Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 28 May 2020

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 28 May 2020

Remembering 1920: Kilbrittain’s Arson Attack

As the weeks of early summer 1920 progressed, tensions escalated and violence ensued between the IRA and British forces. One additional element of force, which appears more and more in witness statements and across the newspapers of 1920, was the use of arson. It was used on both sides of the conflict especially in the destruction of buildings (and an aspect, which culminated in the Burning of Cork in December 1920).

In May 1920, the burning of old landed estate big houses began and intensified as the war of Independence progressed. Historian James Donnelly in a journal article in Éire-Ireland in 2012 records that burnings of such houses were a common occurrence in County Cork but were rare outside of the county. Fifty Big Houses and suburban villas were burned there before the Truce in July 1921. Forty of the fifty structures were burned throughout Cork from April 1921 onwards to the Truce on 11 July 1921.

On early Tuesday morning 25 May 1920 Kilbrittain Castle, a splendid ancient building, seven miles from Bandon and standing on an eminence overlooking a most scenic spot, was at midnight seriously destroyed by arson.  IRA volunteers were determined to prevent the occupation of the mansions in question by British military or police forces or sought to punish their owners for allowing or encouraging such use. The IRA’s first burning of a Cork Big House was certain to seize public attention because of the sheer size, prominence, and opulence of the Kilbrittain Castle mansion destroyed. The damage was estimated at least £100,000.

 The original Kilbrittain Castle dated from the eleventh century, but the property was extensively re-modelled in the middle ages, and later in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Stawell family. In 1906 it was the property of Colonel William Stawell and valued at £182. There were 60 rooms in the Castle, which included a ballroom and banqueting hall. The corridors in it were extensive, and in front there was an exceptionally grand lawn and a fine kitchen garden.

From 1913 onwards the castle as residence lay idle. In 1918 the estate was auctioned in Dublin, and the purchasers were based in Cork City Mr. Denis VDoyle of Maryville, Victoria road and Mr Daniel O’Riordan of Clarence Street (now Gerald Griffin Street). They acquired it for a sum of £15,000. Neither of the purchasers, who were well-known Cork citizens, save in the summer, took over the Castle as a residence. The land surrounding the residence comprised over 500 acres of which 200 acres were woodlands and were being harvested – over 40,000 tons of timber. Of this quantity 2,000 tons or thereabouts was cut down and sold. The men, numbering over 20, engaged in this work were accommodated and their families with apartments in the Castle. Some of the felled timber went to Burren pier for shipment to Cardiff and Newport. Other quantities were carted to the nearby railway station at Bandon for transport to Cork, where it was sold. The 300 acres of the estate was good farming land, and this was let to tenants.

On 24 May 1920 the Castle was occupied by the men employed cutting the trees and their families, and it appears they were ordered to leave the Castle by the IRA volunteers and take as much as they could take within ten minutes before the building was to be set on fire.

Denis Lordan, Quarter Master with the Cork No.3  Brigade, 1919-1921, in his witness statement (WS470) held at the Bureau of Military History, outlines that tensions between the local Volunteer battalion and the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) were simmering and ongoing for two years previously and that the May 1920 burning should not be looked at in isolation but had a deep historical context.

 Previous to the purchase of the lands by Doyle and Riordan in 1918 a number of families in Kilbrittain village had rented on a yearly basis portions of these lands for tilling and grazing and for many of them it was their sole means of livelihood. When the lands were sold on, the tenants were outbid and felt very much aggrieved by the event. Abortive attempts were made to negotiate peaceful settlements of the dispute and finally a boycott was declared. All those working on the estate in tree felling were to cease work. A certain number of men persisted in working and one day a steam tractor used for hauling timber to Bandon was fired on and one of the workers was wounded. After the shooting affair Doyle and Riordan applied to the British authorities for police protection.

Brigade Staff Officer and member of Cork No.3 Brigade, Michael Crowley in his witness statement, now held in the Bureau of Military History (no. WS 1603), takes up the story that the RIC gave Doyle and Riordan police protection and occupied the castle. The police force sent out day and night patrols into the neighbouring countryside. But observation by Volunteers revealed a set pattern for patrols and they ambushed a patrol of eight men and officer disarming them at Rathclarin, Kilbrittain. A sergeant, however, had time to draw his bayonet and inflicted a severe head wound on Lieutenant Michael O’Neill of Maryboro, Kilbrittain. The nine RIC men though were released.

Further small ambushes ensued across 1919 and 1920. Michael Crowley records that by April and May 1920, his battalion were continually endeavouring to locate RIC patrols, which usually patrolled the countryside for some miles around their barracks. Despite being on the RIC’s most wanted list, they continued to engage and disarm RIC members. However, by August 1920 in the overall picture of County Cork as many as eight infantry battalions (20 percent of the total) and one cavalry regiment were stationed in the county or city (of Cork alone). The historical tensions had been replaced with all-out war.


