always a sad day to see an old building in Cork being taken down to make way
for progress, especially one which is iconic in its location and character like
the old Sextant bar. Its
character has really added to the landscape and to the sense of place and
identity of Cork Docklands for nearly 140 years. It has seen boom and bust in
Cork and if the building could talk it would so many tales to tell. Built
initially in 1877 it was first a hotel, which was run by the Sexton family,
which provided lodgings for passengers using the Cork-Bandon and South Coast
Railway. It soon after changed to being a public house run by the Markham
family. The building has only had a few owners since one hundred years ago,
testament to those who kept the business running on the site for so many
In November last year, I expressed in my
submission to An Bord Pleanála, that as the Sextant Bar was not unfortunately a
protected structure in legal planning terms – by giving permission to demolish
it would set a precedent for the demolition of other historic, but which are
not legally protected structures in the area. I welcome the fact on the wider
Sextant corner that the old Cork-Blackrock and Passage Railway Company is set
to be conserved and done up. But I continue my view that holistic conversations
need to be had on what Cork South and North Docklands should physically look
like in the years to come. Yes the city needs to evolve but I would not like
the story of Cork’s docks, which made this city over several centuries lost to
the bulldozer to make way for glass box architecture and storyless public
realm. For me I want to see buildings with character, streets and public realm
with cultural reference points and some references to the history of Cork
news of Terence MacSwiney beyond the fact that he has been deported. Whether
they will let him die or send him to hospital, or release him, we cannot say.
And what is most distressing to me about the matter is that there seems to be
nothing we can do to assist him, or nothing effective in his case that will hasten,
what he would desire, the independence of Ireland” (extract from Liam De Róiste’s
diary, 19 August 1920, Cork Archives).
It was day eleven of Terence MacSwiney’s hunger strike when Cork Corporation and Sinn Féin member Liam de Róiste arrived in London from Cork to see Terence. At the request of colleagues in the Council of the Corporation he travelled at short notice on Saturday 21 August. Liam has been involved in Sinn Féin since 1906 and was a prominent member in the Irish Volunteer movement. He was elected a Sinn Féin MP for Cork City at the 1918 General Election. Liam’s detailed diary books survive in Cork Archives describe that he knew Terence well – as a friend and as a comrade. Liam did not agree with all aspects of Volunteer activities. He was a strategic pacifist at heart more so than a soldier.
In his diary, Liam outlines that it was six years since he had been in London – at the beginning of August 1914. He outlines that he stood outside the Bank of England and bought an evening newspaper – War had just been declared by Austria on Serbia.
On his 1920 trip Liam journeyed to Winchester prison to see some prisoners from County Cork, who are in the prison there. Unbeknownst to him, several others from Cork were at the prison before him and he ended up not seeing any of the prisoners due to restrictions.
On Tuesday 24 August 1920, Professor William Stockley, member of Cork Corporation and Sinn Féin arrived in London. He was also delegated by the Council to go to London. Since 1905 William was Professor of English at University College Cork and was President of the Cork Library Society in 1920. A learned man, earlier in March 1920 William was the subject of two failed assassination attempts by crown forces.
At 3pm, 24 August 1920, Liam and the Professor went to Brixton Prison in the London Borough of Lambeth in inner-south London to see Terence who was on Day 12 of his hunger strike.
Opened in 1820 and known initially as the House of Correction, Brixton Prison was known historically for its inhumane thread mill and over crowded conditions. By the late nineteenth century, the prison had expanded its building stock and uses – becoming an entirely female prison and then becoming a military prison and by 1920 as a trial and remand prison for London and its surrounding counties. Its inmates were famous and infamous in London’s criminal history.
