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22 Jun 2017

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 22 June 2017

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900a. Front cover of Secret Cork (2017) by Kieran McCarthy

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article

Cork Independent, 22 June 2017
Secret Cork

   Our City, Our Town article number 900 coincides with the launch of my new book Secret Cork. It is over twenty years since I gave my first walking tour across the flat of Cork City and eighteen years since I began writing my weekly column series Our City, Our Town in the Cork Independent. Both have given me much joy and I have really enjoyed researching and promoting Cork’s story. It is a great story to research and to tell. One cannot but be pulled into the multitudes of narratives, which have framed Ireland’s southern capital.

    For all the tours and for all the columns and themes though, I still seek to figure out what makes the character of Cork tick. I still read between the lines of historic documents and archives. I get excited by a nugget of information, which completes a historical puzzle I might have started years ago. I have sat in the library pouring over a book or old newspaper on many an occasion trying to figure out where a piece of information sits in my researches. I still look up at the architectural fabric of the city to seek new discoveries, hidden treasures and new secrets. I encourage people on my tours to look up and around and always they see something that I have not seen. I am still no wiser in teasing out all of Cork’s biggest secrets. But I would like to pitch that it’s biggest secret is itself, a charming urban landscape, whose greatest secrets have not been told and fully explored.

We all become blind to our home place and its stories. We walk streets, which become routine spaces – spaces, which we take for granted – but all have been crafted, assembled and storified by past residents. It is only when we stand still and look around can we hear the voices of the past and its secrets being told.

   I have articulated over the years that there is a power of place – that the concept of place matters. Cork is a place of tradition, continuity, change and legacy. It is a place of direction and experiment by people, of ambition and determination, experiences and learning, of ingenuity and innovation and a place of nostalgia and memory. Cork’s urban landscape is filled with messages about the past – from positive to negative. That beyond the physical surfaces of a city such as Cork, there is a soulful and evocative character etched across the flat of the city, the estuary of the river Lee and surrounding valleysides. Place matters in Cork. Within this topographical frame is a heritage – physical and spiritual to a degree – that needs to be minded, cherished and nourished.

   Cork’s place and story has been carved over many centuries and all those legacies can be found in its narrow streets and laneways and in its built environment. was built by a combination of native and outside influences, its ever-changing townscape and society shaped by different cultures since its origin as a monastic settlement. Cork possesses a unique character, derived from a combination of its plan, topography, built fabric and location.

    Cork is unique among other Irish cities in that it alone has experienced all phases of Irish urban development, from c.AD600 to the present day. The settlement at Cork began as a monastic centre in the seventh century, founded by St FinBarre. Legacies echo from being an old ancient port city where Scandinavian Vikings plied the waters 1,000 years ago – their timber boats beaching on a series of marshy islands – and the wood from the same boats forming the first foundations of houses and defences. We will never know and will always speculate upon their raison d’être to construct such a settlement upon a wetland.

   Themes of survival, living on the edge, ambition, innovation, branding and internationalisation are etched across the narratives of much of Cork’s built heritage and are amongst my favourite topics to research. Indeed, I fully believe that these are key narratives that Cork needs to break the silence on more and this is a book constructed on those themes.

  Secret Cork, my 20th book, is part of my own campaign over the years to promote Cork. It is a companion volume to Cork City Centre Tour (2016) and contains sites that I have not had a chance to research and write about in any great detail over the years. Secret Cork takes the viewer on a walking trail of over fifty sites. It starts in the flood plains of the Lee Fields looking at green fields, which once hosted an Industrial and Agricultural fair, a series of Grand Prix’s, and open-air baths. It then rambles to hidden holy wells, the city’s sculpture park through the lens of Cork’s revolutionary period, onwards to hidden graveyards, dusty library corridors, gazing under old canal culverts, across historic bridges to railway tunnels. Secret Cork is all about showcasing these sites and revealing the city’s lesser-known past and atmospheric urban character.