1050a. Kilbrittain House, c.1910 (source: Cork City Library).

1050b. Section of Ordnance Survey of Kilbrittain Castle estate, c.1910 (picture: Cork City Library)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 14 May 2020

1048a. Placename plaque for Oliver Plunkett Street, present day but possibly dating to 1920


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 14 May 2020
Remembering 1920: The Naming of Oliver Plunkett Street


    At the meeting of Council of Cork Corporation on 14 May 1920, Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney presided. On the agenda was a discussion on the beatification of Oliver Plunkett headed up by Sinn Féin councillors. A number of decisions arose out of it. One of the principal ones was the proposal by Cllr Micheal O’Cuill that the name or George’s Street be changed to that of Sráid Olibhéir Phluingcéid (Oliver Plunkett street), and this was seconded by Cllr Seán O’Leary and passed unanimously. This change in name just came within a month of the change from (Robert) King Street to MacCurtain Street.

     Renaming streets was a very symbolic act and another mechanism to breaking bonds with the British Empire. George’s Street, was laid out from 1715 onwards and was named to celebrate the House of Hanover. Its side streets are named after different colonial historical figures. Such names promoted British imperial remembering structures within the city.

     Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681) was linked to martyrdom and suppression and was an idea candidate to commemorate within a street name. Oliver was born at Loughcrew, near Old Castle, Co. Meath in 1625. Up to the age of sixteen he was educated by Dr Patrick Plunkett, Abbot of St Mary’s Dublin. Subsequently he studied for the priesthood at the Irish College, Rome. He was ordained in 1654 and acted as agent in Rome for the Irish Bishops. In 1669 he was appointed to the Archbishopric of Armagh. In 1670 be returned to Ireland and established a Jesuit College in Drogheda in 1670. In 1679 he was arrested on a charge of high treason, which was supported by the evidence of witnesses who came forward to prove a Popish or Roman Catholic plot to kill England’s King Charles II. The King did not believe in the conspiracy and refused to get involved in the case of Oliver, and the law was allowed to take its course.

    Brought to Westminster before an all Protestant jury, during the first trial, Oliver disputed the right of the court to try him in England. He was found to have pursued no crime but was not released. During the second trial, he drew focus on the criminal background of some of the witnesses, but to no avail. Found guilty Oliver was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on 1 July 1681, aged 55. He was the last Catholic martyr to die in England. His story of a miscarriage of justice was not forgotten about in and was harnessed in many subsequent debates from condemning the Penal Laws to calling for Catholic Emancipation in the early nineteenth century.

   Fast forward to 1920 nationally the story of the miscarriage of justice of Oliver Plunkett was connected to the war for Independence and in a Cork context to the murder of Tomás MacCurtain and his ongoing memorialisation. At the Cork Corporation Council meeting of 14 May 1920 this latter connection is seen through Sinn Féin’s Cllr Professor Alfred O’Rahilly, who proposed: “We, the Corporation of Cork, in Council assembled, hereby record the joy and satisfaction of the people of Ireland at the approaching Beatification of the Venerable Oliver Plunkett, the martyred Archbishop of Armagh, who 239 years ago, as the victim of a bogus plot, was seized and deported by the English Forces then in Ireland, and was legally murdered as a criminal and a traitor. We direct that this resolution be forwarded to the Cardinal Secretary of State, to his Eminence Cardinal Logue, to his Grace Dr Harty, Archbishop of Cashel, and to his Lordship Dr Cohalan, Bishop of Cork”.

   Lord Mayor MacSwiney proposed that a deputation of four be appointed to go to Rome on the occasion of the Beatification. The City Solicitor pointed out that the Corporation could not pay the expense of the deputation. The Lord Mayor expressed his understanding of the financial position. However, the resolution appointing the councillor deputation was passed, and the following were appointed – Lord Mayor, Professor Stockley, Messrs Donal O’Callaghan, and Simon Daly.

   The Lord Mayor further noted he understood that to proceed to Rome they needed passports. He tried to get passports direct from the Italian Government but could not. He also understood that he would have to the nearest police barrack – and in this case that would be King Street. This was not a journey he wished to make especially after the focus placed on it during the inquest of Tomás MacCurtain.

    Cllr O’Callaghan. speaking in Irish, suggested that the four members of the deputation proceed as far as they could go without passports. Alderman Edmund Coughlan seconded, and the suggestion was adopted. The passports though were not received by the proposed delegation nor did they travel some of the way to Rome.

   To mark the Beatification of Oliver Plunkett in Rome on 14 May 1920, Bishop Cohalan celebrated high mass at the North Cathedral where Lord Mayor MacSwiney and councillors were present. In all the churches of the city after Mass at noon the Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the High Altar.

