Discover Cork Through a New Digital Atlas:
They say the best way to get to know a city is to walk it – and a new year with crisp early January days is an ideal time. In Cork you can get lost in narrow streets, marvel at old cobbled lane ways, photograph old street corners, look up beyond the modern shopfronts, gaze at clues from the past, be enthused and at the same time disgusted by a view, smile at interested locals, engage in the forgotten and the remembered, search and connect for something of oneself, thirst in the sense of story-telling – in essence feel the DNA of the place.
Giving walking tours for over 30 years has allowed me to bring people on a journey into that soul but also receive feedback on the wider contexts of what visitors and locals have seen elsewhere. Cork is a city packed with historic gems all waiting to be discovered at every street corner.
Cork has a soul, which is packed full of ambition and heart. Cork’s former historic networks and contacts are reflected in its the physical urban fabric – its bricks, street layout and decaying timber wharfs. Inspired by other cities with similar trading partners, it forged its own unique take on port architecture.
So the new Digital Atlas of Cork/ Corcaigh is very welcome. It is one of a series of digital atlases created by the Irish Historic Towns Atlas team (others are Derry, Dungarvan and Galway). The Digital Atlas of Cork/Corcaigh is an initiative of the Digital Working Group of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas research programme. The project has been led by Sarah Gearty (Royal Irish Academy) and Rachel Murphy (University of Limerick), with Mani Morse (Dublin City University) as Digital Manager.
The Digital Atlas of Cork/Corcaigh is a free online interactive map that invites you to discover the built heritage of Cork City in a new way where 6,245 features of the city’s history from AD 623 to 1900 are mapped. The atlas includes descriptions of over 800 streets, including their names in Irish and English as well as historical variants.
View the atlas here: Digital Atlas of Cork/Corcaigh | Royal Irish Academy (ria.ie)
Users can browse the digital atlas or search for a specific site in the city. They can also select and view features associated with specific time periods, from medieval times to the present day. Most notably, it maps out Cork’s earlier historical sites especially around South and North Main Street and its Viking age history and Anglo Norman history.
Each historical feature is represented by a coloured symbol, each feature has been categorized into one of eleven different themes such as entertainment, manufacturing, religion and transport. When a user clicks on a feature, key information about it is displayed in a pop-up box.
A specially commissioned historical map depicts each individual house and plot during the mid-nineteenth century (1842). This is just one of a number of layered maps that may be switched on and off to show how the city developed over the centuries.
Other layers include Ordnance Survey maps — a present-day plan of the city, as well as historic maps showing Cork pre-Famine and at the turn of the twentieth century. Additional map layers will be released over the coming months, providing access for the first time to digitised town plans by the Ordnance Survey (1842) and Valuation Office (1852–64).
A downloadable user guide has been created to accompany the resource, to allow anyone to explore the Digital Atlas with further education and project work in mind. The project has been part funded by the Heritage Council Stewardship Fund 2023. It has been supported by partners Cork City Council, the Digital Repository of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland and Tailte Éireann.
The Digital Atlas is remarkable with over 6,000 entries. It is a tremendous new resource for all the people of Cork and will no doubt instil a sense of pride in local communities, through its use in schools and libraries. In particular, the research and further reading aspect of the atlas will be a great source for anyone with an interest in the history and development of Cork City. This innovative project from the Royal Irish Academy will make the valuable research of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas series available to a wider and more varied audience than heretofore.
The atlas will contribute immensely to the work of Cork City Council and the wider professional community in Cork particularly those working in archives, museums, education, planning, architecture and conservation. Ciara Brett, City Archaeologist, Cork City Council noted of the Digital Atlas:
“The Digital Atlas, when utilised with the forthcoming printed Atlas, will be a great benefit to the study of the changing urban environment and will provide practical assistance in the preparation and implementation of planning policy and development management in the City. The IHTA Cork/Corcaigh volume in digital format will add to the existing corpus of published material and will, I believe, encourage future research and study that will enhance our understanding and appreciation of our city”.
