Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 15 April 2021
Journeys to a Truce: The Washington Street Ambush
Patrick Murray was Officer in Command of C-Company of the 1st Battalion, Cork No.1 IRA Brigade. In his witness statement for the Bureau of Military History (WS1584), he describes the Spring activity of an active IRA service unit in the city centre.
Patrick outlines that when the active service unit began, it comprised six members from each of the two battalions in the city. The men on the unit were: Danny Healy, Stephen McSwiney, Jim Barrett, Liam O’Callaghan, Seán Twomey and Patrick Murray from the 1st Battalion; and Florrie O’Donoghue, Jim Counihan, Ned Fitzgibbon, George Burke, Jim Fitzgerald, Peter Donovan and one other from the 2nd Battalion. Seán Twomey was put in charge.
There was a special space/ office in the city dealing with the unit’s intelligence and communications. This office was under the control of George Buckley. Only two or three selected couriers were allowed to know where the office was, for fear of anyone being followed into it.
Of the first few weeks that the active service unit was in existence, Patrick notes: “We were actively engaged watching the movements of military and police. The members of the active service unit took turns in taking up positions along routes which were supposed to be taken by the police and military, but as they did not take any particular route with any regularity, it was often found that they would leave a street just when the military or police came into it”.
The unit’s first ambush occurred on 12 April 1921, just after 10am, when bombs were thrown into a lorry in Washington Street at the junction with Little Anne Street. The bombs failed to explode, and the military returned the fire wounding some civilians. The failure of bombs to explode became a serious problem in the city, as it was realised that, if a bomb did not go off, civilians and the Volunteers themselves would suffer heavy casualties through the retaliation of gunfire. Special men connected with the unit were allocated to the work of inspecting all bombs which were to be used in the city.
Michael O’Donoghue, engineer officer with the 2nd Battalion in his witness statement (WS1741) notes that he was present at the Washington Street ambush describes in his witness statement: “My three companions and myself were armed with revolvers. Our instructions were simple – to cover the retreat of a bombing party who were waiting to attack a military patrolling tender, which passed that way fairly regularly in the morning”.
After the ambush, Michael recalls looking east towards Broad Lane church or the then St Francis Church. “I saw one of our bombers limping along slowly and heavily holding his right side and half supported, half dragged along by a companion. Then, as if from nowhere, a side-car appeared and from it jumped down another of the attacking party. The wounded man is then helped up to a seat on the car, his companion sitting beside him and holding him. The jarvey sat on the opposite side with the other Volunteer behind him. The driver whips up his horse and off they trot in the direction of the Mercy Hospital”.
An official and stark proclamation was published in the Cork Examiner announcing that the competent military authority (Major General Strickland) had ordered the destruction of two large resident business premises near the Courthouse because they had been places where as the announcement noted “rebels and other evilly-disposed persons had consorted to levy war against His Majesty, King George V”.
Michael describes that one of the premises was Macari’s Café, a great resort of College students, where ice cream, minerals, fish and chips, peas and various other choice delicacies in fruit, fish and flesh. Macari himself, his wife and teen-age family were Italians who had settled in Cork pre 1914. It was a popular place for Cork youths especially students of all types, and IRA men were in and out casually every day and at, all times. The British wanted to punish Macari for not reporting to them the “comings and goings” of his clientele.
The other house officially condemned to destruction was Murphy’s public house and provision store round the corner of Messrs Dwyer’s stores near Clarke’s Bridge. The Murphys were a prominent Republican family from the Kinsale area of West Cork.
Michael outlines that the British military cordoned off Washington Street between the Courthouse and Wood Street. Macari’s and Murphy’s were entered by armed soldiers who ordered the occupants outside. Macari’s was blown up first. A demolition squad in khaki entered and set some explosives apparently on top floor. They withdrew to the street where they took cover at a safe distance. There then was a series of explosions and the roof was blown out, sending showers of slates and pieces of wood and masonry flying into the air. When the shower of smoke and dust had subsided the demolition squad again entered this time to complete the job by laying explosive charges on the ground floor.
