Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 2 April 2020

1042a. Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney, Spring- Summer 1920



Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 2 April 2020
Remembering 1920: Arise Lord Mayor MacSwiney


     A special meeting of the Council of the Cork Corporation was held on 30 March 1920 in the old Cork City Hall, for the purpose of electing a Lord Mayor in lieu of the tragic death of Tomás MacCurtain. In light of the turbulent times just 32 of the 56 members were present. On the motion of Alderman Liam de Róiste, Professor Stockley was moved to the chair. Alderman de Róiste, speaking in Irish proposed that Terence MacSwiney be elected. Alderman Barry seconded, and the motion was supported by Sir John Scott.

   There was no other candidate proposed, and the Chairman, amid loud applause, declared Cllr Terence MacSwiney unanimously elected.  As Terence left his seat in the Chamber to walk to the chair, the audience and members of Council stood up and cheered.

    Having been invested with the chain of office the Lord Mayor first spoke in Irish. He then continued in English outlining his view of the events of the previous weeks – the murder of his friend Tomás MacCurtain and his thoughts on hope, sacrifice and endurance. Below is  his speech from his inauguration, which was published in the Cork Examiner of the day and in a number of other regional newspapers:

“I shall be as brief as possible. This is not an occasion for many words, least of all a conventional exchange of compliments and thanks. The circumstances of the vacancy in the effect of Lord Mayor governed inevitably the filling of it. And I come here more as a soldier, stepping into the breach, than an administrator to fill the first post in the municipality. At a normal tine it would be your duty to find for this post the Councillor most practised and experienced in public affairs. But the time is not normal.

We see in the manner in which our Late Lord Mayor was murdered an attempt to terrify us all. Our first duty is to answer that threat in the only lilting manner by showing ourselves unterrified, cool and inflexible, for the fulfilment of our chief purpose – the establishment of the independence and integrity of our country the peace and happiness of our country. To that end I am here. I was more closely associated than any other hero with our late murdered friend and colleague, both before and since the events of Easter week, in prison and out of it, in a common work of love for lreland, down to the hour of his death.

 For that reason I take his place. It is, I think, though I say it, the fitting answer to those who struck him down. Following from that there is a further matter of importance only less great – it touches the efficient continuance of our civic administration. If this recent unbearable aggravation of our persecution by our enemies should cause us to suspend voluntarily the normal discharge of our duties it would help them very materially in their campaign to overthrow our cause. I feel the question of the future conduct of our affairs is in all our mind. And I think I’m voicing the general view when I say that the normal functions of our Corporate body must proceed, as far as in our power lies, uninterrupted, with that efficiency and integrity of which our late civic head gave such brilliant promise. I don’t wish to sound a personal note, but this much may be permitted under the circumstances – I made myself active in the selection of our late colleague for the office of Lord Mayor. He did not seek the honour, and would not accept it as such, but when put to him as a duty he stepped up to his place like a soldier.

Before his election we discussed together in the intimate way we discussed everything touching our common work since Easter week. We debated together what ought to be done and what could be done, keeping in mind, us in duty bound, not only the ideal line of action, but the practicable line at the moment as well. That time he followed with an ability and success all his own. Gentlemen, you have paid tribute to him on all sides. It will be my duty and ready purpose to follow that line as faithfully as in my power, though no man in this Council could hope to discharge its functions with his ability and his perfect grasp of public business in all its details and, as one harmonious whole. I have thought it necessary to touch on this normal duty of ours, though – and it may seem strange to say it – I feel at the moment it is even a digression. For the menace of our enemies hangs over us, and the essential immediate purpose is to show the spirit that animates us, and how we face our future.

Our spirit is but to be a more lively manifestation of the spirit in which we began the year to work for the city in a now zeal. Inspired by our initial act when we dedicated it and formally attested our allegiance, to bring by our administration of the city glory to our allegiance, and by working for our city s advancement with constancy in all honourable wavs in her new dignity as one of the first cities of Ireland, to work for, and, if need be, to die for.

 I would recall some words of mine on that day of our first meeting after the election of Lord Mayor. I realised that most of you in the minority here would be loyal to us, if doing so did not threaten your lives; but that you lacked the spirit and the hope to join with us to complete the work of liberation so well begun. I allude to it here again, Because I wish to point out again the secret of our strength and the assurance of our final victory. This content of ours is not on our side a rivalry of vengeance, but one of endurance – it  is not they who can inflict most but they who can suffer most – will conquer – though we do not abrogate our function to demand and see that evil doers and murderers are punished for their crime? But it is conceivable that they could interrupt our course for a time; then it becomes a question simply of trust in God and endurance. Those whose faith is strong will endure to the end, and triumph. The shining hope in our time is that the great majority of our people are now strong in that faith”.

To you, gentlemen of the minority here, I would address a word. I ask you again to take courage and hope. To me it seems – and I don’t say it to have won – that you have a lively faith in the power of the devil, and but little faith in God. But God is over us, and His Divine intervention we have perfect trust. Anyone surveying the events in Ireland for the past five years must see that is approaching a miracle how our country has been preserved. God has permitted this to be to try our spirits, to prove us for a great and noble destiny. You among us have yet no vision of the future, have been astray by false prophets. The liberty for which we today strive is a sacred thing – inseparately entwined as body with soul with that spiritual liberty for which the saviour of man died, and which is the inspiration and foundation of all just government because it is sacred, and death for it is akin to the sacrifice on Calvary, following far off but constant to that Divine example in every generation our best and heaviest have died.

