Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 2 October 2014
“Technical Memories (Part 89) – Planning a Cork RTC”
“In technical education also, good work has been and is being done…for we are entering upon a fiercely competitive era in which skills of all kinds will mean the difference between survival and stagnation. We have plans in that regard too in relation to the technological colleges and the regional technical colleges. If agriculture and industry are to flourish here and for our survival they must do so and the prime necessity for that will be technical skill” (Jack Lynch, The Irish Times, 20 June, 1967, p.7).
Speaking at the official opening of the Christian Brothers’ new national school at Blarney Street on 19 June 1967, the Taoiseach Jack Lynch commented on the importance of the new regional technical colleges. He noted of a shortage of medium grade and higher technicians and that it was for the new colleges to provide skilled men and women with roots in the country; “our national commitment to education will ensure that even if we cannot ever aspire to be numbered among the wealthier nations of the earth, every Irish father and mother can for the future say that their children will be given their chance in the world”.
Between 1965-67 investment in the State’s education was made. Over 130 schools applied for assistance under a new building grants scheme. A total of 25 sites for comprehensive schools were examined. There were over 50 projects for new day vocational schools at various stages of development. The planning of regional technical colleges, costing in total £7m, was ongoing. Tenders had been received for sites at Cork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Athlone, Dundalk, Carlow and Waterford.
In late November 1966 an interim architect’s report of Cork’s proposed £2m regional technical college was approved at the meeting of the Cork City Vocational Education Committee. By early January 1968, early indications appeared in the media (Irish Times, 13 January, 1968, p.13) that the Cork college would likely be sited 2 ½ miles from Cork City Centre in the south western suburbs. The CEO of the Cork City Vocational Education Committee Mr Parfrey noted that “by and large it would be post leaving certificate pupils who would be accepted by the college”. It was also planned that the college would also cater for post intermediate students. Confirmation of the site was given in late February 1968. The Minister for Agriculture agreed in principle to the granting of a site for the proposed college on the lands of the Munster Institute at Model Farm Road.
By July 1972 preliminary work had begun on the 48-acre site for Cork’s new regional technical college, near Bishopstown. According to an Irish Times reporter (12 July 1972, p.15), the proposed student population was to rise from an initial 2,000 to about 5,000. Mr Parfrey noted of a major problem that arose that of the provision of student accommodation in the college area. It was initially hoped to open in the summer of 1974 and the college was to be the biggest single modern building in Cork City. There were to be nine departments – science, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, printing, nautical studies, building, automobile engineering, commerce, general studies and catering. A total of 260,000 feet was to be covered by the college, which was to have 30 laboratories, 56 classrooms, 36 workshops, 13 drawing offices and 36 specialist rooms with close circuit television. A planned sports complex was to include a swimming pool and squash courts. Space was also to be provided for five playing fields, three tennis courts, a basketball court and a sport’s hall. It was also flagged in the media that some of the smaller schools under the VEC would close eventually. However, the Cork Municipal School of Music and Crawford Municipal School of Art would continue as they were. On 1 August 1974, it was recorded by the Irish Times that 140 CIE trailers had began moving furniture into the new Cork college.
The mission statements for the Regional Technical College in Cork were also rooted in part in the Buchanan Report. Dáil Éireann archived speeches in May 1969 reveal that Colin Buchanan and Partners, the English architects and town planners, were commissioned by the United Nations on behalf of the Government of Ireland in 1966 to undertake studies of the nine planning regions in the Republic and to provide physical development policies for these regions. The consultants’ final report, Regional Studies in Ireland, and the two accompanying technical volumes, Regional Development in Ireland, were published in 1968.
The reports covered an extensive range of topics, such as population and population forecasts, employment and employment forecasts, migration and migration forecasts, industry, tourism, agriculture, transport, utilities, power, housing, and infrastructure. However, the Buchanan Report is most widely known for its policy recommendations and particularly the proposed strategy of promoting growth centres. The Buchanan Report singled out Dublin, Cork and Limerick-Shannon as main centres and Waterford, Dundalk, Drogheda, Galway, Sligo, and Athlone as part of a second tier of growth centres. The consequent debate about this policy was extensive, and the Government finally decided upon a policy of more dispersed development in 1972.
To be continued…
762a. Aerial photograph of Cork Regional Technical College, 1975 (source: Aerial photograph collection, local studies, Cork City Library)