Michael continues his detail: “Out again with them and back to the safety of the cordon. This time three or four tremendous explosions rocked the interior, completely wrecking everything within. Then the military repeated this programme of destruction in like mariner at Murphy’s. Not a solitary item of furniture or goods were permitted to be taken from either house and both buildings were utterly and completely wrecked in this brutal official reprisal”.
Have a story of relative to tell involved with the War of Independence in Cork, get in touch with Kieran at firstname.lastname@example.org
1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
The conclusion of this school season’s Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project was recently marked by an online awards ceremony and presentation of winning projects. A total of 25 schools in Cork City took part in the 2020-21 edition, which ranged from schools in Ballinlough, Ballintemple, Blackrock to Blarney and Glanmire, and from Ballyphehane to the Shandon area. Circa 1,000 students participated in the process this year with approx 200 project books submitted on all aspects of Cork’s local history & heritage.
The Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project is in its 18th year and is a youth platform for students to do research and write it up in a project book whilst offering their opinions on important decisions being made on their heritage in their locality and how they affect the lives of people locally. The aim of the project is to allow students to explore, investigate and debate their local heritage in a constructive, active and fun way.
Co-ordinator and founder of the Project, Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted that: “The Project this year was even more apt this year as we all find ourselves within our localities much more. In particular, this year’s entries focussed on famous buildings of Cork City, historic walkways, public parks and many oral history projects. Again, this year students made fab models and short films on their topics. One could also see the family and friend involvement in projects. Technically with this project for every one student, there are another four people who have been consulted and who are consulted to help with projects. One could argue that over 4,000 people have some input into project books every year”.
“The Schools’ Heritage Project remains focussed about developing new skill sets within young people in thinking about, understanding, appreciating, and making relevant in today’s society the role of our heritage – our landmarks, our stories, our landscapes in our modern world. Ultimately the project focuses on motivating and inspiring young people through them working on a heritage project for several weeks and seeks to build a sense of place and identity amongst younger people”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.
The Project is funded by Cork City Council with further sponsorship offered by the Old Cork Waterworks Experience and Cllr Kieran McCarthy.
Full results are online on Cllr McCarthy’s local history website, www.corkheritage.ie. There is also a link there to the YouTube award ceremony. On the YouTube video Kieran, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, and Niamh Twomey, City Council Heritage Officer speak about the winning projects for this school season.
“Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed the beginning of the phase 1 of the Passage Railway Greenway Improvement Scheme on next Monday 22 February. Great credit is due to officials in City Hall of the Infrastructure section; there is great momentum at the moment between drafting plans, gaining the input of the public, amending plans where needs be, and presenting them to the National Transport Authority for funding. There is a deep affection for the old railway line walk and in these COVID times is used regularly by locals”.
“The widening of the footpath is to be welcomed and one which locals have called for. I am personally excited that the old Blackrock Station platform is to get conservation works. It is in a poor state and it would be a shame to lose the platform completely due to neglect. I am also excited by the planting of 60 semi mature trees and over 2,000 saplings along the phase 1 from the Mahon Point to The Marina. It is also welcome that the greenway will be kept open to the greatest possible extent throughout the works”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.
Press Release by Engineer’s Ireland, Cork:
This presentation outlines the history and recent refurbishment of the iconic ‘Shakey’ Bridge which was originally built under the stewardship of the City Engineer, SW Farrington, who was also the first Chair of the Cork Region of Engineers Ireland. Kieran McCarthy, an Independent Councillor in Cork City and a noted local historian with an avid interest in the architectural and industrial heritage of his native city outlines social and economic context of the original construction which opened in 1927 to replace an earlier ferry crossing at the same location. The bridge remains the only suspension bridge in Cork City and is the only surviving bridge of its type in Ireland.
