Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 10 June 2021
Journeys to a Truce: A Crown Interrogation
In mid-June 1921 Seán Healy, Captain of A Company, 1st Battalion, Cork Brigade No.1, was elated at the prospect of bringing off a successful ambush against crown forces. He had plans completed for a large ambush on a patrol of Black and Tans whose daily beat brought them through Silversprings Lane in Tivoli. About thirty fully armed Black and Tans passed through it every evening. The Company considered this lane as an ideal place for an ambush. The hills on both sides were heavily wooded, which would provide ample cover for the men. A-Company company were only awaiting sanction from their Brigade Officer-in-Command. However, events did go according to plan.
In his Bureau of Military History witness statement (WS1479), Seán recalls that at 11am on the morning of 14 June, Seán was in the Parcels Office at the Glanmire Station (now Kent Station) when two British Intelligence officers, in mufti, entered and he was trapped and arrested. He notes of his arrest: “I had no way of escape, being taken unawares. The railway station had been surrounded by military and police. I was placed under arrest and marched from the station to the nearby Black and Tan Barracks at Empress Place, under a heavy escort. When climbing the long flight of stone steps leading from the Lower Road to Empress Place, I felt that my race was run…It was obvious that I was in for a rough time. Heavy fighting was taking place in most parts of the country at that time. The enemy was being attacked on all sides. The Dublin Custom House was burnt down a short time previously. The temper of the Crown forces was very high”.
When Seán was taken into the police barracks he was handed over to the Black and Tans by the military, as a temporary arrangement – the British Intelligence Officer Lieutenant Dove remarking that he would call back him back later. Seán was pushed into an office and the sergeant insitu demanded his name and address. Seán gave him the required information and his particulars were recorded. The sergeant then ordered two of his men to search Seán. They removed his coat, vest and shoes.
Seán remarks of being interrogated: “We had strict orders from G.H.Q. to remain silent during interrogations and to refuse to recognise the enemy Courts. Next questions were: “Are you a member of the I.R.A.? Another one of the Murder Gang? Where were you born? How old are you? What occupation do you hold? Where does your father reside? Knowing that the military officers were calling back for me again, I played for time and informed the interrogators that I would not answer any questions until my solicitor was present”.
Seán was then handcuffed and removed to a military lorry which was waiting outside and was conveyed to Victoria Military Barracks. Before leaving Empress Place, the military took possession of Seán’s belongings, which had been taken from him by the police. The lorry halted outside the main gates of the military barracks which were then opened by a sentry and Seán’s lorry was admitted. All alighted from the lorry and an orderly wrote down the usual particulars.
Sean was then un-handcuffed and escorted to the Intelligence Office: He remarks: “I was again searched and subjected to an interrogation by three Intelligence officers. Your name? Your address? Your occupation? Are you a Sinn Féiner? Did you take part in any of the attacks against our forces? What do you know about Sinn Féin dispatches being sent on railway trains? What business had you and three other Sinn Féiners outside the Cork University at 9am on a certain morning? etc, etc”.
The Intelligence Officer had information that Seán was prominent in Cork IRA Brigade No.1 and that he held the rank of an officer. It now became quite clear to Seán that a spy had given information against him. He again claimed privilege not to answer any questions until his solicitor Mr. Healy, solicitor, South Mall was present.
Seán was abruptly told that this was a military inquiry and under Martial Law they had a means of making him talk. The interrogation lasted about half an hour. After leaving the Intelligence Office, Seán was taken to a prison cell where he was kept in solitary confinement for three days and nights. The weather was exceptionally warm so that bed clothes did not bother him. The only ventilation in the cell was a small window, which was about ten feet from the ground and strongly protected with iron bars. The only furniture in the cell was the plank bed on which there was one army blanket.
