continue the pedestrianisation of The Marina is very welcome. Up to this year and
for many years previously, the pedestrianisation process had been a goal of
local councillors and many local residents, and in fairness to Roads officials and
the Director of Operations they have responded to public calls.
During Covid-19 lockdown, the pedestrianisation
of the road as a temporary measure was the life-saver for many people who
needed the outlet to walk and just take time-out during the 2km and 5km. I have
had much correspondence by locals and other Corkonians calling for the
continuance of the pedestrianisation beyond the phase 1 temporary measure deadline
of the 31 August. Many have emphasised to me the importance of this historic tree-lined
avenue to public health and recreational use. I have also received correspondence
though that the pedestrianisation process, like the streets in the city centre,
should go through a short public consultation process.
I have had received many concerns about the
large amount of cars parked on Blackrock Pier – many parked in an unsafe manner,
and I have also had correspondence and worry about the recent flooding of the pathway
around the Atlantic Pond and the need to fix the flap, which leaves tidal water
in and out. There is a lot of love for The Marina, that is why I think a short
public consultation is very important, so the pedestrianisation project can be
tweaked if needs be”.
From evidence given at the inquest of Lord Mayor Tomás
MacCurtain there was no doubt among the officers of the Cork No.1 Brigade that RIC
District Inspector Oswald Swanzy was the prime instigator in the murder of Tomás.
The Brigade Staff decided that Oswald Swanzy should be assassinated for his
crime. Nineteen-year old Seán Culhane, Intelligence Officer, Cork No.1 Brigade,
was told that he could go ahead with the shooting provided Swanzy could be
located. Shortly after the inquest Swanzy departed Cork under an assumed name
and moved to some unknown destination.
In his witness statement within the Bureau of Military
History (WS746) Seán Culhane describes in depth his mission to assassinate
Swanzy. Following Swanzy’s departure from Cork Seán heard that some baggage had
left Swanzy’s house and had been brought to the city’s railway station. He
visited the station on the same evening and met a railway clerk named Seán
Healy, who was a Lieutenant in ‘A’ Company of IRA Brigade No.1. He told Seán Healy
his business and he proceeded to the Parcels Office and after rummaging around
for a short while Seán Healy found a hat-box and after examining the label on
the box and, whether by chance or good fortune, he removed the top label and found
another label underneath marked “Swanzy”, “Lisburn”. This information was sent
to IRA General Headquarters and it was later confirmed by Headquarters that Oswald
Swanzy was in Lisburn.
Seán Culhane was then selected to go to Dublin and
Belfast to make all necessary arrangements. He went to Dublin and after first calling
to Brennan’s and Walsh’s – well known Republican drapers – one of the staff
brought him along to Vaughan’s Hotel where he met Michael Collins. Seán
informed Mick of his mission and told him that he was en route for Belfast. Mick
told him to get in touch with Matt McCarthy, an IRA sympathiser and then a
Constable in the RIC in Belfast.
On meeting Matt McCarthy, he thought the quest was
inadvisable and after a full discussion of the proposal with Belfast Volunteer Joe
McKelvey, it was agreed that the latter would provide reliable scouts to obtain
all the information required for General Headquarters. Satisfied that Swanzy
was still there Seán reported back to Dublin and sought further help as it was
General Headquarters which financed the job. He met Michael Collins, and after
a frank discussion, he remarked that the job was much too big for Seán. He said
it was a job for experienced men and mentioned about picking selected men from
Dublin. Seán made a strong protest to him and informed him that his orders were
very emphatic and that it was solely a Cork Brigade job.
After thinking it over Michael Collins said that he would
leave the decision to the Minister for Defence Cathal Brugha. The Minister questioned
Seán very closely as to his proposed plan of action and was convinced by the
plan. Seán then requested permission to attain four men from Cork to assist him
in the operation, and this was agreed to. The men selected by the Brigade were
Dick Murphy, “Stetto” Aherne, Corny McSweeney and Jack Cody. They
arrived in Belfast sometime later where Seán met them on arrival.
After these men were sent for from Cork and prior to
their arrival in Belfast Seán had more time to examine the project in greater
detail. He was satisfied that it was only a two man job and that any number
over and above this might mean a bungling of the job and a bigger danger for
all of them. He chose Dick Murphy, who was Captain of ‘G’ Company, Cork No.1
Brigade, to accompany him on the operation. The other three were sent back to
Cork. This was on a Friday and the following Sunday, 22 August 1920, was the date
fixed for the job.
