Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 30 June 2022

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 30 June 2022

Launch of Shandon Heritage Audio Trail

A self-guided audio tour of the Shandon historic quarter has been launched by Shandon Area Renewal Association (SARA) SARA is an advocacy group representing the residents and businesses in the Shandon Area. Their Tidy Towns committee does Trojan work keeping the area not only tidy but welcoming to all who live in and visit the area.

The new audio tour takes approximately an hour. Through it you will learn about the history and the life of the area and see where the many historical characters, born and reared in the area, lived. You will also hear the voices of locals who speak about the area’s history and their relationship to it. The tour is comprised of twenty three audio tracks, with associated waypoints. Each track is specific to each waypoint. Log onto walkingshandon.ie to access the tour. The project is supported By Cork City Council and Cathedral Credit Union.

One could do the tour from your sofa but the Shandon area makes for a great area for walking and exploring. The starting point is at the Cornmarket Street side of the Shandon Footbridge. Then one climbs the hill to one of the first stops – Maldron Hotel, formerly the North Infirmary.

            There are conflicting historical reports of the infirmary’s origins sometime between 1720 and 1744. Cork historians have argued that that the first infirmary was constructed in 1720 and then a rebooting of sorts of the infirmary in 1744. The latter reboot was supported by a musical society who appropriated their surplus funds for its support.By the 1840s the original infirmary had been considerably enlarged. In 1842, there were admitted 558 patients, and 17,630 externs. It was attended by two physicians and two surgeons.  From 1867 onwards the Daughters of Charity cared for thousands and thousands of patients.

The infirmary’s history is peppered with tales of hardship and examples of perseverance to maintain a place of care for the sick in the impoverished northside of Cork during the 1700s and 1800s. The battles to fend off threats of closure were faced, and won. Crises were overcome because the management committees could depend on voluntary funding. Indeed, the hospital flourished and expanded, thanks to the pennies of the people of Cork. However, in 1987 due to National Health Cuts the hospital closed resulting in 205 redundancies. Despite vocal and physical protests from far and wide, there was to be no last minute reprieve. The doors were finally closed on 27 November 1987. Ten years later the building’s next host was the Shandon Court Hotel (now the Maldron Hotel).

Close by is the next stop on the audio trail, which is the Mother Jones plaque. The Cork Mother Jones Commemorative committee was established in 2012 to mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of Mary Harris / Mother Jones in Cork. After a highly successful festival marking that anniversary it was decided to make the festival an annual event marking the life and legacy of Mother Jones. The Commemorative Committee, in conjunction with Cork City Council also commissioned Cork Sculptor Mike Wilkins to create a limestone plaque to honour Mother Jones in the Shandon area of the city, near her birthplace.  This plaque was erected near the famous Cork Butter Market and was unveiled on 1 August 2012.

            Although famous in other parts of the world, especially in the United States of America where she was once labelled “the most dangerous woman in America”, Cork born Mary Jones (née Harris) – or Mother Jones as she is perhaps more widely known – was virtually unknown and not recognised yet in her native city.  The festivals and activities of the commemoration committee have changed that and now the name of Mother Jones is better known in Cork and beyond.

Mary’s parents were Ellen Cotter, a native of Inchigeela and Richard Harris from Cork city. Few details of her early life in Cork have been uncovered to date, though it is thought by some that she was born on Blarney Street and may have attended the North Presentation Schools nearby.  She and her family emigrated to Canada soon after the Famine, probably in the early 1850s. Later in the United States, after tragic deaths of her husband George Jones and their four children, she became involved in the struggle for basic rights for workers and children’s rights, leading from the front, often in a militant fashion.

Mary is best known for her fiery speeches against the exploitation of miners; she was utterly fearless, travelling all over America to defend workers and their families.  Mother Jones was one of the best and most active union organizers ever seen in America. She became a legend among the coalminers of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Nearby to the plaque to Mary Jones plaque is the historic façade of the Cork Butter Market. By the mid 1800s, the Cork butter market had enlarged to such an extent that there was a large need for expansion of the premises. In 1849, an elaborate roman temple style portico, designed by Sir John Benson, was added to the front of the butter market. In the late 1800s, there was a distinct decline in the economic fortunes of the city. The profits of the export provision trade of agricultural products such as butter and beef declined.

In 1858, 428,000 firkins of butter were being exported per annum and by 1891, this was reduced to 170,000 firkins. Competitive European prices out-competed the prices set by the butter market at Cork. Eventually, the Cork butter Market closed in 1924.  In recent decades, a butter museum, which is well worth visiting has opened up next to the craft centre in the Tony O’Reilly Centre. The old Butter Exchange is currently the subject of a planning application proposal for its interior conversion into an innovation/ start up hub.

To celebrate and mark the stories above and the multitude of other stories including the 300th anniversary of St Anne’s Church Shandon, and the launch of the self-guided walking tour, one of my walking tours for July takes on the local history of Shandon. See all the information on my three tours for July below.

Kieran’s July Tours:

Saturday 2 July 2022, Shandon Historical Walking Tour; explore Cork’s most historic quarter; meet at North Main Street/ Adelaide Street Square, opp Cork Volunteer Centre, 2pm (free, duration: two hours, no booking required).  

