Great to have a slot on The Business (show) on RTE Radio 1 yesterday speaking about the history of Cork in 1920 and the creation of the Irish International Trading Corporation (Cork).
“The future around Brexit remains unclear for Irish exporters. This week hauliers in the UK learned of potential two day delays at a de facto border in Kent. We could probably learn a thing or two from the 100 year old history of the Irish International Trading Corporation, based in Cork. Kieran McCarthy has been looking at their history”.
Launch of Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage
Covid-19 has brought many challenges to every
part of society and never before has our locality being important for recreation
and for our peace of mind. In the past few months more focus than ever has been
put on places we know, appreciate and even on places we don’t know but now
depend on as we remain grounded in our neighbourhoods and corners of Cork City.
Against the backdrop of Covid-19, the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project 2020/21
(Cork City Edition) launches in its 19th year and is open to
schools in Cork City. Funded by Cork City Council. The Project is an initiative
of the Cork City Heritage Plan.
The project is aimed at both primary and post
primary level. Project books may be
submitted on any aspect of Cork’s rich past. The theme for this year’s project
is “Living Through History”, which is a nod to the historic pandemic we are
The Project is open to
schools in Cork City at primary level to the pupils of fourth, fifth and sixth
class and at post-primary from first to sixth years. There are two sub
categories within the post primary section, Junior Certificate and Leaving
Certificate. The project is free to enter. A student may enter as an individual
or as part of a group or a part of a class entry.
by myself, one of the key aims of the Project is to encourage students to
explore, investigate and debate their local heritage (built, archaeological,
cultural and natural) in a constructive, active and fun way. Projects on any
aspect of Cork’s rich heritage can be submitted to an adjudication panel.
Prizes are awarded for best projects and certificates are given to each
participant. A cross-section of projects submitted from the last school season
can be gleamed from links on my website, www.corkheritage.ie where there are
other resources, former titles and winners and entry information as well.
produce a project on their local area using primary and secondary sources. Each
participating student within their class receives a free workshop in October 2020.
The workshop comprises a guide to how to put a project together. Project
material must be gathered in an A4/ A3 size Project book. The project may be as
large as the student wishes but minimum 20 pages (text + pictures + sketches).
Projects must also meet five elements. Projects must be colourful, creative,
have personal opinion, imagination and gain publicity before submission. These
elements form the basis of a student friendly narrative analysis approach where
the student explores their project topic in an interactive and task-oriented
way. In particular, students are encouraged (whilst respecting social distancing)
to attain material through visiting local libraries, engaging with fieldwork,
making models, photographing, cartoon creating, and making short snippet films
of their area. Re-enacting can also be a feature of several projects.
For over eighteen years, the project
has evolved in exploring how students pursue local history and how to make it
relevant in society. The project attempts to provide the student with a
hands-on and interactive activity that is all about learning not only about
heritage in your local area (in all its forms) but also about the process of
learning by participating students. The project is about thinking about,
understanding, appreciating and making relevant in today’s society the role of
our heritage, our landmarks, our oral histories, our environment in our modern
world for upcoming citizens. So, the project is about splicing together
activity on issues of local history and heritage such as thinking, exploring,
observing, discovering, researching, uncovering, revealing, interpreting and
importance of doing a project in local history is reflected in the educational
aims of the history curricula of primary and post-primary schools. Local
heritage is a tool, which helps the student to become familiar with their local
environment and to learn the value of it in their lives. Learning to appreciate
the elements of a locality, can also give students a sense of place in their
locality or a sense of identity. Hence the Project can also become a youth
forum for students to do research and offer their opinions on important
decisions being made on their heritage in their locality and how they affect
the lives of people locally. I know a number of students who have been
involved in the project in schools over the years who have took their interest
further and have gone on to become professional tour guides, and into other
related college work.