Brixton Prison was the ultimate British gaol institution in the centre of London at the heart of an Empire. Deporting Terence to Brixton Prison was a strong statement by the British government to make. It was a place to “correct” prisoner’s attitudes and ultimately to break their resolve. Such an authoritarian approach is described elegantly in Liam de Roiste’s diary when he writes on 24 August 1920; “what a marvellous system of administration they have, based on prisons, police, law, rules and regulations. When they imprison you it looks as if they were conferring a favour on you instead of doing you an injury; they desire to impress on you that it is for your own good, not at all to maintain their domination over you”.
permit for the prison visit was secured by Cork Corporation for Liam and
Professor Stockley from the English Home Office. After formalities of entering
their names in a book at a quasi-reception area, a deputy governor of the
prison asked them to wait noting of Terence – “his Lordship had just been
visited by the doctors. He may be faint after that visit”. Soon after the
governor led the duo to Terence in the hospital ward.
In his diary, Liam writes of his walk to see Terence; “the prison of Brixton has not that forbidding aspect which Cork gaol has. Outside it is of the mud coloured brick which is a common colour in London. In the wing we entered the walls were enamel painted, white and green. The steel of staircases and ‘cages’ around them are polished. The bars of gates and windows look as if painted black. Everything was spotlessly clean. The hospital was itself very bright, with many windows; a table was in the centre with beds ranged around”.
Terence was the only occupant of the ward. He lay in a bed in a corner and above him was a grated window. A table was near the head of the bed, on which were some flowers, medicine bottles and some kind of invalid food. Two chairs were placed out for Liam and the Professor.
Liam expresses in his diary his first glimpse of Terence and the limited interaction Liam and Professor Stockley had with Terence; “There he lay, a strong frame broken, mind undimmed, will unshaken. I did not indeed expect to see him with such vitality…the face was drawn, but the expression of strong vitality was in it. He moved with difficulty, spoke in whispers and only with effort and in gasps. Eyes closed often and often he turned away in exhaustion. The struggle of the will and spirit with the body was plainly visible…he is dying the death he wished for – dying for Ireland. And the rulers of England – the tackers of Christianity, civilisation, liberty, justice – have hardened their hearts. They have declared the man must die. What a world it is!”.
Kieran’s new book Witness to Murder, The Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain
is now available to purchase online (co-authored with John O’Mahony 2020, Irish
1063a. Liam De Róiste, circa 1920 (source: Cork
1063a. Professor William F Stockley, 1920s (source: Fleischmann
Diaries Archive, UCC).
continue the pedestrianisation of The Marina is very welcome. Up to this year and
for many years previously, the pedestrianisation process had been a goal of
local councillors and many local residents, and in fairness to Roads officials and
the Director of Operations they have responded to public calls.
During Covid-19 lockdown, the pedestrianisation
of the road as a temporary measure was the life-saver for many people who
needed the outlet to walk and just take time-out during the 2km and 5km. I have
had much correspondence by locals and other Corkonians calling for the
continuance of the pedestrianisation beyond the phase 1 temporary measure deadline
of the 31 August. Many have emphasised to me the importance of this historic tree-lined
avenue to public health and recreational use. I have also received correspondence
though that the pedestrianisation process, like the streets in the city centre,
should go through a short public consultation process.
I have had received many concerns about the
large amount of cars parked on Blackrock Pier – many parked in an unsafe manner,
and I have also had correspondence and worry about the recent flooding of the pathway
around the Atlantic Pond and the need to fix the flap, which leaves tidal water
in and out. There is a lot of love for The Marina, that is why I think a short
public consultation is very important, so the pedestrianisation project can be
tweaked if needs be”.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy wishes to
remind business owners that the recent expansion of the Restart Grant Plus is
now open. To further support businesses as the economy
reopens and resumes activity, the government has announced an additional €300
million in funding. This new grant is the Restart Grant PlusScheme.
This is following on from the Business Restart Grantscheme in
May, where a €250 million Restart Fund was created by the Minister for
Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
If you have
already been approved for the Restart Grant do not apply for
the Restart Grant Plus. Cork City Council will send an e-mail to
each already approved applicant outlining the next steps to be taken. If you
applied for the Restart Grant and it was refused because you were not
eligible, please apply for the Business Restart Grant Plus as the
criteria have now been expanded and you may now qualify.
The maximum grant available will rise to €25,000
(up from €10,000) and the minimum payment will be €4,000 (up from €2,000).