Seán Leonard, a native of Tubbercurry and who worked in a
Belfast garage was asked to provide the car and he arrived at the appointed
time. By arrangement they stopped the car about 150 yards from the place
selected for the shooting in Lisburn. It was also arranged that Belfast Brigade
member Joe McKelvey would meet them about a mile outside Lisburn on completion
of the job and that he would guide Dick and Seán across the hills to Belfast.
Belfast Brigade members Tom Fox and Roger McCorley informed
them that Swanzy had gone to Church and gave the approximate time the Service
would finish. Dick and Seán remained on the opposite side of the street near
the Church. They were not too long waiting until the congregation started coming
out from the Church. When he was only a few yards away from them Seán said to
Dick “That’s him”. Seán fired the first shot hitting Swanzy in the head whilst
Dick fired almost simultaneously into his body. The crowd of approximately one
hundred persons coming from the Church were stunned at first and then threw
sticks and objects after them. Seán and Dick fired a few shots in the air and
made a fast run for their car, which fled off very quickly.
Dick and Seán aimed for the train service from Belfast to
Dublin for that same evening. They arrived in Dublin without any problem and
proceeded to Vaughan’s Hotel where they met Michael Collins. Collins made a
phone call to confirm whether Swanzy was actually dead. Michael sent them back
to Cork the following day and he kept their revolvers stating he would send
them along in due course. The journey was made by train and when it reached
Blarney, about five miles from Cork City, they detrained and walked into Cork.
On arrival at Blackpool suburbs there was a military
hold-up in progress: Dick and Seán were held up and searched, but after
insisting they were only out for a walk they were allowed to go through. Incidentally,
they never got back the guns from Michael Collins and one of the guns which Seán
had was the property of Tomás MacCurtain. The gun now rests in the Kilmurray
The day following Seán’s return to Cork he resumed his
apprenticeship job in the Munster Arcade and produced a certificate of illness
from his doctor to cover the period of his absence.
Event: Kieran will
conduct a self-guided lunchtime heritage treasure hunt along the City’s
historic bridges on Saturday 22 August in collaboration with Meitheal Mara and
the Playful Paradigm. Meet at 1pm at National Monument, Grand Parade, Full
details under heritage events at Kieran’s website, www.corkheritage.ie.
the weeks of early summer 1920 progressed, tensions escalated and violence ensued
between the IRA and British forces. One additional element of force, which
appears more and more in witness statements and across the newspapers of 1920, was
the use of arson. It was used on both sides of the conflict especially in the
destruction of buildings (and an aspect, which culminated in the Burning of
Cork in December 1920).
May 1920, the burning of old landed estate big houses began and intensified as
the war of Independence progressed. Historian James Donnelly in a journal
article in Éire-Ireland in 2012 records that burnings of such houses were a
common occurrence in County Cork but were rare outside of the county. Fifty Big
Houses and suburban villas were burned there before the Truce in July 1921. Forty of the fifty structures were burned
throughout Cork from April 1921 onwards to the Truce on 11 July 1921.
On early Tuesday
morning 25 May 1920 Kilbrittain Castle, a splendid ancient building, seven
miles from Bandon and standing on an eminence overlooking a most scenic spot,
was at midnight seriously destroyed by arson.
IRA volunteers were determined to prevent the occupation of the mansions
in question by British military or police forces or sought to punish their
owners for allowing or encouraging such use. The IRA’s first burning of a Cork
Big House was certain to seize public attention because of the sheer size,
prominence, and opulence of the Kilbrittain Castle mansion destroyed. The
damage was estimated at least £100,000.
The original Kilbrittain Castle dated from the
eleventh century, but the property was extensively re-modelled in the middle
ages, and later in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the Stawell
family. In 1906 it was the property of Colonel William Stawell and valued at
There were 60 rooms in the Castle, which included a ballroom and banqueting
hall. The corridors in it were extensive, and in front there was an
exceptionally grand lawn and a fine kitchen garden.
From 1913 onwards the
castle as residence lay idle. In 1918 the estate was auctioned in Dublin, and
the purchasers were based in Cork City Mr. Denis VDoyle of Maryville,
Victoria road and Mr Daniel O’Riordan of Clarence Street (now Gerald Griffin
Street). They acquired it for a sum of £15,000. Neither of the purchasers, who
were well-known Cork citizens, save in the summer, took over the Castle as a
residence. The land surrounding the residence comprised over 500 acres of which
200 acres were woodlands and were being harvested – over 40,000 tons of timber.
