My new book, 50 Gems of West Cork (Amberley Publishing, 2019) book explores 50 well-known gems of that beautiful region. Below is an abstract from two of my favourite sites – Bantry House and Bantry Bay.
Gem 30, A Chequered Past – Bantry House:
The elegant Bantry House defines the character of the adjacent local town. The house inspired the town’s development and the pier and vice-versa. The Archaeological Inventory of West Cork presents research excavations carried out in 2001 in an area directly west of the present house. Here the remains of a site were discovered of a deserted Gaelic medieval village and a seventeenth-century English settlement. Excavations revealed the foundations of the gable end of a mid-seventeenth-century house. This was in turn overlain by a more substantial and better-built rectangular structure, interpreted as a timber-built English administrative building. A palisade trench, dug late in the sixteenth or early in the eighteenth century, immediately pre-dated this building. According to the excavator, this had presumably created a stockade foundation around the early plantation settlement. Sixteenth-century cultivation ridges were also uncovered. These had cut into the foundations of a fifteenth/ sixteenth-century Gaelic domestic structure.
The area seems to have been abandoned in the middle of the seventeenth century and all available cartographic and documentary evidence indicated that no subsequent building or landscaping had taken place. The narrative of the old sites fell out of memory.
The earliest records for the next phase of the site date from circa 1690 and describe land deals between Richard White and the Earl of Anglesey, which established the basis of the Bantry House Estate. The records, which are in the archives of the library of University College Cork, include information about the ownership of land and property on the family’s Bantry, Glengarriff, Castletownbere and Macroom estates. The Whites built a detached five-bay two-storey country house over a basement, circa 1710.
In 1816, Richard White was created first Earl of Bantry. Prior to his marriage, he toured extensively on the continent, making sketches of landscapes, vistas, houses and furnishings, which he later used as inspiration in expanding and refurbishing Bantry House. The White family throughout the nineteenth century intermarried with other well-known landed families including the Herberts of Muckross House, Killarney, and the Guinness family of Dublin. Inspired by his travels and contacts, in 1820 Richard invested in the construction of new six bay two bow ended additions to the old country house as well as adding elaborate landscaped gardens complete with outbuildings, stables and gate lodges. In 1845 new bow-ended wings were also added.
William White, the 4th and last Earl of Bantry, died in 1891. Ownership of the estate then passed to his nephew, Edward Leigh, who assumed the additional name of White in 1897. His daughter, Clodagh, inherited Bantry House and estates on the death of her father in 1920, and in 1927, she married Geoffrey Shellswell, who assumed the additional name of White. Clodagh Shellswell-White died in 1978 and the ownership of the house and estate passed on to her son, Egerton Shellswell-White. Today the house and gardens still belong to the White Family and are open to the public to explore and engage with.
Gem 31, An Expedition into the Past – Stories from Bantry Bay:
Information panels on Bantry’s town square champion Ireland’s nationalist past and define the layout of the square and which history a visitor engages with first. The panels describe the collective memory of the campaign of Theobald Wolfe Tone in the interests of the United Irishmen and their quest for independence of this country. He journeyed to Paris at the beginning of the year 1796 to court the French to help with rebellion against the British in Ireland. There he met General Hoche, the brilliant French commander. On 16 December a fleet of 44 vessels and 15,000 men under General Hoche and Admiral Morard-de-Galles set sail from Brest.
The expedition was ill-fated from the start; for it was but a day at sea when the frigate Fraternite carrying Hoche and Morard-de-Galles, got separated from its companions and never reached the Irish shore. A dense fog arose, and Bouvet, the Admiral-in-Command, found he had only eighteen sailing ships in his company. Two days later, however, he had 33, and he steered direct for Cape Clear Island. Land was sighted on the 21 December, and though a rough easterly breeze was blowing, 16 vessels succeeded in reaching Bantry Bay. Twenty ships remained outside battling hopelessly against the gale and were eventually driven off the coast. A landing was impossible and Wolfe Tone, aboard the gunship Indompitable spent his cold Christmas on the Bay. On the night of 25 December an order came from Bouvet to quit the assault and put to sea. It was decided to land in the Shannon Estuary, but rough weather was increasing. The squadron put to sea and returned to France. It was the 27 December and the end of the Bantry Bay Expedition. Of the 48 ships that left Brest on 16 December 1796, only 36 returned to France. The rest were either captured by the English Navy or wrecked.
