Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 30 September 2021

1119a. Front cover of 2021-2022 brochure for Discover Cork Schools' Heritage Project.
1119a. Front cover of 2021-2022 brochure for Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 30 September 2021

Launch of Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project, Year 20

It is great to reach year 20 of the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project. It is just slightly younger than this column but both this column, the school project and the walking tours are all about popularising more of Cork’s history and story for interested citizens and the next generation.

Over 15,000-16,000 students have participated in the Schools’ Heritage Project through the years with many topics researched and written about – from buildings and monuments to people’s stories and memories.

Covid-19 has brought many challenges to every part of society and never before has our locality and its heritage being so important for recreation and for our peace of mind. In the past eighteenth months, more focus than ever before has been put on places and spaces we know, appreciate, and attain personal comfort from.

The Schools’ Heritage Project is aimed at both primary and post primary level.  Project books may be submitted on any aspect of Cork’s rich past. The theme for this year’s project is “Cork Heritage Treasures”. Funded by Cork City Council, the Project is an initiative of the Cork City Heritage Plan.

The Project is open to schools in Cork City at primary level to the pupils of fourth, fifth and sixth class and at post-primary from first to sixth years. There are two sub categories within the post primary section, Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate. The project is free to enter. A student may enter as an individual or as part of a group or a part of a class entry.

Co-ordinated by myself, one of the key aims of the Project is to encourage students to explore, investigate and debate their local heritage (built, archaeological, cultural and natural) in a constructive, active and fun way. Projects on any aspect of Cork’s rich heritage can be submitted to an adjudication panel. Prizes are awarded for best projects and certificates are given to each participant. A cross-section of projects submitted from the last school season can be gleamed from links on my website, www.corkheritage.ie where there are other resources, former titles and winners and entry information as well.

Students produce a project on their local area using primary and secondary sources. Each participating student within their class receives a free workshop in October 2021. The workshop comprises a guide to how to put a project together. Project material must be gathered in an A4/ A3 size Project book. The project may be as large as the student wishes but minimum 20 pages (text + pictures + sketches).

Projects must also meet five elements. Projects must be colourful, creative, have personal opinion, imagination and gain publicity before submission. These elements form the basis of a student friendly narrative analysis approach where the student explores their project topic in an interactive and task-oriented way. In particular, students are encouraged (whilst respecting social distancing) to attain material through visiting local libraries, engaging with fieldwork, making models, photographing, cartoon creating, and making short snippet films of their area. Re-enacting can also be a feature of several projects.

For over twenty years, the project has evolved in exploring how students pursue local history and how to make it relevant in society. The project attempts to provide the student with a hands-on and interactive activity that is all about learning not only about heritage in your local area (in all its forms) but also about the process of learning by participating students.

The project is about thinking about, understanding, appreciating and making relevant in today’s society the role of our heritage, our landmarks, our oral histories, our environment in our modern world for upcoming citizens. So, the project is about splicing together activity on issues of local history and heritage such as thinking, exploring, observing, discovering, researching, uncovering, revealing, interpreting and resolving.

The project is open to many directions of delivery. Students are encouraged to engage with their topic in order to make sense of it, understand and work with it. Students continue to experiment with the overall design and plan of their work. For example, and in general, students who have entered before might engage with the attaining of primary information through oral histories. The methodologies that the students create provide interesting ways to approach the study of local heritage.

Students are asked to choose one of two extra methods (apart from a booklet) to represent their work. The first option is making a model whilst the second option is making a short film. It is great to see students using modern up todate technology to present their findings. This works in broadening their view of approaching their project.

 This project in the City is free to enter and is kindly funded by Cork City Council (viz the help of Niamh Twomey, Heritage Officer) Prizes are also provided by the Old Cork Waterworks Experience, Lee Road.

Overall, the Schools’ Heritage Project for the past twenty years has attempted to build a new concerned generation of Cork people, pushing them forward, growing their self-development empowering them to connect to their world and their local heritage. Spread the word please with local schools. Details can be found on my dedicated Cork heritage website, www.corkheritage.ie.