   Secret Cork is available from Cork bookshops and from www.amberley-books.com; previous publications are listed on www.corkheritage.ie. Previous columns are also available here.

Saturday 24 June, 12noon, Old Workhouse Tour with Kieran; meet at entrance to St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, in association with the Friends of St Finbarr’s (free, 2 hours)

900a. Front cover of Secret Cork (2017) by Kieran McCarthy

900b. St Patrick’s Bridge, c.1900 (source: Cork City Museum)

900b. St Patrick's Bridge, c.1900

19 Jun 2017

McCarthy: Old Workhouse Tour, Saturday 23 June

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    On Saturday, 23 June the Friends of St Finbarr’s Hospital will be holding their annual Garden Fete Party from 1.30pm to 4.30 pm. As part of a whole series of events planned, Cllr Kieran McCarthy invites the general public to take part in a historical walking tour of St. Finbarre’s Hospital at 12noon (meet at gate). The walk is free and all are welcome. The tour focusses on the former Douglas Road workhouse, which was also one of the first of over 130 workhouses to be designed by the Poor Law Commissioners’ architect George Wilkinson.

   Cllr McCarthy notes: “The tour attempts to paint a picture of the workhouse, its function and insightful stories into life at that time – all of which have conditioned the feel and sense of place of this corner of Douglas Road and the wider city. When the Irish Poor Relief Act was passed on 31 July 1838, the assistant Poor Law commissioner, William J Voules came to Cork in September 1838 to implement the new laws. Meetings were held in towns throughout the country. By 1845, 123 workhouses had been built, formed into a series of districts or Poor Law Unions, each Poor Law Union containing at least one workhouse. The cost of poor relief was met by the payment of rates by owners of land and property in that district”.

   Cllr McCarthy continues: “In 1841 eight acres, 1 rood and 23 perches were leased to the Poor Law Guardians from Daniel B Foley, Evergreen House, Cork. Mr Foley retained an acre, on which was Evergreen House with its surrounding gardens, which fronted South Douglas Road. The subsequent workhouse that was built on the leased lands was opened in December 1841. It was an isolated place, built beyond the City’s toll house and toll gates”.

15 Jun 2017

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 15 June 2017

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899a. Map of Cork Union complex with Cork District Hospital, c.1910


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 15 June 2017

The Wheels of 1917: The Complexities of the Cork Union House

   The history of the Cork Union workhouse on Douglas Road is well documented (now the site of St Finbarr’s Hospital). The archives of the Cork Board of Guardians in Cork City and County archives are extensive, and include a large numbers of minute books, that record the proceedings of the Board’s meetings, 1841 – 1924. Many subjects are recorded in the minute books, such as the ongoing struggle to both fund, staff and manage the workhouse and related services, attitudes to poverty, developments in public health provision, and the care of the infirm, the destitute, children, and the mentally ill. Such subjects are also fleshed out and debated in Cork newspapers of the day, such as the Cork Examiner, which published the minutes of meetings as far back as 1841.

    Continuing the thread of exploring life in Cork one hundred years ago, like many other institutions in the city, the year 1917 for the Cork Union House coincided with continued cuts to service provision due the ongoing war. The old workhouse site provided an array of public services from accommodation, food, schools and hospitals. By 1917 the term workhouse had been renamed Cork District Hospital. At a special meeting of the Board of Guardians on 15 January 1917 salaries and cutbacks were outlined. There were men in their employment who were working for less than labourer wages. Urgent repairs were only to be pursued. The price of food was at such a level that a further increase made securing such goods prohibitive for relief. In January 1917, the provision of tobacco or snuff was to be minimised. It was proposed that milk be substituted for eggs. The consumption of coal in the institution was deemed too high with the cost in the summer the same as in winter. The butter bill was an enormous one. Other public boards had substituted margarine. As to the scarcity of sugar, they proposed to utilise condensed milk to sweeten teas. Attention was brought to the question of the three distinct lines of telephones in the institution– and that one ought to be suffice.

