Monthly Archives: June 2019

Kieran’s Speech, Launch of Cork Cycling Festival, 29 June 2019

Cork Cycling Festival, Cllr Kieran McCarthy


Many thanks for the invitation to address you this evening. Congratulations on organising another year of the Cork Cycling Festival. The small organising committee are a group of committed individuals who I know have the promotion of Cork at its heart. Cork is a city of festivals – we have over 30 of them and over 110 days. It seems the last few weeks Cork has seen several high profile festivals where there has been much focus on Ireland’s southern capital.

A breakdown on any of these festivals show that many of their organising committee are also small but have continued to put Cork on the cultural map. All too often the City does not reflect on the committees as almost family like structures, whose knowledge build-up is organic and is based on foundations of years of experience, and a real belief that the festival is positively important to the city’s DNA.

The Cork Cycling Festival draws on these latter points – it is a family, it has years of experience, it’s ongoing knowledge build up is organic, and speaking with any of the organisers, they clearly have an infectious positive outlook. And what may look like a festival, which ticks away annually, it is the origins of the species when it comes to promoting cycling and all its positive narratives within our city and the methodologies gleamed from previous festivals should not be forgotten about. In particular I love the idea that the festival works and splices with other aspects of Cork’s DNA – its landscapes, its histories, the passing down of heritage, its food, education, lifelong learning elements, its communities.  Not every festival within this fair city does that or can boast that the whole city is its playground.

This positive and spliced narrative is one which supporters of cycling in the city need to champion. Whilst knocking on almost 8,000 doors recently, the narrative on cycling is one which is very split in a whole series of different perspectives – many of them more or less statement-like. I recorded in my notebook some citizen perspectives or quotes which I wish to briefly share….

“Cycling is my mode of commute to work sets me up for a positive day”.

“My friend was knocked down by a speeding cyclist on the old railway line, who didn’t stop”.

“I enjoy watching my kids learning to cycle – it is a great skill to have”.

“Cyclists should be taxed if they wish to use the road”.

“I feel healthy. It’s a great feeling to cycle along and view Cork and its beauty”.

“Many cyclists abuse the rules of the road”.

“The Coke bike scheme had its millionth customer last year. There is an interest in cycling”.

“Very few people cycle in this city”.

“We need to improve the cycling networks and infrastructure to make it easier for anyone interested in cycling to engage with it”.

“Gardai should be out in force stopping cyclists cycling on footpaths”.

“Cycling is a way of life we have forgotten”.

End quotes:

I have no doubt that many of you in this room from the amateur to the passionate cyclist agree with some of these and disagree with some of them. For me coming away from the doors, I thought about what do all of these statements and what do they mean about the future of cycling. What is clear is that there are passionate stances about the future of cycling in the city but it always seems like when it comes to cycling the city walks on eggshells. The cycling narrative in our city seems more like a battleground, with an evolution  needed on all sides of the debate more so than a revolution.

There is a really great need to find some kind of common ground about the positives of cycling but also deal with the negative aspects. For me in an ideal world this community festival is one such targeted approach to resolving issues arising out there. However, we need more of such positive community approaches to cycling. In the Council chamber I have asked the Council appoint a dedicated cycling officer, whose post would be to draw the various positive strands of thought together on cycling in this enlarged city. That for me remains my plan of attack in the short term.

I wish to thank all the sponsors attached to the Cork Cycling Festival.

And thank you again for the invitation.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 27 June 2019

1003a. William Martin Murphy, a painting by William Orpen


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 27 June 2019

Tales from 1919: The Life of William Martin Murphy


   On 27 June 1919 newspapers across the country ran their regret of announcing the death of Mr William Martin Murphy, which took place in Dublin. He was one of the most prominent men in Irish commercial circles, being actively engaged at the heart of many enterprises.

   William was born in the year 1844, the son of Mr Denis William Murphy, a building contractor from Berehaven, County Cork, his mother being a daughter of Mr James Martin, also of Berehaven. His primary education was received in a private school at Bantry. In 1858 he entered Belvedere College, Dublin, as a student. On that first trip to Dublin – from Bantry to Dublin – he had a forty-five-mile coach drive to Cork City and the next day had a six-hour train journey from the city to Dublin.

   On the finishing of his college course, William became a pupil of the then well-known Dublin architect, Mr John J Lyons. However, at the age of 19 William’s father passed away who was then extensively engaged as contractor for public works in the South of Ireland. As some contracts of an important nature had not yet been completed, the energy and capabilities of his only son William were put to the test. He not only undertook and completed the works – which his father had in hand, but he extended and developed the business generally. Before long he returned to Dublin to develop his business.

