26 Oct 2016
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26 Oct 2016
Historian and Independent Councillor Kieran McCarthy has expressed disappointment that the development of Elizabeth Fort as a tourist product will not progress in the short term. Fáilte Ireland have expressed a disinterest in funding an interpretative centre at the fort, stating that other forts in the harbour will represent the Cork region’s history of fortifications. Cllr McCarthy noted at the last Cork City Council meeting to management that leaving Elizabeth Fort undeveloped comprises a series of missed opportunities – “we have spent four to five years developing a plan for the fort – this is the most prominent landmark in the city region after Shandon. It is unique in Ireland to have an Elizabethan Fort still standing in an inner city space. The fort is the flagship project for the South Parish Local Area Plan. The re-opening of the ramparts, thanks to the OPW, has helped to inspire re-generation on the street and put a pep in the work of planners trying to get landlords of empty properties on Barrack Street to develop them.
Cllr McCarthy continued; “The re-opening of the fort has sent out a message that long term vacancy and dereliction on Barrack Street will not be tolerated. This message will now be diluted due to lack of investment. The fort should be the tourist structure to tell the early origins story of Ireland’s southern capital from the Vikings to nineteenth century industrialist housing– it heads up a suite of historical sites in the local area – from Red Abbey to the 250-year old South Chapel, the new Nano Nagle Community Project to the story of Friar’s Walk and the Cork Improved Dwellings Company houses such as Evergreen Buildings. It is becoming more and more clear that Cork City is being squeezed out of campaigns of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East. It is disheartening to see the lack of reference to Cork City in the website of Ireland’s Ancient East”. Cllr McCarthy has called on City Council officials to engage with Fáilte Ireland to put Ireland’s second city back firmly on the Irish tourist map; “New plans for Elizabeth Fort also need to be put together as soon as possible, so we can start preparing plan b to secure the fort’s future”.
26 Oct 2016
Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed the update by the management of Cork City Council that phase one of the Blackrock Pier Development is on track to be finished by December of this year. Funding for phase 2 is still being sought, which is the development of the car park and pier area itself. Cork City Council has now written to the National Transport Authority for continued funding of phase 2. It is expected that a decision on same will be made around the end of November and a report will be made to Council. If the funding application is successful the current contractor will commence construction on phase 2 in January 2017. Cllr McCarthy noted to the Chief Executive: “Phase 1 has been pursued quickly but with alot of patience asked of residents, business and the community association; it’s not a short term patience but long term in terms of twenty years or more waiting for this project. We are so close in completing what is a fantastic plan and one which all can be proud of; the tram track lines have reminded us all of the great heritage, Blackrock has. We need to finish what we started and not just stop in December”.
20 Oct 2016
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 20 October 2016
Remembering 1916: MacSweeney’s Poverty Study
This week one hundred years ago, discussions filled the newspapers of the impending cold winter and the need to look after the impoverished of the city. The city’s institutions such as its hospitals – Mercy Hospital, South and North Infirmary, and institutions such as the City and County gaols, the Magdalene Asylum, the Sailor’s Home as well the City’s workhouse or Cork Union record the need to address the needs of society and to provide more financial aid and food to citizens immersed in large scale poverty. The other pillars of Cork Society were its educational ones – the core schools that appear are the North Monastery, the South Presentational Convent, Crawford Municipal Technical Institute and the Cork School of Commerce. All continue through the press to showcase the importance of education and life-long learning in escaping from poverty traps in the city’s vast slum network, and to help the overall societal pull to a better life.
Across October 1916 the Cork Industrial Association called upon the Corporation of the city to provide cheap fuel for the poor during the winter months. It was predicted that fuel of all kinds would likely increase in price due to demand. The Association deemed the prices far beyond the resources of the small wage earners, whose mode of livelihood – difficult enough before the war – had now become a large problem. They spoke of an impoverished class – those who had no regular employment, and whose income did not exceed more than a few shillings each week – who had no possible chance of procuring sufficient food, not to mention fuel. Without the aid of charitable assistance either from their own friends, a little better off than themselves, or from the societies in the city organised for the purpose of helping the necessities, they remained in serious deprivation. The Association denoted that in early October; “Despite the increase of employment in some trades and the circulation of large sums such as war separation allowances, inquiry will show that much extreme poverty exists in Cork at the present time. That sad condition of things will become aggravated with the approach of winter unless organised public effort is made to ameliorate the lot of the genuine poor“.
