Monthly Archives: May 2019

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 30 May 2019

999a. Roches Point, early nineteenth century by H Morgan


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 30 May 2019

The Lights in the Dark


    My new book The Little book of Cork Harbour has recently been published by The History Press (2019). Following on from last week, below is another snippet from the book– focussing on some aspects of Roches Point Lighthouse and Daunt Rock lightship in the harbour.

Roches Point Lighthouse:

   Around 1640-1650 AD, the Roche family purchased the Fitzgerald estate (approx 1500 acres) from Edmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe and lived for many centuries at Trabolgan. Roches Point at the mouth of Cork Harbour is named after this family. In post medieval times a tower existed on the estate called Roches Tower. In 1759, this tower was taken down.

   A letter dated 28th August 1813 from Vice Admiral Thornborough of Trent, Cork Harbour, was read to the Ballast Board on 2 September 1813. In this letter he pointed out the danger of which vessels were put in frequenting Cork Harbour for want of a light house at the entrance to the harbour. This small lighthouse was working by June 1817 but its tower was not conducive to a major harbour of refuge and port, in 1835 it was replaced by the present larger tower.

   The year 1864 coincided with further additions to the lighthouse. In September 1864, it was decided by the Ballast Office is Dublin that the lantern at Roche’s Point lighthouse be changed to a red revolving light, showing its “greatest brilliancy once in every minute”. It came into effect on 1 December 1864. On the evening of 1 October 1864, a fixed white light was exhibited from the base of the lighthouse (a second light to the red one). This light was to shine towards seaward, between the bearings of S W by W and S W ½ S or between Robert’s Head and a distance of half a mile to the Eastward of Daunt’s Rock. Mariners were cautioned when approaching Cork Harbour by night to keep to the eastward of the limitations of the white light, until they had passed Daunt’s Rock. A fog bell was also erected which was to be sounded eight times in a minute during thick or foggy weather.

   On 1 September 1876 two further improvements were made. The red revolving light in the lantern of Roche’s Point lighthouse was changed to an intermittent white light, showing bright for 16 seconds, and suddenly eclipsed for five seconds. This gave a brighter and more easily distinguishable light. The other improvement was the substitution of a larger fog bell hung from a belfry and sounded twice in a minute, for that which had hitherto bung at the basement of the light house, was sounded eight times per minute. The previous bell was of very little practical use as it could not be heard until a ship had got within the headlands. The new bell on the other hand, could be heard sooner, at a greater distance, and more distinctly.

     In March 1888, new tenants were sought for the valuable plot of ground immediately adjacent the lighthouse complete with signal tower and four dwelling-houses, to be held for a long term at the yearly rent of £30. The houses had been availed of by the late owner as a commanding position offering means of communication with passing vessels.

    By the early twentieth century, Roches Point had a fixed light 60 feet above high water with a visibility of 13 miles. It also has a recurring light, 98 feet, above high water, which can be seen fifteen miles away in clear weather.

    By July 1970, Roches Point Lighthouse was all electric with a mandley generator to take over in case of ESB power failure. Formerly the light functioned by use of vaporised oil through a special type regenerative burner. The power of the light was also increased to being white 46,000 candelas and red 9,000 candelas.

   By 30 March 1995 the presence of somebody physically watching out for mariners disappeared forever, at 11am when the three lighthouse keepers left the facility for good. The workings of the equipment became automated and were to be monitored from a lighthouse depot in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin. As to the foghorn the Commissioners for Irish Lighthouses decided that with modern shipping equipped with GPS navigation systems the foghorn, had become costly to maintain or replace, so it was no longer required.

Daunt’s Rock Light Ship:

  Daunt’s Rock is between four and five miles south west of Roche’s Point and was named after a Captain Daunt whose British man-of-war ship hit the rocks and sank in the earlier part of the nineteenth century.

   Up to 1865 it was beyond the limit assigned to the Harbour of Cork by the British Navy. It was not marked on the Admiralty Chart of Cork Harbour. In April 1864 following the smashing of the ship City of Cork upon the Rock, the Board of Trade strongly urged to remove the rock as soon as possible. They proposed that until its removal was implemented, to protect it by a lightship. Engineer Sir John Benson was requested to make an accurate survey of the rock.