    Shortly after transferring permanently to Dublin William became interested in the construction and development of street and road tramways in the city and its suburbs. For many years he worked in this direction, not alone in Dublin and other parts of Ireland, but in many important centres in Great Britain. Up to 1895 no tramway in Ireland had been run by electricity, save a line, from Portrush to the Giant’s Causeway, which was worked under a system not practicable in a city. As a result of a visit to America in 1895, William witnessed the work of George Francis Train, the inventor of tramways. On his return he promptly proposed its adoption in Dublin on the overhead wire and trolley system. William soon saw the fruition of his project and the electric system year on year extended all over the city and suburbs, radiating from the centre outwards. He also promoted and built the Cork electric tram line.

   From small beginnings in 1880 as a contractor for the Bantry rail extension to Drimoleague, William became one of the most influential figures in the Irish railway business. Subsequently he went on to construct lines such as Wexford and Rosslare, the Clara and Banagher, West and South Clare, Mitchelstown and Fermoy, Tuam and Claremorris, Skibbereen and Baltimore, and the Bantry Extension. Later in life he organised the construction of railways on the Gold Coast in West Africa from his London sub office. William also became the director of a number of rail lines, being elected to the board of the Waterford and Limerick line in 1885, and when this was amalgamated into the Great Southern and Western Railway in 1901, he was subsequently elected to the Board of Ireland’s premier railway company in 1903.

    William’s first connection with journalism was in November 1890 when at the time of the Parnell split, he took a leading part in the founding of the National Press. In 1892 the National Press amalgamated with the Freeman’s Journal and having been one of the largest directors in the former, William became a director of the new concern. In 1900 William decided to purchase the Irish Daily Independent, then offered for sale under a court of bankruptcy.

   William also figured in the public life of the country. He was a prominent member of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, of which he was Chairman for about two years. He was also a member of Parliament representing Dublin from 1885 to 1892. He was a member of the Irish Convention in 1911. He took a leading and active part in advocating Home Rule and carried a representative section of the Convention with him.

   In 1912, William established the Dublin Employer’s Federation as a reaction to the growing power of organised labour. Worried that the trade unions would destroy his Dublin tram system, he led Dublin employers against the trade unions led by James Larkin, an opposition that culminated in the Dublin Lockout of 1913. William locked out all workers who refused to resign from the union. The 1913 Lockout in Dublin was a major industrial dispute between almost 20,000 workers and 300 employers. It lasted from 26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914 and is often seen as the most severe and important industrial dispute in Irish history.

   William was the leading promoter of the Irish International Exhibition at Herbert Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin in 1909. His leadership was stamped all over the project. During the visit of King Edward VII to the Exhibition William was offered a title but refused it.

   Notwithstanding his business engagements William found time to devote himself to the Society of St Vincent de Paul. From 1867 to 1875 he was president of the Society’s Conference at St Finbarr’s South Chapel, Cork. Subsequently he founded a new Conference at Terenure, County Dublin, of which for several years he was the President.


Next walking tour:

Saturday 6 July, The City Workhouse, historical walking tour with Kieran; learn about Cork City’s workhouse created for 2,000 impoverished people in 1841; meet just inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 12noon (free, duration: two hours, on site tour, part of Friends of St Finbarr’s Hospital garden fete).


1003a. William Martin Murphy, a painting by William Orpen (source: National Gallery, Dublin)

1003b. Tram at Blackrock, Cork, c.1901 (source: Cork City Library)

1003b. Tram at Blackrock, Cork, c.1901

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 20 June 2019

1002a. N H Nalder on upper deck of no.6 on Albert Road (c.1910) from W McGrath’s Tram Tracks Through Cork


Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 20 June 2019

Tales from 1919: Tram Tracks Through a City


    On the second week of June 1919, a strike of the Cork tramway employees occurred, which threatened to cause a serious dislocation in transport movement in the city. Recorded in the Cork Examiner in May 1919 the employees put in their claim on the lines of the national demand for a weekly wage of 50s and a 49-hour week. The notice expired on Saturday 6 June but on the timely intervention of Capuchin priest Fr Thomas Dowling, he recommended the men to lay their claims and concerns before a conciliation board. In the meantime, the men agreed to continue working.

   Fr Thomas had a great interest in social reform especially in the work of mediation and arbitration between employers and trade unions. In late February 1919, he succeeded in establishing a Cork Conciliation Board and was its first president. It consisted of four delegates from the Employers’ Federation and four appointed by the Cork and District Trade and Labour Council.

    The request for an increase in the wage of the tram workers came before the conciliation board on 10 June at a special meeting at 7pm held at the Fr Mathew Hall, where Fr Thomas presided. Mr Edward Lynch of the Transport Workers represented the men, and Mr N H Nalder and Mr Whiting appeared for the Cork Electric and Lighting Company. An award of 4s per week increase with a reduction in working hours was agreed upon, and this finding was tentatively ratified at the meeting.