Caption:

1119a. Front cover of 2021-2022 brochure for Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 23 September 2021

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 23 September 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The City Engineer’s Perspective

Cork Corporation’s Reconstruction Committee’s six-month report was an important one to release in September 1921. It was over nine months since the Burning of Cork. Politically there was pressure to move the reconstruction on but there was also the headache of who brings all the physical thinking and oversees the actual construction. Last week, the column mentioned the addendum document to the six month report and Joseph Delany, the City Engineer, who outlined that without plans being submitted, the rebuilding ran the risk of building heights and respective architectural design being out of sync with neighbouring rebuilds.

In truth there was so many moving parts for Joseph. In an earlier report, penned by him, in January 1921, he argued that several features of the restoration problem were complex. The problem had its opportunities and its difficulties. Due to the unprecedented nature of the rebuild, from the outset, he called for a special administration facilitation and “diversion from the ordinary lines of procedure by which building operations are usually regulated”. He noted of the need for a public spirit: “The desired improvements can only be achieved by the parties concerned adopting a sound policy of public spirit in the public interest. The proprietors of the lately destroyed property will, I have no doubt, appreciate their obligations to assist, both individually and collectively, the civic authorities and with their architects and advisors in making the work of restoration and the improvements incidental there to a success”.

Arriving to Cork Corporation in 1903, Joseph amassed nineteen years experience within the organisation. Joseph was also interested in Irish industrial and language movements, in the country’s national well-being, its educational advancement and in economic reform.

Joseph’s back story reveals a learned man. W.T. Pike in his Contemporary biographies’, published in Cork and County Cork in the Twentieth Century by Richard J. Hodges in 1911 reveals that Joseph (1872-1942) was educated at St Vincent’s College, Castleknock, Dublin. He continued his studies at Art School, Clonmel and there he was awarded the Mayor’s Prize in “Science and Art Subjects”. He also attended the City of Dublin Technical Institute, and the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where he was awarded “School Prize in Art Subjects”.

Joseph trained as engineer and architect by indentured pupilage under well-known Dublin architect Walter Glynn Doolin. Joseph became a certified surveyor under the London Metropolitan Building Act, combined with private study in the engineering courses of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and of the Institute of Municipal and County Engineers. He was awarded a travelling studentship of the Agricultural Association of Ireland in 1897 and was medallist in architecture in the National Art Competition, South Kensington Science and Art Department in 1898.

Joseph believed in networking and learning from other engineers and architects. He was Honorary Auditor at Royal Institute of Architects, Ireland in 1900 and Honorary Secretary Castleknock College Union, 1901-10. He was member of the Committee of the Irish Roads Congress and member of the Joint Committee on Waterworks Regulations, London. He was also a Member of the Society of Engineers, London, the Institution of Municipal and County Engineers, England, the Royal Institute of Architects, Ireland, the Royal Sanitary Institute, London, the Architectural Association of Ireland, and the Royal Institute of Public Health. He also published technical contributions to engineering and architectural magazines and penned a book called “A Memoir of Walter Glynn Doolin”, which was dedicated to his mentor Walter.

Joseph served on the temporary Civil Staff of the Royal Engineers and was Assistant City Architect in Dublin, for five years. In 1903, he was then appointed City Engineer of Cork. On taking up the Cork post he immediately set about improving the water supply system and reducing the abnormally high rate of water wastage in the city.

However, one of the many legacies Joseph left Cork City came from a visit to the US on an inquiry into American methods of municipal engineering and architectural practice, and an inspection of public works of civic utility. There he learned about the remodelling of American towns and cities to meet the modern requirements of their everyday life and that this was a common feature of civic pride in America. 

In his January 1921 report, apart from his report covering the Burning of Cork, Joseph outlines in a few pages the need for Cork to have a town plan noting that “town planning should be considered advantageous in Cork, with a view to the future improvement and better shaping of the city”. He called for this work to be investigated by specially appointed commissioners, consisting of prominent citizens and commercial and professional life, together with representatives of municipal councils. Planning ahead was crucial he argued; “The schemes produced, and in many cases accomplished, have resulted in the complete re-casting of the plans of cities, with consequent improved public convenience, and enhanced amenity of environment”.