The ship La Surveillante was considered unseaworthy for the return journey and was scuttled by its crew in Bantry Bay. Its crew and all 600 cavalry and troops on board were transferred safely to other French ships in the fleet. According to the National Wreck Inventory, the three masted La Surveillante was built in Lorient in 1778 and carried 32 guns. The vessel had successful naval engagements with British warships during the period of the American War of Independence (1775–82). The wreck of La Surveillante was discovered in 1981 during seabed clearance operations following the Betelgeuse oil tanker disaster. One of La Surveillante’s anchors was trawled up by fishermen and put on display in Bantry. In 1987 two 12-pound cannons were raised from the wreck, and in 1997 the ship’s bell was lifted, which is now currently on display in Bantry Armada Centre, at Bantry House.
Happy Christmas to all readers of the column.
Missed one of the 51 columns this year, check out the indices at Kieran’s heritage website, www.corkheritage.ie
Kieran’s three 2019 books – 50 Gems of West Cork, The Little Book of Cork Harbour and Championing Cork: Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 are now available in Cork bookshops.
1028a. Bantry House, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1028b. Bantry Bay, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
Cllr Kieran McCarthy has won the Mary Mulvihill Media Award of Best Publication at the prestigious Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland (IHAI) Awards 2019.
Kieran’s was recognised for his heritage work in Cork and for his publication “The Little Book of Cork Harbour (2019, History Press)”. The book presents a myriad of stories within the second largest natural harbour in the world. This book follows on from a series of Kieran’s publications on the River Lee Valley, Cork City and complements his Little Book of Cork (History Press, Ireland, 2015). It is not meant to be a full history of the harbour region but does attempt to bring some of the multitudes of historical threads under one publication. However, each thread is connected to other narratives and each thread here is recorded to perhaps bring about future research on a site, person or the heritage of the wider harbour.
Paul McMahon President of IHAI adds: “Kieran’s extensive list of publications have been meticulously well researched and well presented and have made a very significant contribution to providing a better understanding of Cork’s industrial past and history. IHAI are also delighted with the continued and invaluable sponsorship of these IHAI Awards from ESB which seek to give recognition to individuals and organisations who have made an outstanding contribution to promoting and safeguarding industrial heritage on an all-Ireland basis. It is important that we both recognise and celebrate achievement. We also wish to congratulate ESB on the development of their new Dublin Archive as it will be a wonderful resource for all those interested in the social development of this country and more particularly those interested in industrial history.”
Nicholas Tarrant, ESB Executive Director Engineering and Major Projects hosted the awards evening. Welcoming guests and congratulating the award winners, he says: “The Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland was created by people of vision and commitment and the fruits of earlier efforts have served to create a notable increase in awareness of our rich industrial past. The Association recognises that we should not only have a sense of shared ownership for our past but it is something we strive to safeguard and celebrate. It is also ESB’s pleasure to host the awards in our new Archive. A landmark development for ESB, it represents a tangible delivery to both celebrate and safeguard our history and heritage which forms part of the story of the industrial, commercial and social development of Ireland.”
Nicholas Tarrant, Executive Director ESB, Engineering and Major Projects, Mary Liz McCarthy, Dr Kieran McCarthy, winner of the Mary Mulvihill Publication / Media Award 2019, and Paul McMahon, President, IHAI.IHAI Awards 2019 sponsored by ESB, Venue ESB Archive, St Margaret’s Road, Finglas, Dublin. Wed 11th Dec 2019 – Photograph by WovenContent.ie
Cork City Council will hold a Special Meeting on 30 January 2020 to commemorate the first meeting of Council elected by proportional representation – the first of a programme of events in Cork to mark the 1920 centenary, a pivotal year in the city’s history and the birth of the nation.
Under the steerage of Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. John Sheehan and a cross party committee of Elected Members, a rich and varied programme of events is planned for 2020 which is roundly described as ‘Cork’s 1916’, so seismic was it in the second city’s history.