    Twenty-four hours previously, the Lord Mayor sent out a public call to citizens to illuminate their houses and display flags and bunting to commemorate the historic and holy event. On 14 May 1920 rows of houses in whole streets were all lit up. Statues and pictorial representations of the Sacred Heart were erected inside the windows and surrounded by vari-coloured lights, the Papal colours – gold and white – predominated. The Papal Flag was displayed from very many homes. The Sinn Féin flag flew over public buildings, such as the City Hall, the Markets, and was also hoisted over the Courthouse in Washington Street. The latter flag was put up in the morning by some young men with the aid of the fire escape outside the Court House. A demonstration was made in the evening by the members of the Irish Trades and General Workers Union whose hall at Camden Quay was beautifully decorated. Accompanied by the Connolly Memorial Fife and Drum Band, the Union members of well over one thousand left the hall and proceeded to Blackpool Bridge. Here a halt was made to pay tribute to the memory of the late Lord Mayor, Alderman Tomás MacCurtain. The band played outside his residence for some time. All of this happened as Black and Tans loomed more and more in making their presence felt.

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 Examiner/


1048a. Placename plaque for Oliver Plunkett Street, present day but possibly dating to 1920 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1048b. Oliver Plunkett Street, May 2020 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1048b. Oliver Plunkett Street, May 2020

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 7 May 2020

1047a. Emmet McCormack & Albert Moore of Moore McCormack Shipping Lines, c.1920 b

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 7 May 2020
Remembering 1920: A Cork to New York Shipping Lane


    Established in 1913 by Albert V Moore and Emmet J McCormack – the Moore McCormack Company – began with one ship, which ran between the United States and Brazil. Such was that success they acquired more steamships. After the First World War, the American company bought several surplus ships and began further trading links with South America and further afield to the eastern Mediterranean, India and Western Europe.

    In the autumn of 1919 the Moore McCormack Company, based on Broadway New York, was visited by Corkman Diarmuid Fawsitt. Diarmuid had been sent to New York by Dáil Éireann in particular by Acting President Arthur Griffith. In Éamon de Valera’s Papers in UCD Archives, Diarmuid was to become a reference point or a follow-up business contact for Éamon and Harry Boland on their American ‘rallying support campaign’ for Ireland’s Independence across 1919 and 1920. Diarmuid Fawsitt’s title was the “Consul and Trade Commissioner of the Irish Republic”. Diarmuid based himself in New York but was often in Boston and Washington for meetings. He regularly corresponded and collaborated with Dáil Éireann. Both could see the potential of the country to work with emerging liner companies to transport goods to and from and America. In essence, this was quite a practical strand of developing Ireland’s physical international connections. Such activity also contrasts sharply with the violence of the Irish War of Independence, which appeared more and more across Ireland in late 1919 and early 1920.

    In September 1919, the Moore-McCormack Company began shipping from Philadelphia to Cork, Dublin, and Belfast. In February 1920 to honour the business agreement, Diarmuid Fawsitt commenced arrangements for the visit to Ireland of Mr Emmet J McCormack, who had Irish American ancestry. In early May 1920 Emmet McCormack travelled from New York on board one of the largest of the Cunard liners, the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, to Liverpool via Queenstown (Cobh).

   On 3 May 1920, the Cork Examiner records that Mr McCormack alighted on the quays in Cork on a transfer boat from the lower harbour. He was met by the Chairman and members of the Cork Harbour Board who escorted him to the Custom House quay where at 12.30pm he was put on tender boat named Ireland. He was officially brought back down the harbour to view its scenic and industrial points. On the outward journey a short stop look place at Victoria Deepwater Quay in order to give the party an opportunity of inspecting the site for a proposed new transit shed accommodation. As the Ireland steamed past one of the Moore McCormack Company’s ships SS Tashmoo, discharging at Ford’s wharf, greetings were exchanged. Exchanges of courtesy took place when the party steamed past Blackrock Castle, from which Irish flags were waved, and the Passage and Rushbrooke Docks. Having concluded the itinerary, the Ireland anchored at East Ferry, where a luncheon was served. Opportunity was availed of on the return journey to make a short stop in Queenstown (Cobh), where the beautiful St Colman’s Cathedral was visited and much admired by Emmet McCormack and the other guests.

    In the evening Emmet J McCormack and party were entertained, to dinner in the Imperial Hotel by the Harbour Commissioners to meet leading representatives of the mercantile, industrial, and shipping community. Mr D J Lucy, Chairman, presided. Amongst those present, was Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney. Dinner over, the Chairman rose to propose a toast to the health of Mr McCormack, which the chairman noted “had come there that day, not only as an American citizen, but as an Irishman”. The toast he added was a “symbol of the unification of the two countries of America and Ireland”. He highlighted that Mr McCormack’s Irish ancestry. He thanked him for “stepping into the breach with his line of 24 ships because his sympathy was with Ireland”. Mr Lucey outlined that with “patriotic generosity Mr McCormack was prepared, if necessary, to run a direct service to America for twelve months at a loss in order to make the venture a success”. The Chairman believed that the Moore McCormack service had come to stay, and he thanked Mr McCormack for it.