Joseph detailed that clear foresight was very essential to the future development of Cork City, and the preparation of a town plan by a town planning competition or otherwise, as was pursued in Dublin after the Easter Rising of 1916, would result in useful suggestive proposals for the future betterment of the city. Although Joseph moved on from Cork in 1924, he did influence the creation of a Cork Town Planning Association – a group who two years later in 1926 produced Cork: A Civic Survey – technically Cork’s first town plan or guide at any rate.

Joseph resigned in 1924 from Cork Corporation because of illness brought about by pressure of the reconstruction work. He is said to have retired from Cork to Clonmel. From circa 1926 until 1936 he kept an office at 97, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. He died at Clonmel in 1942.

Caption:

1118a. Joseph F Delany, City Engineer, c.1911 in W.T. Pike’s “Contemporary Biographies”, published in Cork and County Cork in the Twentieth Century (1911) by Richard J. Hodges.

Third Call-Out, Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project

The Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project launches in its 20th year and is open to schools in Cork City. Funded by Cork City Council, the Project is an initiative of the Cork City Heritage Plan. 

The Project (est. 2002/03) is aimed at both primary and post primary level.  Project books may be submitted on any aspect of Cork’s rich past. Suggested topics are over the page. The theme for this year’s project – the 2021/22 school season – is “Cork Heritage Treasures”.

FREE and important project support in the form of funded workshops (socially distanced, virtual or hybrid) led by Cllr Kieran McCarthy in participating schools will be held in October 2021. This is a 45min physical or virtual workshop to give participating students ideas for compilation and resources.

Download the application form here:

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 16 September 2021

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 16 September 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Rebuilding Pana Report

September 1921 coincided with several notes being published by the Reconstruction Committee of the Corporation of Cork outlining their six-month review in the Cork Examiner. By an order of the Council of the Corporation of Cork on 26 February 1921 a special committee consisting of one member from each electoral area was appointed to supervise the work of reconstruction of the destroyed portion of the city during the Burning of Cork event on 11/12 December 1920.

The committee was authorised to co-opt members from other bodies such as the Cork Industrial Development Association, the Technical Instruction Committee, the Employers Federation, the District Trades and Labour Council and the Cooperative Building Federation. The committee was seen as thoroughly representative of the industrial, commercial, and labour interests of the city.

Between February and September 1921, six meetings of the general committee were held and their minutes are recorded in a surviving minute book (1921-1924) in Cork City and County Archives. Many discussions also took place between a sub committee, which was appointed to deal with the nuanced details, and to formulate proposals with the owners, architects and builders of the relevant premises.

Cork Corporation building bye-laws dictated that premises could only be re-erected without the permission of the Reconstruction Committee, whose job was to approve plans for entire buildings, so that proposed schemes could be viewed and regulated. The same applied to the temporary timber premises that had been erected – of which twelve businesses are recorded as located on cleared plots within the St Patrick’s Street area by late September 1921. Time limits were placed on temporary structures in order that actual rebuilding work be incentivised.

Despite the building by-laws, it was a fine balance by the Reconstruction Committee to give business owners some leeway, ask that rebuilding work be started but also create a spirit of collaboration. Many owners were still emotionally raw, were broke, could not survive on the offers of insurance companies, and needed more time to think about their future needs.

The job of the committee was also to lobby for the compensation packages arising out of damage, inflicted by British forces, to be delivered. But by September 1921, there was still no compensation forthcoming from Westminster. In general, it was hoped that perhaps part of the Truce negotiations may bring a significant compensation fund and one that could especially kick start the owner of a property, who did not have reserve funding put aside in order to rebuild.

In his six month review, chair of the Reconstruction Committee Cllr Barry Egan details that aside from compensation funding, one of the prominent aspects regularly discussed at committee level was the possible re-alignment of building lines in the damaged St Patrick’s Street area plus creating a widened Winthrop Street. In the pre-Burning of Cork era, footpaths were narrow and some buildings, constructed in the nineteenth century jutted out in front of their adjacent ones.

Winthrop Street, which was a much narrower street to what exists today, was targeted for widening and for creating more of a plaza as it meets St Patrick’s Street. It was suggested that the work could be accomplished by acquiring the burnt out sites of Messrs Thompson, Murphy and Tyler, and to determine a new building line running north and south through their sites.