The project is
open to many directions of delivery. Students are encouraged to engage with
their topic in order to make sense of it, understand and work with it. Students
continue to experiment with the overall design and plan of their work. For
example, and in general, students who have entered before might engage with the
attaining of primary information through oral histories. The methodologies that
the students create provide interesting ways to approach the study of local
heritage. Students are asked to choose one of two extra methods (apart from a
booklet) to represent their work. The first option is making a model whilst the
second option is making a short film. It is great to see students using modern
up todate technology to present their findings. This works in broadening their
view of approaching their project.
This project in the City is free to enter and is
kindly funded by Cork City Council (viz the help of Niamh Twomey, Heritage Officer)
Prizes are also provided by the Old Cork Waterworks Experience, Lee Road,
Learnit Lego Education, and Sean Kelly of Lucky Meadows Equestrian Centre,
Watergrasshill (www.seankellyhorse.com). Overall, the Schools’ Heritage Project
for the last eighteen years has attempted to build a new concerned generation
of Cork people, pushing them forward, growing their self-development empowering
them to connect to their world and their local heritage. Spread the word please
with local schools. Details can be found on my website, www.corkheritage.ie.
1067a. Project page on the local history of the Vikings in Cork from Our Lady of the Lourdes NS student 2019/20 (picture: Cllr Kieran McCarthy).
1067b. Gameboard on Cork historical landmarks created by Eglantine National School student 2019/20 (picture: Cllr Kieran McCarthy).
Covid-19 has brought many challenges to every part of society and never before has our locality being important for recreation and for our peace of mind. In the past few months more focus than ever has been put on places we know, appreciate and even on places we don’t know but now depend on as we remain grounded in our neighbourhoods and corners of Cork City.
Against the backdrop of Covid 19, the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project 2021 (Cork City Edition) launches in its 19th year and is open to schools in Cork City. Funded by Cork City Council. The Project is an initiative of the Cork City Heritage Plan.
The City Edition of the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project (est. 2002/03) is aimed at both primary and post primary level. Project books may be submitted on any aspect of Cork’s rich past.
Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy
wishes to remind the public that consultation is still open on City Council
proposals for additional safe pedestrian and cyclist access point to Tramore
Valley Park from the South Douglas Road via Half Moon Lane.
The proposed works include new
footpaths on Half Moon Lane and South Douglas Road, new signalised junction
with controlled pedestrian crossings, the relocation of an existing controlled
pedestrian crossing ( southbound), new uncontrolled pedestrian crossings on
Half Moon Lane, Cycle stop points on South Douglas Road and Half Moon Lane, new
public lighting scheme, new traffic calming measures, improved road markings, new
pedestrian and cycle signage, and carriageway resurfacing.
Plans and particulars of the proposed development, including an Appropriate Assessment Screening Report and an Environmental Impact Assessment Screening Report, are available for inspection until 25 September 2020 at the offices of the Roads and Environment Operations Directorate, City Hall, between 10am and 4pm Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays. It is by appointment only. Please contact 021-4924041 to make an appointment or by email email@example.com. The plans are also available online at https://consult.corkcity.ie.
Submissions and observations
may be made in
writing to the Administrative Officer, Parks & Cemeteries Department, Cork
City Council, City Hall, Cork. Electronic submissions can be made through https://consult.corkcity.ie.
Cllr McCarthy noted, “Over the ten years, the old landfill site of what is now
Tramore Valley Park has undergone a €40m decontamination and remediation
process – part of which saw the site capped and landscaped, internal roads and
walkways constructed, new sports pitches put down, a BMX track developed, and a
large multi-use event space created”.
“The park is just in its first phase of development and
this public consultation on a Half Moon Lane opening is about ensuring that
family, community and park life all remains at the heart of the southern
suburbs. Phases two and three of the park, such as a bridge crossing from Grange,
are the next elements to chase now for the future and to engage the public on
their perspectives”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.