Firms that accessed the Restart Grant will be eligible for a top-up payment to
a total combined value of the revised minimum and maximum grant levels.
The criteria for accessing the scheme include
businesses that have an existing rate account with Cork City Council, have 250
employees or fewer, turnover of less than €100,000 per employee, commit to
remain open or to reopen if it was closed, intend to retain employees that are
on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme; and reduced turnover by 25% as a result
Cllr McCarthy noted: “Under the revised Restart
Grant, support will also be provided for enterprises that could not access the
original grant scheme. Non-rated B&Bs, Charities and rateable sports
businesses will be eligible for a grant subject to a minimum grant of €4,000
and a maximum grant of €25,000”.Further information can be obtained from Cork City Council’s
Rates Dept. at 021-4924484 or by e-mailing email@example.com or log onto
Mahon’s Monkey Puzzle tree will be
sorely missed. I have received much correspondence by constituents expressing
their sadness. It might be only a tree but it was a familiar landmark for those
living in the area. Many of those who have got in contact with me have said
former generations pointed it out to them and it has been the subject of many
discussions over many years. Local people cared about it and were very proud of
it. Access to it in modern times is difficult with overgrown and now former
building development mounds. But the tree in past times connected to when
locals played and walked in green fields alongside the Douglas
The tree was an unofficial welcome to
the area type sign – a welcome home symbol to Corkonians. It was a huge
connective piece to the area’s sense of place and development. And that is
despite that in the immediate area, there are large road interlinks and the
area is very industrialised in its look. The traffic in the area is always fast
and pedestrian have to mind the traffic as one walks into the well laid out
Jacob’s Island development. It’s not an easy area to walk around, even though
the estuary walk is very nearby.
The Monkey Puzzle tree, which is the
remnant of an old nineteenth century estate called Lakelands, softened the look
of the area. The old house is long gone but in previous years, remnants of its
foundations and a cellar have been found adjacent the old tree. The house
reputedly was one of the largest mansions in the south of Ireland and was
developed by the Crawford family of brewing fame. In 2003 preparation
works for Mahon Point Shopping Centre complex revealed several features from
the Lakelands estate. Two access
roads, a quay, and a number of garden features such as its icehouse, cellar and
walled gardens. What is known locally as Crawford Quay or the ‘Yanks’ is nearby
as well the old boat house.
At one time approximately 50 mansions in the south-eastern suburbs of Cork City overlooked Douglas Estuary and Cork Harbour. By 1792 William Crawford had moved from County Down to Cork where he co-founded of the successful Beamish and Crawford brewery. He occupied the fine and large residence Lakelands at Blackrock, to the east of the city overlooking the widening River Lee. His son, William Crawford (Junior), continued his involvement with the brewery, but was also active in the cultural life of Cork City, wrote several papers on plant and trees, and also built walled gardens. He was one of the founders of the Crawford School of Art of which his son, William Horatio, was also a generous benefactor (creating the beautiful Crawford Art Gallery). As generations of the Crawford family ended, from 1890s to 1940s Lakelands House was allowed decay. It is now completely gone, and is now occupied by a regional road and apartment complex whilst the core of the former estate is marked by Mahon Shopping Centre.
Storm Ellen though has left a trail of damaged trees in Cork. I have
repeatedly said in the City Council Chamber over many years that trees are a
very important addition to Cork’s urbanscape. They add not only immense
character to our streets, estates and parks but have been sites of play, family
and friends activities, scenic photographs, protectors and shelters from wind
and rain and floods, symbolic of the stories of neighbourhoods and much much
more. I remain adamant that the City Council’s needs a tree and biodiversity
officer to create education programmes around our trees but also to push more the
connection between the Council and local communities – so that more trees can
The city lost 500 trees from Storm Ophelia a few years ago and none of
these were replaced. In these times of Covid, more than ever our trees and our
recreational spaces are crucial to maintain and develop. The fall of the Monkey
Puzzle tree has once again activated citizen’s need for connections to natural
habitats and that as a city we need mind our natural heritage as much as we
can for our mental health needs but also the health of our local
neighbourhoods and local identities.