A notice was crudely hand-printed on the wall over the cell door – “All who enter here are doomed men”. This was evidently done for a joke by some of the soldiers who were guarding the prison. Seán describes that he slept very little on those nights; “I was expecting visits from the Intelligence officers, who frequently took out their prisoners during the late hours for further interrogations, but for some inexplicable reason they did not interfere with me at night. The thought of the ordeals that confronted me did not help to induce sleep. Realising that if any of the various charges which could be brought against me were proved, torture, the firing squad, then the release by death, would be my end, I prayed that I would be strong enough to stand up to them all”.
To be continued next week…
1103a. Empress Place, Former Black and Tan Barracks 1921, Summerhill North, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy will host three events for the upcoming Cork Harbour Festival. Two of the events focus on the rich history of the city’s bridges and the third focuses in on the history and sense of place on The Marina. The events and dates are as follows:
– Bridges of Cork, Online Talk by Kieran, Tuesday 8 June 2021, 7.30pm-8.30pm, FREE:
This zoom presentation explores the general development of the city’s bridges and why they were historically so important and are still so important in connecting the different parts of Cork City together. Details of the link for the talk are available at www.corkharbourfestival.com
– Bridges of Cork, Heritage Treasure Hunt, hosted by Kieran, Saturday 12 June 2021, 1pm, FREE, self-guided walk:
This treasure hunt is all about looking up and around and exploring the heart of Cork City whilst exploring the stories and place of the city centre’s bridges. Suitable for all ages, approx 2hr, with mixed footpaths on city’s quays.Meet Kieran at National Monument, Grand Parade, Cork, between 1pm-1.15pm on Saturday 12 June, to receive the self-guided treasure hunt pack, no booking required. Bring a pen.
– The Marina, Self Guided Audio Trail with Kieran, 4 June 2021 -14 June, FREE:
A stroll down The Marina is popular by many people. The area is particularly characterized by its location on the River Lee and the start of Cork Harbour. Here scenery, historical monuments and living heritage merge to create a rich sense of place. The audio tour will be available here to stream live on your smartphone from 4-14 June 2021. Details of the link for the audio trail are available at www.corkharbourfestival.com
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 3 June 2021
Journeys to a Truce: Bold Moves and Round-Ups
One hundred years ago, military cordons were common place across Cork City Centre. Cappoquin born Michael O’Donoghue was a final year student in early 1921, who was studying for his Batchelor of Engineering degree (mechanical and electrical) in UCC. He was Engineer Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Cork IRA Brigade No.1. Michael in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History (WS1741) describes one such round-up from late May 1920.
One Friday early afternoon towards the end of May 1921, Michael was having his lunch at his accommodation at the Shamrock Hotel when news arrived that there was a big round-up outside by the military and that the whole Grand Parade – Oliver Plunkett Street – Princes Street – South Mall was cordoned off. Michael was afraid of a systematic house to house search, so he collected his bomb parts, including a couple of empty mills grenade cases, and went downstairs into the small rear room at the back of the adjoining fruit shop.
Michael details: “Here, occasionally, customers had a quiet cup of tea or coffee or maybe ice cream and fruit. Luckily, there was no one present. I deposited my deadly load in the fire grate, beneath and behind some shrubs and flowers which were covering up the ugliness of the empty grate. Then I went back upstairs, finished my lunch, and got some large books which I carried beneath my arm. Down the stairs with me and out on the street. A military cordon stretched diagonally across the junction of Old George’s Street and The Parade. An officer and two sergeants were busy searching all males. A queue of men of various ages were resignedly awaiting search”.
Michael dawdled for a few minutes awaiting his turn; then, getting impatient, he went up boldly to the nearest NCO and presented himself for scrutiny and search. The officer looked hard at him, felt his pockets and all over his body with his hands and then asked him where he was going. Michal told him that he was going back to College preparing for an examination, which was true. He told him to pass on. In the evening Michael returned to the “Shamrock”. The military were gone. They had not even visited the digs, so the arnaments in the grate were still intact. Later he transferred the lot to the custody of Raymond Kennedy, Battalion Vice Officer-in-Command.