Of this quantity 2,000 tons or thereabouts was cut down and sold. The men, numbering
over 20, engaged in this work were accommodated and their families with
apartments in the Castle. Some of the felled timber went to Burren pier for
shipment to Cardiff and Newport. Other quantities were carted to the nearby railway
station at Bandon for transport to Cork, where it was sold. The 300 acres of
the estate was good farming land, and this was let to tenants.
On 24 May 1920 the
Castle was occupied by the men employed cutting the trees and their families,
and it appears they were ordered to leave the Castle by the IRA volunteers and
take as much as they could take within ten minutes before the building was to
be set on fire.
Lordan, Quarter Master with the Cork No.3
Brigade, 1919-1921, in his witness statement (WS470) held at the Bureau
of Military History, outlines that tensions between the local Volunteer
battalion and the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) were simmering and ongoing
for two years previously and that the May 1920 burning should not be looked at
in isolation but had a deep historical context.
Previous to the purchase of the lands by
Doyle and Riordan in 1918 a number of families in Kilbrittain village had
rented on a yearly basis portions of these lands for tilling and grazing and
for many of them it was their sole means of livelihood. When the lands were
sold on, the tenants were outbid and felt very much aggrieved by the event. Abortive
attempts were made to negotiate peaceful settlements of the dispute and finally
a boycott was declared. All those working on the estate in tree felling were to
cease work. A certain number of men persisted in working and one day a steam
tractor used for hauling timber to Bandon was fired on and one of the workers
was wounded. After the shooting affair Doyle and Riordan applied to the British
authorities for police protection.
Staff Officer and member of Cork No.3 Brigade, Michael Crowley in his witness
statement, now held in the Bureau of Military History (no. WS 1603), takes up the
story that the RIC gave Doyle and Riordan police protection and occupied the
castle. The police force sent out day and night patrols into the neighbouring
countryside. But observation by Volunteers revealed a set pattern for patrols and
they ambushed a patrol of eight men and officer disarming them at Rathclarin,
Kilbrittain. A sergeant, however, had time to draw his bayonet and inflicted a
severe head wound on Lieutenant Michael O’Neill of Maryboro, Kilbrittain. The
nine RIC men though were released.
small ambushes ensued across 1919 and 1920. Michael Crowley records that by
April and May 1920, his battalion were continually endeavouring to locate RIC
patrols, which usually patrolled the countryside for some miles around their
barracks. Despite being on the RIC’s most wanted list, they continued to engage
and disarm RIC members. However, by August 1920 in the overall picture of
County Cork as many as eight infantry battalions (20 percent of the total) and
one cavalry regiment were stationed in the county or city (of Cork alone). The
historical tensions had been replaced with all-out war.
Kilbrittain House, c.1910 (source: Cork City Library).
of Ordnance Survey of Kilbrittain Castle estate, c.1910 (picture: Cork City
Remembering 1920: The Naming of Oliver Plunkett Street
At the meeting of Council of Cork Corporation on 14 May 1920, Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney presided. On the agenda was a discussion on the beatification of Oliver Plunkett headed up by Sinn Féin councillors. A number of decisions arose out of it. One of the principal ones was the proposal by Cllr Micheal O’Cuill that the name or George’s Street be changed to that of Sráid Olibhéir Phluingcéid (Oliver Plunkett street), and this was seconded by Cllr Seán O’Leary and passed unanimously. This change in name just came within a month of the change from (Robert) King Street to MacCurtain Street.
Renaming streets was a very symbolic act and another mechanism to breaking bonds with the British Empire. George’s Street, was laid out from 1715 onwards and was named to celebrate the House of Hanover. Its side streets are named after different colonial historical figures. Such names promoted British imperial remembering structures within the city.
Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681) was linked to martyrdom and suppression and was an idea candidate to commemorate within a street name. Oliver was born at Loughcrew, near Old Castle, Co. Meath in 1625. Up to the age of sixteen he was educated by Dr Patrick Plunkett, Abbot of St Mary’s Dublin. Subsequently he studied for the priesthood at the Irish College, Rome. He was ordained in 1654 and acted as agent in Rome for the Irish Bishops. In 1669 he was appointed to the Archbishopric of Armagh. In 1670 be returned to Ireland and established a Jesuit College in Drogheda in 1670. In 1679 he was arrested on a charge of high treason, which was supported by the evidence of witnesses who came forward to prove a Popish or Roman Catholic plot to kill England’s King Charles II. The King did not believe in the conspiracy and refused to get involved in the case of Oliver, and the law was allowed to take its course.