The Special Meeting will mark the centenary of the first Council elected by proportional representation and the first Council elected by universal suffrage, the first Council with a Republican majority. At that meeting, the Council pledged its allegiance to Dáil Éireann, a moment of huge national significance.
This commemorative event will take place at Council Chamber at City Hall at 6.30 p.m. Former Lords Mayor, TDs, Senators and Elected Members will read excerpts from the minutes of the January meeting 100 years ago.
A musical piece will open the meeting and a reception will be held at City Hall that night with leading members of the city’s business, voluntary and community sector invited.
Lord Mayor, Cllr John Sheehan said “The election of a Republican majority Council and Republican Lord Mayor changed everything, not just in Cork but nationally. It gave a democratic mandate to Tomás MacCurtain and later Terence MacSwiney so that their deaths later that year were a direct blow to the citizens and not just the deaths of activists in the armed struggle.”
“2020 is a very important year for Cork. The Special Meeting in January will raise the curtain on a year of commemorative events in Cork City, marking the fundamental role played by Cork in the struggle for independence.”
Over the course of next year, Cork City will commemorate the death of the city’s two martyred Lord Mayors, Terence MacSwiney and Tomas Mac Curtain and the Burning of Cork City. The Burning of Cork by Crown Forces devastated the city in December 1920, destroying more than 40 business premises, 300 residential properties, Cork City Hall and Carnegie Library, hugely impacting the local economy.
This Special Meeting of Cork City Council will be streamed on www.corkcity.ie.
My new book, 50 Gems of West Cork (Amberley Publishing, 2019) book explores 50 well-known gems of that beautiful region. Below is an abstract from two of my favourite castle sites – Three Castle Head and Ballinacarriga Castle.
Gem 28, Upon the Ramparts of Ruins – Three Castle Head:
Located on a western headland above the Mizen Head is what is known as Three Castle Head. Spectacular in its location, Dun Locha or Dunlough or Fort of the Lake sits atop the brink of a 100-metre cliff face on the site of an ancient promontory fort. In its day it was an important strategic location with 360 degree views of the landscape. Historical information signs on the approach to the castle point to an annal record that it was constructed by Donagh O’Mahony in 1207. He is reputed be a scholar and traveller on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Archaeologists have also noted that the extant ruins are more fifteenth century in date and possibly were added to an earlier structure.
According to the Archaeological Inventory of West Cork, the castle’s location is all about creating maximum defence. The three towers of this edifice are connected by a rampart wall of some 20 feet in height, one of the highest medieval walls still intact in Ireland. Walls extend from the edge of the cliff eastwards to the lake. Dry stone masonry was used in its construction. The geology of the area is metamorphic, which supplied relatively flat and regular stone. Quarried from nearby, the stones were not cut but utilised as they were.
Tower number one by the lake was three stories high, with a main arched entrance. Tower number two was of a similar height, also with a spiral staircase, and has an interior archway at ground level that led either to a separate room below or was the entrance to a souterrain leading to the sea, utilising the natural crevices in the rock. The third tower or the tallest tower, 10-15 metres in height, also had three stories. Within its space, the ground floor had several loophole windows. Above the second level are two arches, which support a stone ceiling. It had uppermost ramparts for observation and defence.
There are 40 acres behind the castle known as the Island to explore as well. On foot it is rough terrain but the visitor is met with spectacular views of the Mizen Peninsula and the Beara Peninsula.
Gem 45, A Personalised Past – Ballinacarriga Castle:
The four-storey Ballinacarriga Castle adjacent Ballinacarriga Village and near Ballineen is very accessible. Built on a rocky outcrop sometime in the sixteenth century, the castle is associated with the Hurley family. In 1585 Randal Hurley married Catherine Cullinane and their marriage is commemorated on the inside of one of the fourth-storey windows. The arched door and the cut corner stones have long since disappeared being appropriated for the construction of a nearby mill which has since been demolished. The castle contained a great hall resting on an arched floor, which was lit by two ornamental windows, the casing of which still exists. The south window has carved figures which seem to represent figures at Crucifixion. One is clad in ecclesiastical garb, the palms of the hands extended, and one supports the shaft of a cross.