Remembering 1920: The Anniversary of
St Patrick’s Hospital
Mid-September 1920 coincided with the
fiftieth anniversary of the opening of St Patrick’s Hospital on Wellington
Road. The anniversary is referenced in Cork newspapers. This year 2020 marks
the 150th anniversary of the hospital’s foundation but in recent
years has been relocated to Curraheen and has morphed into the name Marymount
University Hospital and Hospice.
The original hospital from 1870 was
the brainchild of the Sisters of Charity. They had won the admiration of Cork
general practitioner Dr Patrick Murphy’s admiration from an early stage. The
Sisters had visited his father and sister on their deathbeds during the cholera
epidemic of 1832. Dr Murphy had owned a tan-yard and some house property. In
August 1849, Dr Murphy made a will and bequeathed all he possessed (except a
few small legacies) to the Sisters of Charity, on the condition of their having
established within two years from his demise, a hospital or room for cancer
patients. In the event of their non-compliance with this condition, his
property was to be divided by the Bishop amongst the other Catholic charities
of the city. Dr Murphy died in December 1867.
October 1868, the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity Francis Magdalen
McCarthy and Mother Mary Camillus came from Dublin to the Cork Convent of St
Vincent’s to discuss the potential foundation of a hospital. Before leaving,
both had agreed with Mother de Chantal, the Cork Superior, that a hospital was
a good project to pursue, and directed that a suitable spot be sought out.
affairs were put into the hands of two young men, brothers Edmund and Peter
O’Flynn. They were builders, who by their own hard work, had worked their way
up from being house carpenters to their extant position. A field was found,
situated in St. Patrick’s Parish, near to Victoria Barracks (now Collins
Barracks). It was on high ground, with a bright southern aspect. The contract
to build the new Hospital was given to the O’Flynns.
On 8 May 1869, the first stone of the new
hospital was laid. Mother de Chantal, several Sisters from St Vincent’s
Convent, a few of their secular friends, Dr Murphy’s Executors and the local Canon
Browne, assembled for the occasion. The official takeover of the building took
place in mid-September 1920.
In 1877, John Nicholas Murphy,
Clifton, Cork, built an orphanage on Wellington Road, next to St Patrick’s
Hospital for children of middle class parents who were left destitute. He
invited the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Mercy, based at St Marie’s of the
Isle to take charge, providing at the same time maintenance for the nuns and
children, including all other expenses. In time the Sisters of Charity took
over the space as residents.
The design of the Orphanage was by Mr
George Goldie of the firm of Goldie and Child, London. This firm also designed
the beautiful church of St. Vincent’s in Sunday’s Well, the parochial churches
of Bandon and Ballincollig and Sligo Cathedral. Highly ornate in style, the
material of the church was in native old red sandstone, with limestone
to the Annual Report of St Patrick’s Hospital for 1903, there were seven
wards in the Hospital. Of these, two were set apart for cancer patients (one
male ward and one female ward). The remaining wards were for the reception of
patients suffering from diseases pronounced incurable. The hospital report
shows that several of the other patients who, though they were received as
seemingly hopeless cases, lived several years in the Hospital owing to the “care
received and the rest enjoyed”. More patients suffered from consumption than
from any other disease. Several of these improved so much during their stay
that they were able to return to their families and seek employment. Some were
permanently cured, while others, a few years after they left the hospital,
returned again to pass their last days within its precincts.
The visiting of the sick and poor in their
own homes was still carried on. Two Sisters of Charity worked on this mission
in the area. The Sisters still visited and taught catechism in the local
community, Victoria Barracks military school and in St Patrick’s Hospital
At the turn of the twentieth century,
although the number of patients in St Patrick’s had increased, its income had
not. The endowment of £300 per annum left by the Hospital’s founder, Dr Patrick
Murphy, was assured. In addition, through the interest of kind friends, the
Sisters received a share in the regular city-wide, Church and Hospital,
Saturday Collection, which was a great financial source. Several kind
benefactors of the Hospital had died by 1900. Matthew Honan, J P Sugrue and
several others had generously remembered the poor incurable patients in their
wills. During this period, Mrs Fitzgibbon endowed a bed as a memorial to her
son, John Mary Fitzgibbon, a one-time patient of St Patrick’s.