Friday evening, 8 July 2022, The Lough and its Curiosities; historical walking tour; meet at green area at northern green of The Lough, entrance of Lough Road to The Lough, Lough Church end; 6.45pm (free, duration: two hours)

Saturday 16 July 2022, The Battle of Douglas, An Irish Civil War Story, historical walking tour with Kieran, from carpark and entrance to Old Railway Line, Harty’s Quay, Rochestown; 2pm, (free, 2 hours, finishes near Rochestown Road).

Caption:

1157a. St Anne’s Church Shandon with members of the Shandon Area Renewal Association 14 June 2022 (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Cllr McCarthy’s July Historical Walking Tours

Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has announced his free historical walking tours for July, which have a focus on historic streets, lakes, and woodlands. He will conduct walks across the area of Shandon, The Lough area, and also around the Rochestown area.

Cllr McCarthy noted: “The Rochestown tour is one I first ran just before Covid and focusses on Irish Civil War known as The Battle of Douglas. The three day battle occurred from 7-10 August 1922. In particular, the battle sprawled across the heart of Rochestown Road to Garryduff. Across fields and woodlands, Anglo Irish Treaty supporters faced off against Anti-Treaty forces. It was part of the largest seaborne landing of the Irish civil war and was aimed at taking Cork City. General Emmet Dalton of the National Army or Irish Provisional Government led 800 troops, with two artillery pieces and armoured cars, all of whom landed at Passage West”,

“Coupled with the Civil War heritage there are also some great heritage assets in Rochestown from the old railway line platform to the Capuchin Friary off Monastery Road, no mind the surrounding heritage of the big houses and their estates which once stood in areas such as Monsfieldtown, Belmont and Garryduff”, concluded Cllr Kieran McCarthy.

Kieran’s July Tours:

Saturday 2 July 2022, Shandon Historical Walking Tour; explore Cork’s most historic quarter; meet at North Main Street/ Adelaide Street Square, opp Cork Volunteer Centre, 2pm (all tours free, duration: two hours, no booking required).  

Friday evening, 8 July 2022, The Lough and its Curiosities; historical walking tour; meet at green area at northern green of The Lough, entrance of Lough Road to The Lough, Lough Church end; 6.45pm.

Saturday 16 July 2022, The Battle of Douglas, An Irish Civil War Story, historical walking tour with Kieran, from carpark and entrance to Old Railway Line, Harty’s Quay, Rochestown; 2pm.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 23 June 2022

1156a. Fire and explosions – the shelling of Four Courts Dublin, late June 1922 (source: National Library of Ireland, Dublin).
1156a. Fire and explosions – the shelling of Four Courts Dublin, late June 1922 (source: National Library of Ireland, Dublin).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 23 June 2022

Journeys to a Free State: General Election Fall Out

On Friday 16 June 1922, the 1922 Irish general election took place. The result of the election in Cork City was announced shortly before midnight on Saturday 17 June 1922. Some thousands of people waited to the hear the end result outside Cork City Courthouse. The first step was reached at 7.30pm, when businessman Mr Robert Day, having secured 6,836 votes, the quota being 6,070, was declared elected. At intervals afterwards Alderman De Róiste and Alderman JJ Walsh, having received the quota, were also safe.

Later Mary MacSwiney TD, though four short of the quota, secured the fourth place. The defeated candidates, next in order, were – Alderman Beamish, Mr Frank Daly, and the shock defeat of Lord Mayor of Cork, TD and Cllr Donal Óg O’Callaghan.

Poll topper Robert Day said that he was in the happy position of having to propose a vote of thanks to the Returning Officer and also to his staff. Mary MacSwiney said on behalf of the Republican candidates she wished to express her sincere thanks for the way the election had been carried out. At this stage cheers were raised for Mary by members outside the door of the Court house and another group called for cheers for ”the senior member for Cork” i.e Donal Óg O’Callaghan  

In the days that followed, the 128 seats up for grabs in Dáil Éireann were filled. Out of a valid poll of 621,587 votes, the pro-Treaty faction of Sinn Féin won 239,195 votes and the anti-Treaty faction won 135,310 votes. The other parties and independents all supported the Treaty and secured a further 247,080 votes. The vote was seen as considerable in many ways but in essence the pro-Treaty parties had secured support from over 75% of the electorate.

On 21 June 1922 Éamon de Valera gave a formal statement on the election to the press such as the Cork Examiner: “These results seem indeed a triumph for the Imperial methods of pacification, outrage and murder and massacre, and then a threat with a concession – the policy of the kick and caress, with a kick in reserve. By the threat of immediate renewal of an infamous war our people harassed and weary, and fearful of chaos, have in a majority voted as England wanted, but their hearts and their aspirations are unchanged, and Ireland unfree will never be at rest or genuinely reconciled with England. England’s gain is for the moment only, and England’s difficulty will still be prayed for as Ireland’s opportunity”.

De Valera further articulated about patriotism and dying for Ireland; “The men and women who have been rejected by the electorate have gone down with their flag flying, untouched by prospect of place or power, true to their principles, true to every pledge and promise they gave, true to the dead who died for Ireland—with those hallowed names, theirs will forever be coupled in honourable mention, in one of the most glorious chapters in their nation’s story”.