To allow for more space, it was also proposed to close up and build over the next street – west of Winthrop Street – that of Robert Street – and transfer back the whole of what was described as block number three across the width of the street – in otherwards eliminate the street.  Discussions were held with property owners on Robert Street but strenuous opposition was put forward to the closing of that thoroughfare. The City Solicitor advised the Reconstruction Committee that streets could not be closed or eliminated except upon an agreement being entered into with the owners and occupiers of the property therein. The Robert Street closure was eventually put to one side in the negotiations.

Negotiations between the Reconstruction Committee and the business owners were intensive. However, the minute books do reveal positive public support for the work of the committee. In the six-month report, Cllr Egan places on record the committee’s high appreciation of the manner in which Mr William Roche of Roches Stores met the committee and the concessions supplied so far from him. The object with him was trying to rectify a building line in area number one on St Patrick’s Street and to possibly increase the width of Merchant Street on the western side. Messrs J Daly and company Ltd expressed a full sympathy with the improvements proposed by the committee and their willingness to make a concession of property towards the widening of Merchant Street. Merchant Street in time though was subsumed into Merchant’s Quay shopping in the 1990s.

There is an addendum document to the committee’s six-month report. Joseph Delany, the City Engineer, outlines his concerns that without plans being submitted, the rebuilding ran the risk of building heights and respective architectural design being out of sync with neighbouring rebuilds. Technically a business could come back with just a one storey design and with a jarring architectural design. The City Engineer references the need to set a fixed policy on the use of Irish materials such as local limestone in particular. Mr Delany noted: “if there is no standard as to height there are possibilities of one-storey deformities placed in juxtaposition to buildings of three or four storeys high on either side. Balance, symmetry, unity, harmony in design will be difficult to achieve under these conditions of procedure by individuals”.

Caption:

1117a. Section of map produced from Reconstruction Committee Minute Book, 1921-1924, showing proposed building plot re-alignments (see red line) (source: courtesy of Cork City and County Archives, ref: CP/CM/RE/1).

Cllr McCarthy: Marina Park Section Opening Delayed Until November, 14 September 2021

In a recent reply to a question posed by Cllr Kieran McCarthy at the recent City Council meeting, Cork City Council have noted a revised completion date of the Marina Park section next to Páirc Ui Chaoimh. Due to Covid 19, delays in construction works and poor weather has pushed the opening date from this month to mid to late November this year.

Cllr McCarthy noted: “The park looks more or less ready to open. It looks well and will add immensely to The Marina district. It’s been a long two years with construction work stopping and starting due to Covid 19. Phase one works has comprised the construction of a new public car park at the Shandon Boat Club end of the Marina, as well as a new cycle lane and pedestrian walkway – these are all now completed and are very well used. The public can now see the grass on sunken lawn areas in the park section and the diversion of a watercourse, as well as new pathways – all of which are in place.

“One can also see that the installation of perhaps the most eye-catching part of the project – a noticeable red steel pavilion on the site of, and replicating, the central hall of the former Munster Agricultural Showgrounds. The sides of the pavilion will not be enclosed, and there will be possibilities for coffee pods and outdoor seating and arts and crafts. The project is a e.10m investment into the area, of which nearly e.5m came from EU Urban Sustainable Funds, which are part of the EU’s structural funds and are a crucial source of funding for cities”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.

Second Call-Out, Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project 2021/22

The Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project launches in its 20th year and is open to schools in Cork City. Funded by Cork City Council, the Project is an initiative of the Cork City Heritage Plan. 

The Project (est. 2002/03) is aimed at both primary and post primary level.  Project books may be submitted on any aspect of Cork’s rich past. Suggested topics are over the page. The theme for this year’s project – the 2021/22 school season – is “Cork Heritage Treasures”.