In 1907-1908, a generous donor, Miss Isabella Honan gave finance for a new Chapel for
the Hospital. The Bishop of Cork, Dr O’Callaghan laid the foundation stone on
the 11 June 1908. Many of Cork’s clergy and several distinguished visitors
attended the ceremony. The new Chapel was most conveniently placed, at right
angles to the connecting corridor between the Convent and the Hospital. The
Chapel was arranged on a cruciform plan; the crossing spanned by lofty moulded
arches on handsome granite shafts bearing ornamental stone with moulded bases.
The ceiling was groined and moulded in pitch pine. The walls were made of red
sandstone to match existing buildings. The style of architecture was Early
As the early
twentieth century progressed, improving existing facilities, and providing more
services for the patients at St Patrick’s were on-going priorities. Regular
local sweepstakes, held in the city in aid of the Hospital, created much
finance towards services.
The old St Patrick’s Hospital site
is now occupied by Griffith College Campus.
anniversary to Marymount
University Hospital and Hospice.
The text above are extracts from Kieran’s
book A Dream Unfolding, Portrait of
St Patrick’s Hospital / Marymount Hospice Cork (2004, hospital publication, out of print).
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).
1066a. Former site of St Patrick’s
Hospital, Wellington Road, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1066b. Former site of St
Vincent’s Orphanage, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
“The flooding around the Atlantic Pond is a huge source of concern for users of the amenity. The Atlantic Pond is as busy as The Lough in terms of frequent visitors and also is a site of high biodiversity value. So pressure is high on us local public reps to secure a solution for the flooding. I spoke with the City Council Engineer on site in the last few mornings. The drainage team present, as well as the contracted marine scuba diving engineer team, have only just found the much corroded and collapsed large iron flap/ gate, which leaves water in and out under the Marina Walk.
The large broken iron flap/gate section with its enormous pipe is 1970s in date and it is this pipe the scuba diver went down into safely last Friday morning. The pipe connects into the much larger 1840s engineering section which can be seen through tree and old stone arches in the eastern section of the Atlantic Pond. As it is a specialised engineering job, the City Council have estimated that the cost of repair is anywhere between e30,000 and e50,000. They have applied to central government for such emergency funding and await the government’s response. In the meantime, the engineering resolution is estimated at another fortnight at least. I will keep my pressure on a resolution.
The inadvertent flooding though has brought a huge focus by City Engineers on the historic construction and engineering of the Atlantic Pond. With my historian hat on, the Atlantic Pond was one of the city’s greatest engineering projects of early nineteenth century Cork and has stood the test of time for nearly 180 years. Its story is one of innovation and forward thinking. In 1843, City engineer Edward Russell was commissioned to present plans for the reclamation of the south sloblands, some 230 acres extending from Victoria Road to the river front with the proposed aim of creating an enormous public park and some building ground.
The task proposed was epic as the slobland undulated and when the tide was in, various areas of the slobland were more solid than others. Edward Russell’s eventual published plan in December 1843 proposed the extension and widening of the dock like Navigation Wall creating the Marina Walk, to manage the flow of tidal water entering the land by installing sluice gates, sluice tunnels and embankments.
Edward’s proposal for further reclamation of the South Sloblands did happen as well as the construction of a holding pond – a reservoir of six acres in size with sheeting piles driven in underneath it and possesses ornamental features to the general public. The latter became known as the Atlantic Pond and still possesses its Victorian sluice gates and tunnels to facilitate the drainage and exclusion of water. The Great Famine and post economic fall-out took away the opportunity for the public park but in 1869 after twenty years of further drainage and land reclamation, business man John Arnott leased the south sloblands from Cork Corporation and it was converted into the Cork City Park Race Course. In 1917 the heart of its space was converted into the Ford Tractor Manufacturing Plant but the central road of the racecourse was retained – Centre Park Road.