   At the meeting of the Visiting Committee on 2 May 1917 officials spoke about being refused a war bonus because they were receiving rations. The meeting saw further cuts in rations. Unmarrried officials were to be cut but the difference made up in cash to them. Two shillings per week more were paid to dispensary porters. At 16 May meeting, the engineer’s report, which was read, highlighted that the cost of building materials had increased fifty per cent and timber was coming in 100 per cent dearer. It was impossible to fully carry out the ordinary repair work needed with a small staff contingent of seven painters and two masons.

   In mid-May, the figures in the media revealed a large operation programme and the debate at meetings gives insights into the scope of the Union House and its complex. There were 1,450 people in the House (102 less than the figure for 1916). In the hospital, there was 980 patients in the hospital (45 less than the figure for 1916). The deaths during the week ended 5 May amounted to ten. The numbers of persons in receipt of outdoor relief totalled 1925. The daily supply of milk required totalled 182 gallons. It was bought from two sources – Mrs Hannah Forrest of Clogheen and Mr F Bradley of Carrigrohane. The tender of James Murphy of Nicholas’ Well for ten pigs at £112 was accepted. The wages of the bakers in the house were increased to the standard operating in the city, as were those of the carpenters and the fireman of the house. At the mid May committee meeting, the Ladies Boarding Committee was proposed to be dissolved – it had been established 30 years ago for the specific purpose of looking after young women with regards to giving them access to the site and improving their health.

  At the Board of Guardians meeting on 29 June 1917, complaints were read from the Federation of Trade Unions of Cork and District Health Insurance Society as to two of its members and the treatment they received as patients. It was acknowledged that there was a prolonged delay at the porter’s lodge with formalities and restrictions. A custom existed that all patients had to undress at the lodge All no matter what they were suffering from were to seen by the medical officers. Deputy attendants was deemed not conducive to the sympathetic treatment of patients in the hospital. The shortcut solution for many years was to propose the appointment of paid attendants but the expenditure was high so probationer nurses were appointed.

   At a Board of Guardians meeting on 21 September 1917, further insights are revealed. The Clerk of the Cork Union was manager of the schools – the number of girls in the female school was 51 whilst the teachers numbered 5. In the boy’s school there were 41 pupils and 3 teachers. In the Fever Hospital, there were three nuns, two probationers by day and one night nurse, and one paid wardsmaid and one inmate. There was a six-month fever course in the Cork District Hospital. Dr D Horgan of 11 Sydney Place, Cork was appointed eye specialist.


Note: Forthcoming June Walking Tours with Kieran, all free, 2 hours

• Saturday 17 June, Turners Cross & Ballyphehane Historical Walking Tour, meet at Christ the King Church, Turners Cross, 12noon (finishes a Ballyphehane Park)
• Saturday 24 June, Old Workhouse Tour, meet at entrance to St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, in association with the Friends of St Finbarr’s, 12noon


899a. Map of Cork Union complex with Cork District Hospital, c.1910 (source: Cork City Library)

13 Jun 2017

McCarthy: Public Consultation Workshops on Future of Docklands Crucial

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           Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed ongoing developments in the Docklands quarter of the city from Blackrock through Pairc Uí Chaoimh, the Marina Park to Centre Park Road. “it is clear there in a progressive energy in this corner of the city at this present moment; in continuing progress and to meet the current economic climate and the demand for housing, a new Cork City Docks Local Area Plan will replace the South Docks Local Area Plan 2008 and the expired North Docks Local Area Plan 2005. The Tivoli Docks LAP will be a new plan. All of these area have seen lands been incorporated into NAMA and it is very important that their future is unlocked and older plans are amended”.

“As a first step, the City Council is undertaking a pre-plan issues exploration consultation and invites all stakeholders and interested parties to identify the issues that they feel need to be addressed in the proposed LAPs and how the areas should be redeveloped. The Cork City Docks (Local Area Plan) Issues Paper and the Tivoli Docks (Local Area Plan) Issues Paper can be viewed at www.corkcity.ie/localareaplans”.