FREE and important project support in the form of funded workshops (socially distanced, virtual or hybrid) led by Cllr Kieran McCarthy in participating schools will be held in October 2021. This is a 45min physical or virtual workshop to give participating students ideas for compilation and resources.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 9 September 2021

1116a. Diarmuid Fawsitt, c.1921 (picture: Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin).
1116a. Diarmuid Fawsitt, c.1921 (picture: Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 9 September 2021

Journeys to a Truce: Fawsitt and Opportunities in the US

One hundred years ago this week, Corkman Diarmuid Fawsitt outlined his work to the Irish general public as Ireland’s American consul. He had just stepped down from the role and had begun working with Éamon de Valera on creating an economic set of requirements to be bedded into the early negotiations on the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

 An obituary on 5 April 1967, published in the Cork Examiner records, Diarmuid was born near Blarney Street in Cork’s northside in 1884. Diarmuid was active in cultural, industrial and nationalist circles, including the Celtic Literary Society, Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League, Cork National Theatre Society, and especially the Cork Industrial Development Association (IDA). Diarmuid established the Cork IDA in 1903.

Coinciding with Diarmuid’s strong lobbying of the British government, in November 1913 Diarmuid attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin and was inducted into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In December 1913 he was one of the co-founders of the Cork Corps of the Irish Volunteers at Cork City Hall, later becoming Chairperson of the Executive. In November 1919, Arthur Griffith sent Diarmuid to the United States as consul and trade commissioner of the Irish Republic. He was based in New York until late August 1921 and built up a staff of nine.

In what looks like a carefully-crafted type standard press release and then a series of follow-up interviews in early September 1921 with Ireland’s regional newspapers, Diarmuid outlines his near two-year work as American consul. On arrival in the US, Diarmuid formally notified the American government of his presence and commission. Diarmuid was regularly in touch with and helped by the US government departments and was never interfered with in this work of enlightening American businesses that Ireland was a land of great possibilities.

Diarmuid highlights that one of the early difficulties encountered by the consulate was that interested American houses in direct Irish trading included Ireland in the territory of British commerce – apparently thinking it, as Diarmuid quote, “was just like an English Shire” and that those interested had not heard of existing and emerging industries in Ireland.

The educational work carried on by the consulate such as advertising Ireland’s markets in American trade journals was crucial to correct any misunderstanding and to create opportunities. Presentations were made before chambers of commerce and trade organisations in different US cities and personal contact was made with exporters in the United States. The Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce in the US regularly corresponded with Diarmuid and placed the facilities of their Daily Bulletin at his disposal to advertise the specific requirements of Irish firms. Diarmuid notes: “If America offers better prices we will sell to her rather than England”.

Diarmuid cites that several United States banks availed of the services of the consulate to obtain reliable data on the financial condition of Irish industries – especially those seeking connections to American chambers of commerce and merchant associations.

Diarmuid was also instrumental in securing a direct freight service and having cargo facilities on the passenger boats made available for the transport of high-class freight requiring refrigeration in transit. The latter was of huge importance in connection with the shipping of perishable produce such as butter and eggs in the absence of such facilities.

With regard to Irish produce Diarmuid outlines that he sat in conference with the horticultural board in Washington on one occasion. There he made a successful application to lift an embargo which the Department of Agriculture had placed in 1912 on Irish potatoes entering the United States markets. Up to that year Ireland had pursued a large trade in potatoes with the US. Since that year no Irish potatoes had been admitted into the American markets.

Dealing specifically with the interest of the fish trade Diarmuid notes that in February 1921 it was proposed to put a tariff on cured fish entering the US. He appeared personally before the relevant committee of the House of Congress to set out fully the position of Irish fish exports. As a result of the emergency tariff passed by Congress on that occasion it did not contain any tariffs on cured fish.

In numerous incidences the consulate secured direct representation in Ireland for American business houses. The consequence had been that the non-direct trade between the two countries had shown an increase of upwards of 50% in 1921 year compared to the preceding one of 1920. A great deal of trade and money that otherwise would have passed to England and English agents was diverted directly to Irish businesses.

Diarmuid notes that the consulate was in receipt of numerous applications from firms throughout America desirous of securing supplies of Irish products – describing – “I am satisfied that the work of the consulate will bear results that will greatly strengthen the commercial and sentimental ties that at present bind the Irish and American peoples”.