    By June 1865 a bell boat beacon was placed to mark the position of Daunt’s Rock. It was shaped like a boat and was surmounted by a triangular superstructure of angle iron and lattice work, which was coloured black, with the words “Daunt’s Rock” marked in white letters on it. The ball on the top of superstructure was 24 feet above the sea, and the beacon was moored within 120 fathoms SSW of the Rock and in 12 fathoms at low water spring tides.

In June 1974, The Irish Lights commissioners announced that they intended to withdraw the Daunt’s Rock lightvessel outside Cork Harbour and replace it with a high focal plane flashing buoy painted black and white. When the lightvessel was taken away in August 1974, radio beacons were established on the Old Head of Kinsale and at Ballycotton. The withdrawal followed the general pattern of Irish Lights policy. In the 1970s four lightships on the east coast of Ireland were replaced by flashing buoys.

The Little Book of Cork Harbour (2019) by Kieran McCarthy is published by The History Press and is available in Waterstones, Vibes and Scribes and Easons.

Next Walking Tour:

Sunday 9 June, Stories from Cork Docklands, historical walking tour with Kieran; meet at Kennedy Park, Victoria Road 2pm, free, duration, two hours, part of the Cork Harbour Festival and Sea Fest, finishes nearby.


999a. Roches Point Lighthouse, early nineteenth century by H Morgan (source: Cork City Library)

999b. Public open day at Roches Point Lighthouse, 4 June 2017 – celebrating 200 years since its construction. The event was organised by the Cork Harbour Heritage Alliance in association with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (picture: Kieran McCarthy)


999b. Public Open Day at Roches Point, 4 June 2017

Cork City Council Press Release – Cork City Boundary Officially Extends

Cork City Council Extenion Map, 31 May 2019

In a historic day for Cork City, tomorrow Friday, May 31 2019, the city will increase fivefold in size and will welcome 85,000 new residents.

Due to the first extension of the city boundary in over 50 years, Ballincollig, Glanmire, Douglas, Frankfield, Grange, Blarney, Tower and Whites Cross will become part of what is a ‘new city’.

From Friday, Cork, which is earmarked as the fastest growing city in the country under the National Planning Framework, will be home to over 210,000 people. It’s projected that the city’s population will continue to grow over the next 20 years reaching over 350,000 by 2040.

Over 400 public services will transfer to Cork City from the County as part of the expansion of the city. Up to 550 km of roads, 990 social housing homes, nine cemeteries and three libraries will become part of the new city.

Both Councils have been working together for several months to ensure a seamless transfer of services. Up to 134 staff have transferred to Cork City Council from Cork County Council including gardeners, school wardens, library staff, general operatives, tradespersons and firefighters. These staff will be operating at depots, parks, libraries and at emergency incidents across the city. A further 70 new posts are also being filled.

Lord Mayor, Cllr Mick Finn said: “As we welcome communities previously in County Cork to the city, we look forward to them bringing their expertise and experience with them. Tidy Towns organisations, community groups and services have transformed towns on the periphery of the city and enhanced the quality of life for residents. Joining that together with the fantastic community work undertaken by residents of the existing city will help inform the work of the newly elected Cork City Council”.

Chief Executive Ann Doherty said: “Cork is going through a period of unprecedented economic growth with up to half a billion euro of development underway or in planning in the city. The historic expansion of the city allows Cork City Council to plan for a city of sustainable urban growth and realise Cork’s potential as a city of scale. We looking forward to working with communities in the new city in the months ahead.”.

Notes to Editor:

Cork, like most cities worldwide, has a history of boundary extensions. The city was expanded in 1840, 1955 and 1965. In the last extension, areas like Model Farm Road, Fairhill, Ballyvolane, Glasheen, Wilton, Ballinlough and Blackrock village all became part of the extended city.