There is plenty data on living conditions present in the work of Fr Aengus MacSweeney, parish priest of St Mary’s Church, Pope’s Quay who throughout 1916 gave talks on poverty and living conditions of working classes in the City to different organisations. This was part of a personal programme to bring public attention to the conditions he encountered in an MA study. Fr MacSweeney was born in Castlecomer, County Kilkenny in 1894 and ordained into the Dominican Order in 1905. After first serving in Galway, he moved to Cork City in 1913. He had already obtained a BA and on his arrival in Cork, he pursued an MA in University College Cork.
One of Fr MacSweeney’s talks is detailed in the Cork Examiner in early February 1916 during the second of a series of Economic Conferences organised by Professor Smiddy and Mr Rahilly. It was held in the spacious Examination Hall of University College Cork. Professor Smiddy, introduced Fr MacSweeney, and pointed out that he had made an extensive investigation into the lives, housing, incomes, and standards of living of over 1,010 wage-earning families in Cork comprising 5,058 persons. Part of his MA thesis was published by the University in March 1917 (Poverty in Cork) and supported by the new Bishop of Cork, Daniel Cohalan.
Father MacSweeney, at the outset of his paper, dismissed mere hearsay evidence and vague statements concerning the poverty of a city. His study involved fieldwork within the slums. He found that 354 of his 1,010 families who he studied that that their total weekly income did not exceed 19s. The total earnings of these families, which included 1,832 individuals, was £243 17s 5d. Taking the prices and business rates prevalent before the war, the support of these individuals in the workhouse would cost the rates £233 2s for food alone. He noted that it was obvious that there were hundreds of families subsisting in Cork at a rate, which was insufficient to provide an adequate subsistence.
Father MacSweeney did not confine himself to numerical and statistical results. He presented several case studies of “struggles, despair and want”. He highlighted that poverty was a very complex and multi-sided, and that it raised problems in every sphere of social activity. He related that that a third of the families he interviewed did not live in any particular district. They were scattered over the city and were the most migratory portion of the population. Low rent was an attraction for them and determined their fixity of tenure. Fr MacSweeney dwelt on the bad housing conditions of the city and the problem of elevating and educating the children, and on the effects of “blind alley” employments. He also referred to the question of drink and improvidence; he regarded much of the excessive drinking as the effect rather than the cause of poverty.
Abstracted from Cork 1916, A Year Examined by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan is available in Cork bookshops.
866a. Map of alaneways of slums, c.1910, north west ward of Cork City (source: Cork City Library)
866b. Fr Aengus MacSweeney, author of Poverty in Cork, 1917 (source: Cork City Library)
19 Oct 2016
“I welcome the report of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht regarding the concerns over minding the archaeological layers beneath the Beamish and Crawford site. I have noted some of their concerns in the past in the Council Chamber and was told, that the Project “Helix” or partnership of Developer, City Council and Central Government were on top of the matter but that was it; I have heard nothing else until the Department’s serious concerns over the archaeological layers; so I am appalled at these revelations by the Department.
I would like to say at the outset that the City Archaeologist is on top of her job and always is. But I can’t help but think through this serious intervention and revelation by the Department shows clearly that the archaeology is still not a major priority to be integrated into the events centre development. It would be an enormous missed opportunity if we cannot integrate the city’s history with a landmark events centre. I want the Events Centre built but not at the expense of destroying the city’s heritage for the sake of high rise student apartments. I don’t wish to a rerun of the 1970s Viking Wood Quay Dublin situation whereby the proper investigation and proper integration of the archaeology was sacrificed for the sake of an office block. The multitude of City Council archaeology reports on Cork’s medieval spine have showed us how much of Cork’s story lays underground in a great preserved condition in estuarine silt. Our archaeologists have been outstanding in their scholarship but this will be all for nothing if there is no strategy for archaeology integration at the Events Centre site. The test excavations in the Grand Parade City Carpark in the 2000s showed that the city walls, late Viking house foundations, and a multitude of objects have shown the rich archaeological layers beneath our city. We have seen many developments over the years, for example Kyrl’s Quay, in the 1990/ where the archaeology found such as the 60 metre town wall was not showcased as much as it could, and now lies as a 10 metre section locked up from the public now beneath the car park due to anti-social behaviour; there have been other factors of finance which have led to lack of integration as well as lack of vision by some developers towards the integration of the past into the future.
13 Oct 2016
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 13 October 2016
Kieran’s New Book, Cork City History Tour
The second of two books penned by myself this year has just been published by Amberley Press and is entitled Cork City History Tour. I have coincided its launch with a free historical walking tour of the Victorian Quarter for the Urban October, Life in the City Project – 2pm, meet at top of St Patrick’s Hill, Sunday 16 October. The new book promotes that the best way to get to know a city like Cork is to walk it – in Cork you can get lost in narrow streets, marvel at old cobbled laneways, 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.
