Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Historical Walking Tours, April 2024

Sunday 14 April, The City Workhouse, historical walking tour, meet just inside the gates of St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, in association with Cork Lifelong Learning Festival, 1.30pm, free, two hours, on site tour, no booking required.

Sunday 21 April, Douglas and its History, historical walking tour; meet in the carpark of Douglas Community Centre, 1.30pm finishes nearby, no booking required.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 4 April 2024

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 4 April 2024

Launch of the Ballycannon Boys Memorial Park

This article is another follow up of articles I have written in recent years on the Ballycannon Boys memorial. In recent weeks the Ballycannon Boys Memorial Park, created by local community group of Clogheen/ Kerry Pike Community Association, has been unveiled. The park complements the nearby memorial (1945) and honours the memory of six young IRA men that were killed by Black and Tans on 23 March 1921.

The six men killed were Daniel Crowley of Blarney Street (aged 22), William Deasy of Mount Desert, Blarney Road (aged 20 years), Thomas Dennehy of Blarney Street (aged 21 years), Daniel Murphy of Orrey Hill (aged 24 years), Jeremiah O’Mullane of Blarney Street (aged 23), and Michael O’Sullivan of Blarney Street (aged 20 years).

The new and detailed information panels in the park highlight that early in the morning of the 23 March, a number of lorries left police barracks in Cork loaded with Black and Tans, British born recruits to the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) who wore khaki uniforms & the black belts and caps of the RIC. The Black and Tans were feared for their ruthlessness and lack of discipline. The lorries drove out to Kerry Pike where the Tans dismounted and made their way silently over the road, crossing the fields, approaching and surrounding the O’Keeffe farmyard. They banged on the front door demanding admittance, and having woken the terrified household began searching the house, then spread out to search the outbuildings, catching the six young men asleep and unarmed in the tack room next to the stables.

What happened next is contested, but it appears that some of the six young men were dragged outside and mistreated as the police demanded to know where they had hidden their arms. There was an attempted break-out as they tried to escape through the surrounding fields. But a cordon had been posted and one by one the young men were picked off in a hail of high velocity rifle fire and revolver bullets. Some of the bodies were horribly mutilated, some showed marks of having been shot at close range.

When the firing ceased, six bodies were wrapped in blankets and carried down to the road, through the field, where they were loaded in the lorries and brought back to the military barracks. According to evidence given later by Cornelius O’Keeffe, who was taken prisoner and brought along, one of the victims was still alive when put into the lorry.

The Ballycannon tragedy must also be viewed in the broader context of what was happening elsewhere. During the eight months leading up until the Truce of July 1921, there was a spiralling of the death toll in the conflict, with 1,000 people including the RIC police, British military, IRA volunteers and civilians, being killed in the months between January and July 1921 alone. This represents about 70% of the total casualties for the entire three-year conflict. In addition, 4,500 IRA personnel (or suspected sympathisers) were interned in this time.In the middle of this violence, the Dáil formally declared war on Britain in March 1921. Between 1 November 1920 and 7 June 1921 twenty four men were executed by the British.

On 19 March 1921, four days before the Kerrypike incident Tom Barry’s 100-strong West Cork IRA unit fought a large-scale action against 1,200 British troops – the Crossbarry Ambush. Barry’s men narrowly avoided being trapped by converging British columns and inflicted between ten and thirty killed on the British side. About 100 Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers escaped an attempt by over 1,300 British forces to encircle them. During the hour-long battle three to six IRA volunteers were killed.

Michael Murphy who was a Commandant in the 2nd Battalion Cork No. 1 Brigade in his witness statement for the Bureau of Military History (WS1547) noted that in the case of the Ballycannon six that information was given to the military by a former comrade of the boys, a man named Patrick “Cruxy” O’Connor; “All our intelligence service vas alerted for information leading to the person who ‘tipped off’ the British as to the location of the Volunteer dugout. Finally, the informer was discovered to be a man named Connors who was actually a comrade of the murdered Volunteers at one time and who, possibly for monetary reward, decided to sell his friends”.

Michael writes that Patrick O’Connor went into hiding in the military barracks, Cork. Day and night, a watch was kept for him by Volunteers, but he never left the barracks. Eventually, we got word that he had gone to New York and, immediately, contact was made ‘with Cork men there to locate him. He was duly found and his address sent on to the Cork Brigade.