Brought to Westminster before an all Protestant jury, during the first trial, Oliver disputed the right of the court to try him in England. He was found to have pursued no crime but was not released. During the second trial, he drew focus on the criminal background of some of the witnesses, but to no avail. Found guilty Oliver was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on 1 July 1681, aged 55. He was the last Catholic martyr to die in England. His story of a miscarriage of justice was not forgotten about in and was harnessed in many subsequent debates from condemning the Penal Laws to calling for Catholic Emancipation in the early nineteenth century.
Fast forward to 1920 nationally the story of the miscarriage of justice of Oliver Plunkett was connected to the war for Independence and in a Cork context to the murder of Tomás MacCurtain and his ongoing memorialisation. At the Cork Corporation Council meeting of 14 May 1920 this latter connection is seen through Sinn Féin’s Cllr Professor Alfred O’Rahilly, who proposed: “We, the Corporation of Cork, in Council assembled, hereby record the joy and satisfaction of the people of Ireland at the approaching Beatification of the Venerable Oliver Plunkett, the martyred Archbishop of Armagh, who 239 years ago, as the victim of a bogus plot, was seized and deported by the English Forces then in Ireland, and was legally murdered as a criminal and a traitor. We direct that this resolution be forwarded to the Cardinal Secretary of State, to his Eminence Cardinal Logue, to his Grace Dr Harty, Archbishop of Cashel, and to his Lordship Dr Cohalan, Bishop of Cork”.
Lord Mayor MacSwiney proposed that a deputation of four be appointed to go to Rome on the occasion of the Beatification. The City Solicitor pointed out that the Corporation could not pay the expense of the deputation. The Lord Mayor expressed his understanding of the financial position. However, the resolution appointing the councillor deputation was passed, and the following were appointed – Lord Mayor, Professor Stockley, Messrs Donal O’Callaghan, and Simon Daly.
The Lord Mayor further noted he understood that to proceed to Rome they needed passports. He tried to get passports direct from the Italian Government but could not. He also understood that he would have to the nearest police barrack – and in this case that would be King Street. This was not a journey he wished to make especially after the focus placed on it during the inquest of Tomás MacCurtain.
Cllr O’Callaghan. speaking in Irish, suggested that the four members of the deputation proceed as far as they could go without passports. Alderman Edmund Coughlan seconded, and the suggestion was adopted. The passports though were not received by the proposed delegation nor did they travel some of the way to Rome.
To mark the Beatification of Oliver Plunkett in Rome on 14 May 1920, Bishop Cohalan celebrated high mass at the North Cathedral where Lord Mayor MacSwiney and councillors were present. In all the churches of the city after Mass at noon the Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the High Altar.
Twenty-four hours previously, the Lord Mayor sent out a public call to citizens to illuminate their houses and display flags and bunting to commemorate the historic and holy event. On 14 May 1920 rows of houses in whole streets were all lit up. Statues and pictorial representations of the Sacred Heart were erected inside the windows and surrounded by vari-coloured lights, the Papal colours – gold and white – predominated. The Papal Flag was displayed from very many homes. The Sinn Féin flag flew over public buildings, such as the City Hall, the Markets, and was also hoisted over the Courthouse in Washington Street. The latter flag was put up in the morning by some young men with the aid of the fire escape outside the Court House. A demonstration was made in the evening by the members of the Irish Trades and General Workers Union whose hall at Camden Quay was beautifully decorated. Accompanied by the Connolly Memorial Fife and Drum Band, the Union members of well over one thousand left the hall and proceeded to Blackpool Bridge. Here a halt was made to pay tribute to the memory of the late Lord Mayor, Alderman Tomás MacCurtain. The band played outside his residence for some time. All of this happened as Black and Tans loomed more and more in making their presence felt.
Kieran’s new book Witness to Murder, The Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain is now available to purchase online (co-authored with John O’Mahony 2020, Irish Examiner/ www.examiner.ie).