     The public Consultation workshop to promote discussion about the future of the Cork City Docks and Tivoli Docks is being held on Tuesday 20 June 2017 between 6pm-9pm (with light bites between 5pm-6pm) at the Clayton Hotel, Lapp’s Quay, Cork. Workshop places are limited and the City Council asks that interested people RSVP in advance of the meeting by emailing planningpolicy@corkcity.ie or ringing 021– 492-4086 / 021-492-4757. The City Council aims to ensure a good balance in those participating in the event. Cork City Council invites written submissions from you to inform the plan-making processes. The deadline for the receipt of submissions is 1.00pm on Friday 7 July 2017.

13 Jun 2017

Comments by Kieran, Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork, June 2017

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Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork

Comments by Cllr Kieran McCarthy, Cork City Council Meeting, June 2017

This is a very welcome document in terms for Cork City’s Council’s perspective on the Local Government Review.

I think it’s a document to note more so than adopt; I have a lot of questions about aspects of the document – and just because we are now getting what we want – we shouldn’t just take the first cheque that comes our way – winning a battle – doesn’t mean we have won the overall war.

I certainly agree with the thoughts that an implementation team should be moved straight away to work through the many questions within this document and address any clarifications needed.

There is a scarily short lead into the next local elections of 2019.

The sooner the implementation oversight body test the proposals within this document the better in an effort to forge forward.

This document needs to be plugged into the submissions of the City and County Councils for the NPF around planning for the next thirty years.

And there are a lot more questions to ask:

If we are agreeing with the proposal for a five-year term for a Lord Mayor – then we should go all the way and propose a directly elected Lord Mayor by the public – a Council elected Lord Mayor runs the risk of one political party ruling the roost for five years.

This document is very light on financial figures, which raises questions for me similar to the County Council’s, and I note their queries that they are not against the document, which is a positive development but are seeking clarifications, all of which I agree with and also such questions need to be asked by our side in order to get a successful outcome for us.

I have questions around costs of transfer of directorates, staff and assets – I would like to get clarification figures on the costings around social housing, roads and environment in the proposed new areas for the city.

I would like the oversight body to provide us with the costs behind the transfer of outstanding debts including commercial rates.

I agree with the point that there has to be long term financial sustainability of the reconfigured County Council – but I note most of all the proposal of providing the County Council with 40 million euros a year for ten years – near half a billion euros over a decade – a lifeline to keep the County Council alive – that’s a huge debt to hang over any city authority – we need to send out a strong signal that such a debt is not sustainable over 10 years.

Again all of this debate comes down to the Department of Local Government’s financing of local authorities.

The emerging city area must have proper funding to encompass another 100,000 people – there is nothing within this document about what extra income will come to the new city council – if the extra income is for example e.40m per annum– it wouldn’t be financially sustainable to take on any new debts – and try to develop the region at the same time and look after the everyday requirements.

We need proper finance figures. I can support many of the report’s recommendations but do not endorse all of it. I have many finance questions, I need answered by the implementation oversight body.

13 Jun 2017

Cllr McCarthy: Crowd Control or Missed Opportunity

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   Arising from the review of limiting tourists numbers at the English Market, Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has acknowledged the lesser numbers freeing up trade in the English Market but again makes the point of the opportunity to tell the story of Gastronomy in Cork City and Region; “there is a clear interest in the history of the market and in the food itself; there is a huge opportunity for the region to promote these stories. The English Market is a thriving food venue but some other venue should be developed close by to tell the story of the market viz-a-vis a small food museum and an opportunity to buy English Market hampers of food. The English Market INC can be more than just a market. There is an opportunity to push more of an international story. We can do more to push and showcase Failte Ireland’s food trails of Cork”.

“There are international gastronomy trails in several countries across the world and even college courses in colleges such as CIT which aim to reveal people and key influences in the historical development of regional gastronomy, and the evolution and social, cultural and economic influences of contemporary Irish cuisine and Irish culinary arts”.