Poster Free Reflection, May 2019

Thanks to everyone who offered support on my non poster usage – it was a huge risk but ultimately through my election it proves one can get elected without posters. At the very least I have tried to kickstart a conversation and some action about their future use. Cork City Council issued the attached fine warning below this afternoon;

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 23 May 2019

998a. Rostellan Dolmen, c.1900


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 23 May 2019

Prehistoric Cork Harbour


My new book The Little book of Cork Harbour has recently been published by The History Press (2019). Following on from last week, below is another snippet from the book– focussing on some aspects of the prehistoric human activity in the harbour.


The Mesolithic Harbour:

    About ten thousand years ago, the first human settlers, hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic or Late Stone Age era came to Cork Harbour.  Just over 25 shell midden sites are marked on maps created by the archaeological inventory of Cork Harbour – some of these have not survived; some survive just in local folklore. Some have been excavated throughout the twentieth century. There have also been unrecorded sites eroded away by the tide or by cliff collapse. Shell midden sites consist of refuse mounds or spreads of discarded sea-shells and are normally found along the shoreline. Shellfish were exploited as a food source and sometimes as bait or to make dye. In Ireland shell middens survive from as early as the Late Mesolithic but many of the Cork Harbour oyster middens have also been dated to medieval times while some have produced post-medieval pottery dates.

   Over a quarter of all identified middens in the Cork Harbour area are to be found at eight locations in Carrigtwohill parish. When surveyed by the archaeologist Reverend Professor Power in 1930 a midden on Brick lsland (in the estuary to the north of Great Island, joined to mainland by narrow neck of land) measured five or six feet thick at the terraced shore edge and extended along the foreshore for over one hundred and eighty yards and inland for seventy or eighty feet. It contained nearly pure oyster shells with occasional cockle, mussel, whelk and other marine shells. Thin layers of charcoal were visible in many places and stone pounders or shell openers visible in many places.

   In 2001, archaeological monitoring of a 15-hectare greenfield site at Carrigrenan, Little Island, was carried out prior to the construction of a waste water treatment plant by Cork Corporation. Two shell spreads along the western seashore perimeter of the site were noted. A polished stone axe was recovered during topsoil monitoring and has been given a possible late Mesolithic date. All other finds were random pottery, eighteenth to twentieth century in date.

   Smaller middens for example at Curraghbinny, Currabally and Rathcoursey reflect shorter periods of use. At the western end of Carrigtwohill in 1955, archaeologist M J O’Kelly prior to the construction of a new school excavated oyster shells, few animal bones and fragments of glazed pottery dating to late thirteenth century /early fourteenth century.


The Mystery of the Rostellan Dolmen:

   Described as enigmatic by Cork archaeologists, the dolmen in Rostellan in eastern Cork Harbour is similar to portal tombs but here cannot be confidently identified as such. The monument has three upright stones and a capstone, which at one time fell down but was later re-positioned. The site gets flooded at high tides and is difficult to get to across the local mudflats. It is easier to get to it with a guide through the adjacent Rostellan wood. The wood was created as part of the former estate of Rostellan House. The house was built by William O’Brien (1694-1777) the 4th Earl of Inchiquin in 1721. The Dolmen could be a folly on the estate. There is a folly in the shape of a castle tower, named Siddons Tower, after the Welsh-born actress Sarah Siddons, nearby.


The Giant’s Circle:

    The name Curraghbinny in Irish is “Corra Binne”, which is reputedly named after the legendary giant called Binne. Legends tells that his cairn (called a “Corra” in Irish) is located in a burial chamber atop the now wooded hill. The cairn is not marked in the first edition Ordnance Survey map, but its existence was noted during the original survey in the Name Books compiled at that time. John Windle, the well-known Cork writer and antiquarian of the early nineteenth century, mentions the site in his publications. There is no record though in his printed works or in his manuscripts preserved in the Royal Irish Academy Library of any digging having taken place at the cairn.

   In 1932 archaeologist Seán P Ó Riordáin and his team excavated the 70 feet in diameter cairn (with its greatest height being 7 ½ feet). On one flat stone forming part of the inner arc they found a group of about one hundred pebbles, water-rolled, and such as would come from a brook, while a second group of about sixty pebbles was found just north of the western end of the arc. At the centre of the mound they came upon a peculiar structure of stones and clay. The clay was raised to a height of about 4 inches above the surrounding surface, and the stones were embedded in it.

