Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 15 July 2021

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 15 July 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The 11 July 1921 Settlement

This week is the centenary of the signing of the Truce on 11 July 1921 bringing the Irish War of Independence in Ireland to an end. Technically talks had begun in December 1920 but they petered out when British Prime Minister David Lloyd George demanded that the IRA first relinquish their arms. Renewed talks began in the spring of 1921, after the Prime Minister was lobbied by Herbert H Asquith and the Liberal opposition, the Labour Party, and the Trades Union Congress.

From the perspective of the British government, it seemed as if the IRA’s guerrilla campaign would persist indefinitely, with escalating losses in British casualties and in finance. In addition, the British government was confronting acute blame at home and abroad for the measures of British forces in Ireland. On 6 June 1921, the British made their first peace-making act, calling off the strategy of house burnings as reprisals.

On the other side, IRA leaders and in particular Michael Collins, felt that the IRA, as it was then organised, could not continue indefinitely. It lacked arms and ammunition to face down the even regular British soldiers arriving into Ireland.

On 24 June 1921, the British Coalition Government’s Cabinet decided to propose talks with the leader of Sinn Féin. Coalition Liberals and Unionists agreed that an offer to negotiate would strengthen the Government’s position, especially if Sinn Féin refused. On 24 June Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote to Éamon de Valera as “the chosen leader of the great majority in Southern Ireland”, suggesting a conference. 

Sinn Féin agreed to talks. De Valera and Lloyd George ultimately agreed to a truce that was intended to end the fighting and lay the ground for detailed negotiations. Its terms were signed on 9 July and came into effect on 11 July. Negotiations on a settlement, however, were deferred for several months as the British government demanded that the IRA first decommission its weapons, but this demand was ultimately withdrawn. It was arranged that British troops would stay restricted to their barracks.

However, in the three days between the terms being signed and coming into effect, Irish Truce historian Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc details at least sixty people from both sides of the conflict were killed across the country. Such stories appear in the heart of Dara McGrath’s photographic exhibition entitled For Those That Tell No Tales in the Crawford Art Gallery on sites associated with the War of Independence. There is a poignant picture of an execution location of The Lough with associated descriptive text. It was at 8 pm, on the evening of Sunday 10 July 1921, four young unarmed and off-duty soldiers, Private Henry Morris (aged 21) and Corporal Harold Daker (aged 28) of the South Stafforshire Regiment and Sappers Albert Camm (aged 20) and Albert Powell (aged 20) of the Royal Engineers were seized by a patrol of seven Volunteers. The Volunteers had been searching an area from Donovan’s Bridge along the Western Road in search of a suspected civilian informer. Executed on the northern side of The Lough, the four bodies were dumped at Ellis’s Quarry on its southside. All four were found blindfolded and shot dead.

The only surviving account of the executions by a Volunteer participant is the official report sent to IRA Headquarters. It simply reads: “We held up four soldiers and searched them but found no arms. We took them to a field in our area where they were executed before 9pm”. It has been suggested that the killing of these men was a personal reprisal by the IRA for the murder of Volunteer Denis Spriggs just two days earlier on 8 July. Private Morris was from Walsall and served in the East Kent Regiment during the First World War. He is buried in Ryecroft cemetery, Walsall. Corporal Daker was the son of William and Mary Daker. He is buried in St Ann’s Churchyard, Chasetown, Walsall. Sapper Albert Camm was from Holland Street in Nottingham. Sapper Powell was the son of Arthur and Jane Powell of Abbott Road, London. He is buried at Nunhead, All Saints Cemetery in Southwark.