In addition in light of Mahon’s Monkey Puzzle tree I have written to the
Council Director of Operations David Joyce asking him to contact the owner of
Jacob’s Island and the tree and that perhaps timber seat memorials or other
appropriate memorials could be created from the fallen tree – so that the
important story of the tree can be retold to our generation and future
From evidence given at the inquest of Lord Mayor Tomás
MacCurtain there was no doubt among the officers of the Cork No.1 Brigade that RIC
District Inspector Oswald Swanzy was the prime instigator in the murder of Tomás.
The Brigade Staff decided that Oswald Swanzy should be assassinated for his
crime. Nineteen-year old Seán Culhane, Intelligence Officer, Cork No.1 Brigade,
was told that he could go ahead with the shooting provided Swanzy could be
located. Shortly after the inquest Swanzy departed Cork under an assumed name
and moved to some unknown destination.
In his witness statement within the Bureau of Military
History (WS746) Seán Culhane describes in depth his mission to assassinate
Swanzy. Following Swanzy’s departure from Cork Seán heard that some baggage had
left Swanzy’s house and had been brought to the city’s railway station. He
visited the station on the same evening and met a railway clerk named Seán
Healy, who was a Lieutenant in ‘A’ Company of IRA Brigade No.1. He told Seán Healy
his business and he proceeded to the Parcels Office and after rummaging around
for a short while Seán Healy found a hat-box and after examining the label on
the box and, whether by chance or good fortune, he removed the top label and found
another label underneath marked “Swanzy”, “Lisburn”. This information was sent
to IRA General Headquarters and it was later confirmed by Headquarters that Oswald
Swanzy was in Lisburn.
Seán Culhane was then selected to go to Dublin and
Belfast to make all necessary arrangements. He went to Dublin and after first calling
to Brennan’s and Walsh’s – well known Republican drapers – one of the staff
brought him along to Vaughan’s Hotel where he met Michael Collins. Seán
informed Mick of his mission and told him that he was en route for Belfast. Mick
told him to get in touch with Matt McCarthy, an IRA sympathiser and then a
Constable in the RIC in Belfast.
On meeting Matt McCarthy, he thought the quest was
inadvisable and after a full discussion of the proposal with Belfast Volunteer Joe
McKelvey, it was agreed that the latter would provide reliable scouts to obtain
all the information required for General Headquarters. Satisfied that Swanzy
was still there Seán reported back to Dublin and sought further help as it was
General Headquarters which financed the job. He met Michael Collins, and after
a frank discussion, he remarked that the job was much too big for Seán. He said
it was a job for experienced men and mentioned about picking selected men from
Dublin. Seán made a strong protest to him and informed him that his orders were
very emphatic and that it was solely a Cork Brigade job.
After thinking it over Michael Collins said that he would
leave the decision to the Minister for Defence Cathal Brugha. The Minister questioned
Seán very closely as to his proposed plan of action and was convinced by the
plan. Seán then requested permission to attain four men from Cork to assist him
in the operation, and this was agreed to. The men selected by the Brigade were
Dick Murphy, “Stetto” Aherne, Corny McSweeney and Jack Cody. They
arrived in Belfast sometime later where Seán met them on arrival.
After these men were sent for from Cork and prior to
their arrival in Belfast Seán had more time to examine the project in greater
detail. He was satisfied that it was only a two man job and that any number
over and above this might mean a bungling of the job and a bigger danger for
all of them. He chose Dick Murphy, who was Captain of ‘G’ Company, Cork No.1
Brigade, to accompany him on the operation. The other three were sent back to
Cork. This was on a Friday and the following Sunday, 22 August 1920, was the date
fixed for the job.
Seán Leonard, a native of Tubbercurry and who worked in a
Belfast garage was asked to provide the car and he arrived at the appointed
time. By arrangement they stopped the car about 150 yards from the place
selected for the shooting in Lisburn. It was also arranged that Belfast Brigade
member Joe McKelvey would meet them about a mile outside Lisburn on completion
of the job and that he would guide Dick and Seán across the hills to Belfast.