There are also Instruments of the Passion, and figures which may represent St John, Blessed Virgin and St Paul as well as decorative panels. On the first floor, there are carvings of a figure and five rosettes said to represent Catherine O’Cullane and her children. On the third floor are carvings, which include the inscription “1585 R.M.C.C.” (Randal Muirhily [Hurley] and his wife Catherine O Cullane).
On the external face of the eastern wall of the castle is inserted a carved stone, bearing a representation of a grotesque stone carved figure known as a Sheela-na gig. Sheela na gigs are figurative carvings of naked women exhibiting an embellished vulva. They are architectural grotesques found all over Europe on castles, cathedrals, and other buildings. The highest concentrations can be found in Ireland, Great Britain, France and Spain, sometimes together with male figures. Ireland has the greatest number of surviving Sheela-na-gig carvings. There are circa 165 recorded extant examples in Ireland. The carvings could have been utilised to protect against demons, death and evil. They are often positioned over doors or windows, presumably to protect these openings.
The Ballabuidhe Horse Fair dates back to 1615, when a Charter for it was granted by King James 1 to Randal Óg Hurley of the castle. The fair is steeped in history, tradition and antiquity. It is still one of Ireland’s greatest annual horse fairs, to be held on the streets, and where buyers come from all over Ireland and Cross-Channel too.
50 Gems of West Cork (Amberly Publishing, 2019) by Kieran McCarthy is available in any good Cork bookshop. Kieran is also showcasing a series on some of the gems on his facebook page, Cork, Our City, Our Town.
An earlier book this year The Little Book of Cork Harbour (History Press, 2019) is also available in bookshops as well as Championing Cork: Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 (Cork Chamber of Commerce, 2019).
1027a. Three Castle Head, Mizen Peninsula, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1027b. Ballinacarriga Castle, near Ballineen, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
Cllr Kieran McCarthy has launched his third book of this year – 50 gems of West Cork (Amberley Publishing, 2019). The new book explores 50 well-known gems of the West Cork region and is a culmination of 18 months work. It brings 50 stories together in an accessible manner. It is not meant to provide be a full history of a site but perhaps does try to provide new lenses on how heritage is looked at and the power of construction and collective memory in West Cork.
The new book details 50 key sites detailing how they became the focus of attention and development – and how their stories, memories and the making of new narratives were articulated in an attempt to preserve an identity and/ or communities locally and nationally at sites or to create new identities and communities.
Cllr McCarthy highlights that several sites in the book came into being in the fledging years of the Irish Free State where tourism and story-telling about the nation’s history were highlighted or some sites were created from the burgeoning boom time of 1960s Ireland, where the focus was on developing industry and recreational amenities. For example, the promotion of areas such as InchidoneyIslandformoretourismwasdrivenbytheIrishFreeState’sIrishTourist Association (ITA), which was established in 1925 to market the young Irish Free State as a tourist destinationinternationally. SmallresortsalongtheWestCorkcoastlinewere developed simultaneously at sites such as Courtmacsherry, Glandore, Bantry Bay, Glengarriff and Berehaven.
The book takes the reader from Bandon to Dursey Island, from Gougane Barra to the Healy Pass. Cllr McCarthy notes; “Researching West Cork, the visitor discovers that each parish has its own local historian, historical society, village council, sometimes a library, tidy towns group, community group and business community who have inspired the collection of stories, the creation of heritage trails and information panels, and the championing of a strong sense of place and identity”.
“Relics from the past also haunt the landscape with prominent landmarks ranging from Bronze Age standing stones to ivy clad ruined houses and castles, churches and old big houses, to beacons, cable cars and lighthouses. All add to the narrative of the spectacle that is West Cork”, noted Cllr McCarthy.
50 Gems of West Cork by Kieran McCarthy is available is any good Cork bookshop.
My new book, 50 Gems of West Cork (Amberley Publishing, 2019) book explores 50 well-known gems of that beautiful region. Below is an abstract from two of my favourite archaeological sites – Drombeg Stone circle and The Hag of Beara.