On the advent of the Truce, Michael O’Donoghue, Engineer Officer with the 2nd Battalion of Cork No.1 Brigade remarks in witness statement (WS 1741) of the Bureau of Military History of a new-found freedom and an almost too good to be true scenario;

“Now came July, and with the scorching summer heatwave came rumours of peace and negotiations for a cease fire. Then before we had time to realise what was happening, as everything moved so suddenly, the Truce was upon us on a July 11th 1921 at midday. Overnight everything was changed. The fugitive rebel army, the IRA, was recognised as Ireland’s national army by the British Government. There was an uneasy peace. ‘Twas hard, even for the IRA themselves, to credit that the fortunes of war had changed to such an extent. we could now move everywhere in town and country. We exulted in our new found authority and importance. Everywhere the people regarded us as heroes and hailed us as conquerors and turned our heads with flattery, adulation and praise. We were youngsters in our teens and early twenties, and who could blame us if we got intoxicated with all the hero worship and rejoicings. Even those people who had maintained a cautious neutrality, standing on the ditch during the War of Independence, now rushed to acclaim us and to entertain us”.

Caption:

1108a. Execution location site for four British soldiers, 10 July 1921 at northern side of The Lough, Cork, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Press, McCarthy Calls for anniversary of Cork city landmark to be celebrated

10 July 2021, “Independent Kieran McCarthy have asked that Cork City Council, in partnership with the parish of Shandon and Diocese of Cork, mark the 300th anniversary of the construction of the church, recognising its impact on the citizens of Cork city and its unique landmark for Cork citizens and beyond”, Calls for anniversary of Cork city landmark to be celebrated, Calls for anniversary of Cork city landmark to be celebrated (echolive.ie)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 8 July 2021

1107a. Plaque on Blarney Street Cork in memory of Denis J Spriggs, killed 8 July 1921 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 8 July 2021

Journeys to a Truce: Fred Cronin’s Republican Plot

IRA casualties from the ongoing War of Independence across the city continued all the way into the July 1921 truce. On 21 June Commandant Walter Leo Murphy was shot dead at Waterfall (a few miles from Ballincollig) when an IRA meeting in a local public house was encircled by two carloads of British undercover officers. He shot his way out of the public house but was subsequently killed.

A commemorative plaque erected at Turner’s Cross to D Company 2nd Battalion commemorates Company Adjutant Charles Daly of 5 Glenview, Douglas Road, who was captured by British forces at Waterfall, Co. Cork on 28 June 1921. British army records claim he was shot attempting to escape from Victoria Barracks on 29 June 1921.

Denis Spriggs became involved in the fight for independence from British rule at a very young age. At 16, he lied about his age so he could join the IRA. As a known member of the IRA he, like many other Volunteers, was forced to go on the run from British forces in the city. On 8 July 1921, whilst visiting his mother, Denis Spriggs was captured. The house was raided and Spriggs was apprehended. He was taken from his house and shot on Blarney Street where a plaque marks the spot today.

Walter Leo, Charles, and Denis are buried in the Republican Plot at St Finbarr’s Cemetery, which dates back to 1920. Previously to its use there was, immediately inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Cemetery, a vacant plot of green in one corner on which stood a small but interesting memorial. Built in 1894 of stones taken from an ancient Cork abbey, it marked the place where the collected bones of the monks of Gill-Abbey had been reinterred.

On the day after the murder of Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain in March 1920. Fred Cronin, close friend of Terence MacSwiney and a leading Cork undertaker of Richard Cronin and Sons, suggested to the Brigade officers that the municipal authorities, who were owners of the cemetery, should be requested to make this plot available as a burial place for the dead patriot. The Corporation readily agreed, and with this first interment the Republican Plot came into existence.

Lough native Fred Cronin was an active member of Sinn Féin. His membership dated back to its earliest days in its foundation. Fred’s obituary in the Cork Examiner on 30 October 1937 describes that he took an active interest in all the nationalist movements from the early days of his youth. He was one of the founders of the Young Ireland Society in the year 1899, whose work is engraved in the memory of the people of Cork by the erection of the monument on the Grand Parade. About this time also he was also one of those people who attempted to put an end to the recruiting campaign for men to fight in the British Army against the Boers in South Africa.

Fred also helped to establish a Republican organisation known as the Cork Celtic Literary Society in 1903, and it was in the ranks of this society that he came in close contact with such well-known men as Terence MacSwiney, Tomás MacCurtain, and Tadhg Barry. He was also a close follower of the national pastimes, being connected with the Éire Óg Hurling Club. He also played for a number of years with the Nils Football Club. He took a deep interest in the language movement and was a prominent member of the Gaelic League for a long period.