Michael’s final engineering examination in mechanical and electrical engineering was due early in June. Mick Crowley, second in command of Tommy Barry’s 3rd Brigade Column, came along to Cork, met him at the College and asked me to come along to Cork 111 Brigade and help him to reorganise the engineering services of that IRA brigade.
Michael eagerly accepted but told him that he would not be available to go to West Cork until after his June exam, then about to begin. He agreed. Michael describes a change of heart after the first three papers; “After I had answered the first three papers it was clear to me that I had not the remotest chance of a pass. Rather than mess up the rest of the exam. I withdrew and appeared no more that June in the exam. hall. I wrote home to father and mother explaining how I had missed doing some of the papers so to prepare them for the disappointment which they would suffer at not seeing my name in the pass lists for the B.E. degree. Of course, they knew little of my exclusive preoccupation with IRA operations and activities and did not realise at all that my own engineering career and University studies were only a very secondary consideration. I told them, too, that I was going to a temporary engineering job down in West Cork in Kinsale and that I might be back home later in the summer to prepare for the autumn exam”.
In the same time frame as Michael’s narrative, P J Murphy – a Company Commander of Fianna Éireann in Cork– the youth division of the IRA – describes a bold attempt to blow up a destroyer in Haulbowline Dockyards about 9.30pm on Wednesday, 1 June. The destroyer was to act an escort to the sloop HMS Heather, which was carrying prisoners to Belfast jail. The destroyer was lying in the basin of the dockyard. She was after test and had steam up in one of the boilers. The charge was placed between the boilers. The charge went off at 9.30pm and did sufficient damage to hold up the movement of prisoners. This job was headed by Volunteers from Passage West with help from some of Cork City’s volunteers. Next morning the yard was surrounded by Marines and RIC.
P J, who worked as an apprentice within he dockyard, was an insider. He was arrested by the RIC and handed over to a Marine Captain. He carried out the search of his tool kit. PJ details; “I was then brought to the Chief Engineer’s office and interrogated there as to my movements the evening before. I was released and told to report again that evening for further investigation. I did not report but got off the island as fast as I could. My indentures were cancelled by the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty”.
P J also describes in his witness statement that on 11 June 1921, a number of the Active Service Unit. were arrested in Mrs. Stenson’s public house, Douglas Street. They included Mick Murphy, Frank Mahony, Jerry O’Brien, C. Cogan and Jim Fitzgerald. Jim Fitzgerald was wounded; a few escaped, including D. Hegarty. P J elaborated that in order to fool crown forces as to the importance of their capture, three RIC barracks were attacked that night – Tuckey Street barracks, Shandon barracks and Douglas barracks.
1102a. Haulbowline Dockyard, c.1910 from Cork Harbour Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen.
30 May 2021, “Mr McCarthy said it is a “really disappointing” decision and “there must be accountability for all involved.” On Twitter, he wrote: “There was no need for The Sextant to be knocked until plans were tied down fully”, A terrible precedent for the city’s historic buildings’ — plan to scrap apartments for offices criticised, ‘A terrible precedent for the city’s historic buildings’ — plan to scrap apartments for offices criticised (irishexaminer.com)
In a recent reply to a question posed by Cllr Kieran McCarthy at the mid May City Council meeting, Cork City Council have noted revised the completion date of phase 1 of Marina Park. Due to Covid 19, delaying construction works, the completion date is now late August/early September this year. The revised opening date is late September/early October.
Cllr McCarthy noted: The phase one works comprise the construction of a new public car park at the Shandon Boat Club end of the Marina, as well as a new cycle lane and pedestrian walkway – these are all now completed. One can also see that the installation of perhaps the most eye-catching part of the project – a noticeable red steel pavilion on the site of, and replicating, the central hall of the former Munster Agricultural Showgrounds. The sides of the pavilion will not be enclosed, and there will be possibilities for coffee pods and outdoor seating and arts and crafts”.