Diarmuid in speaking on some of his general consular work in the US said it also included the suitable protection of the interest of Irish Nationals in America and attending to the interest of Irish immigrants arriving at American ports. Immigrants with the permit or passport of Dáil Éireann who sought assistance of the consulate were helped to find employment. The consulate was also regularly consulted by Americans as well as Irish nationals on questions concerning properties and disputes in Ireland. In addition, the consulate also validated legal documents for submission to the Irish courts and formulated passports for Americans about to travel in Ireland. 

Captions:

1116a. Diarmuid Fawsitt, c.1921 (picture: Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin).

Cllr McCarthy: Culture Night Approaches on this Friday 17 September 2021

Douglas Road Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has warmly welcomed the 2021 Culture Night edition, which takes place this Friday 17 September. Now in its sixteenth year, Culture Night once again presents a rich showcase of Cork as a creative city, with over 70 venues and organisations taking part.

Cllr McCarthy noted: “This year’s theme is ‘Come Together Again’, which represents a moment many of us have looked forward to for a long time. Cork City Culture Night presents a chance for those directly involved in the arts to showcase exactly why this sector is so crucially significant, and so fundamentally linked with our culture”.

“While certain events are to be enjoyed virtually, much of the 2021 programme can be accessed in person, safely in line with new guidelines as they come on stream – which will be welcome news to those craving that tangible cultural experience. But with numbers still very limited, patrons are advised to check booking requirements, and if plans change, to please release the tickets to allow someone else attend”, noted Cllr McCarthy.

Many in-person events this Culture Night will require booking, and some online events require pre-registration. View the full Cork City Culture Night programme on www.culturenightcork.ie in advance, and keeping up with latest news via @corkcityarts on Facebook and Twitter, and on instagram.com/culturenightcorkcity, particularly as new guidelines may lead to changes. Join in the conversation online with #CorkCultureNight and #ComeTogetherAgain.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article, 2 September 2021

1115a. Former nineteenth century prison block, which held internees on Spike Island in 1921, which includes a memorial to shot internee Patrick White, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1115a. Former nineteenth century prison block, which held internees on Spike Island in 1921, which includes a memorial to shot internee Patrick White, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 2 September 2021

Journeys to a Truce: Imprisoning the Nation

The year 2021 marks the centenary of the use of Spike Island as a British military run prison for Republican prisoners and internees between February and November 1921. Almost 1200 Republicans were imprisoned on the island.

Spike Island’s newest exhibition entitled “Imprisoning a Nation”, and sponsored by Cork County Council, is set in the Mitchell Hall space. The exhibitionprovides another insight and angle into studying the Irish War of Independence era. It features original letters, newspaper clippings as well as handwritten correspondence between the prisoners and internees and other family members as well as official documentation by the British forces in 1921. Approximately 140 photographs have been collected over a period of ten years. The autograph books containing signatures of those in prison and Spike Island during 1921 are especially remarkable. Accompanying the exhibition is historian Tom O’Neil’s newest book – Spike Island’s Republican Prisoners 1921 – which is a tour-de-force piece of research and which inspired the exhibition.

The exhibition outlines that because the Royal Irish Constabulary and British Army held a large number of Republicans in prison during 1920 there was an pressing need for extra prison places. This influenced the opening of a British military prisons for prisoners and internees on Spike Island and on Bere Island in early 1921.

Prisoners on Spike Island were those sentenced to imprisonment by military courts. Internees were in prison without trial. There were approximately 900 internees and 300 prisoners detained in Spike Island during 1921. The vast majority were from the Martial Law areas. There were no female prisoners imprisoned on Spike Island.

Republican prisoners and internees were sent to Spike Island from the civilian jails in Cork Kilkenny Waterford in Limerick and from the military barracks and camps in Bere Island, Buttevant, Cork, Fermoy, Kilkenny, Kilworth, Moore Park, Tralee and Waterford. There were regular transfers both ways, between Spike Island, Bere Island and Cork County or Male Gaol.

The formidable fortress on Spike Island is sunk almost 20 feet deep in the middle of the island, and occupies about half of its 150 acres. The fortress is surrounded by a deep moat, and high walls on either side. In 1921 the interior of the fortress contained a number of two-storied blocks of barrack rooms, offices and stores, spacious parade grounds and a sizable building used for religious services and other purposes. Internees were housed in old nineteenth century prison blocks or within specially created wooden camp blocks within the fortress.

