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)
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 email@example.com.
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.