Gem 10, A Compass in the Landscape – Drombeg Stone Circle
Drombeg is one of Ireland’s most famous stone circles and is also part of suite of circles and standing stones in West Cork. It is also one of the most publicly accessible. On the winter solstice on 21 December each year, the sun sets over the recumbent stone on the stone circle. If you stand looking between the two portal stones, you will view the sun set in a notch in the opposite hill and over the recumbent stone which is diametrically across from the two portal stones.
Drombeg was one of the earliest ancient sites protected by National Monument Act, 1930. It was added to list of protected structures by the State in 1938. However, a glance through the Archaeological Inventory of West Cork reveals a myriad of ancient standing stones, stone circles and fulacht fia (ancient cooking sites) – all very much present in the heritage DNA of the region.
The Drombeg Stone Circle complex is located on natural rock terrace on the southern slope of a low hill. The circle was excavated 1957 and the nearby fulacht fiadh and hut site was excavated in 1958. The circle comprises seventeen stones; two missing and one fallen. Five pits were uncovered within the circle, sealed beneath compacted gravel floor; one pit contained deposit of cremated human bone, fragments of shale and numerous sherds of coarse fabric pot. Other finds from circle included seven pieces of flint and small convex scraper.
The excavator of the site and archaeologist Edward Fahy literally put Drombeg on the map as the findings drew much media attention and were published in the eminent Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society. It was one of Edward’s first excavations. Up to then he had been a student at the Cork School of Art. He worked with Michael J O’Kelly, the curator of Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald’s Park especially in designing the cases for display when the museum officially opened on 4 April 1945. The building up of the Museum’s collections and displays was a continuing effort and while engaged in that work, he studied for and was awarded with distinction the Diploma of the Museums Association. This required the writing of a dissertation coupled with specialised courses and examinations in England.
Subsequently Edward Fahy pursued a BA degree, which he obtained with first class honours in Archaeology and Geography. He took part in many of Michael J O’Kelly’s excavations at this time and built up his experience in fieldwork and excavation techniques.
Gem 40, The Shaper of the Land – The Hag of Beara
Indented by an exposed coastline and defined by the Slieve Mikish and Caha Mountains, the Beara Peninsula is some 45 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide at its widest point. The principal point in the Caha Range, Hungry Hill stands 2,251 feet and is well known to tourists not only for its mountain lakes and lofty waterfall, but also for the superb view which it affords.
Prehistoric settlers were attracted to the area as evidenced by standing stones, stone circles, and wedge tombs. Rich folklore embedded into the local landscape survives of giants, Spanish princesses and witch-like creatures. The geomorphology of Coulagh Bay is attributed to a pair of fighting giants called the formorians According to folklore the name Beara is that of a Spanish princess, the wife of Eoghan Mór (the mythical second century BC King of Munster). Later Christian tradition pitches the presence of a Celtic Goddess of Harvest, Shaper and Protectoress of the Land – An Chaileach Bhearra or translated the Hag of Beara. In truth, she represents many cultural meanings such as mother and fertility Goddess and Divine Hag. She was deemed a goddess of sovereignty, who gave the kings the right to rule their lands
According to the local information sign, the Hag of Beara is associated with Kilcatherine in the northern part of the Peninsula, north of Eyeries, overlooking Coulagh Bay. According to myth, The Hag lived for seven periods of youth one after another – so that every man who co-habited with her came to die of old age. Her grandsons and great grandsons were so many that they were made up of entire tribes and races – hence her legend is woven into folklore across several parts of Ireland and across the west coast of Scotland.
The advent of the arrival of Saint Caitiarin and Christianity was deemed a threat to her powers. Local folklore has it that one day after collecting seawood along the shore of Whiddy Island, the Hag on her return encountered the priest asleep on a local hillock. She drew near to him and quietly took his prayer book and ran off. A cripple who lived nearby on seeing what happened shouted at the saint who awoke startled and the saw the hag running off. The saint caught up with her, re-acquired the prayer book and turned her into a grey pillar stone with her back to the hill and her face to the sea.
Visiting the pillar stone today, the visitor can see offerings of coins and pebbles. The first extant written mention of the hag is in the twelfth century Vision of Mac Conglinne, in which she is named as the “White Nun of Beare”.