Belfast Brigade members Tom Fox and Roger McCorley informed
them that Swanzy had gone to Church and gave the approximate time the Service
would finish. Dick and Seán remained on the opposite side of the street near
the Church. They were not too long waiting until the congregation started coming
out from the Church. When he was only a few yards away from them Seán said to
Dick “That’s him”. Seán fired the first shot hitting Swanzy in the head whilst
Dick fired almost simultaneously into his body. The crowd of approximately one
hundred persons coming from the Church were stunned at first and then threw
sticks and objects after them. Seán and Dick fired a few shots in the air and
made a fast run for their car, which fled off very quickly.
Dick and Seán aimed for the train service from Belfast to
Dublin for that same evening. They arrived in Dublin without any problem and
proceeded to Vaughan’s Hotel where they met Michael Collins. Collins made a
phone call to confirm whether Swanzy was actually dead. Michael sent them back
to Cork the following day and he kept their revolvers stating he would send
them along in due course. The journey was made by train and when it reached
Blarney, about five miles from Cork City, they detrained and walked into Cork.
On arrival at Blackpool suburbs there was a military
hold-up in progress: Dick and Seán were held up and searched, but after
insisting they were only out for a walk they were allowed to go through. Incidentally,
they never got back the guns from Michael Collins and one of the guns which Seán
had was the property of Tomás MacCurtain. The gun now rests in the Kilmurray
The day following Seán’s return to Cork he resumed his
apprenticeship job in the Munster Arcade and produced a certificate of illness
from his doctor to cover the period of his absence.
Event: Kieran will
conduct a self-guided lunchtime heritage treasure hunt along the City’s
historic bridges on Saturday 22 August in collaboration with Meitheal Mara and
the Playful Paradigm. Meet at 1pm at National Monument, Grand Parade, Full
details under heritage events at Kieran’s website, www.corkheritage.ie.
Cllr Kieran McCarthy in collaboration with Meitheal Mara.
Meet Cllr Kieran McCarthy at National Monument, Grand Parade, Cork, between 1pm-1.30pm, no booking required. Bring a pen.
Suitable for all ages, approx. 2hr walk, mixed footpaths on city’s quays.
On meeting Kieran, he will give you a self-guided walking and heritage treasure hunt trail to follow around the historic bridges of Cork City Centre island. Discover the city’s unique relationship with the River Lee.
On the way your task is to explore the built heritage around the bridges and unlock the answers to the Heritage Treasure Hunt. Those who get all the answers right will be in with a chance to win a copy of Kieran’s new book, Witness to Murder, The Tomás MacCurtain Inquest (with John O’Mahony, Irish Examiner, 2020).
Dear Patricia, Dear Tadhg, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many thanks for the invitation to address you today.
They say that stories
have the power to stop, impress, make one question, wonder, dream, remember, be
disturbed, explore and not forget – a whole series of emotions.
With those threads in mind, there is truly much to be
said and reflected upon in the annual One City, One book project, the 2020
edition of which, we have before us this evening.
From the outset, and in a universal context, I feel
the title of the book we speak about here this evening – Whatever it Takes,
sums up not only the story within Tadhg’s book but also connects to the wider
world of where we find ourselves.
Living in the social ruins of a pandemic or fallout of
an ongoing pandemic has seen our lives stripped back to its physical basics as
seen clearly in the sparse Library furniture available – and socially to the
seams of our hearts and minds- it has forced us to take a journey inwardly
is Not an Acceptable Option:
Whatever it takes to curb the virus, society is
willing to do. In a world where frontline staff fight back the virus we as a
society put measures in place to curb its spread.
