Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 23 March 2023

1194a. Liam Healy executed on 13 March 1923 (picture: Cork City Library).
1194a. Liam Healy executed on 13 March 1923 (picture: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 23 March 2023

Recasting Cork: Spring Skirmishes in Cork City

Robbery, sniping and arson were all part of the Anti-Treaty IRA movement in Cork City in March 1923. From late February 1923, several postal pillar boxes in Cork were closed off. Of the ninety odd pillar boxes and wall boxes in the city, about forty were not in use. They were closed by the postal authorities in order to safeguard public property and correspondence. During hold-ups the keys of those boxes were taken from the postmen and consequently there was no alternative but to close those boxes until new locks could be fitted.

The Cork Examiner records that on 5 March 1923 at 9pm members of the National Army at the Cork terminus of the Cork Bandon Railway were sniped at, and one soldier was rather seriously wounded. The shots – seven or eight in all – were fired from the ruins of the City Hall, the fire being directed chiefly at the sentries on duty at the gates of the railway. None of the sentries were hit, but Michael Sullivan, a married man, employed as engine-driver on an armoured train, who was returning to the station and was near the gates when the shots were fired was wounded. A bullet struck him in the thigh, passing clean through and fracturing the bone. He was removed to the Mercy Hospital for treatment.

With the exception of a few panes of glass being broken, no other damage was caused by the snipers, who ceased to fire when the troops opened fire in their direction. A few minutes after the attack matters were again quiet. One arrest was made.

On 8 March shortly after 8pm, the Cork Examiner records that Commandant Scott of the National Army was seriously wounded at Blarney Street. He had just arrived at the residence of Mrs Powell, a sister of Michael Collins, when an attempt by Anti-Treaty IRA volunteers to burn the house down, was initiated. The house was saturated with petrol and oil and those involved were ready to set the house alight. Even the children, who had been in bed, had been ordered out by the raiders. When the Commandant knocked at the door, the door was opened by one of the raiders, a youth of less than twenty years of age. The lad, recognising that a miliary officer was standing at the door, immediately whipped out a revolver and fired point blank at Scott, hitting him in the right arm.

Several shots followed, the disturbance being the signal for the raiding party to get away as speedily at possible. They exited the house and got away under fire from Commandant Scott’s escort. One of the raiders that was captured was in possession of a Webley revolver and six rounds of ammunition, two of which had just been fired. Commandant Scott was operated at in the Mercy Hospital. One of his bones in his right arm was fractured.

On 12 March, a raid on a sweet shop on Penrose Quay in a disused loft – the property of the Cork Steam Packet Company – four canvas life-belts were discovered. The cork was removed from the life-belts and Thompson ammunition was found inside. The four belts contained 2,108 rounds. In another nearby raid, 1,000 rounds of Thompson gun ammunition were found concealed.

Elsewhere telegram wires were cut at Glasheen Road. Troops were at once on the scene and fired a few shots after the raiders who got away across the adjacent countryside. In the same day in the course of a search in Donoughmore, a six cylinder Buick car was discovered covered with Furze bushes. An empty dug-out was also found.

On 13 March in a raid in a sweet shop near Parnell Bridge, fourteen rounds of ammunition were found and some anti-treaty literature. A Miss Nolan was arrested. On the same day an ammunition dump complete with revolvers and two bombs was discovered near the wall of Mayfield Chapel. The intention was to use them in a night attack on troops passing Dillon’s Cross.

On 14 March, William Healy, 52 Dublin Street, was executed. He was arrested under arms during a raid on a house on Blarney Street. He was court-martialled on a charge of possession of arms and was executed by firing squad at Cork County Gaol on Western Road. On 16 March, Mr William G Beale, aged 52, and unmarried, residing at Elm Grove, Ballyvolane Road, and a member of the well-known form of Harris and Beale, Grand Parade, was shot and seriously wounded near his residence by men who stated that the act was a reprisal for William’s execution.

On 20 March 1923 the Cork Examiner records that an extensive raid was carried out on the Cork Lunatic Asylum. In the course of an extensive search a number of revolvers and several rounds of ammunition were discovered behind the fireplace in a room occupied by Warden Fitzgerald. In a room a large quantity of field dressing was captured as well as a bundle of seditious literature in one of the wardresses’ rooms. An empty Mills bomb case was found in another room. The warder Jerry Fitzgerald with four of his male staff George Wycherly, Charles Hyde and John Murphy were arrested. Three wardresses were arrested, who were all prominent members of the Anti-Treaty Cumann na mBan. They were Kathleen O’Sullivan, Miss N Connolly and Miss H Clery.