Fred was transport officer to the 2nd Battalion of Cork No. 1 Brigade IRA for a time around 1920. His experience with the family firm of undertakers gave him considerable knowledge of transport organisation.

When Terence MacSwiney’s life was increasingly threatened in 1920, whilst he was Lord Mayor he could be found at the house of Fred. Keeping a watchful eye on Fred and Terence were the members of G Company of the 2nd Battalion. Their base were Messrs Phair grocery and provision store on Bandon Road. Here there were stores and out offices of G Company, which provided an admirable hiding place for guns and other military equipment.

When Terence was on from hunger strike in Brixton Prison, Fred visited him regularly and on Terence’s date of death on 25 October 1920, Fred was one of the last to see him alive. Fred was tasked by the MacSwiney family to be the executor of Terence’s will. Fred’s personal papers are now archived in the National Library in Dublin. The notes for his 33 folders of surviving papers describe that between May and December 1921, he was interned by the British authorities at Cork Male Prison and Spike Island. While he was incarcerated on Spike Island, he joined the other prisoners in a hunger strike which lasted only four days, ending 2 September 1921.

Fred applied for parole due to the illness of his youngest daughter. His parole application bound him during the period of his release not to “render any assistance, direct or indirect, to persons disaffected towards His Majesty the King, or do any act calculated to be prejudical to the restoration or maintenance of order in Ireland.” Republicans generally disapproved of parole-giving and it was permitted only in cases of severe family stress. Fred Cronin had five children, of whom the youngest, Maire, required a major operation and was dangerously ill for a time. His wife Katie had died and her sister Mary Roche was looking after the children.

During the Civil War Fred’s anti-treaty sympathies saw him interned during the Civil War by the Free State Government in Cork Prison and then Hare Park Camp (Curragh), Co. Kildare from 1922 to 1923.

Recently Phoenix Historical Society has published a book on those laid to rest in the Republican Plot at St Finbarr’s Cemetery. The Plot is the final resting place of 61 Irish Republicans. Contact michael_nugent@corkcity.ie for more information on how to attain a copy of a very interesting and important local history book.

Captions:

1107a. Plaque on Blarney Street Cork in memory of Denis J Spriggs, killed 8 July 1921 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1107b. Republican Plot at St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1107b. Republican Plot at St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Cork City Reflections (2021, Co-written, Amberley Publishing)

One hundred years ago in Ireland marked a time of change. The continuous rise of an Irish revival, debates over Home Rule and the idea of Irish identity were continuously negotiated by all classes of society. In Cork City Reflections, authors Kieran McCarthy and Daniel Breen focus on the visual changes that have taken place in the port city on Ireland’s south-west coast. Using a collection of historic postcards from Cork Public Museum and merging these with modern images they reveal how the town has changed over the decades. Each of the 180 pictures featured combines a recent colour view with the matching sepia archive scene.

The authors have grouped the images under thematic headings such as main streets, public buildings, transport, and industry. Readers will be able to appreciate how Cork City has evolved and grown over the last century but also how invaluable postcards can be in understanding the past. In an age where digital photography and the internet have made capturing and sharing images so effortless, it is easy to forget that in the decades before the camera became popular and affordable, postcards were the only photographic souvenirs available to ordinary people.

Read an Irish Examiner interview with Kieran: Cork City Reflections: New book merges old postcards with modern images (irishexaminer.com)
Buy the book here: Cork City Reflections – Amberley Publishing (amberley-books.com)
 Cork City Reflections by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen (2021, Amberley Publishing)
Cork City Reflections by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen (2021, Amberley Publishing)

Cllr McCarthy: Forward Planning Essential for Former ESB Marina Site, 1 July 2021

Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed discussion and forward planning on the decommissioned Marina power station in Cork city. “It was great to hear about formal confirmation this week that planning between the ESB, Cork City Council and the newly formed Land Development Agency in relation to possible future uses of the site is ongoing. For me the ESB site is one of four sites in South Docks, which have a lot of built and cultural heritage – the others being the old Ford Factory site, former Odlums Building and the R & H Hall grain silos. All four sites have been highly influential in the development of south docks historically plus also are iconic symbolic structures in the area. It would be a real pity to lose their presence in the future of south docks.