It’s clear what Cork Engineers built in the 1840s has lasted for near 180 years without any issue. There is enormous value in such an amenity. It is important now that finance is found to secure the use of the Atlantic Pond amenity for future decades”.
Remembering 1920: Calls of Clemency for
the closing two days of August 1920 or nearly twenty days into Terence
MacSwiney’s hunger strike, there was much public concern and there were regular
groups of sympathetic groups of watchers outside London’s Brixton Prison and
its surroundings. They waited for the latest news or any sign that clemency
would be granted. Despite the emotionally charged situation Terence’s wife
Muriel and his brother and two sisters were regular visitors.
Each day his sister Mary, one of the founders of Cumann na mBan
in Cork, informed the Cork Examiner representative and the Press
Association representatives of Terence’s worsening condition. For days on end the narrative revolved around
how very weak he was, how he could not talk very much; how his end was near,
and his weakened and critical state. Mary related that the doctor told her that
the Lord Mayor was in such a low state that even were he to receive any
nutriment he would not respond to it. Terence was in a very grave situation,
and a change for the worse might take place at any moment during any one 24
Terence’s deportation to Brixton, support for his release was relentless. From
across Ireland from Dublin to Waterford to Kerry Muriel MacSwiney received many
messages of support from local Boards of Guardians, Worker Unions, Cuman na
mBans and Rural District Councils. In Dundalk, a thousand employees of the
Great Northern Railway stopped work and marched to their nearby church to
recite the Rosary for Terence who they described as a “man lying prostate in an
English Dungeon”. The Cork Examiner records Cork institutions such as
the Cork Board of Guardians, Cork Harbour Board, Cork Trades and Labour Council
and many more passing resolutions protesting against his deportation. Even the
Cork County Board cancelled all GAA fixtures indefinitely.
On 25 August 1920 Prime
Minister Lloyd George gave his official response to the Press Association;
have received several communications here concerning the Lord Mayor of Cork. I
deeply regret his decision to starve himself and the suffering he thus, of
deliberate choice, is inflicting, not only on himself but on relations and
friends; but the Cabinet are responsible for preserving to the best of their
ability the machinery upon which the protection of life and good order depend
in the country. If the Lord Mayor were released, every hunger-striker, whatever
his offence, would have to be let off… If the Cabinet, therefore departed
from its decision, a complete break-down of the whole machinery of law and government
in Ireland would inevitably follow. Whatever the consequences it cannot take
Prime Minister’s stoic-ness fuelled further widespread condemnation and
clemency calls especially at Cork City and regional level. On 27 August 1920 Cork’s
Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Cohalan openly wrote to the Times
newspaper, a full copy of which was also published in the Cork Examiner.
He deplored the decision to keep Terence and condemned the evidence and charges
brought against him;
Lord Mayor of Cork should be instantly
released. What is his crime? Was there
any charge of an antecedent crime imputed to him on the night of his arrest?
There was none. His pockets and his desk were searched, and a charge was
founded on papers found on his person. What were the charges? The first was a
copy of the speech he made last March at his inauguration, and which was
published in the newspapers. But how does that speech delivered in March, and
published in the papers, become a danger to the realm only in August? The
second charge was a copy of a resolution of loyalty to Dáil Éireann. And again
how does this become a danger to the realm. The third charge was that the
military found, not on his person, but in his desk, a recent police code. But
why should the possession of a police code by the Lord Mayor of a city be
considered a danger to the realm? The charge is a proof that in Ireland the
police are diverted from their natural work, and made the instrument of a
partisan oppressive government. Why should the police have a code which could
not be entrusted to the Lord Mayor of a city?”.