    In the first two decade of the 1900s, the electric trams of Cork City played a large part in providing much needed public transport. Professional men living in the suburbs and working in the city used the service regularly. On the other side of the social scale, city dwellers such as domestic services with jobs in the large houses in the suburbs travelled out using the trams.

   In 1919, 35 electric tram cars operated throughout the city and suburbs. These were manufactured in Loughborough, UK. All were double deck in nature, open upstairs with a single-truck design. There were minor variations in many of the cars. Six of the trams had a luxury design. They had a longer roof and their ends were curved, which provided extra seating upstairs and a cover for the driver and conductor. Passengers on the lower level sat on two long slated timber seats.

    The various routes totalled 12 miles, starting from a common centre at the Father Mathew Statue on St Patrick’s Street, and radiating from this to the various termini at Sunday’s Well, Summerhill, Blackpool, Douglas, Tivoli, and Blackrock. Large white indicator boards at the front of the trams identified their destination. These had the initials of the terminus or where the tram was travelling. For example, Blackpool was shown by BP and Douglas by DS. By 1919, small rectangular plates in different colours replaced the boards. Each displayed the full name of the destination. The name was located over the numbers and on the side of the cars as follows; Douglas-white; Blackrock-brown, Tivoli-yellow; Sunday’s Well and Summerhill-red and Blackpool-dark blue. To identify clearly the trams at nights, the relevant officials fitted lighted bulbs of the different colours. Instead of a brown bulb for Blackrock, a green bulb was used.

   On the majority of the routes, there were outbound and city bound tram tracks. However, on a number of routes, especially the Douglas and Blackrock routes, single-track sections were in operation. Thus, when the driver reached the end of the loop and therefore, the entry to a single-track section, he left his platform. He then went to a box on an adjacent pole, flicked a switch, which turned on a light on the pole at the other end of the track. This warned any drivers of any approaching trams.

   The annual general meetings for the Cork Electric Tramways Company in the decade of the 1910s reveal ongoing maintenance. In 1913 increases in station expenses were witnessed mainly because of coal and maintenance of the plant. The system of supply was direct current, at a pressure of 500 volts taken from an overhead line by the trolley of the tram cars, the power being generated at the Company’s generating station at Albert Road (now the National Sculpture Factory). There were also lighting and power expenses for maintaining cables on streets. In 1916 it is recorded at the company’s AGM that one of the original 225 KW generating sets, was replaced. This small set has had to be removed to provide space for a new turbine, which was to provide extra voltage capacity.

   During the First World War, stores of fuel materials were stocked up – over £1,400 worth of coal to make sure fuel shortage did not become an issue. Despite war conditions the fares charged were still amongst the lowest between Britain and Ireland. For example, from the Statue to Blackrock, the distance was 3.3 miles with a single fare, 2d. Circa 1900, a single fare to any of the suburbs served by the trams was one penny. The fare did rise up to three and half pence by 1910 but had dropped to two pence by 1930.

    In 1919, the tram cars ran from 7.45 am to 11.20 pm, with intervals varying from 6 minutes on the Summerhill and Sunday’s Well routes, to 10 minutes on the Douglas and Blackrock routes. Since the system was started in 1898 the Cork Electric and Lighting Company had, on an average, carried about 6 million passengers per year.


Kieran’s Next Walking Tours:

Saturday, 22 June, The Friar’s Walk; historical walking tour with Kieran; Discover Red Abbey, Elizabeth Fort, Barrack St, Callanan’s Tower & Greenmount area; Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street, 11am; free, duration: two hours.

Sunday 23 June, The Lough & its Curiosities; historical walking tour with Kieran, explore the local history from the Legend of the Lough to suburban development; meet at green area at northern end of The Lough, entrance of Lough Road to The Lough; 2.30pm (free, duration: two hours).


1002a. N H Nalder on upper deck of no.6 on Albert Road (c.1900) from W McGrath’s Tram Tracks Through Cork (source: Cork City Library).

1002b. A sleepy Douglas Village with tramcar, c.1901 from W McGrath’s Tram Tracks Through Cork (source: Cork City Library).


1002b. A sleepy Douglas Village with tramcar, c.1901 from W McGrath’s Tram Tracks Through Cork

Annual Bessborough Commemoration, Sunday 23 June, 2pm

The 6th Annual Bessborough Commemoration is next Sunday 23rd June at 2pm at the Bessborough Centre, Blackrock, Cork.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes published their fifth interim report – The Burials Report, which revealed that 904 children died there during the years that were being investigated; 840 children remain missing with their burial places unknown.