1048a. Placename plaque for Oliver Plunkett Street, present day but possibly dating to 1920 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1048b. Oliver Plunkett Street, May 2020 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
Remembering 1920: A Cork to New York Shipping Lane
Established in 1913 by Albert V Moore and Emmet J McCormack – the Moore McCormack Company – began with one ship, which ran between the United States and Brazil. Such was that success they acquired more steamships. After the First World War, the American company bought several surplus ships and began further trading links with South America and further afield to the eastern Mediterranean, India and Western Europe.
In the autumn of 1919 the Moore McCormack Company, based on Broadway New York, was visited by Corkman Diarmuid Fawsitt. Diarmuid had been sent to New York by Dáil Éireann in particular by Acting President Arthur Griffith. In Éamon de Valera’s Papers in UCD Archives, Diarmuid was to become a reference point or a follow-up business contact for Éamon and Harry Boland on their American ‘rallying support campaign’ for Ireland’s Independence across 1919 and 1920. Diarmuid Fawsitt’s title was the “Consul and Trade Commissioner of the Irish Republic”. Diarmuid based himself in New York but was often in Boston and Washington for meetings. He regularly corresponded and collaborated with Dáil Éireann. Both could see the potential of the country to work with emerging liner companies to transport goods to and from and America. In essence, this was quite a practical strand of developing Ireland’s physical international connections. Such activity also contrasts sharply with the violence of the Irish War of Independence, which appeared more and more across Ireland in late 1919 and early 1920.
In September 1919, the Moore-McCormack Company began shipping from Philadelphia to Cork, Dublin, and Belfast. In February 1920 to honour the business agreement, Diarmuid Fawsitt commenced arrangements for the visit to Ireland of Mr Emmet J McCormack, who had Irish American ancestry. In early May 1920 Emmet McCormack travelled from New York on board one of the largest of the Cunard liners, the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, to Liverpool via Queenstown (Cobh).
On 3 May 1920, the Cork Examiner records that Mr McCormack alighted on the quays in Cork on a transfer boat from the lower harbour. He was met by the Chairman and members of the Cork Harbour Board who escorted him to the Custom House quay where at 12.30pm he was put on tender boat named Ireland. He was officially brought back down the harbour to view its scenic and industrial points. On the outward journey a short stop look place at Victoria Deepwater Quay in order to give the party an opportunity of inspecting the site for a proposed new transit shed accommodation. As the Ireland steamed past one of the Moore McCormack Company’s ships SS Tashmoo, discharging at Ford’s wharf, greetings were exchanged. Exchanges of courtesy took place when the party steamed past Blackrock Castle, from which Irish flags were waved, and the Passage and Rushbrooke Docks. Having concluded the itinerary, the Ireland anchored at East Ferry, where a luncheon was served. Opportunity was availed of on the return journey to make a short stop in Queenstown (Cobh), where the beautiful St Colman’s Cathedral was visited and much admired by Emmet McCormack and the other guests.
In the evening Emmet J McCormack and party were entertained, to dinner in the Imperial Hotel by the Harbour Commissioners to meet leading representatives of the mercantile, industrial, and shipping community. Mr D J Lucy, Chairman, presided. Amongst those present, was Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney. Dinner over, the Chairman rose to propose a toast to the health of Mr McCormack, which the chairman noted “had come there that day, not only as an American citizen, but as an Irishman”. The toast he added was a “symbol of the unification of the two countries of America and Ireland”. He highlighted that Mr McCormack’s Irish ancestry. He thanked him for “stepping into the breach with his line of 24 ships because his sympathy was with Ireland”. Mr Lucey outlined that with “patriotic generosity Mr McCormack was prepared, if necessary, to run a direct service to America for twelve months at a loss in order to make the venture a success”. The Chairman believed that the Moore McCormack service had come to stay, and he thanked Mr McCormack for it.
Emmet McCormack replied with deep gratitude and outlined that there were eight steamers engaged in direct service between New York and Irish ports, involving an expenditure of eight million dollars. He was proud of his Irish ancestry who he believed had always relied on their own energy, strength and accomplishments. He deemed himself glad to represent the Irish race in America, and he had no apologies to make for his pride. Their efforts in connection with the direct service between Ireland and America were not finished and were ambitious.