Sometimes in our grief we cry out foolish and unthinking words; “the sacrifice is to great”. But it is because they were our best and bravest they had to die. No lesser sacrifice would save us. Because of it our struggle is holy – our battle is sanctified by their blood, and our victory is assured by their martyrdom. We, taking up the work they left is complete confident in God, offer in turn sacrifice from ourselves. It is not we who take innocent blood, but we offer it, sustained by the example of our immortal dead and that Divine example, which inspires us all – for the redemption of our country. Facing our enemies, we must declare our attitude supply. We ask for no mercy, and we make no compromise. But to the Divine author of mercy, and we will make no compromise. But to the Divine author of mercy we appeal for strength to sustain us, whatever the persecution, that we may bring our people victory in the end. The civilised world dare not continue to look on indifferent. But if the rulers of earth fail us we have yet sure succour in the Ruler of Heaven; and though to some impatient ears. His judgements seem slow; they never fail, and when they fail they are overwhelming and final.


1042a. Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney, Spring/ Summer 1920 (source: British Pathé).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 26 March 2020

1041a. Photo of Tomas MacCurtain Lying in State at Cork city Hall, 21 March 1920

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 26 March 2020
Remembering 1920: The Funeral of Tomás MacCurtain

     Within just a few hours of his death in the early hours of 20 March 1920, the coffin of Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain was carried by hearse from his home in Blackpool to Cork City Hall. Heartrending scenes were witnessed. Men and women knelt down in the street and wept. Such was the intensity of the crowds that sections of Volunteers had considerable difficulty in managing the crowds and local traffic. The streets around Blackpool Bridge became absolutely impassable. Contingents of Sinn Féin members, members of trade and labour bodies, members of Cork Corporation and many more crammed into the area. A pipers’ band played the Dead March on the route to City Hall, and the procession of mourners, extending over two miles in length, included a large number of clergy and public men. The police were withdrawn, from the streets of the city.

     Everyone wore the tricolour draped in black, and all the window blinds in the city were drawn as a mark of respect. The 1st Battalion of the Cork Volunteers acted as bodyguard, and at City Hall a party of the men remained to watch over the coffin throughout the night. The business of Cork City Hall was suspended for the removal and the funeral the following day. The Republican Flag was at half-mast above the municipal civic emblem, and on the door of entrance hall appeared, a card bearing the inscription, “Closed in consequence of the murder of Tomás MacCurtain, first Republican Lord Mayor of Cork”.

    On 22 March 1920, the Celebrant of the Requiem High Mass at the North Cathedral was the Rev H J Burts CC, Rev R J O’Sullivan CC Deacon, Rev J Aherne, CC Sub-Deacon. Bishop Daniel Cohalan presided.

    Upon the coffin was a plate bearing an inscription in Gaelic, translated as “Thomas MacCurtain Commandant, 1st Brigade, Cork, Army of the Irish Republic and Lord Mayor of Cork, who was foully done to death by the servants of the foreigner on March 20, 1920, in the fourth year of the Irish Republic, at the age of 37 years. MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON HIS SOUL”.

    Addressing the congregation, Bishop Cohalan put no blame on anyone but shared his condolences with the family and condemned the murder. “Every murder, dear brethren, is a violation of the fifth commandment – the murder of the humblest and poorest member of the community as well as the murder of a head of a State…we have lost the Civic Head of the municipality by the murder of Lord Mayor MacCurtain. It was an awful crime – a most unusual crime is the murder of the Mayor of a city – it was a crime against the law of God and a crime against the city”.

    All national and regional Irish newspapers carried the story of the funeral. Many, such as the Cork Examiner, list the public bodies represented at the Church, which reflect the depth of respect for the Mayoralty of the city. Some of the those included the Chairman and members of the Queenstown Urban Council. Queenstown Trade and Labour and Sinn Féin organisations, Mallow Rural and Urban District Councils, Youghal, Clonakilty, Bandon and Skibbereen Councils, North-East Cork Executive Gaelic League, Southern Land Association, Cork Medical Association, and New Ross Urban Council.

    Labour bodies at the funeral were: The Transport Union, Typographical Association, National Union of Railwaymen, Ford Factory employees, Bakers’ Society, Tailors’ Society, and the Grocers’ Society. Other organisations in attendance were: The Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers, Irish National Foresters, Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Catholic Young Men’s Society, Commercial Travellers’ Federation, Cattle Traders’ ‘Association, and the All-for-Ireland Club. The processionists also included the staff and students of Cork Grammar School, boys from North Monastery. Sullivan’s quay, and Blarney street Schools, and the Fire Brigade. All Creeds were represented.

    The Rev Dr Dowse, Protestant Bishop of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was represented by Rev. Dean Babington. Rev H Klein, Jewish minister and Officer of Residence, University College was also present, with Mr J T Klein, Secretary of Cork Hebrew Congregation. Mr William O’Brien, formerly leader of the All for Ireland Movement, and Captain Donelan, late Chief Whip of the Irish Party, also attended.

    After the High Noon mass, the funeral procession started to St Finbarr’s Cemetery. The coffin was shouldered by six Volunteers in uniform. The Bishop in his carriage came next. The clergy, numbering about a hundred; Christian Brothers and presentation Brothers followed, who wore Sinn Féin mourning rosettes. Then came the Volunteers Piper’s playing “Wrap the Green Flag Round Me”. Behind was Fr Dominic who was the Lord Mayor’s Chaplain, who was accompanied by Cllr Terence MacSwiney and other officers of the volunteers. A carriage laden with wreaths followed and behind them were 25 volunteers, each carrying a wreath. Each wreath comprised an abundance of lilies and daffodils, and long flowing green, gold and white ribbons. The chief mourners walked behind, behind which was members of the Corporation, Harbour Board, and public bodies and organisation. However, the general public comprised over 10,000 people. It took one hour and a half to pass any given point.