    Emmet McCormack replied with deep gratitude and outlined that there were eight steamers engaged in direct service between New York and Irish ports, involving an expenditure of eight million dollars. He was proud of his Irish ancestry who he believed had always relied on their own energy, strength and accomplishments. He deemed himself glad to represent the Irish race in America, and he had no apologies to make for his pride. Their efforts in connection with the direct service between Ireland and America were not finished and were ambitious.

    According to Mr McCormack, the Moore McCormack Company intended to couple up their New York-Scandinavian service, stopping at Irish ports – i.e. that accommodation would be provided for any Irish freight that might be going to Scandinavian or Baltic ports. They would endeavour to connect Ireland with New York direct, and also with Swedish and Baltic ports. While they were putting all their efforts and capital into the enterprise, they wished to develop, if possible, a returning business from Ireland.

    Emmet McCormack highlighted that Ireland had resources, labour, and capital, and that must be developed. He expressed the view that in the United States they would “buy anything from Ireland”, as the people of America, were sympathetic with Ireland and its aims and ambitions, and they would pay good prices for such goods. He hoped the Irish people would co-operate with them in that direction and would make their enterprise a complete success.

   The Moore McCormack Company shipped to Cork until late 1925 by which point the Irish Free State utilised less and less the shipping company on the west bound route.


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 Examiner/



1047a. Emmet McCormack & Albert Moore of Moore McCormack Company, c.1920 (source: Cork Library).

1047b. The Quays Cork, c.1910 (source: Cork Public Museum).

1047b. The Quays Cork, c.1910



Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 30 April 2020

1046a. King Street, c.1910


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 30 April 2020
Remembering 1920: MacCurtain Street is Born


     On 23 April 1920 – this week one hundred years ago – one of Cork’s principal streets was to get a name change to provide another outlet for the public outpouring of grief arising from the murder of Tomás MacCurtain. Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney, under Lord Mayor’s items, at the Cork Corporation meeting proposed in a short motion: “That the name of King Street be changed to MacCurtain Street”. He did not wish to add anything to the motion except to say that it was their duty “to do honour to their immortal dead” but did propose that the plaque for the thoroughfare be solely in the Irish language.

    There were 36 of the 56 Council members present with the majority on the night being Sinn Féin members. Commercial public representative Sir John Scott moved as an amendment that the renaming proposal matter be deferred to the next meeting in order that the people who had vested interests in the street in question could come before the Council or any public objection could be taken to the proposed change. There was no seconder to Sir John Scott’s amendment and without any more debate the Lord Mayor’s motion was carried.

    Sir John Scott did give a historic reference within his speech, pointing out that King Street had been called after an old family whose members had been prominently identified with the commerce and politics of Cork. Robert King (1796-1867) was of the Kingston family of Mitchelstown Castle. He was a member of the British army, who stayed in France after Napoleon’s fall. He was returned to Parliament for County Cork – a Whig politician – from 1826 to 1832. In 1836 he was High Sheriff of County Cork.

    The renaming of King Street to MacCurtain Street was one of three acts of remembrance to be put into place to consolidate the public solidarity against the murder of Tomás MacCurtain in the  weeks that followed but also they were to make sure his future memory was secured in Cork. The other acts – the inquest and a public memorial fund – also caught the public imagination.

   On 30 March 1920 a public meeting was held in the City Hall to inaugurate a memorial fund for the widow und family of the Lord Mayor Alderman Tomás MacCurtain. Bishop Cohalan chaired the meeting. He very much regretted the sad and tragic event that brought them together. His first duty and the duty of the whole body of citizens was to express and convey to Mrs MacCurtain, the Lady Mayoress, their sincere sympathy on the great bereavement that had befallen her. He knew the Lord Mayor since 1916, and in his death he deemed that the citizens of Cork had lost an “intelligent, man, an upright man, and a very unselfish man”.

   The Bishop denoted that the object of their meeting was to erect a financial monument or fund to the Lord Mayor, to support for a time the widow and the children. He appealed to the citizens, irrespective of creed or class, to support the fund; he noted; “it is not an appeal for a private individual; it is an appeal for a man who was the civic head of the municipality, the first citizen of Cork”.