Michael notes of the New York assassination attempt; “Two Cork Volunteers Danny Healy and Martin Donovan from my battalion were sent out to New York. They watched for Connors, noted the times of his coming and going from his residence and, one afternoon when Connors opened the door of the house in which he lived, he was confronted by Healy and Donovan carrying revolvers”. Patrick managed to recover from his wounds. He moved to Canada, married an Irish immigrant and had a daughter. He died in 1952, at age 60.


1246a. John Mulcahy, historian, speaking at the launch of the Ballycannon Boys Memorial Park, 23 March 2024 (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 28 March 2024

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 28 March 2024

Leo Murphy’s Shaving Kit 1921

Recently Cork Public Museum marked the return to Cork of a small shaving kit used by Commandant Leo Murphy who died at the hands of Crown Forces during the War of Independence in 1921. 

Leo Murphy had been targeted by Crown Forces for his role as Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Cork Brigade and his involvement in numerous notable IRA activities in the area, including the killing of British intelligence officer Captain Joseph Thompson in November 1920. He was shot and killed by soldiers from the Manchester Regiment during a surprise raid on a secret IRA meeting at O’Donovan’s Pub (now O’Shea’s) in Waterfall, on the outskirts of the city, on 27 June 1921. As Murphy lay dead at the side of the road, his pockets were searched, and the contents kept as ‘souvenirs of war’.

One of the items removed was a small personal shaving kit used by Leo Murphy while on the run. It ended up in display in the Manchester Regiment Museum in the town hall of Ashton-under-Lyne, in Tameside, Greater Manchester. The museum recently closed, and the Manchester Regiment Collection passed to the care of the Portland Basin Museum in Tameside.

Last year, Cork Public Museum Curator Dan Breen contacted his counterpart in the Portland Basin Museum, Rachel Crnes to enquire about the possibility of arranging the loan of the shaving kit for display in Cork. 

The descendants of Walter ‘Leo’ Murphy came to the museum for a private viewing of the shaving kit before it goes on public display. The shaving kit will be displayed in the museum’s War of Independence exhibition, By Every Means at Our Command, alongside one of Leo Murphy’s hats, which was previously donated to Cork Public Museum.

  Leo Murphy was born in his family’s The White Horse public house in Ballincollig in 1901. In 1917, he joined the Irish Republican movement and became a youth member in Fianna Éireann. In 1920 Cork Volunteer Headquarters sent Leo as a quartermaster, organiser and military trainer to the 3rd Battalion. The training consisted mostly of drill at first for the purpose of discipline and as the Company gradually increased in strength by twos and threes from the original six it was able to be organised on a proper basis.

Tim Herlihy in a witness statement (W810) for the Bureau of Military History, describes that he was a former founder members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Cork Brigade. Tim outlines that in the autumn of 1920, after Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, had died on hunger strike in Brixon Prison in London, the 3rd Battalion in force attended his funeral in Cork. It was reckoned that the Battalion paraded over 500 strong.

At this time after nightfall shots were fired occasionally about 200 yards from the Military Barracks at Ballincollig just to keep the military guessing. Tim further explains that the usual patrols followed, but there was an Intelligence System in operation in the Barracks, carried out by the local Volunteers. They sent out word to the Volunteers prior to the military moving out of the Barracks.

Tim highlights that there was a Captain Thompson, Intelligent Officer Manchester Regiment, who used to go into shops and houses in Ballincollig village brandishing a revolver and saying that if anything happened to him “the village would go up”. In November 1920, Thompson was seized at Carrigrohane on his motor bike and shot dead, his arms and bike being taken”. No reprisals took place but there was tension for a while. Captain Thompson was shot dead by Leo Murphy and two other Volunteers on the Model Farm Road. Thompson had previously violently raided Leo Murphy’s mother’s house.

Thompson was succeeded as Intelligence Officer by Captain Vining. It was he who shot Leo Murphy on 27 June 1921, just a fortnight before the Truce. Leo Murphy was then Officer-in- Command, 3rd Battalion, having succeeded Tim Herlihy, who was taken prisoner by the British.