According to Mr McCormack, the Moore McCormack Company intended to couple up their New York-Scandinavian service, stopping at Irish ports – i.e. that accommodation would be provided for any Irish freight that might be going to Scandinavian or Baltic ports. They would endeavour to connect Ireland with New York direct, and also with Swedish and Baltic ports. While they were putting all their efforts and capital into the enterprise, they wished to develop, if possible, a returning business from Ireland.
Emmet McCormack highlighted that Ireland had resources, labour, and capital, and that must be developed. He expressed the view that in the United States they would “buy anything from Ireland”, as the people of America, were sympathetic with Ireland and its aims and ambitions, and they would pay good prices for such goods. He hoped the Irish people would co-operate with them in that direction and would make their enterprise a complete success.
The Moore McCormack Company shipped to Cork until late 1925 by which point the Irish Free State utilised less and less the shipping company on the west bound route.
Kieran’s new book Witness to Murder, The Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain is now available to purchase online (co-authored with John O’Mahony 2020, Irish Examiner/ www.examiner.ie).
1047a. Emmet McCormack & Albert Moore of Moore McCormack Company, c.1920 (source: Cork Library).
1047b. The Quays Cork, c.1910 (source: Cork Public Museum).
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed the ‘one stop shop’ approach of the Cork City’s Local Enterprise Office (LEO), which is based in Cork City Hall and is linked to the work of Cork City Council. Cllr McCarthy noted: “The Local Enterprise Office network is evolving and stands prepared to help businesses especially SMEs to address the critical challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. There are an array of financial and mentoring instruments to help SMEs during this very challenging time. Ninety-nine percent of businesses in Cork’s suburbs are SMEs and are crucial to their local communities they serve”.
The COVID-19 Business Loan The COVID-19 Business Loan from Microfinance Ireland (MFI), in partnership with the LEO, is a Government-funded initiative to support small businesses through the current period of uncertainty. It is designed for micro-enterprises that are having difficulty accessing bank finance and are impacted, or may be impacted negatively, by COVID-19 resulting in a reduction of 15% or more in turnover or profit.
The LEO Business Continuity Voucher is designed for businesses across every sector that employ up to 50 people. The voucher is worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy costs and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is to help business owners make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions should be taken, to protect staff and sales.
The expanded Trading Online Voucher Scheme helps small businesses with up to 10 employees to trade more online, boost their sales and reach new markets. The Scheme is administered by the LEOS’s on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. There is up to €2,500 available through the Local enterprise Offices, with co-funding of 10% from the business. Training and further business supports are also provided.
Cllr McCarthy also recommends the free mentoring services for SMEs. “Clients work with an experienced mentor at the Local Enterprise Office to identify solutions to areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, clients develop strategies that are more robust, which address issues and maximise potential opportunities around COVID-19 challenges. The website www.localenterprise.ie/corkcity contains many links to the above financial supports and to mentoring and training. In terms of mentoring I also wish to point out the work online of the Cork Chamber of Commerce who are offering some really helpful webinars as well for businesses responding to the crisis”.
On 23 April 1920 – this week one hundred years ago – one of Cork’s principal streets was to get a name change to provide another outlet for the public outpouring of grief arising from the murder of Tomás MacCurtain. Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney, under Lord Mayor’s items, at the Cork Corporation meeting proposed in a short motion: “That the name of King Street be changed to MacCurtain Street”. He did not wish to add anything to the motion except to say that it was their duty “to do honour to their immortal dead” but did propose that the plaque for the thoroughfare be solely in the Irish language.
There were 36 of the 56 Council members present with the majority on the night being Sinn Féin members. Commercial public representative Sir John Scott moved as an amendment that the renaming proposal matter be deferred to the next meeting in order that the people who had vested interests in the street in question could come before the Council or any public objection could be taken to the proposed change. There was no seconder to Sir John Scott’s amendment and without any more debate the Lord Mayor’s motion was carried.
Sir John Scott did give a historic reference within his speech, pointing out that King Street had been called after an old family whose members had been prominently identified with the commerce and politics of Cork. Robert King (1796-1867) was of the Kingston family of Mitchelstown Castle. He was a member of the British army, who stayed in France after Napoleon’s fall. He was returned to Parliament for County Cork – a Whig politician – from 1826 to 1832. In 1836 he was High Sheriff of County Cork.
The renaming of King Street to MacCurtain Street was one of three acts of remembrance to be put into place to consolidate the public solidarity against the murder of Tomás MacCurtain in the weeks that followed but also they were to make sure his future memory was secured in Cork. The other acts – the inquest and a public memorial fund – also caught the public imagination.