   The speeches from those present – politicians and commercial figures – contained many accolades given to Tomás and in their own way laid the foundations of how he would be remembered and described by historians in years to come. Alderman Liam de Róiste’s intervention is noteworthy in his description of Tomás. He rose and in Irish proposed the MacCurtain Memorial Fund. He appealed to the citizens of Cork and to the people of Ireland in general to make this fund a success. He said that never before in the history of Cork City had he seen such an occasion to arise; “Tomás MacCurtain was struck down by the hand of an assassin. Had he been spared those associated with his work he felt confident that his energy, his initiative, his love of country, and his desire for the city’s welfare would have been valuable assets to the whole community, and would have been meant much for the progress and welfare of all of all sections and classes in the city”.

   Cllr Barry Egan proposed that Messrs D. O’Connell, Coroner William Murphy, solicitor, the Town Clerk, the City Solicitor, City Engineer and Mr Hegarty (Lord Mayor’s Secretary) be appointed secretaries of the Fund. Alderman Denis Lucey seconded and it was carried unanimously.

   As the days and weeks passed between April and October 1920, donations were listed regularly as subscription lists – over 25 listings at least – on the Cork Examiner. By early October 1920, the public had subscribed over £14,600 in donations and over £2,300 has been given to the family. For the most part donations came in small monetary numbers – a pound and few shillings. On 26 April 1920, a letter (catalogued in Cork City and County Archives) to Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney from Michael Collins enclosed his contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Memorial Fund. The letter noted the national significance and great importance of the fund.

   However, one of the largest donations was from Terence MacSwiney himself who gave two donations from his Lord Mayor’s salary – two £125 donations – one at the start of the memorial fund and the other in early October 1920 during his hunger strike Brixton Prison where he gave £125 of his Lord Mayor’s salary. The memorial fund process finished just before December 1920.

   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 Examiner/



1046a. King Street, c.1910 (picture: Cork Public Museum)

1046b. MacCurtain Street, March 2020 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1046b. MacCurtain Street, March 2020

Cork City Heritage Plan Call Out for Ideas, April 2020

The closing date for submissions for the new Heritage Plan of Cork City Council has been extended to Thursday 30th April.
Express your perspective on aspects of Cork City’s Heritage that you value and want to see understood, enhanced and celebrated.
What are the challenges to heritage and what solutions you think might work?
What ideas do you have for projects that you would like to see done in the city or that you or your group could carry out given the appropriate resources?
The information gathered will feed into Cork City Council’s Heritage Plan, which will guide the implementation of priority Heritage actions in Cork City over the next five years.
The closing date for comments is Thursday 30 April 2020
You can make a submission in the following way:
Use our online portal
Or write to The Heritage Officer, Strategic and Economic Development Directorate, Cork City Council, City Hall, Cork.
The current Cork City Heritage Plan is available to download from
Douglas Street, Cork, April 2020

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 23 April 2020

1045a. Picture of Inquest Jury of Tomás MacCurtain, 1920


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 23 April 2020
Remembering 1920: The Inquest Jury Speaks


   At the conclusion of the Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain on 17 April 1920, Chairman Coroner James McCabe thanked the jury for the great care and attention they had given the various witness interviews. The 14-man jury comprised: William J Barry (foreman), Daniel Barrett, Richard Barrett, Michael J Grace, David Hennessy, Harry Loreton, Patrick McGrath, Melville McWilliams, Florence O’Donoghue, Peter O’Donovan, Jeremiah O’Callaghan, Thomas O’Shaughnessy, Tadgh O’Sullivan and Pádraig O’Sullivan. With the passing of time, the memory of several of the latter members has disappeared. Through searching through obituaries, I have constructed some info on five of the jury members.

William J Barry was the foreman and his obituary for 27 January 1953 in the Cork Examiner outlines that he was a secondary school teacher, William was a language teacher and taught at various schools in Cork City, as well as outside colleges. He became a Fianna Fáil member of Cork Corporation in 1945 and was Secretary to the Cork Fever Hospital Committee.

Patrick McGrath became an apprentice blacksmith and had his own smithy in Morgan Street in Cork City Centre. During 1920 he was an officer in the C Company, Second Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade and took part in various armed engagements in and around Cork City. When peace returned to Ireland, Patrick or Pa McGrath contented himself with following his trade of blacksmith. He also became interested in bodies such as the Old IRA Men’s Association and Fianna Fáil. He remained in the background for more than twenty years, known and loved by his own circle of friends, political and sporting acquaintances. His entry into the open political arena came through his service as Director of Elections in Cork City on two occasions in the 1940’s. In 1946 he won a seat through a bye-election to Dáil Éireann and retained his seat in the 1948, 1951 and in the 1954 General Election. He did not become a member of the Cork Corporation until 1950. Two years in 1952 later he was elected Lord Mayor and was Lord Mayor for four years.

Florence O’Donoghue was one of three brothers – Paddy and Jeremiah being the others – who in 1910, left their farm home at Killeen, Glenflesk, County Kerry and travelled to Cork City to seek their fortune. Their father was a car-man having established a road business between Glenflesk and the city. He transported butter by horse and cart over the mountains of Derrynasaggart into the city and brought home merchandise for the neighbouring farmers. Jeremiah passed away shortly after arriving in Cork. Paddy and Florence after apprenticeship established a drapery business in North Main Street under the name O’Donoghue Brothers. Sometime later they moved to Oliver Plunkett Street, then known as Old George’s Street and there opened another establishment.