“Another feature will include water jets for children to play in as well as the provision of public toilets. The public can now see the sunken lawn areas and the diversion of a watercourse, as well as new pathways – all of which are taking shape at present. The project is a e.10m investment into the area, of which nearly came from EU Urban Sustainable Funds, which are part of the EU’s structural funds and are a crucial source of funding for cities”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 27 May 2021
Journeys to a Truce: The Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork)
Details on the tit-for-tat violence between the IRA and Black and Tans during the War of Independence fill vast pages of Irish history books. However, not much is known on those who were Independence supporters in Ireland’s cities and regions, but who were also pragmatic and economically preparing for a Brexit of sorts from the British Empire. The question of “if we get Independence what do we do next” had not been quite resolved especially where Britain was also Ireland’s main trading ally.
To resolve such a question in Cork city and region the creation of Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork) was set up in 1920 to facilitate international trade, both import and export, for local businesses. Its story is the subject of my new book, which is published by the present company, whilst also charting its journey in more modern times.
The company’s origins lay in the ambition of the Cork Industrial Development Association (IDA), which was founded in 1903 after the Cork International Exhibition. During the Irish War of Independence period, the Cork IDA played no small part in formulating schemes for the economic rehabilitation of the country. Without the cooperation of the Cork IDA, the Irish Consuls resident at New York, Paris and Brussels would have been very much restricted in their Consular activities on behalf of the trade and commerce of Ireland. Important national work was conducted through the agencies of these Consuls, for which the Cork IDA kept business connections open with.
In 1920 two important companies are highlighted as closely linked to the work of the Cork IDA – (a) Messrs Dowdall and Company, Shipping Agents of the Direct Lines to USA and French ports, and (b) the Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork) Ltd. The first named company aimed to promote direct trade whilst IITC aspired to build up business by purchasing from and selling direct to Continental and American firms. A gentleman’s agreement stood that no goods would be introduced into the Irish market, which would compete unfairly with the products of Irish industries.
The proposal to form the Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork) Ltd for the development of direct trading between Irish merchants and traders of other countries was generally welcomed by commercial circles in Cork. The company was in effect a private, self-help version of what state agencies do to support trade.
On 4 May 1920, the Cork Examiner recorded a preliminary meeting of persons interested in the company, which was held in the offices of the Cork IDA, under the Chairmanship of Mr James C Dowdall. Steps were taken to have the prospectus issued at an early date. Promises of substantial financial support were forthcoming from those present. The promoters aspired to secure outward as well as inward cargo for the vessels then running between Cork and the United States ports, and also for the vessels about to run between Cork and Continental ports. The company’s temporary offices were at 27 Grand Parade.
Central to the work of the Irish International trading Corporation (Cork) Ltd was its Company Secretary Liam De Róiste (1882-1959). Liam was an original member of the Irish Volunteers in Cork. In late 1916 and throughout 1917 Liam was an important figure to keep the re-organisation of Sinn Féin going in Cork, especially with Terence MacSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain being imprisoned for long periods of time during the years 1916-1918. Liam kept the re-organisation of the party strong, being involved in organising rallies in Cork in late 1917 for Arthur Griffith, Countess Markievicz, and Eamon de Valera. He was elected a Sinn Féin Councillor for Cork City in January 1920.
The American link for the new company was Diarmuid J Fawsitt who was born near Blarney Street in Cork’s northside in 1884. Diarmuid was active in cultural, industrial and nationalist circles, including the Celtic Literary Society, Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League, Cork National Theatre Society, and especially with the foundation of the Cork IDA. During the War of Independence, Arthur Griffith sent Fawsitt to the United States as consul and trade commissioner of the Irish Republic. He was based in New York.