James Duggan of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Tipperary Brigade in his Bureau of Military History witness statement (WS1510) recalls arriving at the Spike Island camp in Spring 1921 and being introduced to his camp commandant, Henry O’Mahoney, of Passage, Cork, and the vice-commandant, Bill Quirke, and assigned to his quarters. James notes of the quarters; “Each barrack room contained 20 to 25 men and we had all to assemble at about 10 a.m. every morning on the parade ground to be checked and counted, and we were again counted in our quarters at night. We were allowed out on the parade ground for a time each day where we played hurling or football for exercise. This ground was completely surrounded by a dense barbed wire entanglement and while we were out there was always a number of armed sentries outside the barbed wire”.

The exhibition recalls a number of instances of note in the spring and summer months of 1921. On 9 April 1921 three prisoners escaped by board from Spike Island they were Seán McSwiney (brother of Terence McSwiney), Cornelius Twomey and Tom Malone. None of them were recaptured.

On the evening of 31 May 1921, Patrick White from Meelick, County Clare, was fatally shot when he was playing hurling on the parade ground. A British army sentry shot him when he went to retrieve the ball, after it rolled under the barbwire fence that was around the interment compound. He died shortly afterwards in the prison hospital.

On 30 August 1921, two hunger strikes began – the prisoners for improved conditions and the internees for unconditional release. This led Tom Barry to visit Spike Island. He was by now one of the Chief Liaison Officers of the Martial Law Areas, which were established by Éamon de Valera – to make sure that the ceasefire and peace was kept. On 31 August 1921, an account is published in Cork Examiner stating that Tom attempted to visit and enter the camp for the purpose of trying to gather information regarding the hunger strike of the internees. In his press interview he noted that he was informed by the Governor that permission from the Sixth Division of the British Army was necessary before entrance of the camp could be obtained. Permission was not granted.

Tom Barry made the following statement condemning the members of the British Army present and their reading of the Truce conditions: “The action of the COG sixth division in refusing me an opportunity to arrange matters is evidently one calculated to prevent a settlement without the drastic step of a hunger strike by the internees. It is apparent that he has followed the precedents set up by himself at the beginning of a truce placing difficulties in the way of the smooth working of the conditions agreed to between the Irish Republican army and the British Army. Such action is to be deployed at the present juncture when clearer thinking and a more intelligent grasp of actualities is so much needed”.

The hunger strikes lasted four days and were halted due to a request by Sinn Féin General Head Quarters as it may upset delicate ongoing Truce negotiations. However, the conditions at the prison became a regular topic amongst remaining Republicans in the city especially those members of Cork Corporation. There are a number of their detailed criticisms on crowded conditions published in local newspapers such as the Cork Examiner in the autumn and winter of 1921.

The “Imprisoning the Nation” exhibition is currently open on Spike Island. Tom O’Neil’s new book is in any good bookshop at present.

Captions:

1115a. Former nineteenth century prison block, which held internees on Spike Island in 1921, which includes a memorial to shot internee Patrick White, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1115b. Part of the “Imprisoning the Nation” exhibition on Spike Island, showcasing 140 photographs of individual internees, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1115b. Part of the “Imprisoning the Nation” exhibition on Spike Island, showcasing 140 photographs of individual internees, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1115b. Part of the “Imprisoning the Nation” exhibition on Spike Island, showcasing 140 photographs of individual internees, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

First Call-Out, Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project, 2021/22

The Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project launches in its 20th year and is open to schools in Cork City. Funded by Cork City Council, the Project is an initiative of the Cork City Heritage Plan. 

The Project (est. 2002/03) is aimed at both primary and post primary level.  Project books may be submitted on any aspect of Cork’s rich past. Suggested topics are over the page. The theme for this year’s project – the 2021/22 school season – is “Cork Heritage Treasures”.

FREE and important project support in the form of funded workshops (socially distanced, virtual or hybrid) led by Cllr Kieran McCarthy in participating schools will be held in October 2021. This is a 45min physical or virtual workshop to give participating students ideas for compilation and resources.