  Just before 1914, Florence or Flor opened up a public house at 54 Thomas Davis Street in Blackpool. He still maintained an interest in the Oliver Plunkett Street business. Flor, now advanced in years, became interested in the Volunteer and Sinn Féin movement. Tomás MacCurtain appointed him Head of Communications of the Cork No.1 Brigade and later was prominent in the city in collecting money for the Dáil Éireann Loan schemes. Then came the murder of Lord Mayor Tomás Mac Curtain and Flor was summoned to sit on the jury. Afterwards Flor remained head of intelligence of the IRA during the Irish War on Independence.

Family notes left by Patrick O’Sullivan of Bantry and the Silver Key Public House in Ballinlough (thanks to his daughter Clare O’Sullivan Herlihy) outline that during the period from 1 April 1920 to 21 March 1921 he was operating with C Company, 2nd Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade. He was picked to take part in the funeral of Tomás McCurtain from Blackpool to City Hall and was also a member of the bodyguard at the lying in state.  Patrick was a member of the Volunteer firing party who in full uniform, fired the volley over his grave. He became a member of the inquiry into the murder of Tomas McCurtain acting on orders from his superior officer.

   Patrick noted: “The official Jury summoned by the RIC were evidently afraid to put in an appearance when the Coroner called them together. Commandant Jerome O’Donovan then took the initiative and selected a republican Jury. The inquest lasted three weeks and during that time we were constantly under the observation of the RIC until we were known by sight to every constable in the City. Consequently, after the inquest I was a marked man and suffered the usual handicap of notoriety at that time. Namely, constant, surprise raids on my digs in Wallace’s Avenue, until finally I was forced to go on the run completely in May 1920. Maddened by their repeated failure to catch me they raided my digs at night and when I wasn’t there, they lay in ambush hoping I’d return. They raided my digs again and snatched my belongings and ruined two suitcases of clothes, which I didn’t have time to remove. They told my landlady that they would riddle me on sight”.

Tadgh O’Sullivan was reared on a farm north of the village of Barraduff, Co. Kerry and was passionate in the study of Irish being inspired by his national school teacher. He joined the IRB and found himself in Cork City. As a volunteer and officer of C Company, 2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade, he was constantly on duty and participated in many major operations in the City. He participated in the attack on Farran RIC Barracks and also in the Barrack Street Ambush on 9 October 1920. On 19 April 1921, whilst coming out of a house in Douglas Street he was intercepted by the Black and Tans and shot down in the street. There is a plaque on the wall of the house in 82 Douglas Street and a monument in Rathmore on which he is remembered along with others.

If anyone has information on the jury members, I have flagged that have no information surviving on them, please get in contact with me at 087 655 3389 or email



1045a. Picture of Inquest Jury of Tomás MacCurtain, 1920; Back row: Daniel Barrett, David Hennessy, Pádraig O’Sullivan, Patrick McGrath, Peter O’Donovan, Thomas F O’Shaughnessy; Sitting: Richard Barrett, Jeremiah O’Callaghan, William J Barry (foreman), Michael J Grace, Florence O’Donoghue, Melville McWilliams, Harry Loreton, and inset Tadgh O’Sullivan (source: Cork City Library).

Cllr McCarthy’s Make a Model Boat Project 2020

     Douglas Road and Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy invites all Cork young people to participate in the tenth year of McCarthy’s Make a Model Boat Project. This year because of the Coronvirus all interested participants must make a model boat at home from recycled materials and submit a picture or a video of it to the competition organisers at The event is being run in association with Meitheal Mara and the Cork Harbour Festival Team who have cancelled nearly all of their festival this year bar their collaboration with Kieran on the Make a Model Boat Project. There are three categories, two for primary and one for secondary students. The theme is ‘At Home by the Lee’, which is open to interpretation. The model must be creative though and must be able to float. There are prizes for best models and the event is free to enter. For further information, please see the events section at The closing date for participants is 30 April 2020.

     Cllr McCarthy, who is heading up the event, noted “I am encouraging creation, innovation and imagination amongst our young people, which are important traits for all of us to develop. I am going to miss this year seeing the models float at The Lough. The Make a Model Boat Project is part of a suite of community projects I have organised and personally invested in over the years– the others include the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project with Cork City Council, the Community local history walks, local history publications, McCarthy’s Community Talent Competition and Cork City Musical Society. Many of the latter projects were have gone digital or soon will go digital for this year. I look forward to the digital challenge”.

