12 May 2012

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 10 May 2012, Blackrock Historical Walking Tour

Posted by admin

Sunset over Blackrock Pier and environs, April 2012

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 10 May 2012

Blackrock Historical Walking Tour, Sunday 13 May 2012



I am an avid fan of The Marina and the Atlantic Pond. I have to admit sitting for several hours on the benches in sunny weather reading. So over the past three years, as an expansion to my city tours, I have tried to develop new tours in the city’s suburbs. In particular I have concentrated in the south east part of the city, mainly because of its various photogenic qualities such as its landscapes and architecture. So next up in this study is  a historical walking tour of Blackrock Village on Sunday 13 May 2012, 6.30pm, leaving from Blackrock Castle (approx 1 ½ hours, free event).


A stroll in Blackrock is popular by many people. The area is particularly characterised by its location on the River Lee and the start of Cork Harbour. Here beautiful architecture such as imposing late Georgian residences and country like cottages merge to create a historical tapestry of questions of who developed such a place of ideas. Where not all the answers have survived, Blackrock is lucky, unlike other suburbs, that many of its former residents have left archives, autobiographies, census records, diaries, old maps and insights into how the area developed. These give an insight into ways of life and ambitions in the past, some of which can help the researcher in the present day in understanding Blackrock’s identity going forward.


Walking along the foreshore on the city side of Blackrock Castle, it’s difficult in this time to re-imagine the River Lee as a significant highway in the city’s past connecting the city to the ocean. However with eighteenth century paintings such as by Nathaniel Grogan in the Crawford Art Gallery, historic maps in the city library, even the ordnance survey online, one can view and ultimately re-imagine and map how the river channel was maintained and encroached upon as well by warehouses and quaysides.


The earliest and official evidence for settlement in Blackrock dates to c.1564 when the Galway family created what was to become known as Dundanion Castle. Adjacent the ruinous castle is the original slipway, which became known as King’s Dock and is attached to a legend that William Penn used it for his departure point for America in the 1680s. It is overgrown but still present. Its distance from the present River Lee reveals the hard slog involved in reclaiming areas such The Marina and environs from the river. The castle is grilled up but its limestone blocks are still impressive. A diary book survives for Eliza Deane in 1832 in the Cork Archives. Eliza’s husband was the well-known Cork architect, Thomas Deane. Entries for 8-9 March 1832, recount the laying of the first stone of their new house by their ‘beloved son’ Thomas Newenham Deane. The stone was originally the top stone of ‘old Dundanion Castle’. She also mentions stone masons making ‘a ‘picturesque ruin’ of Dundanion Castle.


Further east of Dundanion, is the imposing Blackrock Castle. 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 1604 Charles Blount Lord Deputy of Ireland defended himself against the citizens of Cork who were rebelling against King James I of England. Over a century later in 1722, the old tower was destroyed by fire and a new one built by the citizens.

Apart from functioning as a type of lighthouse, Admiralty Courts were held at Blackrock Castle to legislate over the fishing rights of the citizens. Under various charters granted many centuries ago, the Mayor of Cork enjoyed Admiralty jurisdiction to the mouth of Cork harbour. The history of fishing and fishermen in Blackrock at least dates back to the early 1600s and perhaps is regrettably one of the histories unrecorded in Blackrock. In 1911, 64 fisherman ranging in age from 14 to 70 years of age are listed in the census as living in Blackrock village. At least 40 are heads of households and had their own dwellings. Even more interesting was that this community was lodged in a sense in a middle class culture, a series of big houses complete with estate network and management. Indeed, Blackrock had its own pier, bathing houses, boating club, schools, suburban railway line, and Protestant and Catholic churches.

For the fishermen it was an endless struggle each year to survive. There is an interesting link by this group to national politics and struggles in the late nineteenth century.  Several fishermen went on to play with the Cork National Hurling and Football club, which was formed in 1886. Indeed the advent of the nickname “the Rockies” describes not only a terrific hurling team today but a link into the past, where action and innovation were survival mechanisms for the families of the players. So this new walking tour tries to shine a light on the memory of this community but also the memory of other local communities, which it contested with plus how they all meshed together to create a most interesting place to study and explore.

Back to technical education next week again!




640a. Sunset over Blackrock Pier and environs, April 2012 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Comments are closed.