On acting on information supplied to him on Leo Murphy’s movements, he and approx five other British Officers drove up in a car to Donovan’s public house at Waterfall one evening and surrounded the house. Tim Herlihy in his statements relates: “There were about forty-four in all in the pub, the great majority of whom were elderly men who had been attending a bowling match in the locality. Of all the crowd there were only a few Volunteers. Two of them escaped, but Leo Murphy, who tried to shoot his way out, was shot dead. Another Volunteer, Charlie Daly, who was unarmed, was taken away by Captain Vining and his party and his dead body was found at Douglas the next morning. He had been shot. Daly belonged to the 2nd Battalion (Cork City)”.

In mid-January this year, as Lord Mayor, I travelled with Dan Breen to Tameside to officially receive the shaving kit taken by Captain Vinning and the Manchester Regiment and to bring it home to Cork. I visited Dukinfield Town Hall and was greeted by Dublin-born Deputy Mayor of Tameside, Cllr. Betty Affleck, and executive leader, Cllr. Gerald Cooney (also of Irish descent).

Cork Public Museum Curator, Dan Breen on the occasion noted: “Cork City Council and Cork Public Museum would like to acknowledge the help and support given to the handover by their colleagues in Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and the Portland Basin Museum. The return of the shaving kit to Cork brings closure to one chapter of Irish War of Independence but it highlights the complex history shared by the cities of Cork and Manchester and acknowledges the potential for future collaborations to better understand it”

From his early days in Fianna Éireann, Leo Murphy’s story was one of courage and resilience. His promotion to quarter master of the 3rd Battalion by the age of nineteen in 1920, is an indication of his leadership qualities and the high esteem in which he was held by all within the Cork IRA. The commemoration of his life and times in our time shines a spotlight on his leadership and sacrifice. It also, through the Tameside Museum side, showcases why we need to keep searching for objects and documents associated with our War of Independence to make sure the full story is told.

My sincere thanks to Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council for their courtesy and co-operation and to Cork Public Museum for their consistent guardianship of Cork’s past. The shaving kit can be viewed by the public at Cork Public Museum.


1246. Shaving kit of Leo Murphy, 1921 (picture: Cork Public Museum).

Lord Mayor Cllr McCarthy Launches his Local Election Campaign, 23 March 2024

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Kieran McCarthy, Independent, has confirmed his attention to run in the forthcoming local elections on Friday 7 June. He has once again chosen to run in the south east local electoral area of Cork City which includes the Douglas area. The south east area extended from Albert Road through Ballinlough, Ballintemple, Blackrock, Mahon and takes in Douglas Village, Donnybrook, Rochestown and Mount Oval districts. 

First elected in 2009 Cllr McCarthy has won three terms of office in Cork City Hall on an Independent platform. In launching his manifesto this week Cllr McCarthy outlined his vision across five policy areas – developing more recreational and amenity sites, moving Cork to become net zero in Carbon emissions, marketing the City Centre and village renewal, local government reform and financial accountability, and continuing his suite of community and history projects. 

At the launch of his campaign Cllr McCarthy noted his broad range of interests from community development, city planning, culture and history, village renewal environmental issues and regional development. “Over the past fifteen years I have gained much experience in local government and in particular during my year as Lord Mayor. In City Hall, I continue to fight the corner of my constituents . My website and social media sites showcase my work pursued and achieved over the past decade. It also sets out my stall of interests and what an Independent strong voice can offer local government plus a vision for Cork City’s future in working with local communities. Collaboration with local people is very important to me”.

“Over the past fifteen years I have created and curated several community projects including local history programmes in local schools, a youth community talent competition, a youth Make a Model Boat project. I also founded Cork City Musical Society for adults. I also run free historical walking tours regularly across over 25 Cork City suburban sites.  Against the backdrop of very busy Lord Mayor’s schedule I look forward to meeting people again at the doors over the next few weeks, and if anyone would like to help with my campaign in any shape of form, it would be greatly appreciated”, concluded Lord Mayor Cllr McCarthy.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 21 March 2024

1245a. Cork Milling Company's Marina Mills, 1936 (source: Cork City Library).
1245a. Cork Milling Company’s Marina Mills, 1936 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 21 March 2024

Making an Irish Free State City – Grain Silos at South Docks

It is the end of an era as the iconic grain silos are currently being demolished on Cork’s South Docks. The site has a rich history and heritage dating back over 200 years.

By 1810 Cork had become a big market for flour especially with brewers and distillers. The milling trade has passed through a complete revolution in the process of manufacture during the previous forty years. Up to the years 1875 to 1880 the only method of manufacturing flour was grinding by millstones, the wheat being ground between two flat circular stones.