As for the published Dáil Éireann Constitution, he said, it was still only a draft, and he felt confident Dáil would not pass it as it good. He claimed that as it stood it would exclude from the public services, and practically disfranchise every honest Republican. He noted: “It isa test code as comprehensive against Republicans as the last acts of the Clarendon-Shaftesbury code against Catholics and dissenters in the reign of Charles II. It is as Burke described the Irish Penal Code, a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, a complete system well digested and well composed in all its parts, and particularly fitted to the end in view – the degradation of a people – directed not against the few but against the many. Dáil Éireann will not dishonour itself by passing it”.

Michael Collins remained quiet in the press up to after his election in his West Cork constituency. He did not formally respond to De Valera’s comments. However, the immediate aftermath of the general election result was that despite the pre-election coalition pact, the division between pro-treaty Sinn Fein members and anti-treaty members intensified.

On 28 June 1922, the Irish Civil War began, when the Irish Provisional Government’s troops began a shelling of the Anti-Treaty IRA’s ongoing take over of the Four Courts in Dublin. The Cork Examiner reported that there had been many casualties. Armoured cars, trench mortars, and machine guns were in action. Graphic accounts of the fighting were printed. The Provisional Government forces also seized the Fowler Hall. The building was besieged, and eventually set on fire. Telegraphic communication with Dublin continued, though irregularly, but the telephone service to the capital ceased A striking fact was that with the exception of the districts in which actual hostilities were taking place, business proceeded as usual.

At 6.30pm the Press Association stated that the Provisional Government had imposed a censorship on telegraphic messages. By 8pm breaches had been made in the river frontage of the Courts, and the Chancery Section and Library have been damaged by shells. During the evening there were a series of attacks on Provisional Government troops, who suffered six casualties in Oriel House, the headquarters of the attacked. Sniping operations extended throughout the city.

The shelling continued until 5 July 1922. At that point at least fifteen individuals were killed on the Republican side, with an unknown number wounded and over 450 individuals taken prisoner. On the Provisional Government National Army side, at least 29 were killed and over 150 were wounded.

Caption:

1156a. Fire and explosions – the shelling of Four Courts Dublin, late June 1922 (source: National Library of Ireland, Dublin).

Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022

Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022
Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022 (image: Cork City Council)
Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022 (image: Cork City Council)
Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022 (image: Cork City Council)

Lots of people have asked over the past two years is there a plan to resurface the Marina Walk with a more amenable surface. The old concrete in many places is broken and is dangerous to the walker. So I am delighted to see the Marina Promenade progressing now to public consultation.

The project will in essence restore the road to its original state as a walkway (see the images attached). It is also more or less 150 years to the day since the name The Marina, named after a walkway in Palermo, Sicily, replaced the name Navigation Wall. So this public call is very apt.

Details:

Cork City Council is asking residents, communities, businesses, and other key stakeholders to have their say on a proposed upgrading of the Marina which will further enhance the much-loved amenity for pedestrians, cyclists and people with disabilities.

Today, it published a planning notice seeking Part 8 planning permission on the promenade which was pedestrianised nearly two years ago.

The project team are seeking to repurpose approximately 1.8km of the existing Marina Promenade to deliver a combined footpath-cycle path and improved public spaces.

The plans also provide for the creation of plazas, balconies and new seating areas at intervals along the Marina.Public lighting will be replaced between Church Avenue and Blackrock Harbour and new public lighting and feature lighting installed between Centre Park Road and Church Avenue.

As is currently, the Marina promenade will remain car free from Centre Park Road to Church Avenue (1.5 km) with a shared 6-metre-wide surface for pedestrians and cyclists, widening to 7.0m at the filtered permeability gate at Church Avenue. Similarly, car access will be maintained for residents on Church Ave and those living north of Church Ave on the Marina.

The plans also include:

• Provision of new pedestrian and cycle access points from the Marina Promenade into the adjacent Marina Park including Atlantic Pond and the Cork City to Passage West Greenway.• Retention of the iconic formal tree planting along the route

• Protection and enhancement of the natural heritage, green space and biodiversity of the area and the conversion of some footpath areas to green space

• Provision of an access road serving Lee Rowing Club, Pairc Ui Chaoimh/Atlantic Pond and the lands in between.

More detail is available on https://consult.corkcity.ie/en or alternatively, plans & particulars will be available for inspection or purchase on working days at Reception Desk, Cork City Council, City Hall from Thursday 23 June to Thursday 4 August 2022.

Closing date for all submissions is Thursday 18 August 2022 at 4pm.

Kieran, Read more on the history of The Marina on my heritage website, http://corkheritage.ie/?page_id=5989

Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022 (image: Cork City Council)
Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022 (image: Cork City Council)
Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022 (image: Cork City Council)
Marina Promenade Project, 23 June 2022 (image: Cork City Council)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 16 June 2022

1155a. Michael Collins in London, July 1921, by John Lavery (source: The Hugh Lane Gallery).
1155a. Michael Collins in London, July 1921, by John Lavery (source: The Hugh Lane Gallery).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 16 June 2022

Journeys to a Free StateCollins Comes Back to Cork

In last week’s column I wrote about, the general election, which was called on 19 May 1922 by a resolution of Dáil Éireann by an order of the Irish Provisional Government. The treaty had split the Sinn Féin party. To diminish losses due to contesting other parties, Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins created a pact, which was approved on 20 May 1922. They decided that the pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions would fight the general election jointly and shape a coalition government afterwards. On Saturday 10 June 1922, Éamon de Valera arrived in Cork by train at 9.15pm for a series of election rallies across the county.