The Digital Atlas of Cork/Corcaigh is based on research carried out for Irish Historic Towns Atlas, no. 31, Cork/Corcaigh by H.B. Clarke and Máire Ní Laoi, which will be published by the Royal Irish Academy in print in May 2024.
Based at the Royal Irish Academy, the Irish Historic Towns Atlas research programme traces the topographical development of towns, cities and suburbs through its atlas and ancillary publications, annual seminars and special exhibitions. It is part of a wider international scheme that covers nineteen countries. The Irish programme is considered a leader in the development of digital atlases of this kind.
Island City, Cork’s New City Sculpture Trail:
Island City Sculpture Trail is the most ambitious arts project Cork City Council has undertaken and the single biggest investment in public art our city has ever seen. I was delighted to meet all of the inspiring artists and architects, at their individual unveilings over the past few months, and to hear the incredible thinking, ambition, motivations, process, detail and love that has gone into each installation.
Cork City Council would like to sincerely thank our partners Fáilte Ireland, who funded the project under the Urban Animation Scheme, and the National Sculpture Factory for commission support.
The trail has been a great project for all, bringing art to the streets of Cork and enriching our urban environment and its heritage and history. In fact, it is a testament to the resilience, creativity and togetherness of the cultural sector. This initiative will deepen the city’s connection with public art and encourage locals and visitors to explore new areas of the city as art comes to life on our streets. The trail will be in situ for the next five years.
The temporary artworks are located on Carey’s Lane, the Exchange Building on Princes Street, Cook Street, Cornmarket Street and soon at Triskel Christchurch.
Sentinels (flew through the ages in the shape of birds) by artist Niamh McCann is a lane-length sculptural piece influenced by the architecture, geography, and incidental features along the length of Carey’s Lane in Cork city centre. The work is fixed above head height on the lane and is held by the simple image of a seagull, perched atop a neon strip, sentinel-like on either end of Carey’s Lane. The sculpture is intended to be intriguing and playful, animating the lane by day and by night – a work that is both intimate and dynamic and responds to the shifting shape of the city.
Sentinels’ is a nod to the old and the new – from Cork City’s diverse and migratory history and its merchant and yachting tradition to its welcoming of new cultures and its urban adaptability. Using a combination of contemporary materials and craft, the installation explores the themes of travel and landscape and draws a line from one end of the lane to the other.
The artist was also influenced by the inhabitants and geography of the lane such as the history of craft, culture and the presence of the Huguenot graveyard. Niamh worked with sustainable materials that work well in outdoor settings such as bronze, jesmonite, and cedar wood. The red rope that links the pieces is a nod to the Rebel county’s traditional colour.
The Face Cup by artist Fiona Mulholland is a celebration of the county’s rich prehistoric heritage. The artworks populate the facade of the historic Exchange Building on the corner of Princes Street and Oliver Plunkett Street.
Linking the past to the present, Fiona’s artwork of large-scale sculptural reliefs is based on a collection of exceptional Bronze Age ceramic artefacts – a small clay cup decorated with eyes, nose, ears and feet, another pottery vessel with ears and a spoon dating approximately 3800 years old. The original artefacts were excavated by archaeologists working on the site of the N8/N73 Mitchelstown Relief Road in 2004, who have assisted Fiona with ensuring accuracy for the project. The artworks are handmade in styrofoam and fibreglass to keep them light-weight and painted gold as a nod to our Bronze Age heritage.
Boom Nouveau by collaborative practice Forerunner can be viewed on Cook Street. The sculpture mimics the form of a tangible everyday urban street feature – the lamp post. The name Boom Nouveau refers to the rupture of the artwork emerging from the ground, with a nod to the influence of the craftsmanship of art nouveau.
The piece reintroduces an air of mystery and possibility into our surroundings. The effect is achieved by using familiar building materials and adding in artistic elements such as hand blown glass and cast bronze.