Cork National Flour Mills: Between 1875 and 1880 Cork became one of the first milling centres in Ireland to adopt the roller process. A number of well-equipped mills in the City and County were constructed, in which some 70,000 tons of wheat were milled annually, and in addition, close on 90,000 tons of maize were ground. A large and landmark mill and warehouse complex known as the Cork National Flour Mills on Cork’s South Docks was built in 1892. The building was revamped, c.1935.

Cork Milling Company: By the time of the Irish Free State government, the Cork Milling Company was formed and took over the Cork National Flour Mills site. It was greatly influenced by the imposition of tariffs on foreign-milled flour, and the Government’s invitation to put up mills within the emerging Free State. The Cork Milling Company, Ltd. comprised John Furlong & Sons (1920) Ltd., Marina Mills, Cork, J. and R Webb, Ltd., Mallow Mills, Mallow and Glandalane Mills, Fermoy; T Hallinan & Sons (1932) Ltd, Avoncore Mills, Midleton; and J W MacMullen & Sons, Ltd., Cork.

New Offices: In September 1932, in order to accommodate adequately their staff, the Cork Milling Company opened new offices on Victoria Quay. The building was erected on an almost triangular site with two street frontages, and the main entrance was placed on the more important Victoria Road. Externally the building has modern tendencies which are accentuated by the shape of the site and the treatment of the first floor. Internally the ground floor was designed to accommodate a very large staff in the general office, which has a floor area of 1,700 sq. feet, with three directors’ rooms in addition.

New Plant: The work of preparing the plans for a building capable of housing a modern flour-milling plant was entrusted to the noted Cork architects, Messrs Chillingworth and Levie, and in September 1933 work began on the erection and completed in July 1934. The contractors for the building were Messrs. John Sisk and Son. According to the Cork Examiner, although there was an original building on the present site, the work entailed a large amount of engineering skill, and, thanks to the Consulting Engineer Mr J L O’Connell, the reusability of adapting the older premises as a mill, was accomplished. The original walls were supported on timber piles. These walls were raised considerably and the original floor area was doubled. In order to ensure a thoroughly substantial job, a complete framework of steel was raised up within the main walls, each stanchion of which was supported by a concrete pile, the idea being to save the original fabric from damage by vibration.

New Grain Silo: In 1934, the Cork Examiner reported that the construction of a twelve thousand five hundred tons Grain Silo was finished at the Marina Mills, Victoria Quay for The Cork Milling Company.

The Company engaged the services of English engineer Mr William Littlejohn Philip, O.B.E., a consulting engineer, whose very extensive knowledge and experience in storing grain in bulk in deep bins was well-known. He was a world expert in the bulk-handling of grain and coal and designed silos in many parts of the world, including Ireland. The imposing structure on Victoria Quay, built to his designs was an outstanding landmark in Cork for its day.

The huge mass of 600 tons of internal steel structure was completed by Messrs. Smith & Pearson, Ltd. of Dublin. A large number of additional and local hands were employed by the concreting contractors to assist and expedite the process of erection.

The foundations and the entire concrete work on the building, to the designs of the consulting engineer, were carried out by Messrs Peter Lind & Company, Ltd., of London.

The method of concreting entails the pouring in of liquid cement simultaneously over the whole area, so that every twenty-four hours the mass rose four feet, and so on, every day, to the top. Sand came from local pits. Four thousand tons of Granite chips were brought by Steamer from Browhead, Goleen. These chips were mixed with several thousand tons of cement and sand, and this concrete was knitted, into one solid mass by thousands of intermingling re-enforcing rods throughout the whole area of the structure.

Second New Mill and Screenhouse: Constructed of the latest type of re-inforced concrete in 1936, the second mill and screenhouse were both five storeys high. The block of buildings were erected by Messrs. P. J. Hegarty and Sons, Builders and Contractors, Upper John Street. The mill  proper had a slated and glass roof and the screenhouse, where the wheat was prepared for the mill, had a flat roof.

Read more on the history of South Docks at my Cork website under history trails.