Four days later on 14 June 1922 Michael Collins arrived to rally support for his election cause. He arrived with Cork TD J J Walsh. The general public had not more than a couple of hours’ notice of the arrival of the distinguished visitors. The train was due to arrive at 9.15 pm, but long before that hour the station premises and yard were crowded with people while immediately outside there was a vast gathering.

Inside the station when the train was signalled there was a tussle for points of vantage. Several men climbed on to the railings of the subway. and perched themselves on windowsill and lamp post. As the train emerged from the tunnel rousing cheers were given and frequently repeated to the cry “Up the Treaty”, “Up Collins”. With difficulty the party made their way to the waiting motor cars.

Preceded by the Lee Pipers Hand and Fair Lane Fife and Drum, the cars slowly emerged to the highway. Along the broad stretch of the Lower Road there was a sea of people, and the “stands” made by the tunnel steps and the terraces of houses along to and including St Patrick’s Church, were densely packed. The streets along the route to Turner’s Hotel on Oliver Plunkett Street were packed with people.

Michael was technically on route to Skibbereen for a rally in his own constituency. However, in response to repeated calls for a speech, he appeared at a window of Turner’s Hotel and was received with rounds of cheers. He thanked the crowd for their welcome. He noted that it was his second time since February 1922 to address the Cork city public. He remarked of his personal perspective; “My position is fairly well known to you, and to everyone in Ireland. You here are facing an election on Friday, and I am not hampered now by being on a platform where there are Coalitionists. I can make a straight appeal to you citizens of Cork to vote for the candidates you think best of – to vote for candidates whom the electors of Cork will think will carry on best in the future the work that the citizens of Cork want carried on”.

Michael continued; “When I spoke in Dublin, I put it that the country was facing a very serious situation, and if that situation was to be met, as it should be met, the country must have the representatives that it needs. He concluded by noting to the public: “You understand fully what you have to do and I will depend on you to do it”.

There were also repeated demands for JJ Walsh to address the crowds from his window in Turner’s Hotel. Opening his short speech that it would be unfair of him “to his old friends, the citizens of Cork, those of them who marched with him for the last 10 or 12 years in an Irish Ireland movement”, if he failed on that occasion to thank them for their loyalty and their goodwill through trying times.

JJ Walsh responded to the cheers that Michael got by observing; “It was a fitting answer and offset to the unfortunate circumstances, which occurred in this neighbourhood a few months ago [during the War of Independence], and demonstrated fully the fact that the people of Cork correctly interpreted the Gaelic spirit which operated in and animated Michael Collins and men of his type in the immediate and distant past on behalf of the people”.

JJ Walsh also articulated that he was not going to say anything in connection with the pending election. That was a matter for the people in their discretion in casting their votes. He remarked; “It was simply a case of voting in whatever direction they thought best for the Irish nation. In that spirit and with that intention alone I voted for the Treaty six months ago. The discretion and intelligence necessary to direct that vote on my part are equally available with you, and it is entirely a matter for yourselves to do what you think is right in the circumstances.

 Concluding, JJ Walsh expressed the hope that Michael Collins and those associated with him – those who were returned on Friday and who the nation would return in its wise discretion would save this poor nation and bring it to the goal of destiny which you and I, and every sincere Irish man and woman has honed for in the past”. Once JJ ended his few words, the crowds dispersed shortly after from Oliver Plunkett Street.

Kieran’s June Tours:

Saturday 18 June 2022, The Workhouse and St Finbarr’s Hospital; meet at entrance to St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm (free, 2 hours). 

Caption:

1155a. Michael Collins in London, July 1921, by John Lavery (source: The Hugh Lane Gallery).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 9 June 2022

1154a. Éamon de Valera in London, July 1921, by John Lavery (source: The Hugh Lane Gallery).
1154a. Éamon de Valera in London, July 1921, by John Lavery (source: The Hugh Lane Gallery).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 9 June 2022

Journeys to a Free StateDeValera Comes Back to Cork

On 19 May 1922, a general election was called by a resolution of Dáil Éireann by an order of the Irish Provisional Government. The treaty had split the Sinn Féin party between 65 pro-treaty candidates, 57 anti-treaty and 1 nominally on both sides.

To diminish losses due to contesting other parties, Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins created a pact, which was approved on 20 May 1922. They decided that the pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions would fight the general election jointly and shape a coalition government afterwards. The sitting members would not be opposed by the other faction. This pact prevented voters giving their opinions on the treaty itself, especially in uncontested seats. 

 On Saturday 10 June 1922, Éamon de Valera arrived in Cork by train at 9.15pm for a series of election rallies across the county. The Cork Examiner records that he was accompanied by Messrs Austin Stack TD, Padraig O’Keeffe TD, Seán Hayes TD, and David Kent TD. The party was met at the platform by many prominent citizens, including the Lord Mayor Donal Óg O’Callaghan, and supportive members of Cork Corporation. Ten motor cars were in waiting, and the party having taken their seats a procession was formed headed up by three bands – the Lee Piper’s Band, the MacCurtain Memorial Piper’s Band, and a fife and drum band.

There were considerable numbers of the general public along MacCurtain Street, St Patrick’s Street, and the Grand Parade. The party were making Turner’s Hotel on Oliver Plunkett Street their headquarters during their visit to Cork. For more than an hour after their arrival at the hotel, a large crowd waited outside, possibly under the impression that one of the leaders might address a few remarks to them, but no speeches were delivered and before 10.30pm the crowd had melted away. A tricolour flag was floating from one of the windows of the hotel.

