This year coincides with the fourteenth year of the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project. Again launched for the new school term, the Project is open to schools in Cork; at primary level to the pupils of fourth, fifth and sixth class and at post-primary from first to sixth years. There are two sub categories within the post primary section, Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate. A student may enter as an individual or as part of a group or a part of a class entry.
Co-ordinated by myself, one of the key aims of the project is to encourage students to explore, investigate and debate their local heritage (built, archaeological, cultural and natural) in a constructive, active and fun way. Projects on any aspect of Cork’s rich heritage can be submitted to an adjudication panel. Prizes are awarded for best projects and certificates are given to each participant. A cross-section of projects submitted from the last school season can be gleamed from this link on my website, www.corkheritage.ie where there are other resources, former titles and winners and entry information as well.
Students produce a project on their local area using primary and secondary sources. Projects must also meet five elements. Projects must be colourful, creative, have personal opinion, imagination and gain publicity before submission. These elements form the basis of a student friendly narrative analysis approach where the student explores their project topic in an interactive and task oriented way. In particular students are encouraged to attain material through visiting local libraries, engaging with fieldwork, interviews with local people, making models, photographing, cartoon creating, making DVDs of their area. Re-enacting can also be a feature of several projects. For over thirteen years, the project has evolved in how students actually pursue local history. The project attempts to provide the student with a hands-on and interactive activity that is all about learning not only about heritage in your local area (in all its forms) but also about the process of learning by participating students.
This school term there is a focus on the Ford Motor Company with projects on the old factory being encouraged. One hundred years ago, engineering was important in Cork Harbour quay wall works, Cork’s electric lighting and power supply, and Railway facilities. There was a considerable amount of citizens who worked in foundries, mill-wrighting, jobbing and in general repair work. The possibilities for engineering on a scale appropriate to the extensive waterfront and river transport were to be increased by the arrival to Cork in 1917 of the firm, Messrs. Henry Ford & Son, Inc. of Dearborn, Michigan.
Henry Ford’s grandfather John in his early years was a native of Wolfe Tone Street in Cork City. In later life, he moved with his family to become tenants on an estate at Ballinascarty, near Bandon. John had three brothers, Samuel, Henry and George who emigrated to America in search of fortune in the 1830s. The Ford Motor Company was incorporated in June 1903 with Henry Ford (III) as vice-president and chief engineer. Henry realized his dream of producing an automobile that was reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient with the introduction of the Model T in 1908. From 1908 until 1927, the company would sell more than 15 million Model T cars and trucks in the US and Europe. The company began construction of the world’s largest industrial complex along the banks of the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan, during the late 1910s and early 1920s.
In November 1916, Fords made an offer to purchase the freehold of the Cork Park race grounds and considerable land adjoining the river near the Marina. Fords, Cork Corporation and the Harbour Commissioners entered into formal negotiations. The Ford Company acquired approximately 130 acres of land, having a river frontage of approximately 1,700 feet, the company agreeing to erect the buildings to cost at least £200,000 to give employment to at least 2,000 adult males, and to pay a minimum wage of one shilling per hour to them when employed in the factory after completion. The plant being laid down by the company was specially designed for the manufacture of an Agricultural Motor Tractor, well known as the “fordson”, a 22 horse power, four cylinder tractor, working with kerosene or paraffin, adaptable either for ploughing or as a portable engine arranged for driving machinery by belt drive. There is a great project for a student to pursue on some of the stories of Fords.
The Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project is about thinking about, understanding, appreciating and making relevant in today’s society the role of our heritage such as Fords. The project is open to many directions of delivery. Students are encouraged to engage with their topic -in order to make sense of it, understand and work with it. Students continue to experiment with the overall design and plan of their work. This project in the City is kindly funded by Cork City Council (viz the help of Niamh Twomey), the Heritage Council and Cork Civic Trust (viz the help of John X. Miller). Prizes are also provided by the Lifetime Lab, Lee Road and Sean Kelly of Lucky Meadows Equestrian Centre, Watergrasshill (www.seankellyhorse.com). There is also a County Cork edition.