Some pictures from last year:

McCarthy's Make a Model Boat entry 2019

McCarthy's Make a Model Boat entry 2019McCarthy's Make a Model Boat entry 2019McCarthy's Make a Model Boat entry 2019McCarthy's Make a Model Boat entry 2019McCarthy's Make a Model Boat entry 2019McCarthy's Make a Model Boat entry 2019

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 16 April 2020


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 16 April 2020
Remembering 1920: Coroner James McCabe Speaks


    One hundred years ago, the Tomás MacCurtain inquest was the most significant inquiry of its kind ever held in Cork City. The verdict, which was given on 17 April 1920, was the most startling ever pronounced by a coroner’s jury in the British Empire.

   The inquest comprised 14 sessions from 23 March to 17 April 1920. Coroner James J McCabe read out the verdict was as follows: “We find that the late Alderman Tomás MacCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork, died from shock and haemorrhage, caused by bullet wounds, and that he was wilfully murdered under circumstances of the most callous brutality, and that the murder was organised and carried out by the Royal Irish Constabulary, officially directed by the British Government, and we return a verdict of wilful murder against David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of England; Lord French, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; Ian Macpherson, late Chief Secretary of Ireland; Acting Inspector-General Smith, of the Royal Irish Constabulary; Divisional Inspector Clayton, of the Royal Irish Constabulary; District Inspector Swanzy, and some unknown members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. We strongly condemn the system at present in vogue of carrying out raids at unreasonable hours. We tender to Mrs MacCurtain and family our sincerest sympathy in their terrible bereavement; this sympathy we extend to the citizens of Cork in the loss they have sustained by the death of one so eminently capable of directing their civic administration

   Apart from the verdict there are many voices in the 70,000 word transcript of the inquest, which I recently compiled with news editor John O’Mahony and the Irish Examiner to create the publication Witness to Murder. The voices of the 90 interviewees are a very important part of the inquest but so also was the work of the chair Coroner James McCabe and his jury. Whilst researching the proceedings of the 14 sessions of the inquest you can read how Coroner James McCabe tried to remain calm remain and thorough, in what was a raw and emotional time inside the inquest’s location at the old City Hall and outside in a city, which was unstable with tit for tat attacks by the IRA and the growing swathes of Black and Tan auxiliaries in the city.

   James McCabe handled all interviews of witnesses, solicitors and police officials alike with calmness, dignity and courtesy. He was always helpful and courteous to the journalists present too and was held in high esteem amongst its members. In his final conclusions at the inquest James McCabe reminded the jury that they had heard from the witnesses what occurred in the house on the night of the 19 March when the Lord Mayor was murdered. They also had the depositions of witnesses as to what occurred in the streets on that night, both at Blackpool, King Street and St Patrick’s Hill, and also as to what was stated to have occurred on the night of 20 March. The Royal Irish Constabulary authorities had put in a large number of depositions on the policing arrangements in the various police barracks, the patrols of the men of those barracks and of their weapons and motor cars and other movements. The police authorities had also put in books and documents connected with such matters. All those depositions were available for the members of the jury, if they desired to refresh their memories on any portion of the evidence given at the inquest.

  The background of James McCabe is also as interesting as his involvement in the Tomás MacCurtain Inquest. His obituary in the Cork Examiner on 17 September 1949 details that James was born in Midleton, County Cork, in 1862. He received his education in his native town and at an early age became clerk to the firm of Messrs Blake, solicitors, Cork, where he showed a deep interest in his work and soon became versed in the principles of law.

   James took up studies in Law at Queens College, Cork, where he was popular amongst his professors and fellow students alike. A prominent member of the Cork Catholic Young Men’s Society, he participated in the Amateur Theatrical Association attached to the Society at the time. He ended up dividing his time between reading for his legal examinations and appearing in dramatic productions by the Young Men’s Society. In both he was most successful, being a most admired figure on the stage, whilst he completed his legal studies with distinction and became a solicitor in 1897.  He soon became one of leading legal figures in the city and enjoyed a large practice which he kept right through his career.

    James was also deeply interested in the welfare of his country and a Nationalist and Home Rule supporter. On behalf of John Redmond, he addressed a large number of meetings during the campaigns in the city with his speeches being known for being thoughtful, forceful and sometimes quietly humorous. He acted as election agent for many Redmondite candidates, including Mr Augustine Roche, when he successfully contested local elections in Cork and became Lord Mayor of Cork in 1904.

    In 1911 James McCabe was appointed City Coroner and as can be seen across the southern regional newspapers oversaw a myriad of inquests in Cork City during the Irish War of Independence and during the Irish Civil War. Despite his political leanings, he remained politically impartial in his work. In 1934, he was elected to the office of president of the Southern Law Association – an office which he held with distinction. He lived at Bellevue Terrace, Tivoli for many years. After his death in 1949, his son Joseph McCabe succeeded him as City Coroner for over two decades.