Following an extensive tour of the county, a successful meeting in support of DeValera’s election candidates was held on the Grand Parade on Sunday 11 June, Speeches were delivered from two platforms, no.1 was situated near the National Monument and no. 2 was located above the Berwick Fountain. Two local bands were in attendance.

At platform no.1 Lord Mayor O’Callaghan commented to the public that they were “absolutely free to vote for whom they pleased and as they pleased”. But in the light of their knowledge of the national position, and its dangers on all sides, he asked the people for their assistance. He noted, “It was they who were going to shoulder the responsibility of steering this country in the period, which was about to open. They asked them to return to the Dáil the same people who had worked up to now…it was necessary to entrust the country into the hands of those who had been the strength of the movement for the past few years…that was to have a solid working entity in the new parliament”.

On rising to the platform Éamon de Valera was received with cheers and said that he was there as President of the Sinn Féin organisation under the auspices of which the panel candidates were going forward in the general national interest. “Up to last December they had a common policy in Dáil Éireann on a mandate that they got from the people. Since December they differed on a question and on that question, they still differered, and were likely to go down to their graves differing on. They felt that it would not be in the best interests of the nation to try and get a decision on that question at the present time”.

Éamon deValera noted that there was agreement on many things. They agreed that their nation had a right to be as free, as any other nation on the earth, and that the people had a right and duty to struggle to secure that freedom, and that the nation should never rest until it achieved it.

Secondly, they agreed that they not only wanted a free Ireland, but a distinctively Irish nation, and not to have Ireland become a West Briton. He noted: “They agreed that an Irish Ireland could not be got unless they started upon a Gaelic foundation, and the fundamental foundation was to restore as the common spoken their own ancient national language”.

They also agreed that any legislation that affected different classes should be based upon justice, and that every Irish citizen who accepted the responsibility of Irish citizenship had a right to have his life and property. his interests, defended by the nation.

They found agreement as to international policy—they desired, while maintaining their own right to independence a policy of friendliness with all nations. He highlighted; “They did not want to wage a war of aggression on any country, but when attacked to defend themselves, and he hoped they would never see the day the Irish nation was not ready to defend itself when attacked”.

Amidst cheers Éamon de Valera declared that a national Government that should be able to get the support, of the whole people. He observed; “The two parties coming together would get a wider measure of support from the people of the country than any Government that could be chosen would get. The next eight or ten months would be critical months. They believed that if there was to be a united army it was only such a Coalition as agreed upon, could get it, and that also was a reason for their coining together and giving the people a chance to give them back authority once more”.

To be continued…

Kieran’s June Tours:

Saturday 11 June 2022, Cork and the River Lee, An Introduction to the Historical Development of Cork City; meet at the National Monument, Grand Parade, 2pm, in association with Cork Harbour Festival (free, 2 hours, no booking required for all tours).

Sunday 12 June 2022, Stories from Blackrock and Mahon, Historical Walking Tour; meet in the courtyard of outside Blackrock Castle, 2pm, in association with Cork Harbour Festival (free, 2 hours, finishes at old railway line walk).

Saturday 18 June 2022, The Workhouse and St Finbarr’s Hospital; meet at entrance to St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm (free, 2 hours). 

Caption:

1154a. Éamon de Valera in London, July 1921, by John Lavery (source: The Hugh Lane Gallery).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 2 June 2022

1153a. James C Dowdall, Irish Provisional Government Representative on the Shaw Commission 1922
1153a. James C Dowdall, Irish Provisional Government Representative on the Shaw Commission 1922

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 2 June 2022

Journeys to a Free StateThe Shaw Commission Arrives

The Compensation (Ireland) Commission for the Irish War of Independence arrived in Cork on 31 May 1922. The Commission was set up jointly by the Irish Provisional and British Governments in 1922. It would sit in Ireland under the presidency of, originally, Lord Shaw of Dunfermline, and later, Sir Alexander Wood-Renton. The Commission’s terms of reference were limited to the deliberation of claims in respect of damage or injury incurred between 21 January 1919 and 11 July 1921. Representatives of the the Provisional Government, some weeks before hand already has been to Cork to go through how the physical financing structure would work.

The three-person group known as the Shaw Commission comprised two representatives from the British Government and one from the Irish Provisional Government. Lord Shaw of Dumfermline (Chairman) who was a prominent Scottish Liberal Peer and Lawyer chaired the group. Mr C J Howell Thomas was Deputy Chief Valuer to Westminster’s Board of Inland Revenue. Mr James Dowdall was a representative of the Provisional Government and a prominent merchant from Cork city, and Mr Norman MacPherson was Secretary and Mr Michael Ryan was Assistant Secretary.

The sittings at Cork were opened in in the County Court. Mr Tim M Healy, and Mr J Byrne (instructed by Mr M Corrigan, solicitor) appeared for the Irish Provisional Government at the sitting of the Court.

Mr H Exham, solicitor on behalf of Ireland’s Southern Law Association, welcomed the Commission to Cork, and assured them of every assistance, from the Association. They wanted to know whether the Commission would sit in Cork to hear all the County Cork cases and whether a list would be drawn up on the order in which each case would be taken.