The last line of the back cover of Tadhg’s book has
written “Time is against him and the stakes are high, but losing is not an
With this virus losing is also not an acceptable option. We are all
in this time of pandemic together. Our social bonds are more important
than ever. So it is also apt that Tadgh’s book also connects to the project of One
City, One Book – and not just because Tadhg’s book is set in Cork. The plot and
protagonist of Whatever It Takes are both firmly rooted in
But because I feel at the moment in Cork at the moment
it’s a very real case of One City, One Virus. We saw the work of the community
response teams across the Spring and early Summer of this year delivering food
and medicines to those cocooning and we witnessed those who moved from council
departments such as the Library to the HSE to help with contact tracing – and
we have seen in more recent weeks, the measures put in place by shop-keepers
and restaurants to awaken our sleepy city. One can see very clearly Cork’s
strong sense of place, which is a paradigm that Tadhg carries in his quiver of
ideas that interest him.
Another important universal point to make is how important
our cultural processes are to us at the moment – it has been imagination, culture
and arts and aspects such as media and literature that have kept many of us
sane in these difficult times. With literature, you can journey along the
sentences and paragraphs of a book and travel as Tadhg proposes in his title
for his memoir of essays for 2021 – to a Place Beyond Words – where
words become gripping stories.
A read of Tadhg’s
previous works The
First Sunday in September, the stories and remarks on his blog and his book Whatever It takes shows
the power of words, narrative and ultimately story telling. In a recent Irish
Examiner article written by Journalist Marjorie Brennan, Tadhg outlines his
library career first in Cork City library and later in CIT. he pursued an MA in
Creative Writing in UCC. In Tadhg’s every day career, his tools of the trade
were books. Books mattered and the stories within them also mattered.
In the world we live in, books
matter more so than ever before. Cork City Libraries’ One
City, One Book is a multi-purpose tool or initiative to yes get book loving
Corkonians to read and discuss the same book. But individuals, groups, book
clubs, workplaces and organisations are also encouraged to take part in
building a sense of community throughout the city, promoting literacy,
supporting the arts and encouraging everyone to engage in reading. It takes the
idea of a localized book discussion club and expands it to cover the whole
city. It is the ultimate form of municipal biblio-therapy, a term, which my
partner Mairéad mentioned to me during the week as we discussed this evening’s
Books also matter in Cork
City’s Heritage, which also has a strong short story DNA – being the
home to very fine story writers in the twentieth century but also in most
recent times. But sometimes and this is my personal view we linger too much on
the past wins of literary Cork and its actors within the twentieth century. They
have been very important foundations and influences but also in our world it is
also as important to leave imprints in the 21st Century for the
present to create our literary output.
New Writing Talent:
Hence why I think One City,
One Book project, the library’s other literary initiatives and the Council’s
financial individual and project support schemes, and concepts such as the work
of the MA in Creative Writing, the work and events of the Munster Literature
Centre – they are crucial in finding and supporting new writing talent.
As Tadhg noted in the Irish
Examiner article, “You can’t really be taught to be
a writer but you can be encouraged, supported, given a safe environment and
pushed… It is easy to start a novel, short story or poem, it is not so easy to
finish it and send it to people, that is the hard part…You have to really want
to do it as well — to be honest, you have to be a little bit cracked to be a
It is an
unreal experience because I was older and I thought I would never even write a
book, never mind get one published, let alone see it in a bookshop. I would say
to anyone my age or older not to give up if they want to write a book”.
I also think you need to be a person with much
focus, patience, time, and much thick-skin to process the comments from one’s
Tadhg’s Whatever it Takes was originally in the first person, but after about 60,000
words, Tadhg switched it to the third person and brought in other characters
and their voices as well. Pulling apart 60,000 words and retweaking them
requires much thinking, much head space, much creativity, and much time.
One must be also open to the winds of direction
by publishing houses. Of course, Cork is blessed to have Mercier Press as a
very supportive and v active publisher. Mercier is not only interested in
fiction but non-fiction as well and in this decade of commemorations through
its own authors and history publications have laid the actual foundations of
thought and knowledge for why commemoration and memory are so important to
A Cauldron of
So what we launch here today in terms of the 2020 One City, One Book, is a cauldron of different simmering ideas – it’s not just about supporting Tadhg’s book, One City, One Book project but about the world we find ourselves, the importance of culture, the importance of literature, the importance of literary heritage, the importance of biblio-therapy the importance of the stories and ultimately their power to stop, impress, make one question, wonder, dream, remember, be disturbed, explore and not forget – a whole series of emotions.