1245a. Cork Milling Company’s Marina Mills, 1936 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 7 March 2024

1243a. Former and now demolished Cork Maternity Hospital, Erinville, Western Road (source: Buildings of Ireland Resource).
1243a. Former and now demolished Cork Maternity Hospital, Erinville, Western Road (source: Buildings of Ireland Resource).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 7 March 2024

Making an Irish Free State City – Cork Child Welfare League

Set up in February 1918 through the brain child of Lord Mayor Thomas C Butterfield, the Cork Child Welfare League was an impressive voluntary charity group comprising prominent male and female Cork citizens ranging from the Lord Mayor to councillors to prominent businessmen to clergy to legal support to representatives of at least sixteen charitable organisations. Several philanthropic women and female doctors were also key players in maternity and child welfare in Cork.

The League was established to “reduce and as far as possible to prevent infant mortality in Cork and to promote a healthy race”. Its committee members were the general public but with the Lord Mayor as chair. The League was funded by public charitable finance.

From the beginning, the League’s work was well structured every year and all the way through the decades of the 1920s, they produced monthly reports and a detailed annual report at their annual general meeting on the poverty conditions affecting mothers and children in the city. The reports were published in the Cork Examiner and some early minute books of the League also survive in Cork City and County Archives.

Practical action included committee members and public health advocates funding specially trained nurses to visit mothers and their children in their home and hospitals to offer support and knowledge and also gain data on the health of children being attended to.

On 11 March 1924, the report of the work pursued for 1923 by specially trained nurses of the Cork Child Welfare League was brought forward for consideration and approval. A total of 1,303 new babies and 255 anti-natal cases had been added to the books of the league. An impressive 13,385 mothers and babies were visited by the nurses, an increase of 3,600 over the attendance the previous year.

The nurses at Cork Maternity Hospital on Batchelors Quay and Lying-in Hospital (became known as the Erinville on Western Road) were inspected at regular intervals by the visiting sub committees. The work of the medical and nursing staff was highly commended. A larger room had been created for a waiting-room at Cork Maternity Hospital, which made the experience more comfortable for those attending from the outside.

The report noted the hospitals as being crowded with mothers seeking advice;“Their popularity may be gauged by the fact that twice a week the extern rooms of these institutions are crowded with mothers who have brought their infants for the valuable advice they receive from the doctors or nurses. The extern hours have had to be extended from the two stipulated for originally to three and a half to four and a half hours each session”.

A total 259 cases of sickness were dealt with during 1923. In March a mild form of influenza was prevalent amongst the children, followed in some cases by pneumonia. Infantile diarrhoea was much in evidence during the summer months, and several deaths occurred from this disease. 58 deaths occurred during the year of babies under 12 months old attended by the league nurses; 10 died of convulsions. 13 of pneumonia and bronchia pneumonia. 3 of bronchitis, 9 of babies delicate from birth, and 1 premature baby, 10 of diarrhoea, 1 of influenza, 2 of gastritis, I of kidney trouble, and 10 of causes unknown.

In spite of the great poverty in the city during the year there was less anaemia amongst the children attended by the health visitors of the league. Large quantities of milk were supplied in needy cases and the amount of virol made available by the league for the children was also quite high. Nearly one third of the cases visited received help. An impressive 50,703 quarts of milk and 5054 pairs of bread were distributed in 1923.

Over 96% of the babies visited by the League were breast fed. The nurses, in their advice to mothers, insisted on the importance of breastfeeding. The reports notes the advice; “It is proved that infants fed thus thrive better than those who are artificially fed and mothers are realising that this natural feeling is all that a baby requires”.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Seán French at the 1924 AGM looked on the League as the real foundation of public health. He deemed that it should receive more wholehearted approval than was apparent from the voluntary subscription list and even more press coverage in calling for public funds; “The necessity for financial aid to carry on a work of vital importance should be emphasised by the Press in order to wake the people up to a sense of their duty in the matter”.

In the few schools Seán had visited, his reflections afterward were that the League was making an impact on the public health of children. He highlighted: “Some years ago it was their absolute ill-health which was evident, and there was no organisation more responsible for the great Improvement than the Child Welfare League”.

Fast forward to the 1930 AGM report, which reflected on the work by the League in 1929, and it is clear that the group had had a large impact in a few short years on the public health of mothers and children. The improved conditions of employment in the city were reflected in the annual report, which outlined that there had been a decrease of 5,465 in the number of visitors to mothers in their homes. Seven hundred and fifty needy babies and mothers had still received help, which was a vast drop from the high figures of over 13,000 visits in 1924. This decrease in numbers is also due to the official appointment by central government of specially trained nurses to local authorities, which included Cork Corporation.