Lord Shaw thanked the Association for its welcome, and said he hoped that Mr Exham and his colleagues “would have the same worthy opinion of them at the close of their sittings as they had at the beginning”. He detailed that the claims from various parts of Ireland were very large in number. Many had already been initially deliberated on by a local Court Recorder, as in the Cork City context, but needed to be further critiqued. In particular, he noted the impact of the war on the the City and County of Cork owing to circumstances he wished not to get into during his chairmanship.

Continuing his introduction, Lord Shaw outlined that it was almost impossible at their point in time to form any opinion or forecast as to the particular order in which certain cases would be taken. He did wish though to give those people involved in the cases sufficient time for preparation.

Lord Shaw also wished to say that there was an inclination to make Cork acentre of their deliberations in the immediate south of the country. He was going to notify publicly all County Councils in the South of Ireland and local authorities that the Commission relied on their co-operation to send them all the claims, which had been lodged. The Commission had also delegated certain functions to a local investigator who would go to the localities and conduct the local investigation before the case came before the Commission.

The case of Messrs William Egan and Sons, 32 and 33 Patrick’s Street, was the first case taken. Mr James Rearden and Mr George Daly appeared for the business.

There were two claims – one in respect of the damage caused on the night of the 29 November 1920, when a bomb was thrown into the premises – and the second for the burning of the premises on the night of 11 December. The total claim for the former was £2,858 16s 6d, and the decree by the Recorder of Cork on foot of it was £2,413.

In respect of the December burning the claim totalled £58,544 13s 9d, made up as follows – fittings and plants, £21,670 11s 9d; stock-in-trade, £22,578 11s 9d; furniture and plant in workshops, £6.576 2s , and resulting loss and cost of temporary premises, £1,608 8s 3d. The Recorder on foot of this claim gave a decree for £51,367 with costs and expenses.

Evidence substantiating the claims was given by Mr R M Egan, managing director at the firm. He emphasised that the business was most anxious to start rebuilding immediately once their claim was decided. They did intend to extend their business and had acquired premises adjoining; he noted “We believe in the future of Cork and it is a matter of indifference to us how the money is made payable, whether on architect’s certificates, or direct personally, or through the Government. Personally, he would prefer that the payments be made through the Government”.

Mr Healy, on rising to put some questions to the witness relative to the Company’s balance sheet and to insurance, said: “We are here not to oppose any claim; we are not opponents of the applicants; we are critics and no more. Mr B O’Flynn (architect), estimated the cost of rebuilding at £12,904 15s. 3d., and of replacing the fittings £5,846.

Mr. John Hayes, manager of the ecclesiastical department of Messrs. Egan, gave evidence as to the quantity of goods in stock in his department at the time of the time and similar testimony was given with reference to the jewellery department and shop by the manager of these, Mr James O’Connell.

After legal arguments on the question as to whether the goods looted came within the scope of the Malicious Injuries Act, the Court adjourned until 11.15am the following day on 1 June, when the decision of the Commission was announced. The total awarded was £34,606 plus £14,000 to be expended in connection with the re-erection of the buildings. This was less than the original recorder’s assessment.

Mr Egan on receiving the news wished to intervene to express his disappointment. He noted: “I have no feelings of anger or heart, and nothing but thanks for the courteous way you have carried out the in inquiry, but I must say this court appears to me in its decision as nothing but a mockery, a delusion, and a snare”. Lord Shaw noted that he was sympathetic but highlighted: “I think you would he very well-advised Mr Egan, not to make that statement”. The statement stood though. However, Egan’s was not the only damaged premises who saw their original recorder’s claim reduced. A large majority of reductions occurred right across the Shaw Commission’s work in the ensuing months.

Kieran’s June Tours:

Saturday 11 June 2022, Cork and the River Lee, An Introduction to the Historical Development of Cork City; meet at the National Monument, Grand Parade, 2pm, in association with Cork Harbour Festival (free, 2 hours, no booking required for all tours).

Sunday 12 June 2022, Stories from Blackrock and Mahon, Historical Walking Tour; meet in the courtyard of outside Blackrock Castle, 2pm, in association with Cork Harbour Festival (free, 2 hours, finishes at old railway line walk).

Saturday 18 June 2022, The Workhouse and St Finbarr’s Hospital; meet at entrance to St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm (free, 2 hours). 

Caption:

1153a. James C Dowdall, Irish Provisional Government Representative on the Shaw Commission 1922 (source: Dowdall Family).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 19 May 2022

1151a. The British army, in Victoria (now Collins) Barracks Cork, taking down the Union Jack flag for the last time, 18 May 1922 (source: Kilmainham Gaol Museum).
1151a. The British army, in Victoria (now Collins) Barracks Cork, taking down the Union Jack flag for the last time, 18 May 1922 (source: Kilmainham Gaol Museum).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 19 May 2022

Journeys to a Free State: The Evacuation of Victoria Barracks

The last detachments of military, in the occupation of Cork’s Victoria Barracks, filed out on 18 May 1922 at 7pm. Subsequently they embarked on the SS Classic from Custom House Quay. The formalities of the handing over were entirely unceremonious. At about 5pm Captain Hugh MacNeil IRA, came to the barracks, accompanied by another officer representing the Irish Provisional Government. He was met by Captain J G Maghahy, Divisional Officer, Royal Engineers, who escorted him through the buildings.