The myth of the Hag is harnessed as a construct in forging a national and cultural identity in the early twentieth century. She is mentioned in work by Irish academic, scholar of the Irish language, politician and Douglas Hyde in 1901 and in verse by writer, republican political activist and revolutionary Pádraig Pearse “Mise Éire Siné mé ná an Cailleach Béara”. In most recent years, the myth of the Hag has been spotlighted again by well-known Irish poet Leanne O’Sullivan.
50 Gems of West Cork (Amberly Publishing, 2019) by Kieran McCarthy is available in good Cork bookshop.
1026a. Drombeg Stone Circle, Winter Solstice 2018 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1026b. The Hag of Beara, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
There were two words – raw and epic – which constantly came to mind as my 400cc scooter motorcycle traversed the roads and byways of West Cork whilst researching this new book in the past year. Both words came to mind as I felt almost swallowed up on my small bike disappearing on routeways, which duck and weave through hollowed out rock scarred by glaciation movements 20,000 years ago or parked up on coastal beaches where the folding of the rock can be seen from near the origins of the universe.
This new book, 50 gems of West Cork, builds on a previous publication called West Cork Through Time (Amberley Publishing 2015), which explored the fascination by post card makers one hundred years ago of West Cork in its scenery, its culture and its people. This new book returns to some of those sites chosen and details new ones exploring how these key sites became the focus of attention and development – and how their stories, memories and the making of new narratives were articulated in an attempt to preserve an identity and/ or communities locally and nationally at sites or to create new identities and communities.
Several sites in this book came into being in the fledging years of the Irish Free State where tourism and story-telling about the nation’s history were highlighted or some sites were created from the burgeoning boom time of 1960s Ireland, where the focus was on developing industry and recreational amenities. For example, the promotion of areas such as Inchidoney Island for more tourism was driven by the Irish Free State’s Irish Tourist Association (ITA), which was established in 1925 to market the young Irish Free State as a tourist destination internationally. Small resorts along the West Cork coastline were developed simultaneously at sites such as Courtmacsherry, Glandore, Bantry Bay, Glengarriff and Berehaven.
The title book explores 50 well-known gems of the West Cork region. It brings their stories together in an accessible manner. It is not meant to provide be a full history of a site but perhaps does try to provide new lenses on how heritage is looked at and the power of narrative construction and collective memory in West Cork. The book takes the reader from Bandon to Dursey Island, from Gougane Barra to the Healy Pass.
Researching West Cork, the visitor discovers that each parish has its own local historian, historical society, village council, sometimes a library, tidy towns group, community group and business community who have inspired the collection of stories, the creation of heritage trails and information panels, and the championing of a strong sense of place and identity. Relics from the past also haunt the landscape with prominent landmarks ranging from Bronze Age standing stones to ivy clad ruined houses and castles, churches and old big houses, to beacons, cable cars and lighthouses. All add to the narrative of the spectacle that is West Cork.
The origins of the beautiful towns of the West Cork can vary from medieval times to the early twentieth century. On walking around them what is particularly impressive is the nineteenth century fabric, which make for very photogenic spaces to capture. There are old and colourful shopfronts, old narrow laneways and streets, ornate water pumps, cobbled surfaces, historic market places, eye catching churches as well as two hundred year-old bridges and older bridges. These latter traits define the look of and layer with stories much of West Cork’s towns. For example, on a sunny day as the sun sets, the colourful shopfronts of Bandon’s Main Street with its stone-built fabric bridge are illuminated.
Where much is written down and attempts made at compiling local histories in West Cork, there is a need to compile the macro historical picture of West Cork. Certainly, the work of Fáilte Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way has been key in bringing many threads of stories together, kickstarting long forgotten traditions and empowering communities to present their story to the visitor. In particular, this book draws on the brilliant Irish Newspaper Archive where the past editions of the Cork Examiner and the Southern Star are digitised and provide much information at different points of a site’s evolution. With a building, statue or a view, looking closely at the human detail can reveal nuances about how places are seen and understood and ultimately can be championed going forward into the future.