862a. Advertisement for Fordson, 1919 (source: Cork City Library).
862b. Ford Works, c.1930 (source: Cork City Museum)
A general cry for more pay to meet the increased cost of living echoed across the local newspapers in September and autumn 1916. The Cork District Trades Council and Cork Labour and Trades Council were vocal in their calls for a wage, which could deal with living costs. Their archives highlighting these calls survive in the City and County Archives in Blackpool. The problems of importation due to war led to the shortage of food stuffs, which escalated the cost of food. Early in the month of September 1916, the National Union of Clerks arranged a series of conferences to be held throughout the country to voice the protest of clerical workers in salaried positions against the increasing cost of food. The Union pointed out that the average weekly wage-earner could, by organisation, secure a wages increase or a war bonus. However, the average salaried clerk was left with stationary wages and with little prospect of being able to properly survive, in view of the high cost of living.
In the first week of September, a mass meeting of railwaymen was held in the Mechanics’ Hall on Grattan Street for the purpose of considering the action of the Executive Committee of National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) in their demand for an increase of 10s per week for all railwaymen. The meeting, representative of all grades employed on the railways in Cork, directed the attention of all concerned to the high prices of food. The rank and file on the railways claimed it was impossible to provide from their earnings the bare necessities of life. They deemed that all reasonable and legitimate means had been exhausted to secure relief in the way of an increased weekly war bonus or additional wages, but without success. The railway companies declared it to be impossible to meet demands out of the then rates of ratepayers and revenues. In addition, they argued that they still suffered inequality of treatment compared with the men employed on the railways in Great Britain. They detailed that the Government had taken no effective steps to control or prevent the prevailing tendency of a still further rise in food prices. They wished to support the decision of the NUR in the demand for a 10s per week increase in wages.
On 16 September 1916 a special meeting of the Council of the Corporation of Cork was held to consider a report to the proposed grant of a war bonus to the labourers in the employment of the Corporation. The Town Clerk read a resolution sent by the Cork Consumers’ League asking the Corporation to grant a war bonus to its labourers. Members of the Council stated that the granting of the application would mean a further levying of 3.97d in the pound on the rates. Subsequent to the Council debate a 3s bonus per week for the duration of the war to corporation workers was agreed upon.
An editorial in the Cork Examiner on 20 September 1916 articulated the key concerns of businesses in the city and region. They claimed that the Westminster government could easily procure the necessary information as to how much tonnage was needed for the carriage of all food required in both import and export by the commerce of Great Britain and Ireland, or for the “carriage of certain necessaries of life”. Coal for instance was a commodity, which they believed could be considerably cheapened if the “Government dealt with it in a business-like manner”; the article continued; “The approach of the season when coal is used most extensively, owing to the long night and cold days, is looked forward to by the poor with feelings of dread, as the present prohibitive prices make coal a commodity. which is beyond the means of many”.
A good example of thinking ahead was the local flax growing industry. When Belgium was invaded by the German Army one of the best and most prolific flax markets in connection with the Irish Linen industry was cut off. This was a serious blow to one of Ireland’s greatest and most flourishing trades. However, the enterprising men at the head of these business were determined to do all in their power to minimise, as far as possible, the stoppage of the looms in the numerous factories. At once a scheme was devised to deal with difficulties. Part of this scheme was the revival of flax growing in the South of Ireland, and for this purpose a number of business linen leaders or what was deemed a “Fibrine Corporation” was established to assure the co-operation of a number of farmers in Munster.
Cork Corporation for their part supplied the seed and guaranteed to take the crop at £15 per acre with a 30s bonus if the crop was good. Under these conditions, about 250 acres were cultivated in the province. The Desmonds, who had a business on Pembroke Street, had a farm at Ballycurreen, not very far from the city. They not only planted 3 ½ acres but also undertook all the work in connection with distributing of the seed to other farmers free of cost. In the gathering in of the crop, they employed sixteen bands – men, women and boys.