Cork has a soul, which is packed full of ambition and heart. Giving walking tours over 21 years has allowed me to bring people on a journey into that soul but also receive feedback on the wider contexts of what visitors and locals have seen elsewhere. Cork is a city packed with historic gems all waiting to be discovered at every street corner. This book provides insights into about 60 such sites in and around the city centre island. One could have easily added three and four times as many sites to a book such as this.
Cork possesses a north-west European and an eastern North Atlantic port story. Located in the south of Ireland, it is windswept by tail ends of North Atlantic storms, which consistently drench the city and rural areas with wind and rains – but they leave to showcase a very photogenic urbanity with amazing sunsets on the river channels and a resilient green agricultural hinterland and chiselled raw coastline. Cork’s former historic networks and contacts are reflected in its the physical urban fabric – its bricks, street layout and decaying timber wharfs. Inspired by other cities with similar trading partners, it forged its own unique take on port architecture.
Twice a day and every day the tide sweeps in to erase part of this history. The river meanders through this city built on a swamp and sweeps in a sense its historic narratives along. Cork is bound to the river and tide as they are bound to it. It developed because of its connections through water to other cities in Ireland and within the former British empire. Exploring the harbour area, one can still find residues of the mud flat/ estuarine silt landscape that the city was constructed upon. It is a great feat of engineering to build a city on a swamp.
In the new book, there are many historic sites for the reader to explore. Of course each one of the sites deserves a book to be written on them and many have by the city’s array of local historians. The book’s trail takes in the story of the early origins of the city – the monastic site of St Finbarr to Viking age histories to the Anglo-Norman walled town followed by historic areas such as Shandon, St Patrick’s Street, City Hall, Sunday’s Well and the Wellington Road Victorian Quarter.
The first known settlement at Cork began as a monastic centre in the seventh century, founded by St Finbarre. This is now marked by the late nineteenth structure of St Finbarre’s Cathedral. it stands tall proud in its ecclesiastical heritage and also imbuing the city and wider region with a need for community to bring people together and to invest physically and morally in such structures. Hence, Cork has a myriad of church buildings with different styles from different times when such buildings were called upon to impart new messages about their contribution to the city.
The main urban centre was built on a series of marshy islands at the lowest crossing-point of the river, where it meets the sea. One can imagine the timber posts struck into the marshland to mark out the tentative first couple of Viking houses, and the first fires lit in such flood prone structures. The laying of the first block of the Anglo-Norman town wall must have been equally momentous. The actual stone from beneath the encircling southern and northern hills – sandstone and limestone provided the defences. The creeking open for the first time of Watergate and the control by the King’s and Queen’s Castles would have sparked excitement especially as the first timber ship clocked against the key walls. Similarly, the first ship from somewhere abroad in England or France would have brought a sense of wonder and acknowledgment in the city’s role in maritime western Europe.
The topping out of St Anne’s Church Shandon and years later the addition of the bells and clocks would have met with delight and pride. From the top of Shandon, you can gaze down upon the multi-coloured fabric and multi-faceted narrative presented in its urban fabric. Climbing down and walking amongst the streets and laneways, and unravelling those narratives has brought great joy to me personally and has kept me with my camera and notebook in hand trying to make sense of Cork’s place in north west Europe as an ambitious and soulful place.
Cork City History Tour is available in Waterstones and Liam Ruiseals.
865a. Front cover of Cork City History Tour (2016) by Kieran McCarthy
865b. Postcard of King Street, now MacCurtain Street, c.1900, the subject of a walking tour on the 16 October (source: Cork City Museum)
11 Oct 2016
Sunday 16 October, The Victorian Quarter, 2pm, free, leaving from Audley Place, the top of St Patrick’s Hill, duration: two hours; ends at St Patrick’s Church, Lower Road.
6 Oct 2016
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 6 October 2016
Kieran’s New Book, Cork 1916: A Year Examined
Cork 1916: A Year Examined is the title of my new book, just published by Irish History Press. The co-author is author Suzanne Kirwan. The publication is our contribution to the 1916 commemoration debate. It takes the year 1916 from the point of view that there were multiple conversations to be heard during the year – a kaleidoscope of ideas which provided the context and framework for revolution – everyday life being one – some led Cork citizens to connect with the Republican mantra at the time and others to just maintain existence, survive and struggle with the bleakness of a national and local economy.