   The most interesting discovery was made on the south side of the cairn. In a space between two stones of the kerb and a third lying just inside the team found, mixed with a thick layer of charcoal, some burnt bone fragments. Examination proved these to be human. The charcoal deposit with which the bones were found mixed did not extend under the neighbouring large stones. This showed that the fire was lit after the boulders had been placed in position. The cremated human bone found nearby was carbon dated roughly to be 4,000 years old. A small bronze ring, about five-eighths of an inch in diameter, was found outside the kerb on the south-east side.

   The Little Book of Cork Harbour (2019) by Kieran McCarthy is published by The History Press and is available in Waterstones, Vibes and Scribes and Easons.

Next Walking Tour:

Saturday 9 June, Stories from Cork Docklands, historical walking tour with Kieran; meet at Kennedy Park, Victoria Road 2pm, free, duration, two hours, part of the Cork Harbour Festival and Sea Fest, finishes nearby.


998a. Rostellan Dolmen, c.1900 (source: Cork City Museum)

998b. Rostellan Dolman, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

998c. Curraghbinny Cairn, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)


998b. Rostellan Dolman, present day


998c. Currabinny Cairn, present day

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 16 May 2019

997a. Front cover of The Little Book of Cork Harbour by Kieran McCarthy

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 16 May 2019

The Little Book of Cork Harbour


     My new book The Little book of Cork Harbour has recently been published by The History Press (2019). Cork Harbour is a beautiful region of southern Ireland. It possesses a rich complexity of natural and cultural heritage. This is a little book about the myriad of stories within the second largest natural harbour in the world. It follows on from a series of my publications on the River Lee Valley, Cork City and complements the 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 is recorded to perhaps bring about future research on a site, person or the heritage of the wider harbour.

     The book is based on many hours of fieldwork and also draws on the emerging digitised archive of newspapers from the Irish Newspaper Archive and from the digitalised Archaeological Survey of Ireland’s National Monument’s Service. Both the latter digitised sources more than ever have made reams and reams of unrecorded local history data accessible to the general public.

     In Cork Harbour colourful villages provide different textures and cultural landscapes in a sort of cul-de-sac environment, with roads ending at harbours and car parks near coastal cliff faces and quaysides. The villages are scattered around the edges of the harbour, each with their own unique history, all connecting in some way to the greatness of this harbour. Walking along several junctures of fields, one can get the feeling you are at the ‘edge of memory’. There are the ruins of old structures that the tide erodes away. One gets the sense that a memory is about to get swept away by the sea, or that by walking in the footsteps trodden by writers, artists and photographers 100 years ago, one could get carried away by their curiosity.

    On any good weather day, there are parts of the region where one can almost drive across its sun kissed mudflats. From the Cork-Midleton dual carriage way you get to appreciate farmer’s attempts of reclamation through the ages and the broad mudflats which serve as a home for international bird habitats. There are sections of the harbour to be viewed from the road, which seem almost forgotten. I am a big fan of the Smith Barry tower house folly, which belonged to Fota House estate and which exists on the edge of the Fota golf course.

     For centuries, people have lived, worked, travelled and buried their dead around Cork’s coastal landscapes. The sea has been used a source of food, raw materials, as a means of travel and communications and as a place to build communities. Despite this, the harbour has very distinct localities and communities. Some are connected to each through recreational amenities such as rowing or boating and some exist in their own footprint with a strong sense of pride. Some areas such as Cobh and the military fortifications have been written about frequently by scholars and local historians whilst some prominent sites have no words of history or just a few sentences accorded to their development.

    In the new book the section, Archaeology, Antiquities and Ancient Towers explores the myriad of archaeological finds and structures, which survive from the Stone Age to post medieval times. Five thousand years ago, people made their home on the edge of cliffs and beaches surrounding the harbour. In medieval times, they strategically built castles on the ridges overlooking the harbour.