861a. Postcard of locomotive at Kent Station, early twentieth century (source: Cork City Museum)
861b. Cork City Hall and Anglesea swing Bridge, c.1910 (source: Cork City Library)
In continuing to explore Cork in 1916, this week one hundred years ago, the local newspapers were filled with the news the Assistant Bishop of Cork Daniel Cohalan (1858–1952) was to become the new Bishop of Cork following the death of Bishop Thomas Alphonsus O’Callaghan. Cohalan served as Bishop from 29 August 1916 to 24 August 1952 and he defined the sense of religion in the city during his time. Bishop Cohalan was born at Kilmichael, County Cork, in 1858, and his early school days were spent at St Vincent’s Seminary in the city, a school which gave many eminent scholars to the church. Subsequently Dr Cohalan went to Maynooth, and in 1883 was a curate at Kilbritain. In the following year he was professor at St Finbarr’s Seminary and chaplain to the Military Prison, Cork, after which he went to Tracton as curate.
From 1886 to 1914 Dr Cohalan was Professor of Dogmatic and Moral Theology at Maynooth, which led to his appointment as Assistant Bishop of Cork, subsequently becoming Vicar Capitular, and then Bishop of the Diocese. Dr Cohalan was recognised as a profound scholar, whose contributions to Catholic magazines and journals such as the Irish Ecclesiastical Record were respected and set the framework for Roman Catholic theology thinking in the country.
For many of his early years Cohalan found himself commenting on the nationalist independence struggles of the day. He attempted to take the middle ground in a struggle that was rapidly deteriorating into chaos and atrocity. His anti-violence attitude was the guiding principle in his episcopacy. He had a crucial role in condemning the 1916 rising and pressed that the Volunteers including Cork leaders Tomás MacCurtain and Terence McSwiney stand down in the face of superior Crown forces. Cohalan was eager to avoid bloodshed. In 1918 Bishop Cohalan campaigned against conscription into the British army. Whilst attending a public meeting in Cork, he made it clear that conscripting Irishmen to fight Britain’s wars was unacceptable.
The 1920 burning of Cork City by the Black and Tans (following the Dillon’s Cross and other local and regional ambushes) resulted in a city and region dominated by the gun and violence. It prompted Bishop Cohalan to issue a decree of excommunication against those who perpetrated violence in any form. It was issued in SS Mary’s and Anne’s North Cathedral on 12 December 1920. This did not calm the situation. The IRA was unhappy with the decision and the position of the local Catholic Church especially as a number of the clergy were active in the IRA. Cohalan remained steadfast on the controversy isolating himself from republican parishioners and clergy, even to the point of refusing a Catholic burial to any hunger striker after 1922. To underline his support for law and order, Cohalan welcomed the 1922 Treaty, which established the Free State, agreeing that it was not perfect but was a great “measure of freedom”. This support was preached publicly in the North Cathedral on 10 December 1922.
By the mid 1920′s the South Parish had grown in both population and area to a point where it could no longer function with a single church. In an effort to address the situation, Bishop Cohalan designated Turners Cross as the location for a second parish church to serve the ever-growing congregation. Commissioned in 1927, the church’s modern concrete architectural look initiated an enormous debate amongst those involved in the brick masons’ trade, which saw the use of concrete as cutting jobs for masons in the region. The architect was Chicago-born Barry Byrne (1883-1967) who was a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright. By the late 1920s Byrne had, designed three Catholic Churches in the US to acclaim and criticism. The model for Turners Cross was based on the Church of Christ the King, Tulsa, Oklahoma (1926).