Urban Mirror on Cornmarket Street (Coal Quay) by plattenbaustudio is a beautifully crafted large table with an atmospheric light that will provide a sculptural pavilion in a cultural corner of the city centre. It is inspired by the street’s vibrant history as a market place, and the current weekly Saturday Street Market from 10am-12pm. Made of durable and playful stainless steel, it has 16 fixed chairs and can seat up to fifty people. Its reflective nature will also light the square on a bright day. The elevated ball in the centre provides a focus from all directions. As the sun sets it will light up, giving a warm glow to the area.
Designed by architects Jennifer O’Donnell and Jonathan Janssens, and fabricated by Sara Murphy and Frank Prendergast of Space Forms Ltd. Urban Mirror is intended to be a space used by the public.
Tempus Futurum by Brian Kenny is a light projection on the Triskel Christchurch, that takes viewers on a journey through the building’s rich history, present and future.
The remarkable, digitally mapped, moving image artwork is projected onto the South Main Street façade of the Georgian building, which is over 300 years old. Each evening from dusk, for up to seven months a year, the captivating 10-minute looped moving visuals will be projected for all to enjoy.
Tempus Futurum is inspired by the motto “A society thrives when elders plant trees under whose shade they’ll never rest”. It delves into past, present, and an imminent future, exploring human impact on the environment.
Amidst this journey, the perspectives of 50 local schoolchildren breathe life into the projection, offering reflections on the building’s future. Their youthful imaginations visualise a world shaped by present actions – a reminder that our choices today echo into tomorrow’s legacy.
Dear Corkonian, as you read this I am at my half way mark in my term as Lord Mayor of Cork. So far it has been a great adventure since my term began in late June this year. As a chronicler of Cork’s history, there is one thing researching Cork, but there is another when one becomes part of its story board, and one gets to wear the 236-year old Mayoralty chain every day and become Cork’s ambassador. The chain has been witness to many stories across time and the urban space of Cork.
My days have been filled with meeting groups across many thematic communities in Cork – from sporting to general community groups to the business community. On average, there are seven to eight events to attend a day – so 35 to 40 events a week is easily the average. So, todate there have been just over 850 events attended in the first six months of my office. The diary is time-managed, curated and packed solid with meetings and opportunities. Days are long but the meeting experiences are very interesting and very enjoyable.
In my first six months, the chain has been witness to all of my key activities, from representing the city in meeting President Michael D Higgins to playing a diplomatic role in hosting Ambassadors from various countries to being head of delegation of the sister city twinning meeting with the Mayor of Shanghai and his various departments from health to culture.
On the ground in Cork it has been important to me to promote local economic development, to highlight the City Council’s work programmes from housing to roads mobility and parks works programmes, to highlighting the history and heritage of our city through the Council’s decade of commemoration programmes, to highlighting arts and culture in the guise of the new urban sculpture trail or through the Community Heritage Concert and Christmas Gala Concert in aid of key charities in our city.
It has been fun and important to actively participate in and showcase festivals such as the Pride Festival and Cork International Film Festival and helping lead this year’s edition of the Dragon of Shandon, platforming the importance of climate action and projects such as community gardens, hosting charities and giving them a space to chat about their work in City Hall. There has been lots of showcasing Cork’s sporting events including honouring our Cork camogie teams. In truth the list of activities is long. And sometimes, there also has been a song along the way.
It has also been an honour to formally open new pedestrian and cycle bridges such as Vernon Mount and mark the completion of public realm works such as MacCurtain Street. To be able to showcase their immediate and surrounding histories and memories has been a privilege.
The 118-school visit programme left me humbled, emotional, and exhausted from a rollercoaster of meeting so many young people on mass but also full of great memories for years to come. To meet the bones of over 35,000 dynamic young people or Cork’s up and coming generation, complete with teachers and principals of city schools, is one of the largest projects on democracy development each Lord Mayor takes on every year. One of my core reflections was that Cork City is very fortunate with a generation coming through that is curious, dynamic, diverse, unique, enthusiastic and ‘up for the match’ to be the next guardians of what we as Corkonians are proud to call home.