Entering the Cork Examiner on 1 January and progressing page by page one discovers key nuggets about the nature of Cork society, the soul of Ireland’s southern capital, the ongoing conversations about maintaining a contemporary status of being one of Ireland‘s distinguished port cities, and all the advantages and problems that run with that. January 1916 begins with the aftermath of a winter storm – buildings were windswept and damaged, transport networks such as the City’s tramways were indented – as such there was nothing the Corporation of Cork and the citizens could do but sit it out and wait; much was out of their hands; the storm was something bigger than themselves. Indeed, the thread ‘much was out of their hands’ permeated throughout Irish society at this time – pervaded Cork society at this time. Cork’s place in international and local affairs made the city wait in an almost blurred and funnelled view – that the city’s future at this moment in time was governed by imperial and national factors – the storm of an Empire crossed multiple blurred lines of thought as such. Hence, this book publishes a cross-section of the more important everyday life themes, which emerged during the year. We publish verbatim what was in the Cork newspaper. For us, many of the articles we have chosen should and will resonate with the contemporary public and themes within the media today.
The Cork Examiner on 1 August 1916 celebrated its 75th anniversary and a proud tradition of “influencing public opinion” and offering “fairness” as they noted in their editorial on the day. Censorship was in operation and was defined by Westminster’s Defence against the Realm Act. Indeed, it is only when this act is written about that the Volunteers in Cork under Tómás McCurtain are spoken about, the miscommunication in keeping Cork Volunteers in Cork during Easter Week 1916 and the scale of such structures such as the internment camps. The output of the newspaper is biased. However still and all it is very interesting to explore the knock on effect of what became public news and what did not but lingered in personal archives in correspondence between volunteer leaders and soldiers. How does one interpret what was meant for the public realm or not? Whose story and history is it? Hence it is difficult to realise how much was given by Westminster to the press to publish – therefore questions need to be asked of the press coverage what is real and what is not real, true, half true or false? what news stories can you take at face value or not?
Despite, the rationing of food and materials, the pulses of society in Cork retained it as an ambitious place. By the early twentieth century, the population of the city was 75,000 – the middle classes living in the expanding suburbs whilst the majority, the working classes lived in slum conditions. Unemployment and emigration were high. Unemployment, requests for wage increases, Union interventions, the role of employers and the needs of rate-payers reverberate in the pages throughout the year. The debates of the Cork industrial Association pops up in discourse throughout the pages of the paper, their efforts culminating in the large scale announcement of Ford Tractor and Car manufacturing coming to Cork in 1917. The Cork Harbour Board revelled in this announcement as well as plans for the physical rejuvenation of its quays.
But perhaps above all what we have attempted to create with this book, is to construct a sounding board of sorts – that for all the voices within this book about ideas about Cork and its role in the seminal year of 1916, there are also many voices on the role of the ambitious city in Ireland and further afield to questions of poverty that have never been completely solved or overly discussed. Many of the topics on housing, fair wage, political partnerships and similar ambitions still rage across our newspapers. There is much to learn from this time – not just on the political side but that life itself in any city keeps moving and that society needs to grow and evolve with it – and that even from a dark time in Ireland’s past, there is much to learn about the diverse framework of historical events and how they shape ourselves and our future.
The book Cork 1916, A Year Examined (2016) by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan is available in any good bookshops in the city or on Amazon.
864a. Front cover of Cork 1916, A Year Examined by Kieran McCarthy & Suzanne Kirwan
864b. St Patrick’s Street, c.1910 (source: Cork City Museum)
30 Sep 2016
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, Cork Independent
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 30 September 2016
Remembering 1916: Back to the Future
One hundred years ago this week, Ireland underwent a kind of time travel excursion. It decided to catch up the 25 minutes with Greenwich Mean Time. When the Summer Time Act was adopted throughout Great Britain and Ireland early in the summer of 1916 its effect was significant. Watches and clocks were advanced one hour and the country enjoyed for the first time long hours of daylight in the evening. The Summer passed and the end of September meant that Great Britain had to revert to her normal time – putting back the clock one hour and thus getting back the hour’s sleep lost by the introduction of the Summer Time Act. Ireland decided, however, not to revert to the “old time”, but to try another change – that of adopting Greenwich Mean Time. London, 21 August 1916 – a new Act of Parliament has changed time in Ireland for the second time in the year.