    From the North Cathedral to St Finbarr’s Cemetery, the distance was just over four miles via King Street, Merchants Quay, St Patrick’s Street, Washington Street, and Western Road. At the Western Road entrance to Cork Gaol, an open space was preserved by Volunteers to enable the political prisoners to obtain a view of the cortege as it passed from their windows.

At the cemetery, Bishop Cohalan blessed the grave. When it was covered, the Last Post was sounded and three volleys of shots were fired.



1041a.  Photo of Tomás MacCurtain Lying in State at Cork City Hall, 21 March 1920 (source: Cork City Museum).

1041b. Funeral procession of Tomás MacCurtain on Camden Quay, Cork, 22 March 1920 to St Finbarr’s Cemetery (source: Cork City Museum).


1041b. Funeral procession of Tomas MacCurtain on Camden Quay 22 March 1920 to St Finbarr's Cemetery

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 19 March 2020

1040a. Tomás & Eilís MacCurtain with family, March 1920

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 19 March 2020

Remembering 1920: The Murder of Tomás MacCurtain


      One hundred years ago on the night of 19 March and the morning of 20 March 1920, Tomás MacCurtain (1884-1920), was murdered at his home in Blackpool. His murder is linked to the tit-for-tat violence between the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). For example, on 10 March 1920 District Inspector McDonagh was shot dead by IRA members. The response by the RIC was the ransacking of Sinn Féin clubs and the homes of key members such as Seán O’Sullivan and Professor William Stockley. On 19 March 1920, RIC Constable Joseph Murtagh was shot and killed by the IRA near the City Centre. The RIC response was quick and this time Brigade no 1 Commander Tomás MacCurtain was to be the target. He was murdered later that night. The details of the murder were detailed by his wife Eilís in her inquest interview some days later, of which I lay out below.

    Tomás and Eilís MacCurtain had lived for some years at 40 Thomas Davis Street in the heart of Blackpool. By March 1920 they had five children living, of whom the youngest was ten months. In addition to her late husband her three-sisters, brother, two nieces, and a nephew lived in the house. Eilís went to bed at 8.30pm on Friday night 19 March 1920, but she could not say when her husband retired. Sometime during the night she heard a tapping as with a man’s fingers at the door, and sometime after that she heard the door being broken in. After she heard the tapping, and before it was being broken, in, she looked out of the window and asked who was there, and those below said, “Come down”. She asked, when they were breaking in the door, if they would give her time to dress. But she got no reply. “I had a candle lighting in the bedroom”, she said. “My husband got up out of bed and said, ‘Lizzi, I will go down myself”.

    Eilís went to the door and opened it. She had a candle in her hand. A man rushed in with a blackened face. One man outside the door then asked “where was Curtain?”, and she said that he was upstairs. Six men rushed in the hall—four tall men and two small men. The two smaller men carried rifles, which they held against their side. One gave orders to hold that her, and the second tall man turned around and caught her and shoved her towards the door. He wore a big overcoat and cap. The men immediately went upstairs, with the exception of one who stood beside me at the door. They were not up several steps of the stair when she heard the firing of rifles or revolvers. When they were upstairs the baby that was in the room of Eilís and Tomás cried. Eilís called out “you have mothers, and I am a mother; for God’s sake let me bring down the baby”. The baby stopped crying when shots were fired. When the crying stopped she thought the baby had been shot.

     Shortly afterwards as the six men left the house they shoved Eilís out before them on the street, where she cried for help. She asked if someone could go for the priest, that her husband was shot. There were ten or fifteen men on the road outside the door then. The six men who had been in the house were part of that group. Her brother was also calling out for a priest from a top window, and after an order of “fire” was given the body of men faced the door and fired up towards the windows. The groups left and immediately, she closed the door and saw no more of them.

     The body of Tomás was taken from the floor and placed in the bed. Eilís remained downstairs for some time after the men left as she telephoned for a priest to the North Presbytery, and there was some difficulty in getting communication. She, however, succeeded in getting the priest. Before the priest arrived, she went upstairs and addressed her husband by his Christian name, and Tomás opened his eyes. Eilís then telephoned again for the priest, the ambulance, and the doctor. The priest arrived first and heard his Confession end administered the Rites of the Church, but he was dead when the doctor arrived.

   At 20 minutes past 1am on Saturday 20 March the telephone of Dr William O’Connor on St Patrick’s Hill rang. He was told by a man at the exchange to hurry to Blackpool – that the Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain had been shot and was very bad. Being connected to the MacCurtain phone he heard Mrs MacCurtain’s voice who said the Lord Mayor was shot and she was afraid he was dying. The doctor immediately dressed, got some surgical dressings, rushed out and got a car on Patrick’s Bridge which took him to Blackpool immediately. When he got to the house he found the Lord Mayor lying on the landing, On examination, he found he was dead. His shirt was stained with blood and he had two wounds on the right side of his chest. Dr O’Connor did not make any further examination under the circumstances but made a postmortem examination on the following evening.