In all, this book comprises a myriad of stories of different shapes, patterns and colours just like a painter’s palette of colours. Every site or gem presented is charged with that emotional sense of nostalgia – the past shaping and inspiring present thoughts, ideas and actions. However, this book only scratches the surface of what this region has to offer. West Cork in itself is a way of life where generations, individuals and communities, have etched out their lives. It is a place of discovery, of inspiration, a place of peace and contemplation, and a place to find oneself in the world. What’s the best way to see West Cork – travel through it, sense it and enjoy it!
50 Gems of West Cork by Kieran McCarthy is available in good Cork bookshop.
The book is being launched at a book signing by Kieran in Waterstones, St Patrick’s Street, Saturday 30 November, 3-5pm. All welcome.
1025a. Front cover of 50 Gems of West Cork by Kieran McCarthy
1025b. Main Street, Bandon, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
Kieran’s New Book, Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019
Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 is my new book and has been funded and published by the Cork Chamber of Commerce. Following on from last week, below is another snippet from the book– focussing on some aspects of its early history and the creation of its commercial hotel, which became known as Royal Victoria Hotel.
Circa 1819, the Committee of Directors of the Cork Commercial Buildings Company made a rule banning campaigning on political or religious matters and possibly Catholic Emancipation. This displeased many of the subscribers who left and formed the Cork Chamber of Commerce. On 8 November 1819 a meeting of subscribers of the new chamber met at Mr Shinkwin’s Rooms (later the site of the Victoria Hotel on St Patrick’s Street) to discuss the rules of governance, to be based on “liberal principles”. The meeting was chaired by Mr Murphy while Mr Alex McCarthy presided at the inaugural General Meeting of 13 November.
A set of rules for the organisation was drawn up and it is significant the word “chamber” was used in the antique sense, it being the intention of the organisation to provide literally a room where merchants, local and visiting could assemble to conduct business. It was also envisaged that the Chamber would act as a repository of commercial intelligence and accordingly newspapers were provided daily.
The early minute books of the Chamber indicate that the committee members were designated and did not appoint a chairman in the modern context of the word. It appears that the chairmanship alternated between the members, each one taking it in turn to chair meetings. Such was the degree of stability between 1819 to 1831, the same members were returned by ballot at each succeeding annual general meeting, and so not more than nineteen chairmen officiated. These comprised James Daly, Martin Mahony, Richard Ronayne, David Baldwin, Thomas Fitzgibbon, Richard O’Driscoll, Robert Honan, James Hackett, Charles Sugrue, Joshua Hargreaves, George Waters, Daniel Murphy, Denis Mullins, John O’Connell, Dan Meagher, J Barry, Paul McSweeney, Thomas Lyons and Edward Penrose. It should be noted that this list is not in chronological sequence.
An examination of the occupations of the members reveal that practically all were involved in trade as opposed to the professions and many of their domiciles and/or business premises were situated in the centre of the city. They were glass manufacturers, distillers, butter and tallow chandlers, woollen manufacturers and food processors.
Policy papers didn’t get published straight away – their first forays into galvanising support was through hosting networking dinners, setting up a reading room where all the weekly newspapers of the day could be read, honouring notable Cork emigrants abroad such as Daniel Florence O’Leary, an aide de Camp in Simon Bolivar’s government in South America, honouring the Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’Connell and his diplomatic work in Westminster, and interviewing prospective candidates for membership of Westminster and asking them what their policies were.
From the earliest minute book of the Chamber it appears that no president was elected. For several years, the Chair was taken by various members of the committee, who were elected each year. In 1822, Thomas Worthington was President. He had an eminent position in the city as Surveyor-General of Customs of Goods. By 1832 Mr D Meagher generally presided, and from that date until 1838 he is described as president. Then Mr Thomas Lyons was elected president, and he continued in this role until 1850. Thomas Lyons was active in local politics. He became an Alderman in Cork Corporation and became the first Roman Catholic mayor of Cork since 1688 after the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act of 1840 reformed the system of local government. He took a dynamic role in the early 1840s in promoting campaigns by Daniel O’Connell on the ongoing repeal movement of the Act of Union and Fr Theobald Mathew’s Temperance campaign. The firm T Lyons and Co was a major commercial drapery factory located on Cork’s South Main Street.