The legislation to affect Greenwich Mean Time was brought about principally by the Irish port authorities and Chambers of Commerce and Shipping. The new rules were also regarded as being of benefit to travellers and as a way to simplify matters for Post Office workers in applying times to telegrams. However, the Act was strongly opposed by Irish farmers who argued that the change in time would “be the ruin of agriculture in Ireland” and render it impossible for parents in rural Ireland to send their children in time to school. Farmers and farm labourers would have to begin work earlier in the morning. The bill had previously been strongly opposed by the Irish Parliamentary Party, but on its introduction to the House of Commons it passed without opposition. The reason for this was due to Irish nationalists who had threatened to resist the change. They withdrew their opposition in order to save the Dublin Reconstruction Bill – the compensation money to rebuild a damaged Dublin city centre after the rising.
The Time Act received Royal Assent and the Greenwich Time Act was enacted in Ireland. Ireland’s new time was to take effect from 8am on 1 October 1916, a Sunday morning. The practical meaning of the Act was that sunlight would extend a further 25/30 minutes in Ireland on any given day. Ireland made up the 25 minutes in time she was behind England by simply putting back the public clocks, and the citizens their watches, not by 60 minutes by 35 minutes on the night, 30 September 1916. No sooner was the act passed than some persons grew anxious as to its effect on railway services and the consequent alterations it would make essential to the running of trains. Trade and commerce circles in the South were worried and the idea grew that sweeping changes in railway time tables would be made, which would be altogether against every interest of the community. The 28 September 1916 arrived and final preparations were made. The Westminster government took out advertisements in newspapers to highlight the change.
Two of the most famous public clocks in the city were changed, both made by Mangan Jewellers. The firm were established in 1817 and in 1847, craftsmen at Mangan’s built the four-faced clock on the steeple of St Anne’s Church, Shandon. This was reputed to be the largest four-faced clock in the world until the construction of Big Ben in London. The clock on St Anne’s Church was one of the first public clocks in Cork City. The idea for the clock was proposed by Councillor Delay at a meeting of Cork Corporation in 1843. He spoke of the hardship imposed on many working-class people who were unable to tell the time, as many of them did not own watches or clocks. He was supported by some of the medical profession in the city as they argued that many poor people were in danger of poisoning themselves by not knowing the times when prescribed medicines should be taken. At a meeting of Cork Corporation on 23 May 1843 it was agreed that a grant of £250 be provided for the design and construction of a clock. James Mangan, a Cork architect and clockmaker, won the public competition to design the clock. Cork Corporation were determined that the clock should stay in public ownership rather than be the property of the Church of Ireland. To this end they appointed four men, at an annual cost of £13, to maintain the clock. A local craftsman, Daniel Thresher, built the clock. In 1847, at the height of the Irish Famine, the clock was installed in the church.
Another Mangan Clock has been a landmark on St Patrick’s Street since the early 1900s. It was adjacent to Mangan’s shop. The shop itself narrowly escaped destruction in December 1920 when a British auxiliary threw a grenade into the shop, intending to ignite a can of petrol which he had placed there. The petrol did not catch fire although the grenade blew out all the windows of the shop. Mangan’s shop ceased trading in the late 1980s, before the premises were demolished, along with many others, to allow for the construction of Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre.
863a. Postcard of St Anne’s Church, Shandon & graveyard c.1910 (source: Cork City Museum)
863b. Postcard of St Patrick’s Street with Mangan’s Clock, c.1910 (source: Cork City Museum)
27 Sep 2016
Press Release, LPT, Cllr Kieran McCarthy
“The stern advice from government to raise Cork City Council’s LPT isn’t helping the upcoming debate and decision on it. The references recently to ‘populist’ rhetoric opposing the taxation doesn’t help to get all Councillors around the table to get the best for the citizens and the City. We all need to get on with it but rattling the decision makers to go along easily with the government message of more taxation on the citizen has to be balanced up and properly debated. Whereas there has been positive investment into the city in some sectors by government, Cork City Council is financially on its knees and now stripped of its capital accounts to paper over vast gaps in funding from central government in recent years.
The other ‘elephant’ in the room is that even if Cork City Council raised its LPT by the full 15 per cent, it still wouldn’t be enough to run the full services of the city. LPT is not the silver bullet to bring the services of Cork City Council forward. The amount of constituents who come to me saying they pay the LPT, and ‘where are the services’ is neverending. Turning around to them and saying the city cannot afford the basics of local government provision such as traffic calming measures and this despite the fact you are paying taxes for them is an insult to our citizens, whose wages now seem to pay for an LPT that is reminiscent of an oxygen tank just there to keep the city alive. Such has been the cutbacks to the accounts of Cork City Council that even if we raise the LPT, people will still be paying for services they expect but ultimately won’t get. Ireland’s second largest local authority needs to send a delegation before an Oireachtas Committee to really speak about the limits of the LPT system and find a resolution or we will be stuck on this LPT roundabout again next year.”