In addition, on 20 March 1923, an attempt was made to destroy the residence of Maurice Healy, solicitor, Ballintemple, by fire by a number of men, some of whom were armed. Petrol was freely sprinkled in the upper storey and set alight. The incendiaries, apparently fearing being surprised while on their work of destruction, retired rather hastily. A member of the household, with the aid of chemicals, soon had the fire quenched. Little damage was done beyond two rooms and the corridor being slightly scorched by the flames.

Kieran’s April Tours (free, no booking required):

Saturday 1 April 2023, Shandon Historical Walking Tour,meet at North Main Street/ Adelaide Street Square, opp Cork Volunteer Centre, 2pm, in association with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.  

Sunday 2 April 2023, The Cork City Workhouse; meet just inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm, with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.

Saturday 15 April 2023, The Friar’s Walk; Discover Red Abbey, Elizabeth Fort, Barrack Street, Callanan’s Tower & Greenmount area; Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street, 2pm.


1194a. Liam Healy executed on 13 March 1923 (picture: Cork City Library).

Cllr McCarthy’s Historical Walking Tours Return for 2023, 13 March 2023

Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy is to restart his free historical walking tours during the month of April. Tours will be of the old Cork City workhouse site on Douglas Road in St Finbarr’s Hospital, the Shandon quarter, and the Barrack Street/ Friar’s Walk area respectively.

Cllr McCarthy noted; “This year my talks and walks reach their 30th year. There have been many walks given since my teen years. I have pursued more research than ever in recent years as more and more old newspapers and books are digitised these have allowed greater access to material and hence more material to create historical walking trails of some of Cork’s most historical suburbs”.

“I am also trying to sharpen the tours I have and to create new ones in a different suburb. The three areas I am re-starting with for the 2023 all have their own unique sense of place, their own cultural and built heritage, their own historic angles, some really interesting ‘set pieces’ and add their own stories to how the city as a whole came into being; they also connect to the upcoming 2023 Cork Lifelong Learning Festival”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.

Full details of Kieran’s April tours are below:     

Saturday 1 April 2023, Shandon Historical Walking Tour; explore Cork’s most historic quarter; meet at North Main Street/ Adelaide Street Square, opp Cork Volunteer Centre, 2pm, in association with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival (free, duration: two hours, no booking required).  

Sunday 2 April 2023, The Cork City Workhouse; learn about Cork City’s workhouse created for 2,000 impoverished people in 1841; meet just inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, 2pm, in association with the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival (free, two hours, on site tour, no booking required)

Saturday 15 April 2023, The Friar’s Walk; Discover Red Abbey, Elizabeth Fort, Barrack Street, Callanan’s Tower & Greenmount area; Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street, 2pm (free, duration: two hours, no booking required).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 9 March 2023

1192a. Front cover of Kieran’s new book Championing Ireland - Chambers Ireland 100 Years Advancing Business Together (Chambers Ireland, 2023).
1192a. Front cover of Kieran’s new book Championing Ireland – Chambers Ireland 100 Years Advancing Business Together (Chambers Ireland, 2023).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 9 March 2023

Recasting Cork: The Irish Chambers of Commerce Come Together

This month Chambers Ireland celebrates its centenary since its formation in early 1923. At the heart of its foundational story is Cork Chamber of Commerce as well as four other Irish chambers of commerce.  This story is the subject of a book commission I have been engaged with Chambers Ireland, and which has recently been published.

After the separation from Westminster government policy, the creation of an Irish government and against the backdrop of the lingering physical effects of war on businesses in townscapes and cityscapes, it became apparent that work similar to that performed by the British Association of Chambers of Commerce would have to be performed by an Irish association in Dublin.

In early November 1922 at a meeting of the Council members of the Cork Chamber of Commerce expressed its approval of the early formation of an Irish association of commerce. There is a reference that they supported the move as far back as May 1922 similar to a call by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. It was hoped that such an association would represent not just a section of Ireland but the whole of Ireland.

            The suggestion of the Dublin Chamber that the association should include only those bodies within the 26 counties was not supported by the Cork Chamber. The Cork Chamber argued that such a suggestion would mean the endorsement of the commercial partition of Ireland into 26 and six counties, respectively, referred to in political circles as southern and northern Ireland.

In January 1923, just one month into the official Irish Free State, the Chambers of Cork, Drogheda, Dundalk, Dublin, Limerick, New Ross, Sligo and Waterford expressed their intention to co-operate and to draft a new combination for a chamber of commerce for Ireland and to create a level of excellence for commercial development.

On 1 March 1923, representatives of the above chambers of commerce assembled in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin for a morning meeting to discuss the question of establishing an Association to include both the chambers of commerce of the six counties of Northern Ireland as well as those of the Irish Free State.

Mr James Shanks, JP, Dublin, presided. During the meeting all present agreed to create the Association of the Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State.