“I would like to see the future of South Docks with a mixture of old and new building stock, so that the area has a nuanced sense of place. For me as well, I would encourage any future development to work with the Council to create a riverside walk on the south docks, so that The Marina greenway would potentially lead and connect all the way into the city, and hence linking to walks just west of the city centre – all in all creating an iconic routeway all along the city’s River Lee sections with public health advantages, scenery and other uses in abundance”. concluded Cllr McCarthy.

Read more here on future of ESB Marina Site:Former Marina power station eyed up for housing (irishexaminer.com)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 1 July 2021

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 1 July 2021

Journeys to a Truce: For Those That Tell No Tales

On Thursday night, 23 June 1921, an IRA unit in a motor car threw a number of bombs at an RIC post on the Grand Parade (see last week’s column). The attack was followed by bursts of gunfire as the car sped up Tuckey Street towards the South Gate Bridge. Josephine Scannell (aged 19) was killed in the shooting that followed the bomb attack. She was working at a sewing machine inside the window of her first story residence at French’s Quay when she was hit by a bullet that passed through the window. She died a short time later. Josephine was buried at St Joseph’s Cemetery in Ballyphehane. In the 1911 Census, she was one of the five children of the builder John Scannell and his wife Jane.

There were many victims of the Irish War of Independence just like Josephine Scannell. Over the past one hundred years, there has been a tendency in Cork City to keep the focus on the larger fall out events such as Tomás MacCurtain, Terence MacSwiney and the Burning of Cork. However, the centenary commemoration has brought new scholars, new projects and new foci on elements on the War of Independence that have not been publicly commemorated before.

One such very insightful project is Dara McGrath’s photographic exhibition entitled For Those That Tell No Tales, which can be viewed in the Crawford Art Gallery. It is a great contribution to thinking about life and society one hundred years ago. That it was not just the IRA, RIC and Black and Tans that caught up with tit-for-tat violence but also civilians and their families.

Dara McGrath’s work is based on research by Dr Andy Bielenberg (School of History, UCC) and Professor James Donnelly Junior (University of Wisconsin) who are currently engaged in an on-going project to document all the fatalities of the Irish revolution in County Cork between 1919 and 1923 of which approximately 840 have been identified so far. This exhibition is based on the War of Independence element of the project in Cork City and showcases over sixty lesser known War of Independent sites from across Cork City.

Dara in his notes on his photographic exhibition writes that the catalyst for this project came from a series of conversations he had with Dan Breen, Curator of Cork Public Museum, in late 2017, as consideration was given how best to commemorate the centenary of events that took place in Ireland, and in Cork, between 1919 and 1921. Dan suggested Dara research and photograph the sites and locations of the many fatalities from this period. Dara relates: “I made contact with Dr Andy Bielenberg who was involved in the Irish Revolution Research Project at University College Cork, and with his help and research I was able to pin down the events that surrounded fatalities that took place within the new Cork city boundary extension during the years 1919 to 1921. I then set out to take a photograph as near as possible to where the event happened. Sometimes I photographed the almost exact spot on the ground, others were to be a guess with logical thinking”.

Dara’s photographs elevate these spots or spaces as sites of memory for those individual lost lives. For the first time, through Dara’s photography and accompanying texts, one can see a cross section extent of the lives of the people and the geography where they perished during the struggle for freedom in Ireland’s War of Independence. Dara’s acknowledgement of the place and circumstances of each individual’s death – which bore so heavily on their communities – still resonate, so powerfully, today.   