The Cork Examiner records that there were some 400 menofthe Hampshire, North Staffordshire, and York regiments formed up in the barrack square awaiting orders to proceed out of the space. They were fully equipped, with packs on their backs, and carrying rifles. Each company was under the command of an officer. Their wait for orders was prolonged, and over two hours passed before they got the command to fall in and to move away from their ‘at ease’ position. It is detailed that some of the men had pets with them – “dogs of varied descriptions”. One soldier was so attached to his dog that when the command of ‘march’ was given, he took the dog up inhis arms, and marched.

There in the square of the barracks, surrounded by huge stretches of buildings, rested all that was left of a garrison that frequently numbered thousands. Built between 1801 and 1806 and occupying 37 acres, the Georgian square became the largest military parade ground in Europe. The buildings included sleeping-quarters, stables, a church and a prison for the Cork-based British Army garrison. It was designed to house two infantry regiments, a cavalry, as well as headquarters staff of a military district. It was described in the early part of the nineteenth century as “conveniently” adapted to accommodate 156 officers and 1,994 men and stabling for 232 horses.

On 18 May 1922, at the top of the square the Union Jack flew from the standard. Scattered around it were the oval corrugated caged-in-huts, where IRA members were housed preparatory to being interned at one or other of the British internment camps throughout the country in 1921. To the east of this side of the barrack lay the military prison, so poignantly remembered by many men and women in the south as the Detention Barrack. In the early part of 1921, this place was the scene of the executions. The buildings in this particular section also included two fine residences, the houses of the Governor and the Chief Warder, as well as a terrace ofhouses that comprised the warders’ quarters.

On these prison grounds was also well remembered the courtmartial of Thomas Kent in 1916. He was sentenced to be shot and was buried where he fell. In 2015 his remains were exhumed and buried in the Kent family plot at Castlelyons.

The Cork Examiner details that shortly after the command to move out had been called a soldier carrying a handsaw, and accompanied by an officer, came towards the flagstaff on the square. The soldier was about to cut down the staff when Captain MacNeil approached the officer and protested, asking, “Is this necessary?”. The officer replied that it was necessary, and that the staff was coming down, adding “That flag was lowered for many a true soldier, and it is never going to fly a rebel flag”. The soldier then went on with the cutting of the mast, and just as he had finished the Union Jack was lowered, taken off, and placed at the back of an armoured car, which accompanied the departing troops. The mast then fell and remained on the ground. Another exhibition of ill feeling was the smashing of several windows in the officers’ mess.

The main body of the general public congregated outside the main gate of the barracks and awaited the departure of the troops. It was just 7pm when the gate swung open and the officers led the companies of soldiers out. The reception outside was mixed and the Irish Republican Police was present to prevent anything untoward or any exhibition of feelings between people holding very opposite views. For example, preparatory to the departure the unfurling of the tricolour flag by one woman caused some resentment to another and there was a short scuffle. The police intervened straight away.

The Cork Examiner further relates that there was a second entrance to the barracks from Rathmore Road, and through this at 6pm had come the advance party of the Irish troops. They remained just inside this gate until the British military left, and until Captain Maghahy handed over the lock and key of the front gate to Captain MacNeill.

The advance guard of the Irish soldier came around to the guard room, where they took up their position. The main body of the troops during this time had left Union Quay, and were marching, headed up by the Pipers Band, to the barracks. They numbered about 200, and fully armed, including being in the possession of a machine gun. A large crowd accompanied them en route, and when they reached the gate of the Barracks. They entered into possession amidst enthusiastic cheers. Captain MacNeil then handed over the key to Commandant Seán Murray of Cork No 1 Brigade, IRA. 

The evacuation of Victoria Barracks meant that all British military had now left the southern capital.

Kieran’s Upcoming Tours:

Sunday 22 May 2022, Views from a Park – Tramore Valley Park, in association with the KinShip Project; meet at Halfmoon Lane gate, 2pm (free, 90 mins, no booking required).

Saturday 28 May 2022, The Friar’s Walk; Discover Red Abbey to the Greenmount area; Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street, 2pm (free, 2 hours, no booking required).

Caption:

1151a. The British army, in Victoria (now Collins) Barracks Cork, taking down the Union Jack flag for the last time, 18 May 1922 (source: Kilmainham Gaol Museum).

Press Release – Cllr McCarthy: Timeline given on Old Railway Line Greenway Re-opening, May 2022

An update on the Old Railway Line greenway was given to Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy at last Monday’s City Council meeting.

The Contractor is currently working within the old Blackrock Station. During the course of these works it was necessary to undertake additional conservation and repair work to boundary walls, platforms and adjoining structures. The full extent of this work only became apparent when the overgrowth was fully removed.

Cllr McCarthy noted: “A good few people are asking about the delays to the re-opening of the Old Railway line walk. I questioned the Chief Executive at the last Council meeting and it has been the conservation works around the old Blackrock platform, which has delayed the works. On pulling back the vegetation, the damage on the masonry was worse than expected. I realise that many people are anxious to get back to using a much loved community space. It’s down to a few short weeks now before it’s re-opening”.

Completion works for the new access ramp between the Greenway and the Marina (i.e. through Holland Park) is scheduled to commence in late 2022 as per the original programme. The work on this ramp is staggered to allow for the settlement of the earthwork’s embankment.