Mr John Callaghan Foley, President of the Cork Chamber of Commerce, felt that since Ireland had left the United Kingdom, and had secured full fiscal autonomy, that there was a necessity for such an association in order to keep in touch with the different ministries of Dáil Éireann. His wish was that any new association would be able to speak and to act with the full combined authority of all the Chambers, on behalf of the commercial interests of the country.

John moved an amendment to the effect that the Association be called “The Association of Irish Chambers of Commerce”, instead of “The Association of Chambers of Commerce of the Irish Free State”.

John believed there should not be any coercion used by the Association. They in the south of the country traded with Northern Ireland with the “greatest harmony and friendship”, and he was sure that spirit would always continue. A chamber of commerce of the Free State would operate in the four provinces, and that they should have a title covering the whole country.

At the Shelbourne Hotel meeting a deputation consisting of the Presidents of the “southern chambers” was appointed to discuss the question with the Northern representatives. The upshot a few weeks later was a reply by the Northern Chambers they could not “usefully merge themselves in an Association such as that suggested and that having regard to the community of interests, fiscal and otherwise, in Northern Ireland and Great Britain as a distinctive federation of Northern Chambers was considered necessary”.

On 9 October 1923, the first meeting of the Association’s Executive Council was held. The Chambers of Commerce in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and the Cork Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping were noted as the first members. The President was John Good TD (Dublin); the Vice Presidents were John Callaghan Foley of Cork Chamber of Commerce and George R Ryan of Limerick Chamber of Commerce.

The Association had as its object the criticism of the Irish Government economic policy in a constructive manner, and to endeavour whenever possible to place its views before Government ministers. It was necessary to do this before the Minister’s views had crystallised, and before any proposed bill was actually drafted. Once a bill was drafted Ministers, to a certain extent, were bound by it.

The above story is a part of a wider book publication, which is now available from Chambers Ireland in Dublin. This publication adds another important lens to exploring life in the early Irish Free State – hitherto unexplored – on how such an organisation founded in an era of profound change for Irish society evolved over ten decades taking in the needs and challenges of the business sector and their voices. This book draws on the archives of Chambers Ireland and in particular from its rich press coverage and its elaborately published journals and magazines over the past one hundred years. It highlights the big stories of the chamber’s past but also the subtler elements – the messages, the conversations, and speeches.

In the age of national and provincial newspapers now being digitised, it is more accessible than ever before to not only find relevant historical information but also follow threads of information to be able to explore sub-topics more. The National Library, Dublin and the British Library also hold very rich content from non-consecutive runs of the national association’s journal and magazine productions from 1926 to the present day.

Championing Ireland – Chambers Ireland 100 Years Advancing Business Together (2023) by Kieran McCarthy is a book commission and is published by Chambers Ireland.


1192a. Front cover of Kieran’s new book Championing Ireland – Chambers Ireland 100 Years Advancing Business Together (Chambers Ireland, 2023).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 2 March 2023

1191a. Bandon railway station, c.1920 (source: West Cork Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen).
1191a. Bandon railway station, c.1920 (source: West Cork Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 2 March 2023

Recasting Cork: Damages to Rail

Late February 1923 and early March 1923 coincided with AGM reports for the Great Southern and Western Railway (GSWR) Company and for the more local railway companies.

During the latter half of 1922, railway property was subject to a concentrated campaign of destruction by the anti-Treaty Republican forces. After their defeat in the Four Courts in Dublin in early July 1922 they intensified their campaign and targeted all operational railway infrastructure. The GSWR Company had a 1,800km network of which 240 miles (390 km) were double track. It was looked upon as the lines of communication of the National Army and therefore damaged with the object of preventing the movement of troops.

Numerous bridges over and under were totally or partially destroyed, signal cabins and other buildings burned down, and engines derailed. A map produced in the Dublin newspapers on 6 January 1923 showed the extent of the damage – 467 breakages in a “permanent way”, 55 overbridges damaged, 236 underbridges damaged, 3 engines destroyed, 86 engines damaged, 109 rolling stock destroyed, 260 rolling stock damaged, and a multitude of signal cabins and buildings were destroyed by fire. Approximately, a million in pounds sterling represented the losses incurred by the shareholders of Ireland’s principal railway. Claims for compensation in respect of these damages were made to the Irish Free State government.

The effects of civil war on rail traffic of the GSWR company were felt in various ways. It closed up altogether considerable sections of the line for long periods. At one time as much as 400miles of line were out of action and in early March 1923 there was a mileage of 250 miles of line on which no trains were ran. War created a general feeling of insecurity and restricted the general trade of the south and west of Ireland. The uncertainty of transit owing to constant damage to the railway temporarily turned trade to other channels. The serious delay to goods in transit reduced business. Less credit was being given. There was also a constant pillage of merchandise and trains being held up by armed forces.

The breaking of the three large viaducts in the south of Ireland practically isolated the County Cork and portion of Kerry and deprived the company of its long-distance traffic, which was the most valuable traffic they had. Passengers only travelled when absolute necessity arose. They could not rely on many parts of the line.