I wish you well Tadhg
in your journey with Whatever it Takes and the City Library well with
this One City, One Book project. On behalf of the Lord Mayor’s Office,
many thanks for the invitation again and best of luck.
The military activities in and around Cork City Centre for early August 1920 culminated with a raid on the old City Hall on the Thursday 12 August 1920 and the arrest of Lord Mayor Cllr Terence MacSwiney and other prominent Sinn Féin members. They were meeting generally on Cork Brigade No.1 plans and adjudicating at the Sinn Féin courts or acting as officers thereof. Upstairs in the Council Chamber and Committee Room, courts were about to start and several litigants, including many women with children were in the building. Members of six families in a tenement were present to contest their landlord seeking possession.
Cork Examiner reports that a large military party in two lorries came
over Clontarf Bridge and disembarked near City Hall, which they immediately
surrounded. All passerbys were arrested. But in a very short time a large crowd
had assembled in Anglesea Street, along Albert Quay and Lapp’s Quay, and even
on the South Mall. Traffic was stopped. When the City Hall was surrounded the
soldiers entered the building with rifles and fixed bayonets and a search
commenced. Considerable emotion ensued as women and children fled from the
encroaching soldiers into the darkening corridors of City Hall. The ante-room
off the Council Chamber got the most attention. Here it was known that Gaelic
League classes were held regularly and it was also the office of the Dáil Éireann
courts. Presses and desks were minutely searched and some papers were taken
One of those
arrested in City Hall was Michael Leahy, Officer in Command of the Fourth
Battalion (East Cork) of Brigade No.1. In his interview within the Bureau of
Military History (WS1421), he relates he was present by accident as he was
looking to speak with Florence O’Donoghue to plan an assassination of a RIC
Sergeant in Cobh. At City Hall earlier in the day of the 12 August, Terence MacSwiney told him that there
was to be a meeting of the senior officers of the Cork brigades that evening in
City Hall, about 8pm. Although Michael only ranked as a battalion commandant at
the time, Terence ordered Michael to stay and attend the meeting. In the main
hall of the City Hall the Republican Court was in progress while their meeting
In his witness statement Michael Leahy recalls just some
of those present at 8pm – Seán Hegarty, Vice-Officer in Command; Joseph
O’Connor Brigade Quarter Master, Dan Donovan, Officer in Command of 1st
Battalion, Florence O’Donoghue, Brigade Intelligence Officer, Dom Sullivan,
Brigade Adjutant, Liam Deasy, officer in Command of Cork No.3 Brigade, and Mick
Murphy, Officer in Command, 2nd Batallion Cork City.
The 8pm group meeting was not very long in session when
word was brought that the military had surrounded the building and had begun
searching it. Michael relates: “We left the room and made for a concealed exit
to a hiding place somewhere between the ceiling and the roof. I remember a key
to this hideout being missing and Terry MacSwiney sending someone to another
room to get it. The soldiers, meantime, were getting closer to where we were,
so it was decided to get out into the back yard and the work-shops to the rear
of the City Hall”. In the hope of getting away in that direction, Michael went
to climb a gate out of the yard when a bullet, fired by a soldier in the
laneway outside, whizzed past his head. He jumped back into the yard. He now
realised that escape was impossible, so the group got into one of the
carpenter’s workshops where they were captured by the military.
The dozen arrested Brigade members were conveyed in three
military lorries to Victoria Barracks. The Lord
Mayor was in the first lorry with three of the others. They were surrounded
with soldiers with fixed bayonets and each side of the lorry was lined with
soldiers having their rifles ready for combat. Similar conditions were seen in
the other two lorries.