   An hour after the murder Eilís was downstairs with the baby in the shop when a second visit was paid to the MacCurtain house. There was another tap at the door, and she asked “Who was there?” and the answer was: “Military, open”. She opened the door, and was met with four bayonets to her face, I asked; “In the name of God, what do you want now?” and I got no answer. I then said: “Didn’t ye tear the heart out of him with bullets, and do you want to get my brother, now?”. About six soldiers went into the house with fixed bayonets and four remained outside the door, and two on the street outside. One was familiar to her. He was an RIC officer stationed at Blackpool. The group left after checking the body of Tomás.

More next week…


1040a. Tomás & Eilís MacCurtain with family, March 1920 (source: Cork City Library).

1040b. Crowd outside MacCurtain House, Blackpool Bridge, the day after the murder of Tomás 20 March 1920 (source: Cork City Library).

1040b. Crowd outside MacCurtain House, Blackpool Bridge, 20 March 1920

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 12 March 2020

1039a. Advertisements for Egan's Silversmiths, St Patrick's Street, 1919


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 12 March 2020

Remembering 1920: Outcomes of a Bye-Election


    It was a tale of democracy in action versus the continuation of the violence between opposing sides within the second week of March 1920. On the 10 and 11 March 1920 Sinn Féin candidates Donal O’Callaghan and Barry Egan emerged as victors in the first bye-election post the January 1920 local elections for Cork Corporation. The Cork Examiner reports that Donal had no competition on the ballot paper in the South Ward No.1 Barry Egan fought off just one other candidate Independent Jeremiah Lane – 2,385 first preference votes versus 846 for Jeremiah in the City Centre ward.

   Both Donal O’Callaghan or Donal Óg Ó Ceallacháin and Barry Egan are worthy Corkonians to remark upon in terms of their contribution to promoting Cork in 1920. With a little-known background bar his involvement as a young person in Sinn Féin, Donal within months of the bye-election, would become the third Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920 after Terence MacSwiney’s death from hunger strike. Donal’s life and times will be published upon in a book by UCC’s Dr Aodh Quinlivan later this year.

    Barry Egan’s obituary on his death in 1954 in the Cork Examiner reveals much on his life and times. Born in 1879 Barry Egan was a grandson of the late William Egan, who founded the Egan jewellery firm in 1820. As a young man Barry went to France to learn his trade, and he returned to Cork to improve the standards of church furniture and vestments as manager of the family business in Cork. He revived the ancient and historic craft of the silversmith to the city that was once famous for that art. He loved to show visitors the workshops in his premises on St Patrick’s Street, where vestments and jewellery were made by highly skilled craftsmen and women, whose training he had done to improve. Barry was one of the pioneers of the Irish industrial revival in the early twentieth century.

   Barry Egan was an active member of the Cork Chamber of Commerce with interests as well in tourism promotion. He was a founder also, and a former president, of the Irish Tourist Association, which in the present day has become Fáilte Ireland. Within months of his bye election win, Barry would also become the acting Lord Mayor after Terence MacSwiney’s death on 25 October 1920, become a target of the auxiliaries, flee to Paris for his life and be one of the key champions of rebuilding St Patrick’s Street after the Burning of Cork in December 1920.

   On Thursday morning 11 March 1920, the result of Donal O’Callaghan’s municipal bye-election was announced by a poster from the window of the Sinn Féin Club on the Grand Parade, and there was also hung out an invitation to the public to step inside and see the results of an overnight RIC raid. The announcement bore the words: “Admission Free”.

   Following on the shooting of District Inspector MacDonagh on Wednesday night 10 March 1920, large forces of police and military raided two Sinn Féin clubs mid a number of private houses in Cork. The headquarters of the Sinn Féin organisation in the city was the club at 56 Grand Parade, and this was entered at 2am on Thursday morning, 11 March 1920. The street door was not forced. The police had in some way provided themselves with a key. About fifteen police and soldiers were said to have entered, whilst a larger number awaited developments outside. There was nobody, in the club at the time. The Cork Examiner reporting on it wrote that not a picture remained unbroken, nor a chair nor a table. Five chairs were in the front room, and these appeared to have been broken and swung against the table or floor. Two tables also were broken, and the whole floor was strewn with broken glass. The photo near the door was of Mr J J Walsh, MP, for Cork City, and the glass and frame of this were broken whilst the photo itself bore a mark similar to what might be made by a blow of the butt end of a rifle.

   A picture representing the shooting of Fenian Peter O’Neill Crowley at Kilclooney Wood, East Cork was pulled flown, and the glass and frame were broken; the picture itself was not damaged. The glass and frame of the picture showing a group of the leading spirits of the 1916 Rising were also broken. A similar fate befell the glass frame of a photograph of Madame Maud Gonne McBride. A frame in the front room of the club contained grass and leaves from the grave of Charles Stewart Parnell, Fenian Leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and Easter Rising Director of Arms Michael Joseph O’Rahilly and this was torn down and its contents strewn about.

   Two families lived over the club, and they became alarmed at the noise downstairs. When they heard the crashing of tables, chairs and pictures they thought that a fire had broken out in the building, and that the Fire Brigade were trying to force the door. One of the women rushed on to the stairs with her children, but only to see a policeman with a lighted paper in his hand, and a soldier by his side with a rifle, on the landing below. The policeman shouted up at her and asked if that part of the house was private property and, on her saying that it was they did not come any further. But she and her family, and another woman who lived in the house dressed and sat up for the remaining of the night for fear of another raid on the premises.


1039a. Advertisement for Egan’s Silversmiths, St Patrick’s Street, from Cork: Its Trade and Commerce, 1919 (source: Cork City Library).