On 27February 1923 an AGM report for the Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway (CBPR) Company was published in the Cork Examiner. It relates that on 8 August 1922 one of the spans of the Douglas Viaduct was destroyed by explosives, and in consequence it had not been possible ever since to run any trains whatever. Such destruction hit the earning power of the line, caused unemployment for employees plus seriously inconvenienced the residents of the district.

The CBPR Company did their best to provide a substitute on the river and they took on a vessel called the Hibernia, which, jointly with the vessel called Albert, carried passengers upstream and downstream to various stations. The public were left only three days without connections with Cork and other stations. The company also put on a second goods steamer for the convenience of traders.

Furthermore, at the end of January 1923 the station buildings and signal cabins at Blackrock, Monkstown and Passage were burned to the ground by anti-Treaty Republicans, also the signal cabin at Rochestown, and, in addition, at Passage the workshops were seriously damaged and several carriages burned to cinders. The Company lamented: “At the time the train service had not been restored, and one may ask what purpose this latter act of brigandage effected? The people who will really benefit by these outrages are the bridge constructors, the carriage builders, and signal manufacturers outside Ireland. As you may readily imagine, the cost of restoration will be very heavy, so much so that unless the Government provide the money the line must remain derelict”.

On 1 March 1923, the Cork Examiner published the AGM report of the Cork Bandon and South Coast Railway (CBSCR) Company. During the War of Independence years, 1920 and 1921, damage was done from time to time to the Company’s line and many bridges were badly damaged. They were able, nevertheless, to continue working until the 9 August 1922. On that date, however, the Chetwynd Viaduct near the city was so seriously damaged by a huge explosion that it was impossible to run trains over it. Consequently, the line had to be closed for all traffic, and it remained closed for the rest of the year. The necessary stops for repairing Chetwynd Viaduct were taken as soon as protection could be obtained for the bridge repair contractors and by early 1923 trains ran again over it.

On succeeding days in August 1922 several other bridges at various parts of the Cork Bandon line were destroyed by explosives as well as other infrastructural damage.

In January 1923, ten of their stations and signal cabins were burnt down and five engines were destroyed. By early March 1923, the (CBSCR) Company was running a limited service between Cork and Bandon for passengers, goods and livestock.


1191a. Bandon railway station, c.1920 (source: West Cork Through Time by Kieran McCarthy & Dan Breen).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 23 February 2023

1190a. Advertisement for Munster Arcade, Cork, 1925, from Guy's Directory of Cork (source: Cork City Library).
1190a. Advertisement for Munster Arcade, Cork, 1925, from Guy’s Directory of Cork (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 23 February 2023

Recasting Cork: The Slow Rebuild

In the first two months of 1923, there were some important movements in the reconstruction narrative in Cork City Centre. It was just over two years on from the Burning of Cork in December 1920. By early January 1923, only a few buildings had been rebuilt – namely the Munster Arcade buildings off Oliver Plunkett Street and several buildings on the side streets. However, no rebuilding work had started on St Patrick’s Street.

In the first week of January 1923, the general conditions governing a competition for designs was published for the reconstruction of a new City Hall. Cork Corporation’s Law and Finance Committee oversaw the competition, which was limited to architects living and practicing in Ireland. Mr Lucius O’Callaghan FRIAI was appointed by the Corporation to act as assessor. The prize for the best design was £500, second, £200, and the third £100. The style of architecture and the materials to be employed were left to the discretion of the competitors, but it was essential that the buildings would be of “good architectural character, expressive of their purpose, and without unnecessary elaboration”. It was desired that Irish materials be used as far as possible.

One of the preferrable conditions was that the new assembly hall or concert hall should have seating accommodation for 1,400 persons. Provision was also to be made for a platform for concerts, lectures to accommodate 150 persons, space for organ, retiring rooms. There should also be a suite of rooms for the Lord Mayor, accommodation for caretaker, and better accommodation for staff. That being said correspondence was received by the Corporation that funding for the rebuilding of City Hall was still not in place at central government level.

By early February 1923, a large number of compensation claims in Cork had been considered by the Shaw Commission or the Compensation (Ireland) Commission – a joint partnership between Westminster and the Irish Free State, where Westminster paid up through the Irish Free State. A total of 31 assessors were employed on the commission. The commission considered damages to goods and property. Indeed, the new chairman Sir Alexander Wood Renton was about to take over from Lord Shaw, who had stepped down from his chairman role. By mid-February over £400,000 in compensation for destroyed goods, in particular, had been settled for Cork businesses affected by the Burning of Cork.