The following day at the detention barracks section
Michael Leahy relates that eleven of the group gave false names when
questioned, with the exception of Terence MacSwiney, who gave his correct name
and title of “Lord Mayor of Cork”. They were kept in Cork detention barracks
for a day when they went on hunger strike. This was pursued in solidarity to
over 60 IRA men who were on hunger strikes in Cork County Gaol, off Western
The twelve were then transferred to the military
barracks, where they were again interrogated by military intelligence officers.
There they denied having any connection with the IRA or Sinn Féin. After five
days in the barracks, Michael and his group were surprised to learn that they
were to be released with the exception of Terence MacSwiney.
The eleven in number could scarcely credit their good fortune on being released and they lost no time in getting out of the city. Not two hours after they had left the barracks, a most intensive round-up took place in the city. Thousands of soldiers were engaged searching every conceivable building. It was Michael’s firm belief that the British military intelligence was so poor at the time and that, with the exception of Terence MacSwiney, who was a well-known public man, the military had no idea as to who the prisoners really were. Terence was not so fortunate. He was charged with sedition having an RIC cipher in his possession and documents relating to Dáil Éireann. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Terence was transferred to Brixton Prison in England. Within hours he began his hunger strike, which was to last 74 days before his eventual death.
A virtual Cork Heritage Open Day takes place on 15 August 2020. Check out the various short films on buildings and online talks throughout the day, www.corkheritageopenday.ie. Details of Kieran’s events for Heritage Week 2020 are online under Kieran’s Heritage Events at www.corkheritage.ie. These include a lunchtime webinar on Saturday 15 August and a lunchtime heritage treasure hunt along the City’s historic bridges on Saturday 22 August.
1061a. Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney, Spring/ Summer 1920 (source:
Mayor Terence MacSwiney, Spring/ Summer 1920 (source: British Pathé).
1061b. Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney, Spring/ Summer 1920 (source: British Pathé).
On next Saturday 15 August 2020 Cllr Kieran McCarthy will take part in the virtual Cork Heritage Open Day. Due to Covid-19 Cork Heritage Open Day, which has always had up to this year had 40 buildings opened to the public, will now go online with a mixture of virtual tours, interviews, history quizzes and completions. Cllr McCarthy has contributed to the virtual City Hall tour and the Chamber of Commerce Fitzgerald House tour.
To mark the start of Heritage Week the Cork Heritage Open Day website will go live on Saturday 15 August and members of the public will be able to explore virtually some of Cork’s finest historic and most beautiful buildings including Cork City Hall, Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills, the Custom House Port of Cork, Blarney Castle, the National Sculpture Factory, Cork Savings Bank, the Unitarian Church, Fitzgerald House and lots more.
Cork Heritage Open Day is organised by Cork City Council. Cork’s 96FM and the Echo are the media sponsors of Cork Heritage Open Day which is supported by Cork City Council and the Heritage Council.
On Heritage Open Day at 1pm Cllr McCarthy will also present a free webinar in collaboration with Meitheal Mara entitled “The River Lee and Cork City: Stories from the Past”. The link to the webinar is under Kieran’s Heritage Events at www.corkheritage.ie.
Cllr McCarthy noted: “Covid 19 has brought my heritage work online more and more this year. I have had to put my walking tours to one side for the moment, due to the social distancing requirements but they will be back in time. My Cork Heritage Open Day online talk looks at the Cork City’s amazing development on a swamp. 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”.
In addition, on Saturday, 22 August, Cllr McCarthy in collaboration with Meitheal Mara, will host a Heritage Treasure Hunt along the City’s bridges. Meet at the National Monument, Grand Parade, Cork, between 1pm and 1.30pm (for social distancing reasons). No booking is required. Just bring a pen. The treasure hunt is suitable for all ages and is approximately a two-hour walk. On meeting Kieran, he will give you a self-guided walking and heritage treasure hunt trail to follow around the historic bridges of Cork City Centre island. Discover the city’s unique relationship with the River Lee.
On the way your task is to explore the built heritage around the bridges and unlock the answers to the heritage treasure hunt. Those who get all the answers right will be in with a chance to win a copy of Kieran’s new book, Witness to Murder, The Tomás MacCurtain Inquest (with John O’Mahony, Irish Examiner, 2020).