21 Jul 2013
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, Historical Walking Tour of Blackrock, 27 July 2013
Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 18 July 2013
Historical Walking Tour of Blackrock, 27 July 2013
On Saturday 27 July 2013, I am running a historical walking tour of Blackrock Village (free, meet 2pm, Blackrock Castle, approx two hours). Within the story of Blackrock and its environs, one can write about a myriad of topics from its connection to the river and the harbour to its former mini demesne type landscape in the nineteenth century to its heart of a small village of hard working labourers and fishermen who struggled to survive.
This year as well, the residents of Dunlocha Cottages are celebrating the centenary of the cottages being built in 1913. They plan to host an event on Saturday 24 August to mark it. The cottages were developed by the Cork Rural District, which existed through Public Health Acts of the late 1800s giving them authority to improve public health in the areas they represented and Labourers Acts of the late 1800s, which them authority to clear slum like areas and build new houses for the poorer classes.
Searching through newspapers and Cork street directories reveals that the Cork Rural District comprised 65 representatives from 30 areas in Cork’s metropolitan area (averaging two representatives per area). Their work was funded by a portion of the rates of ratepayers in the city and county. On two of Dunlocha Cottages are two plaques to Richard Wallace and Daniel Coakley, which serve to remember the two councillors involved in pushing for the creation of the cottages. According to the census of 1911, Richard Wallace lived in Blackrock and was a reputable carrier agent for the Cork Macroom Railway with his office at Marlboro Chambers, (that lovely red bricked building with YMCA inscribed on it). He was 37 years of age, was 13 years married to Elizabeth with three young kids, 11, 9, and 3. In 1911, Daniel Coakley, lived in Ballinure, was 58 years of age, 35 years married to Hannah, with six grown up children in their twenties. Daniel was a market gardener in Ballinure in Mahon. The Blackrock rural district area was a large one and extended from Mahon through Blackrock, Ballintemple and Ballinlough to the Cross Douglas Road.
Both Richard Wallace and Daniel Coakley were busy public representatives. In the three years previous to the opening of the cottages, Wallace was a member of the Board of Guardians in the Cork Union on Douglas Road and was quite well aware from that as well what was needed to improve the poverty of his constituents. Daniel Coakley was the same through his work as a hard slog market gardener. In 1913, at the heart of Blackrock Village and environs was a slum-like centre. Over 2,500 people lived in over 400 houses. Several decades earlier ninety families are recorded as living in one roomed cottages, 260 in two rooms and just over 200 in three or more rooms, the average number of persons to a bed were three. The census of 1911 shows a tight knit community with a myriad of occupations, 64 registered fishermen, and several involved in agricultural labour, shipping, carpentry, smithies. In other words there was a hard working population who strove to provide for young families. The average age of heads of households of Blackrock in the 1911 census was between 40 and 45.
As early as April 1910, Daniel Coakley remarked at a district council meeting that land needed to be bought in Blackrock to provide spaces for new houses to relieve some of the conditions. However, buying property was expensive and the proposal to buy a field called Jameson’s Field in Blackrock was expensive. From 1910 through to the end of 1913, the field was to be a common item on the agenda of the District Council.
The field was named after Richard Longfield Jameson who had leased the property from the Chatterton family of Castlemahon in the nineteenth century plus then sublet it again; both the Chattertons and Richard lost their lands through the collapse of their rent schemes during the time of the great famine. The Chatterton family suffered financial problems and lived more frugally in Dorset and, from 1852 at Rolls Park in Essex. However the name of Jameson stuck. The lands were sold off by the Encumbered Estates project in the post Great Famine years. Richard Longfield Jameson had several valuable houses, and premises, situated on the South Mall, Morrison’s Island, Queen Street and Logan Street in the City of Cork. His property was sold in fifteen lots. By 1910, the lands in Blackrock were the property of Dr Edward Magner, a medical doctor, living in Ballinure, who had a practice on the South Mall. During 1910 at various meetings of the district council, the protection and enhancement of people’s lives seem to fuel the passion of Richard Wallace and Daniel Coakley.
By the time Dunlocha cottages were built, the number of cottages the Rural District Council had built in previous years was nearly 1,400 and they had 85 in hand including the Jameson Field project. In the bigger picture, nationally, since 1866 5,500 houses had been built accommodating 4,600 families at a cost of £700,000 or about E.45m in today’s money. In otherwords, the Cork Rural District Council was a key runner in Ireland in the provision of new cottages.
700a. Dunlocha Cottages, 2013 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)