Work on the Turners Cross site began in March 1929. Its heavy foundations went down 15 feet into a marshy stream-like area. A total of 1,200 tons of Condor brand of Portland cement were used in its construction. Its marble terrazzo floor is overlooked by the largest suspended ceiling in a European church and it also possesses the impressive John Storr-designed Christ the King sculpture at its entrance. The church was officially dedicated on 25 October 1931 and set a marker for the future development of large churches in Cork’s suburbs. The notable exception was Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballinlough, planning for which started possibly 2-3 years after Christ the King. As Ballinlough church was a chapel of ease to St Michael’s Blackrock, there was a return to a traditional-looking and simple structure (opened in 1938).
In 1937 Cohalan turned his attention to the role of the Protestant churches in Ireland. He encouraged the Protestant community of Cork to unite with its Catholic brethren to achieve Christian unity. He even went so far as to suggest to the Protestant Bishop of Cork that they merge the dioceses between them with St Finbarr’s Cathedral presiding over southside districts and the North Cathedral presiding over northside districts. All the Protestant Bishop had to do was to convert to Catholicism (!).
860a. Portrait of Bishop of Cork, Daniel Cohalan (source: Farranferris Campus, Cork)
860b. Christ the King Church & the newly constructed Capwell Road, c.1931 (source: Christ the King Church, Cork)
Cllr Kieran McCarthy is encouraging students from Ballinlough through to Douglas area to enter the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project, which has been launched for the 2016/ 17 school season. The Project, which is entering its fourteenth year, allows students to explore, investigate and debate their local heritage in a constructive, active and fun way. Interested students can pick any topic on Cork’s heritage to research and can participate as individuals, groups or as a class. Students produce a project using primary material such as fieldwork, interviews, making models, DVDs of their area. This year, the project in particular is looking for projects that might explore the story of the Ford Tractor and Motor Car Company, which established in Cork in 1917 (to 1984). One hundred years on the company has left a huge legacy on the story of transport in the city and country and a myriad of personal memories by people who worked there.
Co-ordinator and founder of the Schools’ Heritage Project, Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted that “The project is about thinking about, understanding, appreciating and making relevant in today’s society the role of our heritage- our landmarks, our oral histories, our scenery in our modern world for upcoming citizens. So the project is about splicing together activity on issues of local history and heritage such as thinking, exploring, observing, thinking, discovering, researching, uncovering, revealing, interpreting and resolving. The Schools’ Heritage Project also focuses on motivating and inspiring young people, giving them an opportunity to develop leadership and self-development skills, which are very important in the world we live in today.”
The City Edition of the Project is funded by Cork Civic Trust, Cork City Council, The Heritage Council, Lifetime Lab, Sean Kelly of Lucky Meadows Equestrian Centre, Watergrasshill and Cllr Kieran McCarthy. Application forms have been sent to all principals and history teachers in Cork. A County Cork edition of the project is also in operation and organized by Kieran.
In returning to describing life in Cork in 1916, one of the stories making the newspapers one hundred years ago this week was that of a Cork lady who had a long and eventful experience of hospital work at the front line of World War 1. Soon after the outbreak of the war Rose Georgina Murphy (nee Davis) or Mrs Albert St John Murphy of Tivoli House, Glanmire left Cork for France. With the assistance of another lady they established a hospital near the ever-extending firing lines. Her husband was a Doctor of Medicine and a Director of James J Murphy & Company. Rose was married to Albert since 1888. Originally she was from Kingston Upon Thames in Surrey and had four daughters.
During 1916, Rose made every possible effort to raise funds locally, which were to be applied solely to the purchase of ambulance outfits for the 16th Irish Division. The Division was a voluntary service raised in Ireland in September 1914 after the outbreak of the Great War. In December 1915, the Division moved to France joining the British Expeditionary Force under the command of Irish Major General William Hickie and spent the duration of World War I in action on the Western Front. In late July 1916, they were moved to the Somme valley where they intensively engaged in the battle. They played an important part in capturing the towns of Guillemont and Ginchy. However, they suffered enormous losses at the Somme, Passchendale and Ypres. For example between January and the end of May 1916, out of a total of 10,845 men, it lost 3,491 on the Loos sector arising from bombardment and a gas attack. Overall over 3,500 Irish soldiers lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme.