In mid-February 1923 at a meeting of the Corporation’s Cork Reconstruction (Finance) Committee, Thomas Kelleher and John Sisk, representing the builders who had contracts in connection with the reconstruction scheme, appeared before the Committee. Mr Kelleher highlighted to the committee that the position of the contractors was becoming practically intolerable owing to the treatment from the financial point of view that has been meted to them by the Irish Free State Government. In order to advance progress on rebuilding schemes, the Government were paying for large parts of the reconstruction in Cork. The members of the committee knew that in ordinary commercial life when an architect or engineer gave a certificate for work done on foot of a contract that they were paid in a few days and sometimes within twenty-four hours. The position was that some certificates running back as far as the previous October 1922 had not been paid – there was £15,000 due on these certificates alone. Unless some arrangement was made towards expediting payment there would be no alternative for the contractors but to stop work.

It was on the suggestion of the Reconstruction Committee that these works were started, but now the contractors felt let down financially. Mr Kelleher, builder, noted that he has read in the press some months previously that certificates had been passed for payment for £6,000 to the Munster Arcade, a job, which had been completed but for which the contractors had not yet got a received a penny from central government who was administering payment.  

Certificates for £15,000 were, Mr Kelleher understood, now in the hands of the Committee or the Town Clerk, and the builders were entitled to certificates for practically a similar amount or the work that had been done since October 1922. He deemed it futile to look for certificates for a second instalment when the first had not been honoured.

The Chairman J Kelleher, Town Clerk, said that as far as the committee were concerned they fully appreciated the position of the builders. He believed himself that the government were simply playing with the matter.

At the meeting, it was also discussed how much of the Shaw Commission payments could go towards or supplement actual construction. The vast amount of the almost half a million pounds claimed by business establishments for the replacement of stock did not even in many instances afford full compensation to the proprietors for the loss of goods that were destroyed by fire.

In the immediate days following the meeting, a deputation representing Cork Corporation i.e. Jeremiah Kelleher, Town Clerk, and Cllr John Horgan went to Dublin to raise concerns and questions. There they met Cork TD Robert Day and proceeded to the offices of the Shaw Commission. There they were informed that the amounts already paid in respect of compensation to Cork traders were for stock and other effects destroyed, and that the balance of the money awarded, and which was being withheld was in respect of buildings, and would be paid on the architect’s certificate according as the work of rebuilding the destroyed premises was proceeded with.

Messrs Day, Kelleher and Horgan also interviewed the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance in connection with a recent letter dealing with the stoppage of the payment of awards in compensation claims for actual re-building.

What became apparent in late February 1923 was that the Minister of Finance would pay for the actual physical building work after it was built but the initiative rested with the owners of destroyed properties to get the work started.  The worry by Corporation officials was that large scale business establishments with available cash flow could embrace successfully such a government initiative. An architect’s certificate weekly or monthly would bring government money in appropriate and welcome tranches. However, for the smaller shopkeeper the challenge remained where would they get own resources to be able to start work.


1190a. Advertisement for Munster Arcade, Cork, 1925, from Guy’s Directory of Cork (source: Cork City Library).

Award Ceremony, Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project 2023

This weekend the award ceremony of the Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project 2022/23 takes place at the Old Cork Waterworks Experience. A total of 30 schools in Cork City took part in the 2022/23 school year, which included schools in Ballinlough, Beaumont, Blackrock and Douglas and with a reach to Glanmire, Ballincollig, and inner city suburban schools as well. Circa 1,000 students participated in the process with approx 250 project books submitted on all aspects of Cork’s local history and it cultural and built heritage. 

The Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project is in its 21st year and is a youth platform for students to do research and write it up in a project book on any topic of Cork history. 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: “It’s been a great journey over twenty years of promoting and running this project. Over the years, I have received some great projects on Cork landmarks such as The Marina to Shandon to villages such as Douglas but also on an array of oral history projects – students working closely with parents, guardians and grandparents. I’ve even seen very original projects, such as this year I received a history trail on streets of Cork pavements. The standard of model-making and in recent years, short film making – to go with project books – have always been creative”.

The Project is funded by Cork City Council with further sponsorship offered by Learnit Lego Education, Old Cork Waterworks Experience and Cllr Kieran McCarthy. Full results for this year’s project are online on Cllr McCarthy’s heritage website,

City Results, 2023 | Cork Heritage

This website also has several history trails, his writings, and resources, which Kieran wrote up and assembled over the past few years.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 16 February 2023

1189a. Advertisement of the sale of motor cars at Cross & Sons from Guy's Directory of Cork, 1921 (source: Cork City Library).
1189a. Advertisement of the sale of motor cars at Cross & Sons from Guy’s Directory of Cork, 1921 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 16 February 2023

Recasting Cork: A New Motor Association

In January and February 1923, debates by motor car owners on the growth of motor car ownership in Cork led to rising concerns on inadequate road infrastructure and questions on road taxation. A public meeting of owners of private and commercial motor cars was held on the weekend of the 17 February 1923 at Cork’s Victoria Hotel for the purpose of approving the formation of an Association to be known as the Munster Motor Association.