I created a social media film series called Voices of Cork, which gives voice to some of the people I have met. My social media encompasses the hashtag Got Cork and WeareCork and ProudofCork, which is also my continued focus on all things positive that Cork people engage and promote.
For me as well, showcasing the voices of different communities matter. Whereas, the daily themes could be diverse from each other, all of the groups I meet are pursuing an aspect of importance to Cork’s DNA and its evolving development. All of the groups are everything that is great about our City – its sense of caring, its sense of place, its sense of pride, its sense of frankness and honesty, its sense of identity, its sense of camaraderie, its sense of life affirmation. Such groups are writing the best version of the city’s evolving story.
All of the groups pack an enormous punch to the heart by bringing people together who volunteer to carve out and create a space for the common good. It is not random that the Latin motto on the city’s coat of arms is Statio Bene Fida Carinis or translated as a Safe Harbour for Ships. However, after the first six months I am of the view that the motto could also be interpreted a safe harbour for people or safe place for people.
Such groups have spent years supporting the city or a specific neighbourhood. They are hard grafters, who are intrinsic to the future of many people’s lives, the important moments in people’s lives. ideas of hope and solidarity, and what I call saving people’s souls. They create incredible special moments of human connection. That tenacity and vision needs to be noted – the holding firm needs to be noted. As a city we need to rejoice and embrace in such a vision.
Such communities of people are genuinely interested in connecting people together, and supporting and helping each other. Building stronger communities brings more opportunities to talk, share, support each other. and to learn.
A more connected community builds a stronger community for everyone in our city. In the world, we find ourselves, supporting each other matters more than ever before. Togetherness matters more so than ever before. What the communities stand for matters more than ever before. These elements of Cork’s DNA need to be minded carefully as the city moves forward into the future.
One cannot buy that energy or connection but it is so important to have in a city such as Cork whose heart when it comes to social and cultural capital beats very passionately.
So, there are lots of moments to reflect upon in the first six months. Sincere thanks to Lady Mayoress Marcelline and Finbarr Archer, Nicola O’Sullivan and Rose Fahy in the Lord Mayor’s office as well as the team in Corporate Affairs ably led by Paul Moynihan, and Chief Executive Anne Doherty, for their partnership, curation of activities, story board creation, support and advice over the past six months.
Remember and Renew:
This year marks the final chapter of the national Decade of Centenaries commemorative programme. A wealth of material has already been produced, scores of events have taken place, and a proud legacy is being created for future generations.
Among the aims of commemorating those remarkable men and women involved in Ireland’s struggle for independence is, of course, to remember them, to recall their contributions to Cork and Ireland, and to reflect upon their extraordinary lives. But most importantly, as our former City Librarian, Liam Ronayne, noted in the early stages of the commemoration; “what is important is the need to understand, to understand what happened and why”.
Community groups, schools and individuals have delved into their local history to produce books, plays, murals, exhibitions, podcasts, recordings and many more engagements to mark the events that happened in our city over 100 years ago. From the ashes of the Burning of Cork in 1920, through the War of Independence and Civil War 1923 we have seen our city grow and prosper to ambitious plans for our future generations.
To finish out the national Decade of Centenaries on Thursday, 16 November, a special reflection on the decade of centenaries entitled ‘Remember and Renew’ takes place in Cork City. On the day it includes a seminar in UCC Centre for Executive Education between 2pm- 4.30pm, Lapps Quay, followed by a reception in the Atrium, City Hall. Between 5.45-6.45pm, there will be a Special Meeting of An Chomhairle in the Council Chamber, Cork City Hall, and at the Cork City Concert Hall there will be a gala concert between 7pm- 9.30pm.