The Crawford exhibition notes that today – sadly and almost universally – we pass by unaware of the tragedies that took place at unmarked locations that are daily traversed; “Beyond the recognised memorials and major landmarks there are many more sites within the landscape where people lost their lives. In Cork City, those ‘forgotten’ lives lost may include the Norwegian sailor Carl Johansen whose life was ended by being shot in the back while returning to his ship in the Port of Cork docks; or Josephine Scannell who at nineteen years old was shot dead by a stray bullet while sitting near a window in her house in the city centre”. 

Dara notes: “As I stood, I thought about the people who had died in these locations, and wondered was I the first to remember them at these sites of their deaths. The project forced me to think deeply about the relationship between me as a photographer, the place, and the history of the place. I’m aware this project may disrupt some firmly-held narratives. War is a terrible thing, and amidst its fall-out comes the silence, the secrets, the revisions, the stories told, and the stories hidden away. In death, some were treated as heroes, others as innocents, still others as the villains, but this understanding changes too depending on who you talk to. The stories I’m trying to tell include tragic accidents, bungled bombs, executions on both sides, and the abduction and murder of informants.

“My approach was to attempt to respect everyone who had died by treating them equally. I sought to present them with dignity, to demonstrate they were a member of a family, to show they were loved. In essence, this project seeks to give a voice to those who did not live to tell their tales”, concludes Dara.   

The exhibition For Those That Tell No Tales by Dara McGrath runs to the end of August and is kindly supported by The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 initiative, Cork City Council and Cork Public Museum.

Caption:

1106a. Dara McGrath at his exhibition entitled, For Those That Tell No Tales, in the Crawford Art Gallery (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 10 June 2021

1103a. Empress Place, Former Black and Tan Barracks 1921, Summerhill North, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 10 June 2021

Journeys to a Truce: A Crown Interrogation

In mid-June 1921 Seán Healy, Captain of A Company, 1st Battalion, Cork Brigade No.1, was elated at the prospect of bringing off a successful ambush against crown forces. He had plans completed for a large ambush on a patrol of Black and Tans whose daily beat brought them through Silversprings Lane in Tivoli. About thirty fully armed Black and Tans passed through it every evening. The Company considered this lane as an ideal place for an ambush. The hills on both sides were heavily wooded, which would provide ample cover for the men. A-Company company were only awaiting sanction from their Brigade Officer-in-Command. However, events did go according to plan.

In his Bureau of Military History witness statement (WS1479), Seán recalls that at 11am on the morning of 14 June, Seán was in the Parcels Office at the Glanmire Station (now Kent Station) when two British Intelligence officers, in mufti, entered and he was trapped and arrested. He notes of his arrest: “I had no way of escape, being taken unawares. The railway station had been surrounded by military and police. I was placed under arrest and marched from the station to the nearby Black and Tan Barracks at Empress Place, under a heavy escort. When climbing the long flight of stone steps leading from the Lower Road to Empress Place, I felt that my race was run…It was obvious that I was in for a rough time. Heavy fighting was taking place in most parts of the country at that time. The enemy was being attacked on all sides. The Dublin Custom House was burnt down a short time previously. The temper of the Crown forces was very high”.

When Seán was taken into the police barracks he was handed over to the Black and Tans by the military, as a temporary arrangement – the British Intelligence Officer Lieutenant Dove remarking that he would call back him back later. Seán was pushed into an office and the sergeant insitu demanded his name and address. Seán gave him the required information and his particulars were recorded. The sergeant then ordered two of his men to search Seán. They removed his coat, vest and shoes.

Seán remarks of being interrogated: “We had strict orders from G.H.Q. to remain silent during interrogations and to refuse to recognise the enemy Courts. Next questions were: “Are you a member of the I.R.A.? Another one of the Murder Gang? Where were you born? How old are you? What occupation do you hold? Where does your father reside? Knowing that the military officers were calling back for me again, I played for time and informed the interrogators that I would not answer any questions until my solicitor was present”.

Seán was then handcuffed and removed to a military lorry which was waiting outside and was conveyed to Victoria Military Barracks. Before leaving Empress Place, the military took possession of Seán’s belongings, which had been taken from him by the police. The lorry halted outside the main gates of the military barracks which were then opened by a sentry and Seán’s lorry was admitted. All alighted from the lorry and an orderly wrote down the usual particulars.