It was on the front line of the war that Rose Murphy met the 16th Irish Division. Her story is told in the Cork Examiner on 24 August 1916. It is here in an interview with her that a journalist highlights her work. Her story describes that the money allocated by Westminster for the War effort needed to be supplemented. Considerable sums were spent in the maintenance of medical sections, which were under financed. Through Rose taking an active part in a matronship role she noticed many aspects were required that private persons could potentially contribute to purchasing. For example large quantities of particular drugs were needed. The large centres or distribution depots were almost empty. Rose highlighted that these demands had not reached her home town of Cork. Here the drugs required could be purchased with private money and transported to the front. The newspaper records that “in her hospital was a most polyglot collection, ranging from Spahis to Munster Fusiliers, all getting equal care and still of a most competent surgical staff”. The running of the nursing staff was superintended by Rose and a co-worker.
The nursing staff was near to the battle area and at many times the sounds of the war were not far distant. Rose denoted the real need for more ambulances. The organisation for the removal of the wounded was great, but still more help was warranted. The nature of the removal work was difficult – the need for speed over the rough ground accounted for the short life of many vehicles. In very many instances only hand borne stretchers were possible to be used. There was a need to invent an appliance which would accelerate the removal of the fallen men and at the same time diminishing discomfort for those heavily injured. A Captain Furber at the Front saw the shortcomings of the types of ambulances and he invented a new type of one. It was manufactured in London and was called the Furber ambulance. It was a general purpose carriage – a push ambulance – it was a framework of light steel tubing mounted on wire wheels and pneumatic tyres. It had transverse springs for carrying the standard army hand stretcher, and a stretched waterproof sheet beneath, on which a second patient can be carried. Bearers could push it at a good speed, thus enabling them to do double the work, and hence conserving their strength and energy for further efforts in the fields of injuries and death. The Cork Examiner records the efficiency of the new ambulance in a letter from a Sergeant. He stated that he was able to bring in forty men in the same time as that which could convey twenty men. The newspaper records the high casualty lists of the 16th Irish Division.
Rose Murphy set about raising as much money to support the buying of medical supplies and the manufacture of Furber ambulances. Each ambulance cost at the works £17 10s 0d and plus packing carriage, and insurance, brought the costs to a total of about £19 0s 0d. This week, one hundred years ago, Rose Murphy is noted as planning and constructing delightful little Japanese gardens, all of which could be sold for charity. The larger ones were to be raffled separately, but smaller sized ones were to be sold in sets of four.
859a. Furber Ambulance Stretcher, c.1916 (source: Official History Medical Services, vol 4, p.586)
859b. Part of the 16th Irish Division arriving at the Somme, early 1916 (source: Imperial War Museum, London)
National Heritage Week is nearing its end (20th – 28th August). I have two more tours to finish out the week. The first on the Friar’s Walk area is on this Friday 26 August 2016 – meet at Red Abbey tower, Mary Street, 7pm (free, duration: two hours). The second is on this Saturday 27 August and explores the local history of The Mardyke, Fitzgerald’s Park & the Cork International Exhibition – meet at band stand, 2pm (free, duration: two hours)
The first of the walks is a new walking tour for me which begins on Red Abbey square to explore the area’s medieval origins. This small corner of the city alone can boast a medieval friary tower, the eighteenth century South Chapel, Nano Nagle’s burial ground, St Nicolas Church and all that in a 50 metre radius. Climbing up to Barrack Street, to the seventeenth century Elizabeth Fort and its adjacent barracks Cat Barracks brings the real story of the importance of protecting the old walled town and harbour of Cork. However there are many interesting sites in this area, which should really make the list of the must see historic monuments in Cork. Tracking through the adjacent Evergreen Buildings and Industry Place to St Stephen’s Place brings the walker to the former site of St Stephen’s Church, a leper colony established on the southside in medieval times, mirroring a similar colony in what is now the Mayfield area. By the early eighteenth century the old church had been replaced by a hospital and Blue Coat School for the Protestant merchant classes. The arched entrance is now bricked up, beyond which are the contemporary back gardens of housing. Nearby an old eighteenth century Anabaptist graveyard lurks under a locked and overgrown basketball court.