    The section, Forts and Fortifications, explores the development of an impressive set of late eighteenth-century forts and nineteenth century coastal defences. All were constructed to protect the interests of merchants and the British Navy in this large and sheltered harbour.

    The section, Journeys Through Coastal Villages, takes the reader on an excursion across the harbour through some of the region’s colourful towns. All occupy important positions and embody histories such as native industries, old dockyards, boat construction, market spaces, whiskey making and food granary hubs. Each add their own unique identity in making the DNA of the harbour region.

The sections, Houses, Gentry and Estates and People, Place and Curiosities, respectively are at the heart of the book and highlight some of the myriad of people and personalities who have added to the cultural landscape of the harbour.

   The section, Connecting a Harbour, describes the ways the harbour was connected up through the ages, whether that be through roads, bridges, steamships, ferries, or winch driven barges.

   The eighth section, Tales of Shipping, attempts to showcase just a cross-section of centuries of shipping, which frequented the harbour; some were mundane acts of mooring and loading up goods and emigrants but some were eventful with stories ranging from convict ships and mutiny to shipwrecks and races against time and the tide.

    The section entitled Industrial Harbour details from old brickworks, ship buildings to the Whitegate Oil refinery. Every corner of the harbour has been affected by nineteenth century and twentieth century industries.

    The last section Recreation and Tourism notes that despite the industrialisation, there are many corners of the harbour where GAA and rowing can be viewed as well as older cultural nuggets such as old ballrooms and fair grounds. This for me is the appropriate section to end upon. Cork Harbour is a playground of ideas about how we approach our cultural heritage, how were remember and forget it, but most of all how much heritage there is to recover and celebrate.

The Little Book of Cork Harbour (2019) by Kieran McCarthy is published by The History Press and is available in Waterstones, Vibes and Scribes and Easons.

Upcoming Walking Tour:

Saturday 19 May 2019, Douglas and its History, meet in the carpark of Douglas Community Centre, 11am (free, duration: two hours, circuit of village, finishes nearby).


997a. Front cover of The Little Book of Cork Harbour (The History Press, 2019) by Kieran McCarthy.

997b. Blackrock Castle, 1843 from Illustrated London News (source Cork City Library).

997c. Throwing the Dart ceremony with Mayor and officials, at the mouth of Cork Harbour, 1855 from Illustrated London News (source Cork City Library).


997b. Blackrock Castle, 1843 from Illustrated London News


997c. Throwing the Dart ceremony with Mayor and officials, mouth of Cork Harbour, 1855

Cllr McCarthy Goes Poster Free

     Independent Councillor and local election candidate Kieran McCarthy has gone poster free on poles across the south east local electoral area.  Commenting “the public backlash against the use of posters in the electoral area of Cork City is vast- especially after the recent blitzing of large posters in the area. I have been particularly inspired by the work of Douglas Tidy Towns who have advocated the non-posting of posters in Douglas Village. I also have a very keen and active interest and participation in promoting the environment and heritage in the city. It is wrong on so many levels to plaster pole after pole with posters, especially with the same image”.

 “To those asking about if I am still running because they don’t see my poster – I am very much in the race in this local election in the south east local electoral area of Cork City – I have been canvassing for several weeks at this moment in time. I won’t get to each of the over 15,000 houses in the electoral area. but certainly, I am daily trying to break down the various districts. My manifesto is online at which champions such aspects such as public parks, the European Green Capital programme, city centre and village regeneration, and the curation of personal community projects such as my talent competition, make a model boat project, and my historical walking tours”.

    Kieran continues his suburban historical walking tour series next Saturday 18 May, 11am from Douglas Community Centre with a focus on the history of Douglas and its environs. Kieran notes: “The story of Douglas and its environs is in essence a story of experimentation, of industry and of people and social improvement; the story of one of Ireland largest sailcloth factories is a worthwhile topic to explore in terms of its aspiration in its day in the eighteenth century;  that coupled with the creation of 40 or so seats or mansions and demesnes made it a place where the city’s merchants made their home it and also  an interesting place to study in terms of ambition shown in the landscapes that were created and which still linger in the surrounding landscapes of Douglas.”  More on Kieran’s walking tour schedule can be viewed on