Over one hundred replies were received to a circular sent out, all promising support, and undertaking to join the Association. In addition, there were about fifty owners at the meeting, representing private owners, hirers, garage owners and commercial owners.

The Cork Examiner on 19 February 1923 notes Mr Richard H Tilson was appointed to the chair. Richard was a director of Messrs Cade & Sons Ltd Mineral Manufacturers and was former High Sheriff of Cork for three years, 1913-1915. He was a motor car enthusiast and was a founding member of the Munster Motor Association.

The Chairman, Richard Tilson, felt it was apparent from the large and representative nature of the meeting and the number of signed assents received that they were justified in the formation of the Association. They wished to be law-abiding and wanted to protect car owners and wanted the public to be aware of their aims.

Tilson noted that they had no intention of creating difficulties for the Irish Free Government or the local authorities. They were not there to resist in any “violent manner” whatever obligations were imposed upon them, but they considered the existing road tax for motor cars unjust and that the road tax needed to be reformed. The taxes, Tilson detailed, went towards many purposes, including the upkeep of local roads. He also highlighted that the motor tax was also supposed to go directly towards the requirements necessary for “improved modern locomotion”.

The Association were going to insist on greatly improved road conditions. Tilson commented that the Association needed to champion improvements in road fabric, danger points, and movement of horse and pedestrian traffic. He believed that a large percentage of horse-drawn vehicles did not even observe the rules of the road. He hoped to approach the local authorities in a constructive way with a view to making the roads safe for the public at large. He commented: “The motorist was an exceedingly blamed individual, and more stringent regulations would have to be introduced to deal with horse traffic, even in the City of Cork”.

Tilson also wanted to see horse-drawn vehicles to pay motor tax: “If a motor ear owner paid £20 per year as tax, towards the improvement of the roads, why not a horse-drawn vehicle…if a community raised a considerable sum for road improvement, why that should not be contributed to by the imposition of a small tax on horse-drawn vehicles, to provide for the wear and tear of the roads”.

Tilson hoped that the Munster Motor Association would grow in membership in the City and County of Cork and especially throughout Munster. He aimed that they should have a membership of 3,000, and if they took the valuation of each of those members at £50 at a moderate average each it would represent a valuation of £150,000, which would represent roughly £90,000 in road tax. This was, as Tilson highlighted, an enormous amount of taxation. He also commented that if they took the number of motor cars on the road at 2,000, with an average value of £400 it would represent acapital investment of £800,000 in local economies.

It was unanimously agreed that the resolution previously passed on the subject be rescinded and that the Association be called the Munster Motor Association instead of the City and County of Cork Motor Association.

Mr K O’Neill (Kinsale) said he was originally against the Association spreading its membership outside the City and County of Cork. He thought they would have enough to contend with, but on hearing concerns further afield in Munster he thought they were justified in pushing for a broader membership base. Mr O’Neil wanted fair taxation: “The question of tax was on everybody’s mind, and they were prepared to pay their share towards the upkeep of the roads, but they were all agreed that the tax falling on the shoulders of the motor owners was altogether too high, and though  they may have to pay the tax in the present instance, in the future it would be their duty to try and get it modified – they were prepared to accept their responsibilities, but those responsibilities must be fair”.

Mr O’Neil pointed out that the Association was not for the purpose of taking up individual grievances but was established with a view to benefiting the community of motor owners as a whole. He proposed: “That this large and representative meeting of owners of private and commercial motor cars hereby endorse the decision of a previous meeting forming the Munster Motor Association, and all present agree to join the said Association and to its future success”. Mr Mahony of the Universal Motor Company seconded the resolution, which was unanimously passed.

The Munster Motor Association lasted for several years before it was amalgamated into the Royal Irish Automobile Club (established in 1901).


1189a. Advertisement of the sale of motor cars at Cross & Sons from Guy’s Directory of Cork, 1921 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 9 February 2023

1188a. Mary MacSwiney, c.1920 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 9 February 2023

Recasting Cork: Amnesty, Arms and Advantage

Pressure continued to mount as calls for peace from civil war intensified in the second week of February 1923. The capture of south of Ireland IRA commander and anti-Treaty advocate Liam Deasy at Tincurry, County Tipperary on 18 January 1923 and his subsequent imprisonment in Clonmel led to his successful request on a stay of his execution in exchange for his appeal to his comrades to end the war.

Liam was convinced that further bloodshed was in vain. However, his appeal to comrades was unsuccessful, and he was severely criticised by some of his former comrades for what they considered a betrayal of his beliefs. Liam’s call though did have a dispiriting effect on anti-Treaty forces. 

