Cork Harbour Through Time
Ten Historical Items about Cork Harbour
(extracted from Kieran McCarthy’s and Dan Breen’s New Book)
- Dating back over 1,000 years to Viking times, from the Anglo-Norman time of a walled town to the present day, boats of all dimensions have been travelling through Cork’s riverine and harbour region, continuing a legacy of trade.
- Cork’s Marina, originally called the Navigation Wall, was completed in 1761. In 1820, Cork Harbour Commissioners formed and purchased a locally-built dredger. The dredger deposited the silt from the river into wooden barges, which were then towed ashore. The silt was redeposited behind the Navigation Wall. During the Great Famine, deepening of the river created jobs for 1,000 men who worked on creating the Navigation Wall’s road – The Marina.
- At one time, approximately fifty mansions in the south-eastern suburbs of Cork City overlooked Cork Harbour. One of the largest was that of Lakelands, owned by the Crawford family. By 1792, William Crawford Snr had moved from County Down to Cork, where he co-founded of the successful Beamish and Crawford brewery. He occupied a fine residence – Lakelands at Blackrock – to the east of the city, overlooking the widening River Lee.
- The imposing Blackrock Castle is the third structure on the site. The original fort (or castle) was built in 1582 by the citizens of Cork to safeguard ships against pirates, who would come into the harbour and steal away the vessels entering the harbour. In 1722 and 1827, the old tower was destroyed by a fire and a new one built.
- The history of fishing and fishermen in Blackrock dates back to the early 1600s. In 1911, sixty-four fishermen, ranging in age from fourteen to seventy, are listed in the census as living in Blackrock village and operating in and around the castle, Lough Mahon and harbour area.
- The District of Douglas village takes its names from the river or rivulet bearing the Gaelic word Dubhghlas or dark stream, which enters the tidal area nearby. As early as the late thirteenth century, King John of England made a grant of land to Philip de Prendergast near the city of Cork. On 1 June 1726, the building of the Douglas Factory commenced. Samuel Perry & Francis Carleton became the first proprietors.
- The Cork, Blackrock & Passage Railway opened in 1850, and was among the first of the Irish suburban railway projects. The original terminus, designed by Sir John Benson, was based on Victoria Road, but moved in 1873 to Hibernian Road (as shown above and now built upon). The entire length of track between Cork and Passage was in place by April 1850 and, within two months, the line was open for passenger traffic.
- With the establishment of a dock and shipyard in Passage West in the nineteenth century, many merchants became shipowners, and carried on an extensive trade in their own vessels. Three of these individuals were well-known entrepreneurs – William Parker (who engaged in foreign speculations in shipping), Thomas Parsons Boland and the Brown family.
- During the nineteenth century, many merchants in Passage West built their own big houses and terraces. This town recorded upwards of 100 covered cars called jingles engaged almost daily in the transport of people between Passage and Cork. Steamboats and several small boats also ploughed the waters between Cork and Passage several times daily.
- A letter from Vice-Adm. Thornborough of Trent, Cork Harbour, dated 28 August 1813, was read to the Ballast Board on 2 September 1813. In this letter he pointed out the danger vessels frequenting Cork Harbour were put in, as a result of the lack of a lighthouse 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 and, in 1835, it was replaced by the present larger tower.