Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 13 February 2020
Remembering 1920: Made in Ireland
The first meeting of the Council of the Cork Industrial Development Association (Cork IDA) for 1920 was held at the offices of the Association on Monday 2 February. Mr J C Dowdall, President, occupied the chair. The others present included the Lord Mayor of Cork Alderman Tomás Mac Curtain and acting secretary Liam de Róiste.
The President welcomed the Lord Mayor to their meeting and expressed appreciation of the Lord Mayor’s interest in the work of industrial development. Continuing he said that while that Association had found that the old Corporation assisted in the city’s development as best it could, they all expected great things from the new body in the way of assistance for the industrial progress of Cork. There were great opportunities arising at the present time, and he trusted and believed that those opportunities would be availed of by the Municipal Council, and full advantage taken of them to promote the welfare of their city. Lord Mayor MacCurtain, who was received with applause speaking in Irish and English, thanked the President and members for the welcome accorded him. As an old member of the Council he regretted lie had been unable to attend the meeting for some time past. He could assure the Council that so far as lay in his power, he would do what he could to forward the city’s interests.
The meeting minutes, as published in the Cork Examiner, laid out the annual financial statement and officers were elected for the ensuing twelve months. Much tribute was paid to the work of Diarmuid Fawsitt who was liasing with US companies and making them aware of Cork’s business interests and the Cork IDA with much success.
In the present day, Cork City and County Archives and archivist Brian McGee have received family papers belonging to Diarmuid Fawsitt (from present day family members). The archive allows a stronger reading of Diarmuid’s successful work in promoting Cork and Ireland abroad in 1920. The archive comprises a large collection of documents such as correspondence, diaries, photographs, news clippings, articles, speeches, lectures, and ephemera related to his involvement in many causes and organisations, as well as more personal material. The archive is of high quality and has been kept with care over generations by the Fawsitt family.
An obituary on 5 April 1967 published in the Cork Examiner also records elements of Diarmuid’s work. He was born near Blarney Street in Cork’s northside in 1884. Diarmuid was active in cultural, industrial and nationalist circles, including the Celtic Literary Society, Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League, Cork National Theatre Society, and especially the Cork Industrial Development Association.
Diarmuid established the Cork IDA in 1903 with fellow Corkman E J Riordan following the successful Cork International Exhibition. Its members soon included important Irish manufacturers and traders. They insisted on themselves buying Irish made goods and persuading others to do likewise. They held meetings throughout the country and within a few years similar bodies were established in Dublin, Limerick, Belfast, Galway and Derry. One of the chief successes was to gain legal recognition for the Irish National trade mark, Déanta in Éireann (Made in Ireland), which went far towards preventing the bogus sale of so called Irish products. With the help of John Boland MP for Kerry, advantage was taken of a new bill, which made it possible to registrar and enforce a national trade mark. The Cork IDA instituted numerous prosecutions, which soon restricted the previous abuse of Irish names and labels. It also gave help to firms, which were willing to start new industries in Ireland.
During the First World War years, the Cork IDA were repeatedly thwarted in its efforts to fund new industries, even in fields where war shortages were most acute. Strong approaches to British government departments showed what scope there was in Irish manufactures and in Irish raw materials. But suspicion of Irish hostility towards the was effort prevented the beginnings, which might easily have been made in those years. A notable win was the advent of the Ford Tractor Company to Cork Docklands in 1917, which the Cork IDA provided advice and support.
Coinciding with Diarmuid’s strong lobbying of the British government, in November 1913 Diarmuid Fawsitt attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin and was inducted into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In December 1913 he was one of the co-founders of the Cork Corps of the Irish Volunteers at Cork City Hall, later becoming Chairperson of the Executive. During the War of Independence, Arthur Griffith sent Fawsitt to the United States as consul and trade commissioner of the Irish Republic. He was based in New York.
One hundred years ago in February 1920, Diarmuid Fawsitt made arrangements for the visit to Ireland of Mr K J McCormack of the Moore and McCormack Shipping Company of 5 Broadway, New York. The American company had bought several surplus ships after the First World War and had trading links to the eastern Mediterranean, India and South America. The Cork Harbour Board met Mr McCormack and gave much information relative to the economic position of Cork harbour.
At the same time Diarmuid Fawsitt directed the Cork IDA to consider and report on the organisation of a Foreign Commerce Department of the Association to work in co-operation with other bodies interested in foreign commerce already established in Dublin and Belfast. The provision of return cargoes to the United States, particularly with reference to cured mackerel was deemed important. There was also a big demand in the States for Irish tweeds, seeds, raw material for paper making and other commodities.
The Cork IDA with Diarmuid Fawsitt in New York were well poised for success in the months and years to come with France and Germany in particularly focussed on.
More in the coming weeks…
1035a. Diarmuid Fawsitt (source: Cork City and County Archives).
1035b. Present day members of Fawsitt Family with Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr John Sheehan, September 2019 (picture: Clare Keogh).