1039b. Former site of central Sinn Fein Club on the Grand Parade, Cork, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

 1039a. Yellow building, Former Sinn Fein Headquarters and offices, 56 Grand Parade,

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 5 March 2020

1038a. Merchant's Quay c.1900



Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 5 March 2020

Remembering 1920: A Home for Sailors


    The annual meeting of the supporters of the Cork Sailor’s Home was held on 2 March 1920 at noon in the Boardroom of the institution at 12 Merchants Quay, Cork. Mr D J Lucy, Chairman of the Cork Harbour Board, presided.

    The report, published in the Cork Examiner, presents another slice of life in the city plus places on the historical record the large value of the Home to sailors and seamen. Since its foundation in 1852, the principal mission of the Home was to lobby the British Admiralty for accommodation for sailors of the Royal Navy, and also of the mercantile community. Seventy-year old Sir John Scott had a long connection over several decades with the Cork Sailor’s Home. He noted that the home had gone through a very trying time during the World War with the high number of wrecks and casualties. The Home was also an asylum for poor sailors whose ships had been torpedoed, and who perhaps had spent days and nights in small boats in the seas. He had seen men who could get clothes in the coast towns coming there in blankets, being taken in, and their comfort provided for. He gave special thanks to the Cork Steam Packet Company who facilitated sailors to get across the Irish Sea to their homes, and to the Ship Wrecked Mariner’s Society, who worked with the Committee in providing for the immediate wants of shipwrecked sailors or those who were in distress.

    Sir John Scott noted that individual championing of stories was important to the Cork Sailor’s Home. An example was given of a sailor, who after a very long foreign voyage, came to the Cork Sailor’s Home and received a welcome. He had nearly £50 the balance of his hard-earned wages with him, which he deposited with the House Steward for safe keep, with the exception of £5 which he kept. He left the Home one evening, as he said, to take a walk round, and two days after he returned without a penny in his pocket und without an overcoat. He was unable to tell what happened his money or his coat, but on leaving he recorded his grateful thanks to the House Steward for the shelter and protection which he had given him.

   Sir John Scott had a long connection with the shipping industry and all aspects maritime. His obituary in the Cork Examiner in 1931 reveals that his grandfather was Edward Scott, a member of an old Cork family who founded Scott Harley and Company in the early nineteenth century and who pursued business in the shipping and ship-building industry. John was knighted in 1892, was Mayor of Cork in 1896 and was successful Commercial candidate in the Local Elections of January 1920.  He was High Sheriff of Cork from 1920 to 1926. For over forty years, he was a member of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, and during the same period was a trustee and honorary secretary of Cork Fever Hospital. He was a past president of Cork Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping and was chairman for Cork Unionist Association. He also was a member of the Poor Law Guardians, the Eglinton Lunatic Asylum and a secretary of the Cork Musical Society staging many Gilbert and Sullivan Light Operas at Cork Opera House.

  Sir John Scott urged the governing committee of the Home to make a strong claim on the Admiralty for an increased grant and thanked the public subscribers. Public subscription was important to keep the Cork Sailor’s Home going. The annual report records subscriptions of £67 18s 5d for 1919 with additional grants of Admiralty grants of £45, a bequest fund of £5, and interest in investments totaling £23 11s 5d. At the beginning of the war there was a debt of £13 4s 10d due to the Provincial Bank. The Committee recommended that a special appeal be made to the public to clear £200 to clear off the present debt on the institution and to provide sundry urgent requisites such as bedding, which needed to be replaced after the exceptional strain put upon the Home during the time of the war.

    The duration of the First World War and its end in late 1918 led to thousands of seamen returning home seeking a home, financial support and social support. During 1919 the Cork Sailor’s Home was visited by 2,956 seamen. Of this number 1,855 belonged to the Royal Navy, as against 1,656 in 1918 and 1,356 in 1917. A total of 986 were sailors of the British Mercantile Marine, as against 2,364 in 1918, and 866 in 1917. Individuals numbering 105 belonged to other nationalities, as against 104 in 1917 and 675 for 1918.

   The report regretted to have to record the death of Mr Michael Mullins, who was for 15 years was the faithful House Steward of the Home, and who took a very great personal interest in forwarding its advancement in every possible way. Mr Robert O’Donoghue, Chief Petty Officer, had been appointed House Steward in Michael’s stead. Reference was also made to Dr Philip G Lee, who owing to pressure of his professional work has retired from the position of Honorary Secretary, which he filled for a quarter of a century. Dr Lee was a surgeon for many years at the Victoria Hospital and was assistant surgeon at the Clinic of the Cork Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. He was also honorary secretary of the local branch of the British Medical Association, physician to Lapp’s Charity. Within the cultural side of the city Dr Lee was one of the original founders of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, was a member of the Royal Irish Academy and also a member of the Royal Society of Antiquarians. In addition, he gave regular lectures with the Cork Literary and Scientific Society.



1038a. Merchant’s Quay, Cork, c.1900 (source: Cork City Library).

1038b. Insurance map of Merchant’s Quay, c.1915 showing Cork Sailor’s Home at no 12 (source: Cork City Library).


1038b. Insurance map of Merchant's Quay, c.1915 showing Cork Sailor's Home at no 12



Award Ceremony, Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project 2020

   Wednesday evening, 4 March coincides with the Cork City award ceremony of the Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project. A total of 25 schools in Cork City took part in the 2019-2020 edition, which included schools in Ballinlough, Ballintemple, Blackrock and Douglas. This year the project was open to new schools within the broader area of the new city boundary. Circa 1200 students participated in the process with approx 220 project books submitted on all aspects of Cork’s local history & heritage.