On 8 February 1923, Richard Mulcahy, Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, began publishing advertisements in regional newspapers of an amnesty to arms until 18 February. One such advertisement in the Cork Examiner read: “Bearing in mind the acceptance by Liam Deasy of an immediate and unconditional surrender of all Arms and Ammunition, and knowing that the reason dictating to him, that acceptance must weigh also with many leaders and many of the rank and file, who have round themselves led step by step into a destruction that they never intended, but which has been the result of the line of policy adopted by those to whom they looked for leadership. Notice 13 hereby given that with a view to facilitating such a surrender, prepared to offer Amnesty to arms against the Government before Sunday, 18th February, with arms to any officer of the or through any intermediary”.

On the back of the amnesty call, widespread church sermons on Sunday 11 February 1923 condemning the Civil War and vocally led by Roman Catholic Bishops called for peace.

On Monday 12 February, the day after the sermons the pressure to give up arms continued when President William T Cosgrave, whilst in in London conducted an interview for the British press.President Cosgrave made the following declaration in an interview with the Evening News; “l believe Ireland is on the eve of a new and brighter era, and that her people are realising that there must be solid work from the humblest to the highest in repairing the damage done. If complete tranquility is not brought about by agreement, then it will be enforced by the Government and law of the Free State”.

Discussing the peace overtures, which were received from Republicans in Ireland, President Cosgrave noted that they had come from Cork, Kerry, Galway, Clare, Mayo, Tipperary, and Kilkenny. His view was that the proposals that were being put forward had been such as to enable the Republicans to associate themselves with the Government of the country; “They want to get the men of their own rebel force into the regular army with rank similar to that which they now hold. In short, they want to make a good get out’ “.

President Cosgrave then referred to the state of order in Ireland and called the vast majority of Republican activity criminal; “At present every outrage that occurs in the Free State is ascribed to the Republicans. They accept this because they think it adds to their prestige and shows how extensive their activities are. But in a large number of cases the outrages are the work of criminals. In one case where a railway was damaged and two men were killed we discovered that the people responsible were local people. It has already brought the bulk of the people to realise that the wealth and order of the Free State, for which we stand, must be preserved against the irresponsible attacks of the misguided few who follow De Valera”.  

On the rivalry with Éamon de Valera, President Cosgrave called for him to bring about negotiations, which would enable De Valera himself to make a withdrawal from his extant position. It was Cosgrave’s view that De Valera did not have the means to be successful in his campaign; “The Republicans have not a ghost of a chance of success. De Valera’s followers do not number more than 3,000 to 4,000 throughout the whole country, if there are so many. I am convinced that there are about a hundred in Dublin”. President Cosgrave mentioned that the Free State Government had 30,000 troops and were convinced of their ability “eventually to restore tranquility”.

At the same time President Cosgrave was giving his speech, the former offices of the Irish Republican movement were re-opening in Dublin.  The offices situated in Suffolk Street – one of the busy thoroughfares in the vicinity of College Green – had been raided by National Army forces in November 1922. A number of anti-Treaty staff were arrested, and the premises were closed again.

Special correspondents of the Irish, British, and American Press received a note that the offices had been re-opened, and that Cork anti-Treaty campaigner Mary MacSwiney would be pleased to receive them at noon and to make a reply to recent statements made by Mr Kevin O’Higgins, Vice President of the Government’s Executive Council, in his review of the situation in the country.

About a dozen journalists responded to the invitation They were received by Mary MacSwiney alone, and the interview lasted about an hour. She outlined her anti-Treaty stance.

As the pressmen left the building, men believed to be plain clothes officers were engaged in observation of the premises from the opposite side of the street. Not long afterwards a group of officers from the Criminal Investigation Department, together with some soldiers in a motor lorry, arrived, entered the offices and Miss MacSwiney, Kathleen Clarke, and typist Kathleen Barry under arrest. A priest who was on the premises at the time was also reported to have been retained. One of the journalists who was still in the offices awaiting a document in course of being typed was held up, searched, and released after half an hour.

The group were detained under guard during that afternoon, and Mary MacSwiney informed a Press representative that they were all under arrest and would be conveyed to Mountjoy Gaol. It had only been few weeks since Miss MacSwiney had been released from that prison after hunger strike. But this occasion, the arrested party was released 24 hours later.


1188a. Mary MacSwiney, c.1920 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 2 February 2023

View from St Patrick’s Bridge of St Patrick’s Quay and the North Channel of the River Lee, c.1900, from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.
View from St Patrick’s Bridge of St Patrick’s Quay and the North Channel of the River Lee, c.1900, from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 2 February 2023

Recasting Cork: The Cork Dockers Strike

The Cork Dockers’ Strike, which began Monday 15 January 1923 and extended all the way to early February 1923, was a quest for better terms and wages within a national pay agreement for transport workers in southern Irish ports. The Cork dockers, coal, shipping carmen, and storemen sections of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, took a ballot on the proposed national pay deal reduction of 1s per day for full time workers and a pro rata reduction for tonnage workers.