“Apart from the physical market, we should also be championing its heritage and legacy in our city and region more in the form of a food centre or on a digital hub; at the moment in time, this is a missed opportunity”.

13 Jun 2017

Question to CE, Cork City Council, 12 June 2017

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To ask the CE about solutions being rolled out to tackle Japanese Knotweed? (Cllr Kieran McCarthy)

9 Jun 2017

Report, Expert Advisory Group on the future of local government, 9 June 2017

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Cork City Council has welcomed the publication today by Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney of the report by the Expert Advisory Group on the future of local government in Cork city and county.

Cork City Council Chief Executive, Ann Doherty said:  “We welcome the publication of the report by Minister Simon Coveney. With our Elected Members, we shall study its contents in detail and evaluate its implications for Cork city as the economic driver of the region and for its strategic role as an effective and sustainable counterbalance to the Dublin region”.

Under the chairmanship of Jim MacKinnon, the Cork Local Government Arrangements Report was tasked with undertaking a thorough analysis of the issues dealt with in the Cork Local Government Review Committee in September 2015. It was also to examine the potential of local government in furthering the economic and social well being and sustainable development of Cork city and county.

Its terms of reference included considering the strategic role of Cork city as a regional growth centre, an evaluation of governance necessary to safeguard the metropolitan interests of the city, the examination of local government leadership at executive and political levels, the possibility of establishing an office of a directly elected mayor and the possibility of devolving some power from central to local government.

Jim MacKinnon, CBE is a former Chief Planner at the Scottish Government. Former Chairman of An Bord Pleanála and Eirgrid Chair, John O’Connor, former President  and board member  of the Cork Chamber of Commerce, solicitor, Gillian Keating and Chief  Executive of Richmond and Wandsworth Councils, Paul Martin also sat on the expert advisory group.

8 Jun 2017

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 8 June 2017

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898a. Mr John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party who headed up the roll out of the Irish Convention in 1917


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 8 June 2017

The Wheels of 1917: The Irish Convention

   June 1917 coincided with the ground being laid for further national discourse on the future government of Ireland in the form of the Irish Convention. The report of the outcomes of the Convention were compiled and published by Horace Plunkett in 1918.

   In a letter dated 16 May 1917 and addressed to Mr John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Prime Minister Lloyd George expressed his hope that “Irishmen of all creeds and parties might meet together in a Convention for the purpose of drafting a constitution for their country which should secure a just balance of all the opposing interests”. Invitations were extended to the Chairmen of the thirty-three County Councils, the Lord Mayors or Mayors of the six County Boroughs. The Chairmen of the Urban Councils throughout Ireland were requested to appoint eight representatives, two from each province. The Irish Parliamentary Party, the Ulster Parliamentary Party and the Irish Unionist Alliance were each invited to nominate five representatives.

   An invitation was extended to the Roman Catholic Hierarchy to appoint four representatives; the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin were appointed to represent the Church of Ireland, and the Moderator of the General Assembly to represent the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Invitations were also extended to the Chairmen of ‘the Chambers of Commerce of Dublin, Belfast and Cork, and to labour organisations, and the representative peers of Ireland were invited to select two of their number. All these invitations were accepted except by one Chairman of a County Council. Invitations intended to secure representation of the Sinn Féin party and the All for Ireland party were declined, as were the invitations extended to the Trades Councils of Dublin and Cork.

   On Thursday evening, 14 June 1917 an inaugural public meeting to discuss the Irish Convention was held in Cork City Hall. The proceedings were published by the Cork Examiner a day later. The meeting comprised merchants, traders, members of the various professions and other citizens of Cork and met to pass a resolution in connection with the future government of Ireland. It was one of the largest and most representative meetings that had assembled in the City for many years, the attendance numbering between 500 and 600, many of whom held very divergent views on the Irish Home Rule situation. Complementary to that at the back of the hall were a section of young men representing Sinn Féin numbering between 40 to 50.