the afternoon of 30 August 1920, Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork Donal O’Callaghan
organised the first of three public signing days in Cork City Hall condemning
Terence’s arrest. The stream of visitors wishing to sign was sizable with great
rushes at certain points of time. By the closure of the signings, the total
signatures neared the 30,000 mark with every prominent member of Cork’s
commercial, professional and labour bodies after signing as well as over two
priests across the spectrum of the religious orders, university members,
medical boards and from a large number of Unionist, Protestant and Jewish
also took to the streets of County Cork towns such as Bandon and Skibberreen
and the city’s main thoroughfares. On the evening of 30 August 1920, the wide
space between the Berwick Fountain and the National Monument on the City’s
Grand parade was densely packed shoulder to shoulder with men, women and
children. The Cork Examiner records an imposing display made by the
South Parish Confraternity (men), who adjourned their weekly meeting, and
marched one thousand strong to the Grand Parade, headed by their leader Fr
Patrick MacSwiney. Traffic was suspended and the thousand knelt closely on the
street and fervently gave the responses to the Rosary, recited in Irish. After
the Rosary the hymns, Faith of Our Fathers, and Hail, Glorious St
Patrick were sung. Before they separated, the thousand participants sang
the Soldiers Song. The quest to save Terence was stronger than ever.
Such public pressure grew stronger as September and October 1920 progressed.
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
1065a. Terence MacSwiney and his wife Muriel Murphy, c.1917 (source:
Cork City Library).
1065b. Mary MacSwiney, Sister of Terence MacSwiney, and one of the
founders of Cumann na mBan in Cork (source: Cork City Library).
Over the past few days great progress has been made in relation to the monkey puzzle tree and how best to use it. Following a very productive meeting between O’Callaghan Properties, St. Michael’s Credit Union, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy and Dr Eoin Lettice of UCC, a plan has been developed to distribute the felled iconic monkey puzzle tree back to the community where it was here for approximately 161 years.
It is a beautiful wood and we’ve worked together to make sure it’s used in a variety of forms to commemorate this iconic tree. Crafts people and artists in the area and from Cork City have been contacted about using the wood to create artistic pieces.
A number of local businesses have also expressed an interest in wanting to use the wood to create a featured piece to be displayed within the communities of Blackrock and Mahon. St. Michael’s Credit Union has engaged with a number of local sports clubs and organisations to see if they would like to acquire a piece of this historic tree. A section of the tree will also be provided to University College Cork for educational purposes.
Collectively the decision has been made to also offer blocks sized approximately 30 cm x 23 cm from the tree to members of the public for them to use and remember this iconic tree. This is an initiative that gives the tree back to those from within the Blackrock and Mahon areas who had enjoyed the tree for generations.
Due to limited availability and COVID 19 restrictions we ask people who are interested in securing a piece of this iconic tree to complete the follow short online registration of interest form on this website.
Maurice Crowe, Adjutant 4th Battalion 3rd Tipperary Brigade,
in his Bureau of Military History statement (WS517) was one of those who were on
hunger strike at Cork Gaol when Terence MacSwiney stayed for short time before
being relayed to Brixton Prison.Having begun on 11 August 1920, the
hunger strikes began as a demand for unconditionalrelease. Maurice
recalls that in Cork Gaol Cork Brigade member Tadhg Manley of Midleton was incharge of the sentenced prisoners, and member Mick Fitzgerald in complete
charge of all the prisoners.
One night, when the hunger strike had been on for about
fourteen days, Maurice, Con Neenan of Cork and Tom Crawford of Ballylanders
were transferred on stretchers to a hospital in Cork’s Victoria Barracks, where
they were to be forcibly fed. However, as the press next day came out very
strongly about this, the forcible feeding did not take place. Two nights later,
during curfew, they were thrown into a military lorry. Orders were clearly
given by the officer in charge – should the prisoners attempt to escape, or
should there be any attempt at rescue, they would be shot. They were then taken
to a boat called the Heather. Other prisoners on hunger-strike arrived
from Cork Prison about thirty in all. The prisoners were given mattresses but with
no covering and were put into a corner of the boat.