Over a 1,000 Cork dockers picketed operations that were being carried out on Cork City’s quays. The scheduled sailings of the cross-channel boats were cancelled. Trade was diverted from the port of Cork. In particular heavy losses by those involved in the cattle trade began. In the immediate few days after the strike was called, a consignment of 750 mixed cattle awaited shipment for Birkenhead, UK. The consignees estimated that the loss of the non-sailing of one steamer called the SS Classic on the Birkenhead route at £1 per head, through loss of markets and deterioration of meat.

By an arrangement entered into with the strike committee the unloading of three vessels with cargoes of flour was allowed to proceed, as was also the discharge of the steamer Benwood from Derry with potatoes. A strong guard of national troops patrolled Penrose Quay, and only persons on business were permitted to pass in the direction of the shipping companies’ premises.

Apart from the jobs of dockers, many more connected jobs and firms were also affected. The Cork Examiner on 18 January 1923 outlines that between the south and north channels, there were close on a dozen steamers of good average tonnage tied up, with cargoes awaiting discharge. Permits were granted for the loading of a few vessels during the day. These goods mainly comprised of flour.

The deadlock created many difficulties for local firms. For example, the practice of the Metropole Steam Laundry, Lower Road, and the practice of the company to draw their own coal supplies for the use of the laundry, resulted in the laundry shutting and one hundred employees being laid off.

The Greenboat goods service conducted by the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway Company was not allowed run. Since the damage and enforced cessation of railway facilities the service had proved to be of great benefit to the residents of the lower harbour. Even though, the crew were members of the National Union of Railwaymen, they had no differences with their employers.

Another ship, the Lady Kerry was undischarged and was unable to resume her outward sailing. However, the work of taking off her 175 sacks of mails was undertaken by national troops and the sacks were conveyed under escort to the Cork GPO.

On 19 January 1923, whilst there was no national troops patrol in the vicinity, a Fordson motor lorry conveying Mr Edward Grace, the manager of the extensive Ford Works on South Docks, went to the point where the SS Glengarriff was berthed to collect one of his employee’s personal possessions. Mr Grace, on alighting from the motor lorry, was at once surrounded by a strong picket of the strikers, and the drivers of the lorry was meanwhile threatened against assisting in the removal of any goods from the steamer.

  A very heated an animated discussion ensued. In defiance of the anger around him, Edward Grace forced his way onto the gangway of the vessel. After an interval of about 15 minutes, he reappeared on the gangway with a bag of soft goods on his shoulder.

Proceeding to leave the vessel, Mr Grace was held up when midway up the gangway missiles were thrown at him. He immediately took out a revolver and pointed the weapon at the strikers. The strikers maintained possession of the gangway and prevented him from coming ashore.

In the meanwhile the driver of Mr Grace’s motor lorry drove off in the direction of Railway Street, with the aim of getting national troops assistance, but was outmanoeuvred by a section of the crowd. They brought the vehicle to a standstill in Alfred Street, where it was set on fire.

Mr Grace was eventually permitted to leave the vessel and sought refuge in one of the offices of the City of Cork Steam Packet Company stores. National troop soldiers came on the scene and Mr Grace was escorted from the quays.

Tensions remained heightened throughout the strike negotiation talks. On 22 January 1923, a conference between employers and docker representatives were held at the Cork Employer’s Federation at the South Mall. The conference was initiated by the Cork Workers’ Council and Fr Thomas Dowling (before he left for America; see last week’s article). The officials of the Workers’ Council who were present suggested some arrangement might be arranged whereby work could be resumed pending further conferences on the National pay deal for dockers and that such terms would not apply to Cork. The proposals were not responded to at first by the Ministry of Labour within central government, which left the strike ongoing until 1 February.

On 1 February in the offices of the Ministry of Labour in Dublin’s Edward Street, Irish Ship owners and the Irish Trade and General Workers Union struck an agreement on the restoration of the reduction of one shilling per day and the restoration of the pro rata reduction for tonnage workers.


1187a. View from St Patrick’s Bridge of St Patrick’s Quay and the North Channel of the River Lee, c.1900, from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.

Cork City Commemorations Fund 2023

Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy is calling on communities, schools, individuals and organisations in Douglas and surrounds to apply for the Cork City Commemorations Fund 2023. 

The year 2023 coincides with the final year of the Decade of Centenaries programme. In the last few years 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.

Cllr McCarthy noted: “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”.

The application form for the fund are available from www.corkcity,ie. The closing date for submission of application form is Friday 10 February at 4pm. 

The closing date for submission of application form is Friday 10th February at 4pm.