In the early 1830s, the Chamber wished to have its own property and on 25 March 1831 two leases of property were taken out. One lease was for 479 years – the premises being described in the lease as containing 35 feet in front, 35 feet in width at the rear and 67 ½ feet from St Patrick’s Street down Cook Street. The other lease was for 649 years and was described as the ground on which the dwelling house of Catherine Anne Barrett stood and also its back yard and back kitchen. From 1834 onwards, the Chamber built a hotel and reading room at the corner of Marlboro Street and 104 St Patrick’s Street under a trust deed led by James Daly, Thomas Lyons, Charles Sugrue and various shareholders.
The overall Chamber building facing onto St Patrick’s Street was a plain unornamental building, faced with cut limestone. Its reading room was described as a spacious apartment. The lower portion of the building was let into shops, and the rere was occupied as a Hotel.
In 1838, the Chamber of Commerce Hotel was renamed the Royal Victoria Hotel, on the occasion of the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne by Mr Thomas McCormick, senior. The Royal Victoria was patronised by the Royal Families of England, France, and Prussia, by the Grand Duke and Duchess of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, his Royal Highness Prince Phillippe, the Princesses Amelia and Clotilda, and other Royal personages.
Text Extract from Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 (2019) by Kieran McCarthy and published by Cork Chamber of Commerce. The book is available from Vibes and Scribes on Lavitt’s Quay or the Nano Nagle Centre Book Shop on Douglas Street or through the Cork Chamber of Commerce, 021 4509044 or email@example.com.
1024a. Advertisement for Royal Victoria Hotel, 1919 (source: Cork City Library).
1024b. Front cover of Championing Cork, Cork Chamber of Commerce, 1819-2019 by Kieran McCarthy and published by the Cork Chamber of Commerce (2019).
A new book Championing Cork chronicles the history of city region and that of the Cork Chamber of Commerce, which was founded 200 years ago on 8 November 1819.
Early last year, Douglas Road local historian Cllr Kieran McCarthy was commissioned to research the history of the Chamber, and the book was launched at a dinner to celebrate the Chamber’s anniversary last week.
This book draws on the Chamber’s records in Cork City and County Archives and from its press coverage over two hundred years. It highlights the big stories of the Chamber’s past but also the subtler elements – the conversations, speeches, the messages, the creativity, the elements of empowerment – the intangible pulses, which drive an institution forward.
Speaking at the launch of the history book at The Metropole Hotel Cork, Chamber PresidentPaula Cogan said, “This book brings together 200 years of history of the region. It gives a wonderful flavour of the Chamber’s activities through the decades, describing them in relation to the socio-political and economic context at the time. Kieran took on the responsibility of bringing together 200 years of history with great enthusiasm and with an appreciation of both the importance and impossibility of such a task!”
Cork Chamber has lobbied on behalf of its members on key projects that have transformed the Cork over 200 years. Some of the early campaigns included the first railway services in Cork and supporting the establishment of the further education institutions.
Over the years the Chamber has been a strong advocate for infrastructure developments, such as the growth of Cork Airport, the Port of Cork and the docklands. Working to raise the profile of the region nationally and internationally has been a key part of the Chamber’s mandate and this continues to be a core activity.
Commenting on the book, author and historian Cllr Kieran McCarthy said: “Two hundred years ago a small group of gentlemen met at Shinkwin’s Rooms on St Patrick’s Street – a small two storey building not overly developed. Minutes were kept, a chair appointed, and the rules of the new organisation were set out as their winter meetings progressed.
As the years passed, the new Chamber etched out its own vision and pursued development, across themes such as docklands development, the need to harness new technologies, the need for enhanced commuter belt transport, the need to mind and enhance the City’s appearance, the role of Cork Harbour in the city’s economic development, Cork’s relationship with the UK, diplomatic opportunity building, branding the city – to name just a few. In essence, this new book explores the Chamber’s journey and lobbying work into these themes over two hundred years and much more”.
Speaking at the launch, CEO Conor Healy said: “While some things change over time, the core of the Chamber’s remit of supporting our members through good and more challenging times remains unchanged. The Chamber values of being dynamic, purposeful, inspiring and above all responsible, underpin our vision and purpose, and we look to the next chapter of our history with confidence”.