With the expansion of Ford’s Works and the general revival in trade, the report pointed out, had been a great boon, and had absorbed the majority of the unemployed. However, the effects of the lean years did unfortunately, he felt would for some years to come appear in children’s health statistics. This is evident in the AGM reports of the League published in the 1930s in the Cork Examiner.

The Cork Child Welfare League remained in operation into the late 1960s and annually published their AGM reports on the health of mothers and children in the city. The history of League for the most part remains unresearched and has an important story on municipal public health provision to bring to public fruition.


1243a. Former and now demolished Cork Maternity Hospital, Erinville, Western Road (source: Buildings of Ireland Resource).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 29 February 2024

1242a. Cork Terminus at Albert Road, for Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway Line c.1925 (source: Cork City Library).
1242a. Cork Terminus at Albert Road, for Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway Line c.1925 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 29 February 2024

Making an Irish Free State City – End of the Line

On 25 February 1924 the annual general meeting of the shareholders of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway Company was held. Sir Stanley Harrington, Chairman, presided and read out a detailed report on the challenges facing the company. Annual AGM reports one hundred years ago and published by newspapers such as the Cork Examiner provide rich material to chart the rise and fall of the railway company.

It was in 1835 that the plan for a Cork Passage railway was first proposed by Cork based merchants. By the time it was built it was the third railway line to open in the country and the first in the south of Ireland. The line was opened to the public on Saturday 8 June 1850 and there was a service of ten trains each way at regular intervals.

In 1896, an Act of Parliament enabled the company to extend the line as far as Crosshaven. John Best Leith, Scotland received the contract for the regauging of the line. Works began in 1897. A new double track was laid between Cork and Blackrock, the only example of a double track in Ireland at the time.

At the 25 February 1924 meeting Mr Harrington related that a year on from the Civil War the damage on the span on the Douglas Viaduct had been repaired. Signal cabins at Rochestown, Passage and Monkstown had been rebuilt. The Blackrock cabin was in the course of rebuilding. The six carriages, which were burnt out, were replaced by new ones.

However, Mr Harrington’s core focus was on the difficulties to balance the company’s accounts. For several years the deficit on the account was accelerating. Reference is given that one of the serious reductions to profits was the withdrawal of the British military and naval forces from Cork and district. It was estimated at a loss of at least one million pounds annually to Cork.

From 1 January 1923 to 23 April 1923 closing down for goods and people traffic due to Civil War damage caused financial loss. The general dockers strike in Cork from August to November 1923 also caused a serious cost to the company. Rates and taxation created a large financial loss for the company, which ultimately led the way to the company’s demise a decade later.

At the AGM for February 1925, the financial losses had expanded. Persistent wet weather ruined the 1924 summer excursion traffic and ordinary traffic was disastrously affected by the depression in trade prevailing all over the South of Ireland. Furthermore, the closing down of Haulbowline and the dearth of work at Passage and Rushbrooke Dockyards, which used to bring the railway so much business, had seriously diminished receipts.

Reference is also made that on 13 August 1924, approval of the Great Southern Preliminary Absorption Scheme 1924 took place. Compensation was given to directors who suffered loss by the abolition of their office. Ultimately though, this took away a more localised focus and created a more centralised focus, whereby several railway companies came under the Great Southern Railway Company.

From 1925 to 1932 the Passage railway limped on with financial deficits. It still carried large crowds during the summer months, but the growing ownership of the motorcar ousted the popularity of travelling on the railway.

On 27 May 1932, it was officially announced that on and from 1 June 1932 all trains on the railway line between Crosshaven and Monkstown in both directions would cease to run. The Cork Examiner notes that the news was met with regret and that the train service between these points was up to some years ago “the main artery of holiday traffic at the popular seaside resort which it linked to the city”. The newspaper relates that within recent years the vast increase in the number of privately owned cars was responsible for a gradual but very noticeable falling off in the passenger service, and the advent of the buses was virtually the death blow to the railway.

In early September 1932, Mr Thomas Jones, chairman of the Passage Urban Council wrote a telegram to the Ministry of Industry addressing the concerns of in regard to the closing of the line. The response in a letter, and published by the Cork Examiner, outlined that the Minister had no power to intervene in the matter. The Minister was informed by the Railway Company, however, that their decision to close the line was reached after mature consideration of the fact that a continuous loss of approximate £4,000 per year in keeping it open; “The Company point out that the public have in a very large measure, deserted the railway services on that line for the more mobile, convenient, and attractive omnibus services, and that it is the intention of the Company to provide full and adequate alternative road services”.