   The Chairman Bertram Windle explained that he occupied the chair because the Lord Mayor, T C Butterfield, whom they would naturally expect to find in the chair, considered that he was too closely identified with “party politics” to do so. Windle wished to say distinctly what the meeting was and what it was not; “it was a meeting of the citizens of Cork desirous of promoting the success of the forthcoming Convention”. At this point, one of the young members of Sinn Féin stood up and shouted: Is the resolution passed last Tuesday night by the Sinn Féin organisation in Cork going to be read here?”. The chairman answered in the negative, and the interruptions from the back of the hall continued. Alderman Beamish rose to a point of order, and asked that all in favour of the object of the meeting stand up. In response every man in the Hall, with the exception of the Sinn Féin representation, rose to their feet.

   Mr A F Sharman Crawford, took to the floor, and noted that he felt it a great privilege to propose the resolution, which was the object of the meeting. The resolution was ”That we, merchants, traders, members of the various profession, and other citizens of Cork, in meeting assembled), do hereby cordially welcome the holding of a Convention, to be comprised of Irishmen of all creeds, classes, and politics to consider the most satisfactory scheme for the future Government of Ireland, and we earnestly hope that all the members of such a Convention will enter upon their deliberations with an open mind, and in a broad and liberal spirit fully determined to arrive at some agreement which will tend to the future welfare and prosperity of our common country”.

   Mr T B Lillis, of the Munster and Leinster Bank, said he desired to offer a few brief words in support of the resolution. He highlighted that it was not a meeting of politicians, but of business men who were fully representative of the commercial, trading, professional and financial interests of the capital city of Munster. He deemed that “they had the assured conviction, derived from sources of special knowledge which were open to them, that the economic condition of Ireland was never so sound and prosperous as it was at the moment, and their great industry of the land was prospering exceedingly. The prospect of the successful development of our country was never so promising”. At this stage, a young fellow advanced on to the platform and handed the Chairman a Sinn Féin leaflet. Ignoring the intervention, continuing Mr Lillis said they knew that as a result of the “strife and unrest and dissention which were allowed to prevail that the progress of the country was stilted”. The motion was later approved. The Irish Convention held one of its meetings in Cork on 25 September 1917.

 Note: June Walking Tours with Kieran, all free, 2 hours

  • Tuesday 13 June, Ballinlough Historical Walking Tour, meet at Beaumont BNS at Beaumont Park, 6.45pm (finishes Ballinlough Road)

  • Wednesday 14 June, Douglas Historical Walking Tour, meet at St Columba’s Church Carpark, 6.45pm (finishes at the Church again)

  • Saturday 17 June, Turners Cross & Ballyphehane Historical Walking Tour, meet at Christ the King Church, Turners Cross, 12noon (finishes a Ballyphehane Park)

  • Saturday 24 June, Old Workhouse Tour, meet at entrance to St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, in association with the Friends of St Finbarr’s, 12noon 


898a. Mr John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, who headed up the roll out of the Irish Convention in the summer of 1917 (source: Cork City Library)

6 Jun 2017

Open Day, Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017

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Well done to the Cork harbour Alliance and the organisation behind opening Roches Point lighthouse for one day for public tours to celebrate its bicentenary.

Historical Note from Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen, Cork Harbour Through Time:

Around 1640-1650 AD, the Roche family purchased the Fitzgerald estate (approx 1500 acres) from Edmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe and lived for many centuries at Trabolgan. Roches Point at the mouth of Cork Harbour is named after this family. A letter dated 28th August 1813 from Vice Admiral Thornborough of Trent, Cork Harbour, was read to the Ballast Board on 2 September 1813. In this letter he pointed out the danger of which vessels were put in frequenting Cork Harbour for want of a light house at the entrance to the harbour. This small lighthouse was working by June 1817 but its tower was not conducive to a major harbour of refuge and port, in 1835 it was replaced by the present larger tower.

Open Day, Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017


Open Day, Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017

Open Day, Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017


Open Day, Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017

Open Day, Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017

Open Day, Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017