Sean was then un-handcuffed and escorted to the Intelligence Office: He remarks: “I was again searched and subjected to an interrogation by three Intelligence officers. Your name? Your address? Your occupation? Are you a Sinn Féiner? Did you take part in any of the attacks against our forces? What do you know about Sinn Féin dispatches being sent on railway trains? What business had you and three other Sinn Féiners outside the Cork University at 9am on a certain morning? etc, etc”.

The Intelligence Officer had information that Seán was prominent in Cork IRA Brigade No.1 and that he held the rank of an officer. It now became quite clear to Seán that a spy had given information against him. He again claimed privilege not to answer any questions until his solicitor Mr. Healy, solicitor, South Mall was present.

Seán was abruptly told that this was a military inquiry and under Martial Law they had a means of making him talk. The interrogation lasted about half an hour. After leaving the Intelligence Office, Seán was taken to a prison cell where he was kept in solitary confinement for three days and nights. The weather was exceptionally warm so that bed clothes did not bother him. The only ventilation in the cell was a small window, which was about ten feet from the ground and strongly protected with iron bars. The only furniture in the cell was the plank bed on which there was one army blanket.

A notice was crudely hand-printed on the wall over the cell door – “All who enter here are doomed men”. This was evidently done for a joke by some of the soldiers who were guarding the prison. Seán describes that he slept very little on those nights; “I was expecting visits from the Intelligence officers, who frequently took out their prisoners during the late hours for further interrogations, but for some inexplicable reason they did not interfere with me at night. The thought of the ordeals that confronted me did not help to induce sleep. Realising that if any of the various charges which could be brought against me were proved, torture, the firing squad, then the release by death, would be my end, I prayed that I would be strong enough to stand up to them all”.

To be continued next week…

Captions:

1103a. Empress Place, Former Black and Tan Barracks 1921, Summerhill North, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Cllr McCarthy’s Upcoming Cork Harbour Festival Events, June 2021

Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy will host three events for the upcoming Cork Harbour Festival. Two of the events focus on the rich history of the city’s bridges and the third focuses in on the history and sense of place on The Marina. The events and dates are as follows:

– Bridges of Cork, Online Talk by Kieran, Tuesday 8 June 2021, 7.30pm-8.30pm, FREE:

This zoom presentation explores the general development of the city’s bridges and why they were historically so important and are still so important in connecting the different parts of Cork City together. Details of the link for the talk are available at www.corkharbourfestival.com

– Bridges of Cork, Heritage Treasure Hunt, hosted by Kieran, Saturday 12 June 2021, 1pm, FREE, self-guided walk:

This treasure hunt is all about looking up and around and exploring the heart of Cork City whilst exploring the stories and place of the city centre’s bridges. Suitable for all ages, approx 2hr, with mixed footpaths on city’s quays.Meet Kieran at National Monument, Grand Parade, Cork, between 1pm-1.15pm on Saturday 12 June, to receive the self-guided treasure hunt pack, no booking required. Bring a pen.

– The Marina, Self Guided Audio Trail with Kieran, 4 June 2021 -14 June, FREE:

A stroll down The Marina is popular by many people. The area is particularly characterized by its location on the River Lee and the start of Cork Harbour. Here scenery, historical monuments and living heritage merge to create a rich sense of place. The audio tour will be available here to stream live on your smartphone from 4-14 June 2021. Details of the link for the audio trail are available at www.corkharbourfestival.com

Press, Cllr McCarthy: ‘A terrible precedent for the city’s historic buildings’, 30 May 2021,

30 May 2021, “Mr McCarthy said it is a “really disappointing” decision and “there must be accountability for all involved.” On Twitter, he wrote: “There was no need for The Sextant to be knocked until plans were tied down fully”, A terrible precedent for the city’s historic buildings’ — plan to scrap apartments for offices criticised, ‘A terrible precedent for the city’s historic buildings’ — plan to scrap apartments for offices criticised (irishexaminer.com)