Michael Minehane, Chartered Engineer and Principal Engineer at RPS details the recent rehabilitation of the bridge which re-opened in December 2020, including the special inspection and structural assessment, site investigations and material testing, rehabilitation works, the approach to conservation, structural dynamics and aspects of design and construction.
“Last week’s announcements by the National Transport Authority (NTA) are really positive for the Marina area and the Old Railway Line Walk through to Bessboro. Firstly phase 1 of the Greenway has been given funding of e.3.2m to progress construction. It comprises widening of the existing surfaced area along the old railway line path from 3m to 5m, the installation of new public lighting and CCTV, emphasising the heritage of the railway (especially at Blackrock Station) and producing a biodiversity corridor along the railway line.
Secondly, it is also really great to see funding following the public consultation and its vision for the Marina and the Council’s subsequent vote to pedestrianise the Marina walk full-time.
A total of e.240,000 has received from the NTA to progress preliminary design, planning, design team appointment & detailed design for the Marina Promenade Pedestrian and Cycle facilities project. Many people have complained that is very difficult to walk over certain sections of the Marina’s road plus the need to have a think about public lighting after dark and the counter balance of that with protection of natural habitats around the Atlantic Pond and eastwards. The project will also seek funding for some repairs to the quay wall and some general improvement to the public realm including seating, bike parking etc.
In March/ April this year, the Infrastructure Development Directorate of Cork City Council will be publishing a notice seeking tenders from suitably qualified and experienced Design Consultants for the upgrade and enhancement of the Marina (Centre Park Road to Blackrock Village).
By the end of 2021 City Hall officials aim to present a recommended layout to Council members with construction to follow in early 2022 subject to the necessary consents and funding approval.
Great credit is due to officials in City Hall of the Infrastructure section; there is great momentum at the moment between drafting plans, gaining the input of the public, amending plans where needs be, and presenting them to the National Transport Authority for funding”.
On Tuesday, 16 February at 7pm the latest in a series of online talks by Engineer’s Ireland will be available: The History and Rehabilitation of Daly’s Bridge (The Shakey Bridge) presented by Michael Minehane, Chartered Principal Engineer at RPS and Kieran McCarthy, noted local Cork historian.
“As part of the Cork Regional 80th Anniversary celebrations, we are delighted to host this presentation on the history and refurbishment of the iconic “Shakey” Bridge which was originally built under the stewardship of the then City Engineer, SW Farrington, who was also the first Chair of the Cork Region of Engineers Ireland” says Ronan Keane, current Chair.
The presentation will outline the social and economic context of the original construction, first opened in 1927, replacing an earlier ferry crossing at the same location. It remains the only suspension bridge in Cork City and is the only surviving bridge of its type in Ireland. Michael Minehane says, “I will be giving the second part of the talk which will outline the recent rehabilitation of the bridge which re-opened in December 2020, including the special inspection and structural assessment, site investigations and material testing, rehabilitation works, approach to conservation, structural dynamics and aspects of design and construction.”
Kieran McCarthy will talk about the history of the bridge “of all the bridges in the city centre island, one can argue that Daly’s Bridge is the one which holds the fascination of the public the most. The removal of the main body of the bridge to deep clean it off site caused a large tinge of public sadness. Its return to the Banks of the Lee in the spring of 2020 heralded hope, and almost a sense that a valued family member had returned. The bridge’s essence has transcended time from a physical bridging point to one of playfulness, one of fun, and one whose shakiness is a key part of Cork’s Cultural Heritage.”
The History & Rehabilitation of Daly’s (Shakey) Bridge on Tuesday, 16th February at 7pm online via zoom, It’s a FREE event and all are welcome: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7M2J_bAKQsGsGxKCD4QBaQ
10 February 2021, “Speaking to CorkBeo, Cllr Kieran McCarthy said the museum could see rolling exhibitions and the public could help out by lending out old medals, pictures, and trophies to be showcased there”, Plan for Cork sports museum to ‘showcase and celebrate’ county’s rich culture, Plan for Cork sports museum to ‘showcase and celebrate’ county’s rich culture – Cork Beo