On 30 March 1920 a public meeting was held in the City Hall to inaugurate a memorial fund for the widow und family of the Lord Mayor Alderman Tomás MacCurtain. Bishop Cohalan chaired the meeting. He very much regretted the sad and tragic event that brought them together. His first duty and the duty of the whole body of citizens was to express and convey to Mrs MacCurtain, the Lady Mayoress, their sincere sympathy on the great bereavement that had befallen her. He knew the Lord Mayor since 1916, and in his death he deemed that the citizens of Cork had lost an “intelligent, man, an upright man, and a very unselfish man”.
The Bishop denoted that the object of their meeting was to erect a financial monument or fund to the Lord Mayor, to support for a time the widow and the children. He appealed to the citizens, irrespective of creed or class, to support the fund; he noted; “it is not an appeal for a private individual; it is an appeal for a man who was the civic head of the municipality, the first citizen of Cork”.
The speeches from those present – politicians and commercial figures – contained many accolades given to Tomás and in their own way laid the foundations of how he would be remembered and described by historians in years to come. Alderman Liam de Róiste’s intervention is noteworthy in his description of Tomás. He rose and in Irish proposed the MacCurtain Memorial Fund. He appealed to the citizens of Cork and to the people of Ireland in general to make this fund a success. He said that never before in the history of Cork City had he seen such an occasion to arise; “Tomás MacCurtain was struck down by the hand of an assassin. Had he been spared those associated with his work he felt confident that his energy, his initiative, his love of country, and his desire for the city’s welfare would have been valuable assets to the whole community, and would have been meant much for the progress and welfare of all of all sections and classes in the city”.
Cllr Barry Egan proposed that Messrs D. O’Connell, Coroner William Murphy, solicitor, the Town Clerk, the City Solicitor, City Engineer and Mr Hegarty (Lord Mayor’s Secretary) be appointed secretaries of the Fund. Alderman Denis Lucey seconded and it was carried unanimously.
As the days and weeks passed between April and October 1920, donations were listed regularly as subscription lists – over 25 listings at least – on the Cork Examiner. By early October 1920, the public had subscribed over £14,600 in donations and over £2,300 has been given to the family. For the most part donations came in small monetary numbers – a pound and few shillings. On 26 April 1920, a letter (catalogued in Cork City and County Archives) to Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney from Michael Collins enclosed his contribution to the Lord Mayor’s Memorial Fund. The letter noted the national significance and great importance of the fund.
However, one of the largest donations was from Terence MacSwiney himself who gave two donations from his Lord Mayor’s salary – two £125 donations – one at the start of the memorial fund and the other in early October 1920 during his hunger strike Brixton Prison where he gave £125 of his Lord Mayor’s salary. The memorial fund process finished just before December 1920.
Kieran’s new book Witness to Murder, The Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain is now available to purchase online (co-authored with John O’Mahony 2020, Irish Examiner/ www.examiner.ie)
1046a. King Street, c.1910 (picture: Cork Public Museum)
1046b. MacCurtain Street, March 2020 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
At the conclusion of the Inquest of Tomás MacCurtain on 17 April 1920, Chairman Coroner James McCabe thanked the jury for the great care and attention they had given the various witness interviews. The 14-man jury comprised: William J Barry (foreman), Daniel Barrett, Richard Barrett, Michael J Grace, David Hennessy, Harry Loreton, Patrick McGrath, Melville McWilliams, Florence O’Donoghue, Peter O’Donovan, Jeremiah O’Callaghan, Thomas O’Shaughnessy, Tadgh O’Sullivan and Pádraig O’Sullivan. With the passing of time, the memory of several of the latter members has disappeared. Through searching through obituaries, I have constructed some info on five of the jury members.
William J Barry was the foreman and his obituary for 27 January 1953 in the Cork Examiner outlines that he was a secondary school teacher, William was a language teacher and taught at various schools in Cork City, as well as outside colleges. He became a Fianna Fáil member of Cork Corporation in 1945 and was Secretary to the Cork Fever Hospital Committee.