The concert will be hosted by Cork Playwright Cónal Creedon & presenter Elmarie Mawe who will reflect on the Decade of Centenaries with a night of music, poetry, & film. It will feature The Band of First Brigade, The Cork Fleischmann Symphony Orchestra, Cór Chúil Aodha & Seán Ó Sé.
Launch of Commemorative Jerseys:
Meanwhile this month also coincides with an exhibition in Cork Public Museum. It features the commemorative jerseys of Cork clubs, intercounty sides and international teams with a Cork connection. All those included in the exhibit commemorated Irish revolutionary figures and / or events on their kits during the Decade of Centenaries (and in particular the period of 2016-2023). A virtual exhibit is available to view at the Exhibitions section on the Cork City Council website A City Remembers.
Seventeen jerseys are featured in the exhibit, which will later go on display at City Library, City Hall and Páirc Uí Chaoimh, along with other Cork areas of sporting and cultural significance. The exhibit is being organised by Cork City Council, along with the help of Cork GAA and Public Museum curator, Dan Breen.
A number of jerseys included feature the images of previous Lord Mayors, Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney. Teams featured include Ballyphehane, Béal Átha Ghaorthaidh, Brian Dillon’s, Cork Boston GFC, Delany’s, Diarmuid Ó Mathúna’s, Fermoy, Kilmichael, Na Piarsaigh, St. Vincent’s, Thomas McCurtain’s GAA club London, Valley Rovers, and Cork Intercounty. Also included in the exhibit are O’Neill’s commemorative jerseys to Michael Collins and the Easter Rising.
Cork hurlers and footballers provided a notable piece of Cork GAA history as a Rebel team took to the field wearing black jerseys for the first time in 2020. The 1916 commemoration Cork GAA original jersey in blue with a saffron ‘C’ was worn by Cork teams until 1919 when the jerseys were confiscated by the British Army in a raid during the War of Independence.
The exhibition is being co-ordinated by Cork City Council’s Commemorations working group, along with the help of Cork GAA and Public Museum curator, Dan Breen. A virtual edition of the exhibit will launch later in the year.
New Book on Seán French:
Mid-November also coincides with another Cork City Council commemoration publication. The new book is an important reflection on the life and times of Seán French – a 12-term Lord Mayor, councillor and TD. Indeed, for many years Seán’s life has just been reduced in history to a few words and sentences. This book by Dr Aodh Quinlivan and John Ger O’Riordan has done a superb job in rescuing the memory of Seán from being on the reductive history heap in Cork history and in capturing the everyday life of local politics in early twentieth century Cork. The book is rich in historical detail and there is much to learn from reading it from a citizen perspective and from a local politician or public representative perspective.
In Seán’s early months in the council chamber it coincided with the deaths of two Lord Mayors – Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney and a War of Independence spilling out across the streets of the city – and culminating in the Burning of Cork in December 1920 and the destruction of the city’s house of democracy in the shape of Cork City Hall. Such latter and tragic stories would affect the way historians of Cork would tell the story of Cork for the ensuing century to come.
On Seán’s accession to being Lord Mayor of Cork on 30 January 1924 he delivered a short acceptance speech, stressing that improving and progressing Cork had to be the primary duty of all of the elected members. He stated that he had always stayed true to his ideals and that would not change.
However, the nature of politics within the emerging Irish Free State led to a heightened public expectation for improved services and the modernisation of Ireland’s cities, towns and villages – and ultimately the nature of how Local Government did its work had to change. In particular Seán politically led the city in a time of large scale physical and large scale societal change.Even a politician like Seán French could not stop the tides of change which swept through Cork in the 1920s. It is always argued that a week is a long time in politics – no mind several years – and the authors describe the backdrop of Seán’s world in detail. The decades of 1920s and 1930s Cork is showcased here and this book even sets up further frameworks for further narratives to be researched and written about. First Citizen, Seán French, Cork’s Longest Serving Lord Mayor by Aodh Quinlivan & John Ger O’riordan will be available in any good bookshop.