With Fawsitt in New York searching for opportunities, Liam De Róiste as an enthusiastic secretary of the Corporation, a strong chairman was also required to lead the new company. James Charles Dowdall had a prominent role in industrial development and was president of the Cork IDA for a time in its early years. He was educated at the Presentation Brothers College, Cork, and in Denmark and Sweden. On the death of their uncle, James and his brother Thomas joined with their cousin, Mr J B O’Mahony, in forming the now well-known firm of Dowdall O’Mahony and Company Ltd. This company was based at Union Quay, Cork, with branches at Manchester and Cardiff and was engaged in the manufacture of butter and margarine.
As the months passed in 1920 and 1921, the business of Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork) expanded. By December 1920, an array of import destinations was in place. Payment were given to Clyde Shipping Company Ltd for freight charges and the Bank of Ireland for Siemen’s and Company who brought in raisins from Malaga, Oosthock and Zoon Company, Holland for slated ties, the Lyon and Quin Company, Prague for chairs, the ZRB Hirdes, Holland for yarn, Verrieries de Dampremy, Belgium for Glass, Victor Zorn, Berlin for scissors and enamelware, National Glass Company, Philadelphia, USA for bottles, and baking powder from the Calumet Baking Powder Company, Chicago, USA as a trial order. Exports from Cork mainly encompassed butter boxes and egg cases.
Kieran McCarthy’s new book Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork), Celebrating 100 Years is a commission of the company and is now available from the company’s premises on Tramore Road, Cork, or telephone 021 4705800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
1101a. Front cover of Kieran’s new book, Irish International Trading Corporation, Cork, Celebrating 100 Years (2021, IITC).
1101b. Letter head for Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork), 1927 (source: Company Archives)
– Bridges of Cork – Online Talk:
- 8 June 2021, 19:30 – 20:30, In association with Cllr Kieran McCarthy.
Cork City’s growth on a swamp is an amazing story. The city possesses a unique character derived from a combination of its plan, topography, built fabric and its location on the lowest crossing point of the river Lee as it meets the tidal estuary and the second largest natural harbour in the world. Indeed, it is also a city that is unique among other cities, it is the only one which has experienced all phases of Irish urban development, from circa 600 AD to the present day. Hence its bridges all date to different times of urban growth and possess different architectural traits. This zoom presentation explores the general development of the city’s bridges and why they were historically so important and are still so important in connecting the different parts of Cork City together.
FREE, Register here: https://forms.gle/pazrXi1nVPQFSqKJ7
– Bridges of Cork Treasure Hunt:
- 12 June 2021, 13:00 – 13:15, In association with Cllr Kieran McCarthy.
They say the best way to get to know a city is to walk it – in Cork you can get lost in narrow streets, marvel at old cobbled lane ways, photograph old street corners, look up beyond the modern shopfronts, gaze at clues from the past, be enthused and at the same time disgusted by a view, smile at interested locals, engage in the forgotten and the remembered, search and connect for something of oneself, thirst in the sense of story-telling – in essence feel the DNA of the place. This treasure hunt is all about looking up and around and exploring the heart of Cork City whilst exploring the stories and place of the city centre’s bridges.
Suitable for all ages, approx. 2hr self-guided walk, mixed footpaths on city’s quays.
FREE, Join: Meet Cllr Kieran McCarthy at National Monument, Grand Parade, Cork, between 13:00-13:15, no booking required. Bring a pen. Self guided heritage treasure hunt.
– The Marina – Self Guided Audio Trail:
- 4 June 2021 – June 14, 2021, 06:00 – 23:55,In association with Cllr Kieran McCarthy, FREE
A stroll down The Marina is popular by many people. The area is particularly characterized by its location on the River Lee and the start of Cork Harbour. Here scenery, historical monuments and living heritage merge to create a historical tapestry of questions of who developed such a place of ideas. Where not all the answers have survived, The Marina is lucky, unlike other suburbs, that many of its former residents have left archives, autobiographies, census records, diaries, old maps and insights into how the area developed. These give an insight into ways of life and ambitions in the past, some of which can help the researcher in the present day in understanding The Marina’s evolution and sense of place going forward. Take a walk with us and discover more.