Patrick McGrath became an apprentice blacksmith and had his own smithy in Morgan Street in Cork City Centre. During 1920 he was an officer in the C Company, Second Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade and took part in various armed engagements in and around Cork City. When peace returned to Ireland, Patrick or Pa McGrath contented himself with following his trade of blacksmith. He also became interested in bodies such as the Old IRA Men’s Association and Fianna Fáil. He remained in the background for more than twenty years, known and loved by his own circle of friends, political and sporting acquaintances. His entry into the open political arena came through his service as Director of Elections in Cork City on two occasions in the 1940’s. In 1946 he won a seat through a bye-election to Dáil Éireann and retained his seat in the 1948, 1951 and in the 1954 General Election. He did not become a member of the Cork Corporation until 1950. Two years in 1952 later he was elected Lord Mayor and was Lord Mayor for four years.
Florence O’Donoghue was one of three brothers – Paddy and Jeremiah being the others – who in 1910, left their farm home at Killeen, Glenflesk, County Kerry and travelled to Cork City to seek their fortune. Their father was a car-man having established a road business between Glenflesk and the city. He transported butter by horse and cart over the mountains of Derrynasaggart into the city and brought home merchandise for the neighbouring farmers. Jeremiah passed away shortly after arriving in Cork. Paddy and Florence after apprenticeship established a drapery business in North Main Street under the name O’Donoghue Brothers. Sometime later they moved to Oliver Plunkett Street, then known as Old George’s Street and there opened another establishment.
Just before 1914, Florence or Flor opened up a public house at 54 Thomas Davis Street in Blackpool. He still maintained an interest in the Oliver Plunkett Street business. Flor, now advanced in years, became interested in the Volunteer and Sinn Féin movement. Tomás MacCurtain appointed him Head of Communications of the Cork No.1 Brigade and later was prominent in the city in collecting money for the Dáil Éireann Loan schemes. Then came the murder of Lord Mayor Tomás Mac Curtain and Flor was summoned to sit on the jury. Afterwards Flor remained head of intelligence of the IRA during the Irish War on Independence.
Family notes left by Patrick O’Sullivan of Bantry and the Silver Key Public House in Ballinlough (thanks to his daughter Clare O’Sullivan Herlihy) outline that during the period from 1 April 1920 to 21 March 1921 he was operating with C Company, 2nd Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade. He was picked to take part in the funeral of Tomás McCurtain from Blackpool to City Hall and was also a member of the bodyguard at the lying in state. Patrick was a member of the Volunteer firing party who in full uniform, fired the volley over his grave. He became a member of the inquiry into the murder of Tomas McCurtain acting on orders from his superior officer.
Patrick noted: “The official Jury summoned by the RIC were evidently afraid to put in an appearance when the Coroner called them together. Commandant Jerome O’Donovan then took the initiative and selected a republican Jury. The inquest lasted three weeks and during that time we were constantly under the observation of the RIC until we were known by sight to every constable in the City. Consequently, after the inquest I was a marked man and suffered the usual handicap of notoriety at that time. Namely, constant, surprise raids on my digs in Wallace’s Avenue, until finally I was forced to go on the run completely in May 1920. Maddened by their repeated failure to catch me they raided my digs at night and when I wasn’t there, they lay in ambush hoping I’d return. They raided my digs again and snatched my belongings and ruined two suitcases of clothes, which I didn’t have time to remove. They told my landlady that they would riddle me on sight”.
Tadgh O’Sullivan was reared on a farm north of the village of Barraduff, Co. Kerry and was passionate in the study of Irish being inspired by his national school teacher. He joined the IRB and found himself in Cork City. As a volunteer and officer of C Company, 2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade, he was constantly on duty and participated in many major operations in the City. He participated in the attack on Farran RIC Barracks and also in the Barrack Street Ambush on 9 October 1920. On 19 April 1921, whilst coming out of a house in Douglas Street he was intercepted by the Black and Tans and shot down in the street. There is a plaque on the wall of the house in 82 Douglas Street and a monument in Rathmore on which he is remembered along with others.
If anyone has information on the jury members, I have flagged that have no information surviving on them, please get in contact with me at 087 655 3389 or email email@example.com.
1045a. Picture of Inquest Jury of Tomás MacCurtain, 1920; Back row: Daniel Barrett, David Hennessy, Pádraig O’Sullivan, Patrick McGrath, Peter O’Donovan, Thomas F O’Shaughnessy; Sitting: Richard Barrett, Jeremiah O’Callaghan, William J Barry (foreman), Michael J Grace, Florence O’Donoghue, Melville McWilliams, Harry Loreton, and inset Tadgh O’Sullivan (source: Cork City Library).