 The Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project is in its 17th year and is a youth platform for students to do research and write it up in a project book whilst offering their opinions on important decisions being made on their heritage in their locality and how they affect the lives of people locally.  The aim of the project is to allow students to explore, investigate and debate their local heritage in a constructive, active and fun way.

 Co-ordinator and founder of the project, Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted that: “The project is about developing new skill sets within young people in thinking about, understanding, appreciating and making relevant in today’s society the role of our heritage - our landmarks, our stories, our landscapes in our modern world. The project also focuses on motivating and inspiring young people, giving them an opportunity to develop leadership and self-development skills, which are very important in the world we live in today”.

   The City Edition of the Project is funded by Cork City Council with further sponsorship offered by Learnit Lego Education, Old Cork Waterworks Experience and Cllr Kieran McCarthy. Full results for the City edition are online on Cllr McCarthy’s heritage website, www.corkheritage .ie.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 27 February 2020



Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 27 February 2020

Remembering 1920: The Return of the Chaplaincy


    On 13 February 1920 a meeting of the Cork Corporation was held at 3pm. It was the first meeting since the election of Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain and its agenda was to fill councillor positions on a variety of City Hall positions. Considerable public interest was taken in the proceedings, and the gallery was crowded long before the business was started. The congestion around the doors became so great that Alderman Daly complained to the Lord Mayor that some of the members were unable to gain admission. Three interesting elements arose in the meeting – the use of the Irish Language, insights into the deportation of IRA prisoners and the re-creation of a Mayoralty Chaplain position.

   The minutes having been read, Cllr Terence MacSwiney said that the resolution on allegiance to Dáil Éireann passed at the previous meeting had not been accurately recorded on the minutes. Alderman Liam de Róiste, who proposed the resolution referred to, spoke in Irish proposing to fix the record of what he proposed at the previous meeting. The minutes and resolution were corrected. Arising out of the debate was the questioning by Councillor Sir John Scott on the use of Irish as he could not understand the language. Lord Mayor MacCurtain noted that the members were quite within their right in addressing the Chamber in Irish.

   The Lord Mayor said that he wished to bring up a matter which he thought the Council should deal with or pass an opinion upon, and that was the manner in which up to eighty men were removed from Cork Prison and deported to somewhere in England, under cover of darkness, and with tanks and aeroplanes and armoured cars for an escort. He thought the Council should express its opinion on that action of a Government that called itself a constitutional Government. He asked some members to deal with the matter.

    Alderman Professor Stockley said that even English papers came out with very strong pro expressions with regard to the deportation of the Lord Mayor of Dublin and before others had been deported. The answer to these English papers, Stockley noted that the Irish people were in his opinion “not living under any law that claimed respect”. He highlighted that the ex-Crown Prince of Germany was to go on trial for deporting Belgians during the war. The act of taking people out of Ireland was according to him was simply making a “mockery of justice and was striking at the root of all respect for law”. He finished with the statement; “as long as Governments are the enemies of the people, the people will he the enemies of the law”.

   The Lord Mayor on the next point noted that about 34 years previously the Cork Corporation had the prerogative of appointing a Chaplain, but for some, reason or other it was allowed to drop into disuse. He had decided to bring it onto use again, and with the consent of His Lordship the Bishop he had appointed Capuchin Fr Dominic O’Connor, OSFC.

   Fr Dominic’s lay name was John Francis O’Connor. He was born on 13 February 1883 in Cork City and was the son of John O’Connor, a teacher, and Mary Ann O’Connor (née Sheehan). The young John was one of six sons and six daughters. Both parents held membership of the Franciscan third (lay) order, and eleven of their children bore the name ‘Francis’ or a variant thereof. Three of the sons became catholic priests, and three of the daughters became nuns. A maternal uncle of young John was a Capuchin priest, Father Luke Sheehan, and was among the order’s first missionaries the early 1900s sent to a newly established diocese in the US state of Oregon.

    John attended Christian Brothers on Sullivan’s Quay, and pursued his secondary education in the Seraphic College, the Capuchin feeder school, in Rochestown. On entering the Capuchin novitiate in Kilkenny town in 1899, John took the name in religion of Dominic. At the Roman Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, he undertook a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and wrote a study of Francis Nugent, seventeenth-century founder of the Irish Capuchin mission. John or Fr Dominic was ordained a priest at the Kilkenny friary in 1906. He preached in various houses of the Order and undertook missions, and conducted historical research in Ireland, north-east France and Belgium for the papal commission on the beatification of the Irish martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries such as Oliver Plunkett.

    During the First World War Fr Dominic became a volunteer within the chaplaincy service in the British military. For nearly two years, 1916 to 1917 was part of the 10th (Irish) Division in Macedonia as chaplain to several regiments. On his resignation and coming home to Ireland, he was allotted to the Capuchin’s Holy Trinity friary in Cork city. In 1918 he played an active in organising a counter movement to the proposal of enforced military conscription in Ireland. From 1919 onwards he ministered to local IRA volunteers in the war of independence, becoming the effective chaplain to the Cork No. 1 Brigade, focussed on the city and commanded by Tomás MacCurtain. In late February 1920 he became a chaplain to Tomás MacCurtain’s mayoralty.


1037a. Picture of Fr Dominic O’Connor, Chaplain to Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain, 1920 (source: (source: Irish Capuchin Provincial Archive).

