered upon his apprenticeship as a watchmaker, jeweller, and silversmith in his father’s workshop. From his earliest years his ambition was to revive the manufacture of silver plate for which Cork was so noted in the eighteenth century.

Honan Chapel Symposium, Saturday 19 November, Aula Maxima, UCC, 9.15am-6pm, programme and registration at niamh.mundow@ucc.ie

Cork 1916, A Year Examined by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan is now available in Cork bookshops.


870a. Honan Chapel, UCC, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

870b. Section of mosaic of floor of chapel, entitled the River of Life (picture: Kieran McCarthy)


870b. Section of mosaic of floor of chapel entitled the River of Life


10 Nov 2016

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 10 November 2016

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Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 10 November 2016

Remembering 1916: McMullen’s Genius


   The Honan Chapel celebrates its centenary this week. It opened officially on 5 November 1916. It is unique of its kind and John O’Connell, solicitor and distributor of Isabelle Honan’s will lavished much care as well as imagination on the church’s construction and fitting out (see last week’s column). John O’Connell was a great expert on ecclesiastical archaeology. He wrote many books and papers including “The Honan Hostel Chapel”, which can be read in local studies in Cork City Library. He also gave the site of the Turners Cross Schools in 1932 to Bishop Daniel Cohalan. He was also a descendent of Daniel O’Connell; hence the place name connections to Daniel O’Connell in Turners Cross.

   On 18 May 1915, the foundation stone of the Honan Chapel was blessed and laid by the Bishop of Cork Dr Thomas Alphonsus O’Callaghan, and work progressed steadily on it. The new chapel was intended to be a real work of art. The architect James F McMullen planned a very beautiful structure in the Hiberno-Romanesque style, a style, which prevailed nine centuries previously. The Irish Architectural Archive in their Dictionary of Irish Architects denotes that architect and civil engineer James Finbarre McMullen (1859-1933) was born in 1859. He was the youngest son of Barry McMullen, a well-known Cork builder. After attending St Vincent’s School, James entered the arts faculty of Queen’s College, Cork, in 1875. At some stage he evidently decided to take up engineering as a career and served an apprenticeship with his elder brother Michael Joseph. In 1882 he exhibited a design entitled ‘What the Farm Labourers require’ at the Irish Exhibition of Arts & Manufactures, Dublin. He opened his own office in Cork c.1886.

   James McMullen’s practice was a varied one, including ecclesiastical, hospital, industrial, commercial and domestic work, primarily in the city and county of Cork. He was architect to the South Infirmary, Cork, for some thirty years and was appointed local engineer and valuer for the Cork Junction Railway in 1904. Some of his largest and best known works apart from the Honan Chapel included Marina Flour Mills on Victoria Quay (1890-92), the Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital on Western Road (1895-97), the Fr Mathew Pavilion Museum at the Cork International Exhibition (1902), additions to the sanctuary for the Capuchin Fathers at Holy Trinity Church (1906) and the restoration after destruction by fire of Castle Freke House (with architect, Kaye-Parry & Ross) in 1910-12.

In addition to running a successful practice, James McMullen played an active part in the life of the community, devoting much time to city hospital work. Living in Trabeg in Douglas, he was appointed a magistrate for the borough of Cork in 1903 and High Sheriff in 1908. In 1910 the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great was conferred on him by Pope Pius X. According to his obituary in the Irish Builder, he acted as City Engineer for Cork for some years. He died in 1933, leaving an estate valued at £23,729. He had married Margaretta, daughter of J T Murphy, of Macroom, in 1907. His son James carried on the practice.

    The Honan Chapel is based on the most famous Irish church of Hiberno Romaneque style that of Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel. It was not the first Cork Chapel to adapt its design in the early twentieth century. St Finbarr’s Oratory in Gougane Barra, opened in 1902 and its architect Samuel Hynes was also inspired by Cormac’s Chapel. Cashel constitutes the most famous architectural assemblage to survive from Medieval Ireland. The entire summit of the Rock has a very complex mix of ideas about history, architecture, public space and meaning. The place is tied to a sacred history – the legend of St Patrick converting the Munster Gaelic kings of old. The information panels at Cormac’s Chapel detail that it was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. At that time, Cormac’s Chapel was a political statement. The act of building it was a political act asserting identity. On the eve of Church reform, architecture became a form of dialogue of contestation. King Cormac MacCarthy, founder of the Chapel at Cashel, was a supporter and patron of the reform movement. The chapel was deemed a metaphor for his kingship, and religious interests and attached to influences of the renaissance in the way of life of the church.

   The course of stone in Cormac’s Chapel was so correctly laid, that the joints escaped the eye so that it seems the whole wall is composed of a single block. The impact of such a church building was not seen before. Archaeologist Tadgh O’Keeffe in his book Romanesque Ireland, Architecture and Ideology in the Twelfth Century (2003) highlights that the architects of the Romanesque style were also occupied with great master-pieces. Sculptors and architects were moulded by European Art. The idea existed that Romanesque had form and meaning and thus became fashionable and sophisticated. Cormac’s Chapel as a memorial relied on the permanent qualities of architecture, scale, mass, spacing, proportion, utmost simplicity, and memory. These latter ideas also imbue the Honan Chapel and make it stand out as architectural structure of beauty.

Honan Chapel Symposium, Saturday 19 November, Aula Maxima, UCC, 9.15am-6pm, programme and registration at niamh.mundow@ucc.ie

Cork 1916, A Year Examined by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan is now available in Cork bookshops.



869a. James F McMullen, architect of the Honan Chapel, UCC (source: Pike’s Contemporary Biographies)

869b. Interior of Cormac’s Chapel, Rock of Cashel, inspiration for Honan Chapel (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

896c. Honan Chapel, 1916 (source: J O’Connell, The Honan Hostel Chapel, 1916)


869b. Interior of Cormac's Chapel, Rock of Cashel, inspiration for Honan Chapel