The legacy of the Cork Improved Dwellings Company is ever present. Established in 1860 through a shareholding idiom, one could speculate and invest, and get a return whilst at the same time providing an escape for many impoverished families from slum ridden areas of the city. The company eventually built almost 420 houses – Prosperity Square & surrounds, Rathmore Terrace on St Patrick’s Hill and Hibernian Buildings on Albert Road became their flagship projects. This company managed its housing stock till 1961, when the company was liquidated when it sold off its shares to a local investor – through Mr Swanton, a solicitor in town. If anyone has more detail on this I would to hear it.
Another and a very interesting particular venture was opened in 1863, that of a large tower and formal gardens owned by Michael Callanan, a city merchant. The idea for such a project grew out of Callanan inspiration by the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, which he visited in 1851. A high limestone tower would be the central point of Callanan’s proposal. The estimated cost of the scheme was £50,000. Ornamental gardens were designed and the tall tower was constructed approximately, 25 to 30 metres in height, which assumed the shape of a medieval tall castle. With over one hundred steps to the top and crennellated at the top, the tower provided panoramic views of the city.
Once the initial gardens and tower were in place, Callanan attempted to attract the finances of others by glorifying his project by placing large advertisements in local street directories and newspapers. In 1871, an account in a city of Cork directory outlined Callanan’s several attractions around the tower – seven acres of “pleasure grounds”, a new and spacious concert hall in construction, space for athletic sports, gymnastics, and olympic games, archery and cricket, a racket court and ball alley. An extensive racecourse was proposed to be laid down in lawn grass and to be afforded a level run of nearly half-a-mile.
Callanan stated that it was his attention to occasionally produce pyrotechnic displays and to devise entertainments, which would introduce as he noted “some of the choicest resources of the Polytechnic Art”. Regarding refreshments, the leading feature in this department consisted of ‘XX’ and ‘XXX’ porter from the old and celebrated firm of Beamish and Crawford. Wines, ales, and spirits were deemed of the best quality. Tea and coffee, fruits were supplied during the season.
In the 1871 advertisement, Callanan, sought to remind citizens that the tower was erected by him for the sole benefit of the sick poor of the city. Entrance prices to the Tower Gardens are unknown and all classes of people were welcomed. For the satisfaction of all parties, an arrangement was made by placing a Protestant and a Roman Catholic relief box at the entrance of the tower, accessible only to the officers of the respective communities.
However, by Guy’s street directory of Cork in 1875-6, the tower gardens were vacant and closed. Numerous references to it during court cases listed in the Cork Examiner detail it as a place, which attracted too much undesirable drinking sessions and sexual behaviour. As a result, much of the facilities and buildings were taken down apart from the viewing tower. Today, the tower is still a prominent landmark on the south side of the city and forms a backdrop to the gardens behind Tower Street. The formal gardens are long gone and what remains is the external shell of the tower with over a dozen windows to be seen.
Come on the tours!
858a. Callanan’s Tower as presented in Fulton’s Cork Street Directory 1871 (source: Cork City Library)
858b. Callanan’s Tower, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
Another Cork heritage open day is looming. The 2016 event will take place on Saturday 20 August. For one day only, over 40 buildings open their doors free of charge for this special event. Members of the public are allowed a glimpse of some of Cork’s most fascinating buildings ranging from the medieval to the military, the civic to the commercial and the educational to the ecclesiastical. This event was greeted with great enthusiasm by building owners and members of the public alike in 2015 with an estimated 25,000 people participating in the day.