1037b. Fr Dominic O’Connor (right) with Fr Albert Biddy (left) c.1922, Cork (source: Irish Capuchin Provincial Archive).


1037b. Fr Dominic O'Connor with Fr Albert Biddy c.1922

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 20 February 2020

1036a. Postcard of former entrance to South Infirmary, c.1910; this main block has now been replaced by the modern hospital


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 20 February 2020

Remembering 1920: Calls to Fund Public Health System


   Mid-February 1920 coincided with the annual general meeting of the Committee of Management of the South Infirmary, which was held in the Boardroom of the institution. The annual report was submitted by Mr J C McNamara and gives a further insight into the health care conditions of the time and the calls for investment to support the work of doctors and nurses. The number of patients-treated during the previous year was as follows – external attendances, 8,492; intern patients, 1,190 and the daily average of beds occupied stood at 71 per cent.

    Special attention was made at the meeting of the great services rendered by the hospital during the epidemic of influenza, which swept over the country in February and March 1919. A considerable number of those struck down, Mr McNamara detailed, had not the accommodation or the means for treatment in their own homes. Their only choice in many cases was to flock to their immediate hospital for treatment. Under normal conditions it was not usual or desirable to admit highly infectious diseases into general wards, but in the circumstances, the Committee of the hospital felt that it was the duty of the hospital to render all help possible. Mr McNamara records that the Committee had much pleasure in recording their admiration of the conduct of the nurses on duty in the medical wards during the epidemic. They gave what he described as “an exhibition of courage and self-sacrifice for which no praise can be too high”.

    The annual report, highlights of which were published in the Cork Examiner, praised the work of Dr W P Lehane, House Surgeon, who received much valued assistance from the senior resident students, Mr D Healy and Mr A Buckley. Thanks were also given to the hard-working Matron Sister Mary Albous Fogarty.

   The principal concern of the Hospital Committee was that the expenditure was greater than the income. Public hospital care was free to people. Only for local philanthropists, costs over the previous decades would not have been met or the growth of services within the South Infirmary would not have occurred. The number of free beds available could not have been maintained, nor necessary additions to the buildings carried out. It was even hoped that that the new timber boards with inscribed names on it might inspire more people to donate. Indeed owing to the serious financial position at the beginning of 1919, when £1,395 was due to the bank, the Hospital Committee decided that a special appeal should be made for funds to pay off this very heavy debt. Within a short time £1,143 was received, most of this sum being sent-by the annual subscribers.

   In the annual report, the Hospital Committee made grateful reference to the financial help received from the employees of one of the city’s inns and appealed for a far more generous support from the various staffs of the numerous large establishments in the city and county.

   The students of the hospital organised an open-air Fete and Bazaar and inaugurated a fund for building the Children’s Wards. The good attendance each evening resulted in £1,656 being raised. The report also acknowledged a munificent donation of £100 2s 8d (which is included in the amount, £1,656, already mentioned) from the people of Mallow for the latter fund. The collection was organised by Miss Wallace, a constant and generous friend of the hospital. Architect, Mr J F McMullen had already drawn up plans for the new children’s building, which was also to include two new x-ray rooms. A new porters lodge house was also planned to be built out of the fund.

   Towards the end of 1919 a few members of the Committees of the North and South Infirmaries held a conference or discussion with the Cork United Trades and Labour Council. There, it was pointed out that owing to the enormous rise in fixed cost of maintaining the hospitals, it was necessary, if the full number of beds were to be kept available, that the income must be considerably increased. A call was made that the different societies should arrange regular collections amongst their members, for the benefit of the Infirmaries. A discussion also took place that one penny be given by every worker through the unions towards the maintenance of the North and South Infirmaries. No agreement was reached at that meeting to accept the one penny subscription.

   Rev Dean Babington, in seconding the report, said he had attended two hospital meetings on the previous day and the same problem presented itself as the one which came up there. The problem was not one of want of doctors, nurses, or patients, but of money to keep the institutions going. They were in a period of transition, and he hoped that when prices began to come down, they would be better off than they were before the war. According to the Reverend “the working classes with higher and better standard of living, would be anxious and willing when they took their new place in society, to do their part in supporting the institutions of the country and becoming a subscriber”.



1036a. Postcard of former entrance to South Infirmary, c.1910; this main block has now been replaced by the modern hospital (source: Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen).

1036b. Map of the grounds of South Infirmary, c.1910 (source: Cork City Library)

1036b. Map of the grounds of South Infirmary, c.1910

Kieran McCarthy elected to lead the European Alliance Group for the new European Committee of the Regions mandate

    As the European Committee of the Regions, a Brussels based EU Institution, which represents local and regional government, begins its new term of office on of the six Political Groups, the European Alliance (EA Group) has elected Independent Cork City Councillor Cllr Kieran McCarthy as its new President.

   Cllr McCarthy has been an active member of the European Committee of the Regions for the past five years in particular on issues of Urban agenda, Ports policy, green agenda and the Digital agenda, and cultural heritage – all areas, which are hugely important for CoR as a leading European City.

 In the first CoR Plenary session held on the 12th and 13th February and during a debate with Vice President of the European Commission Mrs Šuica responsible for democracy and demography, Cllr McCarthy highlighted the need for the European Union to have an open consultation with citizens across the European Union.  He said it was important to hear and act on the views of citizens whether they are in Cork or in Corsica, and we need to have actions on issues that matter to people in Environmental policy or on transport.  He added that the debate held in the context of the new initiative on the “conference on the future of Europe” would allow this to happen.