The audio tour will be available here to stream live on your smartphone from 4-14 June 2021, The Marina – Self Guided Audio Trail ~ Cork Harbour Festival
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has called on the City Council and the ESB to work on a joint programme of works to return the sub-station on Caroline Street to an art gallery/ cultural space.’
The sub station on Caroline Street is in the ownership of the ESB. Until recently the Sub Station was advertised for Commercial Let. Cllr McCarthy has been informed that Cork City Council does not have sight of the ESB’s plans for the building. And that the wider needs in terms of cultural infrastructure in the city will be reviewed in the context of the forthcoming Arts & Culture Strategy, currently under development.
Cllr McCarthy noted; “there is massive scope to do a joint partnership in re-opening the disused ESB substation as a cultural space. It has a very rich industrial history. It was built in 1931 and was originally used to convert direct current electricity to alternating current. This substation is representative of the design employed by the ESB in the first part of the twentieth century in Ireland.
“In 1932, the ESB could boast cables running from Ardnacrusha Hydro Electric Station to Cork as well as having the old generating station and offices at Albert Road, a Station at Kilbarry, a transformer station at Fords, and the central substation in Caroline Street. The annual consumption of electricity in Cork City was 8 million units by 1934 and 16 million units by 1945”.
“The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage notes of this building: “This functional building is a well-articulated building, with a high level of architectural design. The building retains many interesting original features and materials, such as the metal casement windows and metal folding doors”.
“It is also ten years ago when the Triskel Arts Centre, whilst waiting for the renovation of Christ Church, moved its gallery off site to the ESB substation on Caroline Street and did a great job in utilising the space. In addition, in 2018, Brown Thomas teamed up with Cork City Council and artist Shane O’Driscoll to transform the exterior of the then disused ESB station building which had fallen into disrepair. The City Centre Placemaking Fund from Cork City Council was used to support the project”.
“It is a real shame that such a prominent building remains vacant with so many possibilities for its use. I will be continuing my lobbying of the City Council to partner up with the ESB in finding an appropriate cultural use for the building”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.
Press, 25 May 2021, “The abandoned substation has massive scope for transformation now that Cllr. Kieran McCarthy is urging the city council and ESB to turn it into a new entertainment venue for Leesiders. Originally built in 1931 in the art deco style favoured by ESB at the time, the substation was last used by Triskel Arts ten years ago”, Endless possibilities for this gem of a building on Caroline Street to be transformed as council consider new proposal, Derelict Art-deco substation could become amazing Cork city music and arts space – Cork Beo
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed the conclusion of the Douglas Flood Relief Scheme. “In the past two months, the contractor on the Douglas Flood Relief Scheme has substantially completed all construction works on the project. The remaining works consist of some minor snags, fence installations and completion of final landscaping works”.
“What has emerged are enhanced recreational jewels in the heart of Douglas Village with a larger focus on connecting The Mangala and Ballybrack Woods across to Douglas Community Park. The flood prevention measures, which have incorporated new seating and biodiversity areas and corridors, as well as creating a stronger visual element upon the adjacent stream are most welcome”.
“It has been great in the past few weeks to see people sitting out enjoying the new vistas and ultimately embracing an enhanced community space. Great credit is due to Cork City Council, Arup Engineering and to the OPW. It has been a long process over eight years from draft plans drawn up in connection with Cork County Council to implementation under Cork City Council’s watchful eye. In the past year, the advent of COVID also slowed down construction work, which required much patience by the people and businesses of Douglas”.
“There have also been status orange rainfall events in Cork, since the start of the year and the new flood defences in Douglas worked as expected and carried a huge volume of water through the village safely. From observations and experience on site it is believed that had the defences not been constructed, there would have been considerable flooding in the Ravensdale and Church Road area”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.