Arriving at Pembroke at 6pm the following evening
eighteen hours after they had started there was a special train waiting for them.
Some struggled onto the train from the ship, helping others, but some were too
weak and were taken on stretchers to the train. They left Pembroke by train at
about seven o’clock that evening, with a strong military escort. The train was
shoved into a siding at Reading for about three hours. They arrived at
Winchester prison about ten o’clock the next morning. After a week there, the
prison staff there made an attempt at forcible feeding. The prisoners from Cork
Gaol were still on hunger-strike, but an order was received to go off
hunger-strike. They were brought back to Cork a month later.
In Cork Maurice was tried by general court-martial and
sentenced to three years’ penal servitude. Later, he was transferred to London’s
Wormwood Scrubbs Prison and thence to Parkhurst Convict Prison in the Isle of
Wight. In Parkhurst, there were in all forty Irish Republican prisoners, some
of whom were sentenced for operating in England. He was appointed IRA Officer-in-Command
of the prisoners. Fr Dominic, chaplain to the Lord Mayor of Cork, who had been
sentenced to three years and who had just arrived, was appointed Vice Officer-in-Command.
They were all put into prison garb and transferred into different working
One morning while out at exercise, all the Irish prisoners,
at a given signal, walked together out of the exercise ring, shouted, etc, causing
an uproar, arid refused to associate with criminals. They were dragged by the warders
into the cells where they tore off the prison garb. They were then put into
what is known as the canvas dress and handcuffed to a strap of leather around
the waist. Maurice notes in his account;
“We refused to submit to the prison crop but
were knocked down and the hair forcibly clipped or torn off. We refused to
exercise unless left together, but we were dragged out refusing to walk and dragged
in again. They soon got tired of this and, after a week or so, we were all put
into one wing, apart from the convicts. We exercised together and brought our
own food from the cookhouse. The food baskets and boxes were numbered for the
different wings, and our basket had the letters, ‘S.F.’, painted on it, meaning
Sinn Féin prisoners”.
Back in Cork Gaol, Michael O’Donoghue, Engineer Officer,
2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 in his Bureau of Military History statement (WS1741)
recalls that during September to October 1920, nightly, thousands assembled
after 6 pm at the Gaol Cross. Outside the prison they prayed and sang to
strengthen the spirits of the men refusing food within. The most generally sung
piece was a religious hymn – Father Faber’s typically English composition, Faith
of our Fathers. Michael notes of the song: “My own view is that it was
chosen to banish any conscientious scruples or theological misgivings, which
the hunger strikers within may have had about the moral rectitude of their
deliberate abstention from food even to the death”.
For quite a while those outside were able to communicate
directly with the hunger strikers each night. Among the crowds were many Cork
Brigade No.1 men including signallers. Messages were sent in semaphore from the
windows of the prison hospital where the hunger strikers were, and which faced
Gaol Cross. Before dusk, white cloth handkerchiefs or pillow covers were used
by the signalling prisoner at the window. After dusk, a light was employed to
flash brief messages to the waiting crowds below. IRA signallers received the
messages and replied in Morse. In this way each night the progress of the
struggle inside was relayed in an up-to-the-minute story to the anxious
citizens of Cork. The invariable question from the men within was “How is Terry
Mac?”. The lads always signalled back the latest news that they had from
Brixton. It was an extraordinary moving scene before the grim gates of Cork
Prison each night until curfew, usually to 8pm, and earlier at weekends.
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
1064a. Remains of Cork Gaol at Gaol Cross,
2020 (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1064b. Remains of Cork Gaol at Gaol Cross,
2020 (picture: Kieran McCarthy).