It is always a great opportunity to explore behind some of Cork’s grandest buildings. With the past of a port city, Cork architecture has a personality that varied and much is hidden amongst the city’s narrow streets and laneways. It is a photogenic city, which lights up with sunshine as it hits the limestone buildings. Much of its architecture is also inspired by international styles – the British style of artwork and nineteenth century brick pervading in most cases– but it’s always pays to look up in Cork and marvel at the Amsterdamesque-style of our eighteenth century structures on streets such as Oliver Plunkett Street or at the gorgeous tall spires of the city’s nineteenth-century churches.
Cork Heritage Open Day is twelve years in the making and with 40 buildings it is almost impossible to visit them all in one day. It takes a few goes to get to them all and spend time appreciating their physical presence in our city but also the often hidden context of why such buildings and their communities came together and their contribution to the modern day picture of the city. The team behind the Open Day, Cork City Council, do group the buildings into general themes, Steps and Steeples, Customs and Commerce, Medieval to Modern, Saints and Scholars and Life and Learning – one can walk the five trails to discover a number of buildings within these general themes. These themes remind the participant to remember how our city spreads from the marsh to the undulating hills surrounding it, how layered and storied the city’s past is, how the city has been blessed to have many scholars contributing to its development in a variety of ways and how the way of life in Cork is intertwined with a strong sense of place and ambition. For a small city, it packs a punch in its approaches to national and international interests.
The trail Medieval to Modern is a very apt way to describe the layers of our city. The trail walk encompasses some of the amazing buildings in the city centre, but also some where you come away going, “why haven’t I seen this hidden gem before”. Admire the historic frontage of the Princes Street Unitarian Church, examine the coat of arms and symbols within the Masonic Hall, explore the “Modest Man” in Christ Church, re-imagine the past court cases in the Cork Circuit Court House, revel in life in an eighteenth century merchant’s house in Fenn’s Quay, discover Cork one hundred years ago through exhibitions in St Peter’s Cork on North Main Street, get lost in the street and harbour views of Cork in the Crawford Art Gallery, stand under the proscenium arch in Cork Opera House, and walk the winding staircase of Civic Trust House. All of these buildings celebrate life in Cork, an active populace constructing the senses of place in Cork, and all relate the multitude of memories, which ignite the ambitious streak in the city’s development DNA.
Meanwhile down by the river, the Customs and Commerce trail follows the Lee and showcases some of the old and new commercial buildings in the city. These buildings track the commercial history of Cork City and highlight its many industries over time. For the more energetic walker this route can be combined with the Medieval to Modern walking route. Re-imagine the turning of the wheels of the trams at the National Sculpture Factory, learn about local government in the City Hall, think highly of the multiple stories of the city’s masons and carpenters at the Carpenter’s Hall, feel the energy of the steam ships in the maritime paintings in the city’s Custom House, and look at the fine details on the pillars within AIB Bank on the South Mall.
The Custom House was designed by William Hargrave in 1881 and built at Custom House Street between the north and south channels of the River Lee. At the time its main work dealt with inland revenue. In 1904 the Cork Harbour Commissioners took over the building on a 999 year lease. In 1906 a magnificently ornate boardroom, designed by William Price, the then Harbour Engineer, was added to the building. Equally impressive is the Committee Room, a dark wood panelled room, with pale cream and gold wallpaper and a delicately patterned ceiling. The Boardroom and Committee Room house a fine collection of maritime artwork owned by the Port of Cork Company.
See www.corkheritageopenday.ie for more information on the city’s great heritage open day and then followed by Heritage Week (information at www.heritage week.ie). My tours are posted at www.kieranmccarthy.ie under the walking tours section or follow my facebook page, Cork Our City, Our Town.
857a. Custom House and Cork Docks, view from the top of Elysian Tower (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
857b. City Hall Complex and the city centre island beyond, view from the top of the Elysian Tower, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)