1044a. Bust of Tomás MacCurtain by Cork sculptor Seamus Murphy, on display in Cork Public Museum (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 9 April 2020

1043a. Cover of Witness to Murder by Kieran McCarthy and John O'Mahony


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 9 April 2020
Remembering 1920: Witness to Murder


     The new book Witness to Murder by John O’Mahony and I is a transcript of the Tomás MacCurtain Inquest from March and April 1920. Tomas (1884-1920) is truly a colossus in Cork history who has attracted many historians, enthusiasts and champions to tell his story. His story is peppered with several aspects – amongst those that shine out are his love of his family, city, country, language comradeship, and hope – all mixed with pure tragedy. In many ways, the murder of Tomás MacCurtain on the night of 19-20 March 1920 changed the future public and collective memory narrative of Cork history forever.

     One hundred years on after his murder, the memory of Tomás and his life and times and works are a central part of the history of politics in the city and the city and region’s role within the Irish War of Independence. Remembrance is carried through a variety of ways – books by local historians and seasonal historical newspaper articles in for example the Irish Examiner, yearly exhibitions in Cork Public Museum and Cork City and County Archives, conferences at University College Cork,  portraits and sculptures at Cork City Hall, and annual speeches by incoming Lord Mayors. Annually the MacCurtain family work closely with Cork City Council and community groups to highlight his memory and without fail every 19-20 March there are memorial civic ceremonies and political and community group ceremonies. All of the latter examples keep the candle lit on his story, legacy and memory. Indeed, one can say his narrative is highly structured as he retains his position amongst Cork top historical figures.

   As the news got out into the public realm after the murder of Tomás MacCurtain it sent shockwaves throughout every household – he had been Lord Mayor for less than 50 days an just 36 years old. People began to discuss their relationship with Tomás within Cork City. Some revered his character and work. Others saw his work as another part of the way of life of a busy port city, which had many activities happening on any given. But for a time in Cork, his murder brought the city and region to a standstill. This was another intensification of all-out war held across the streets of Cork that in time would be named the Irish War of Independence.

   The out-pouring of public grief was heard in the speeches in the days following through his successor to the Lord Mayor’s chain Terence MacSwiney, by fellow Corporation members, by MPs in the chamber of Westminster and visibly seen in the enormous turnout on the streets of Cork during the funeral procession. In the weeks that followed the civilian inquest of his death revealed more questions than answers to who actually killed him. The verdict proposes that it was a government and RIC cover-up but unfortunately, no official statement has ever come forward. So, in truth history will never be able to officially record who killed him and who the masked person was who pulled the trigger. That’s why the revisiting of his inquest is important.

     The last time Tomás’s inquest in full was published was in the Cork Examiner between 23 March 1920 and 18 April 1920. Despite the ordeal and daily fallout from the interviews, over time the fourteen hearing sessions have not overly been revisited by scholars of the Irish War of Independence. The verdict has been highlighted on many occasions by many historians, but the information of the inquest has never been overly written about or the narratives within it championed.

   So, this book firstly is about bringing together the data inquest into one source. It is about giving a voice to the solicitors, jury and those interviewed (see more in the next few weeks).

   Secondly, within the interviews and the remarks of Counsel, jurors, and solicitors, the frustration is plain to read plus one can view the complex relationships of all sides of the debate. The interviews and the answers given also provide multiple narratives on what life was like to those who interacted in the power play with authorities in the city, the nature of policing but above all the raw emotion attached to the murder of Tomás. On the raw emotion element, the witness statement by his wife of Elizabeth and family, and even the account of the bullets in his chest makes for harrowing reading.

   Thirdly, the publishing of the data is a nod to the Cork Examiner journalists present at the time who wrote up each verbatim what witnesses said from each individual session, and turned around the information in just a few hours, so it could be published in the following day’s edition.

   Fourthly it is my hope that this transcript of newspaper text will help scholars of the War of Independence in their research to mine down further into the complexities of the time but also to keep the human dimension at the heart of new emerging research. This transcript in particular is inspired by the epic Atlas of the Irish Revolution and the ongoing digitisation of State files and interviews of veterans of the War of Independence held at the Bureau of Military History in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin– both sources, the Atlas and the Bureau try to bring a holistic perspective to what narratives, sources and memories have survived.

    The book has an epic amount of valuable historical information but one, which I hope will help assist to create a roadmap of sorts in commemorating the life and legacy of Tomás MacCurtain in the next hundred years and place the inquest at the heart of future scholarship on Cork’s role within the Irish War of Independence.

Witness to Murder by Kieran McCarthy and John O’Mahony (2020, Irish Examiner) at this moment in time is only available to buy online at Stay safe to everyone.



1043a. Cover of Witness to Murder by Kieran McCarthy and John O’Mahony (2020, Irish Examiner).