The last remaining section of the Passage Greenway Project Phase 1 is scheduled to be fully open to the public in mid-July. The Contractor is likely to have some remaining off line works to complete beyond this date such as the completion of snags etc however this work will not affect users of the Greenway.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 12 May 2022

1150a. Old Connolly Hall, King’s Terrace, Lower Glanmire Road, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1150a. Old Connolly Hall, King’s Terrace, Lower Glanmire Road, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 12 May 2022

Journeys to a Free State: A New Connolly Hall

On 14 May 1922, the Cork branch of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union observed the anniversary of the execution of James Connolly, and later that day began a new chapter in their work in their new premises at the former Soldiers’ Home on King’s Terrace, Lower Glanmire Road. This was to become their future headquarters for almost 54 years.

The first Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union cards were issued in Cork in 1909 and indeed the Cork branch of the union was the first established outside of Dublin. It was set up by the dockers of Cork’s port. Within a matter of months, a serious industrial battle ensued, for in June 1909 a strike of over 100 members took place.

Despite the scarcity of industry and of employment in Cork in those years the union made very definite progress. In particular, the union had its own premises on Oliver Plunkett Street. In 1920 a more substantial premises was occupied by the union on Camden Quay. In August 1920, Crown troops made an assault while the Irish Trade Union Congress was meeting there. Four months later during the Burning of Cork on 11/12 December 1920, the Black and Tans targeted the union’s hall raiding it, smashed it up and destroying it by fire. It was then necessary for the union to move back to its old building in Oliver Plunkett Street. In early 1922 the Cork Soldiers Home on King’s Terrace came on the market and the union secured possession.

Initially the premises for the old Cork Soldier’s Home was donated and was opened as the first soldiers’ home in Ireland on 10 June 1877. The aim was to take young soldiers away from public houses and provide them a different space for entertainment and self-improvement. The concept was initially developed by evangelical Christian and philanthropist Elise Sandes. Research by historian Bryan MacMahon denotes in his research that by 1913 there were 31 such soldiers’ homes attached to army barracks, 22 in Ireland and the rest in India. With the establishment of the Irish Free State most of the homes were closed down. Only three remained open in the Irish Free State after 1921.

On 14 May 1922, the Soldier’s Home was formally taken over by the Cork Branch of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. The Cork Examiner describes that there was a large congregation at the Connolly Memorial Mass, which was celebrated in St Francis Church at 9am. Later in the day the members assembled at their old headquarters, and headed by their fife and drum band marched in processional order through the streets of the city. A well-ordered body of organised workers, preceded by the band of the union, proceeded through the city and attracted considerable public interest. The procession went through St Patrick’s Street, Grand Parade, South Mall, and across Brian Boru Bridge to the Soldier’s Home.

At 2pm Alderman William O’Brien, Dublin branch, General Treasurer, opened the door, and declared the new premises opened in the name of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. A short public meeting was held and addressed from the window of the newly occupied premises. William noted that he considered it a great honour to be associated with the ceremony. “This is a red-letter day in the annals of Cork and the history of the working classes. Two great events have taken place today, the anniversary celebration of the martyrdom of Connolly and the taking over of a hall, which lately was the post of the British garrison. My colleagues and I are proud to be there on behalf of the executive of the Union to show how we appreciate what has been done by the Trades Union in Cork, and how they have stood steadfast to the Union and to the working class organisation, notwithstanding all the difficulties they were up against”.

William continued to outline that a few short years previously the organisation was down but Phoenix-like, it had risen from its ashes, and the workers were never better organised than today. He noted: “we have built up the organisation, and every employer recognises it as a force that cannot be fought successfully or defeated. I am sure they recognise its great value and refuse to be drawn aside by anything that might occur to weaken it”.

On 18 May 1922, the first meeting held in the new Connolly Hall took place, which was a meeting of the branch committee. It was presided over by Michael Hill and attended by 38 delegates from the different sections. Michael was an insurance agent, a member of the National Executive Council of the union, and played a vital part in the affairs of the union in Cork in those difficult days. His theme that night, in the first union speech made in Connolly Hall, was the dire need for working class education so that the trade unionists could achieve a rationalised movement as the first essential step towards industrial democracy.

The 1930s were a decade of industrial revival and the Cork branch increased its membership overall by 120 per cent in the first eight years. In Cork, this entailed the introduction of two branches headed respectively by Dominic O’Sullivan and Jim Hickey. The post-war years were also ones of steady expansion, with no less than seven branches servicing Cork City and County being created which catered for a wide variety of occupations and industries.

Not surprisingly, therefore, a decision was taken to construct a new centre for the Union in the city. The foundation stone of a more spacious Connolly Hall on Lapp’s Quay was laid on 15 June 1974. 

Kieran’s May 2022 Tours:

Saturday 14 May 2022, The Northern Ridge – St Patrick’s Hill to MacCurtain Street; meet on the Green at Audley Place, top of St Patrick’s Hill, 2pm (free, 2 hours, no booking required).

Sunday 22 May 2022, Views from a Park – Tramore Valley Park, in association with the KinShip Project; meet at Halfmoon Lane gate, 2pm (free, 90 mins, no booking required).

Saturday 28 May 2022, The Friar’s Walk; Discover Red Abbey to the Greenmount area; Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street, 2pm (free, 2 hours, no booking required).

Caption:

1150a. Old Connolly Hall, King’s Terrace, Lower Glanmire Road, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).