 The Governor of Central Macedonia in Greece Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EPP) was elected President of the European Committee of the Regions for the next two and a half years where he also focussed on increasing the local and regional government influence in the EU decision making process.

Photo: CoR President Apostolos Tzitzikostas with Cllr Kieran McCarthy Cork City Council and President of the European Alliance Group.

Photo: CoR President Apostolos Tzitzikostas with Cllr Kieran McCarthy Cork City Council and President of the European Alliance Group

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 13 February 2020

JL (Diarmaid) L. Fawsitt Portrait



 Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 13 February 2020

Remembering 1920: Made in Ireland


    The first meeting of the Council of the Cork Industrial Development Association (Cork IDA) for 1920 was held at the offices of the Association on Monday 2 February. Mr J C Dowdall, President, occupied the chair. The others present included the Lord Mayor of Cork Alderman Tomás Mac Curtain and acting secretary Liam de Róiste.

    The President welcomed the Lord Mayor to their meeting and expressed appreciation of the Lord Mayor’s interest in the work of industrial development. Continuing he said that while that Association had found that the old Corporation assisted in the city’s development as best it could, they all expected great things from the new body in the way of assistance for the industrial progress of Cork. There were great opportunities arising at the present time, and he trusted and believed that those opportunities would be availed of by the Municipal Council, and full advantage taken of them to promote the welfare of their city. Lord Mayor MacCurtain, who was received with applause speaking in Irish and English, thanked the President and members for the welcome accorded him. As an old member of the Council he regretted lie had been unable to attend the meeting for some time past. He could assure the Council that so far as lay in his power, he would do what he could to forward the city’s interests.

     The meeting minutes, as published in the Cork Examiner, laid out the annual financial statement and officers were elected for the ensuing twelve months. Much tribute was paid to the work of Diarmuid Fawsitt who was liasing with US companies and making them aware of Cork’s business interests and the Cork IDA with much success.

   In the present day, Cork City and County Archives and archivist Brian McGee have received family papers belonging to Diarmuid Fawsitt (from present day family members). The archive allows a stronger reading of Diarmuid’s successful work in promoting Cork and Ireland abroad in 1920. The archive comprises a large collection of documents such as correspondence, diaries, photographs, news clippings, articles, speeches, lectures, and ephemera related to his involvement in many causes and organisations, as well as more personal material. The archive is of high quality and has been kept with care over generations by the Fawsitt family.

   An obituary on 5 April 1967 published in the Cork Examiner also records elements of Diarmuid’s work. He was born near Blarney Street in Cork’s northside in 1884. Diarmuid was active in cultural, industrial and nationalist circles, including the Celtic Literary Society, Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League, Cork National Theatre Society, and especially the Cork Industrial Development Association.

    Diarmuid established the Cork IDA in 1903 with fellow Corkman E J Riordan following the successful Cork International Exhibition. Its members soon included important Irish manufacturers and traders. They insisted on themselves buying Irish made goods and persuading others to do likewise. They held meetings throughout the country and within a few years similar bodies were established in Dublin, Limerick, Belfast, Galway and Derry. One of the chief successes was to gain legal recognition for the Irish National trade mark, Déanta in Éireann (Made in Ireland), which went far towards preventing the bogus sale of so called Irish products. With the help of John Boland MP for Kerry, advantage was taken of a new bill, which made it possible to registrar and enforce a national trade mark. The Cork IDA instituted numerous prosecutions, which soon restricted the previous abuse of Irish names and labels. It also gave help to firms, which were willing to start new industries in Ireland.

    During the First World War years, the Cork IDA were repeatedly thwarted in its efforts to fund new industries, even in fields where war shortages were most acute. Strong approaches to British government departments showed what scope there was in Irish manufactures and in Irish raw materials. But suspicion of Irish hostility towards the was effort prevented the beginnings, which might easily have been made in those years. A notable win was the advent of the Ford Tractor Company to Cork Docklands in 1917, which the Cork IDA provided advice and support.

    Coinciding with Diarmuid’s strong lobbying of the British government, in November 1913 Diarmuid Fawsitt attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin and was inducted into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In December 1913 he was one of the co-founders of the Cork Corps of the Irish Volunteers at Cork City Hall, later becoming Chairperson of the Executive. During the War of Independence, Arthur Griffith sent Fawsitt to the United States as consul and trade commissioner of the Irish Republic. He was based in New York.

One hundred years ago in February 1920, Diarmuid Fawsitt made arrangements for the visit to Ireland of Mr K J McCormack of the Moore and McCormack Shipping Company of 5 Broadway, New York. The American company had bought several surplus ships after the First World War and had trading links to the eastern Mediterranean, India and South America. The Cork Harbour Board met Mr McCormack and gave much information relative to the economic position of Cork harbour.

    At the same time Diarmuid Fawsitt directed the Cork IDA to consider and report on the organisation of a Foreign Commerce Department of the Association to work in co-operation with other bodies interested in foreign commerce already established in Dublin and Belfast. The provision of return cargoes to the United States, particularly with reference to cured mackerel was deemed important. There was also a big demand in the States for Irish tweeds, seeds, raw material for paper making and other commodities.

   The Cork IDA with Diarmuid Fawsitt in New York were well poised for success in the months and years to come with France and Germany in particularly focussed on.

More in the coming weeks…


1035a. Diarmuid Fawsitt (source: Cork City and County Archives).

1035b. Present day members of Fawsitt Family with Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan, September 2019 (picture: Clare Keogh).

1035b. Present day members of Fawsitt Family with Lord Mayor Cllr John Sheehan, September 2019