In August 1933, one of the final stages in the abandonment of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway between Cork and Crosshaven was reached when Messrs. Woodward, auctioneers were appointed in charge of the disposal of a number of lots of sleepers and rails from the route.

The old railway’s line’s re-opening in 1984 as a walkway was seen as cutting edge amenity addition in the city. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength in its number usage – its promotion of public health, walking and cycling, connecting the river and the estuary and its strong sense of place makes for an exciting public space in the years that come. 

Strong political and public pressure have staved off such aspirations of a rail reboot function in the past decade in favour of Cork City Council developing a widened greenway, significantly improving its access ramps, and planting over 2,000 native species along the former rail route. A conservation programme in recent years restored the old stonework of the old Blackrock Station and replacing a long gone cast iron bridge. Currently there is also an ongoing work programme with local residents on how to bring the greenway from Rochestown to connect up with the Cork County Council section of the railway, which brings the line into the heart of Passage West.


1242a. Cork Terminus at Albert Road, for Cork Blackrock and Passage Railway Line c.1925 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 22 February 2024

1241a. Advertisement for Universal Motor Company. 1924 (source: Cork City Library).
1241a. Advertisement for Universal Motor Company. 1924 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 22 February 2024

Making an Irish Free State City – The Universal Motor Company

On 15 February 1924, a special meeting of the Law and Finance Committee of Cork Corporation was held to consider the requests from a deputation from Messrs M Healy and Sons solicitors, on behalf of the Universal Motor Company, Ltd and its director John Patrick O’Mahony. The company was applying for a thirty-one year lease of the premises, known as the Shell Factory (now the Bodega), Cornmarket Street, and was agreeing to surrender the extent lease.

The City Engineer, J F Delany, reported on the matter. The premises were formerly the property of Cork Corporation, and used as a meat market, fronting upon the North Main Street and also upon Cornmarket Street. The premises were leased to the British Government in 1916 for the purposes of a munitions factory, and were transferred to Mr Richard Woodhead (South of Ireland Motor Company), and were subsequently leased to Universal Motor Company. The latter lease was for a period of twenty-one years from June 1916.

The trade carried on was for the sale, repair and garaging of motor vehicles. The rent payable was £200 per annum, which did not include rates, the poor rate, and income tax.

During the February 1924 meeting, the rent offered by John P O’Mahony was £200 per annum, which if free of these outgoings would leave no revenue to the Corporation. This caused concern for the committee present.

John P O’Mahony said that since he was before the Committee, he had made important contracts with firms covering Munster, and also Kilkenny and Wexford. Since late June 1923, he was the lead partner with Fords Cork for the selling of their cars to local markets.  John sought that cars would be sold at an affordable rate and struck a deal with Fords to make sure costs were as low at they could be. The Ford Factory on Cork’s south docks sold tractors and cars into the UK market and it was up to Irish entrepreneurs to import such machines back into Ireland.

Founded in 1914 by Julia Herlihy, the Universal Motor Company was built upon an international business. In the late nineteenth century Julia and her husband Timothy O’Herlihy from Kilmurray amassed an extensive fortune in India through the hotel business. They owned a number of hotels, one of which was in Darjeeling. They also built up a range of business contacts. The wealth amassed by Julia Herlihy found its way back to Cork. The Universal Motor Company pursued a small trade in coach building and selling motor cars.

When Julia passed away in 1917, her will bequeathed her company to her nephew John P O’Mahony who spearheaded a direct contract with Fords in Cork, which meant lower freight charges and less waiting time for the purchased car to arrive in Cork. In addition, in his own way John was responsible for the sharp increase by Munster people in owning their own affordable car. Such a change was to radically increase the ask for road space, the insurance market for motor cars and created a new era in the development of the motor car business in the early Irish Free State.

At the Corporation committee meeting in addition to engineering work John P O’Mahony noted that he was interested in motor car body building and detailed that this would give a good deal of local employment. John was also of the view that commercial vehicles should not be imported but should be made locally. He felt that in a year or two his company would be employing over 100 men. The reason for his application was to get security of tenure on the premises, so that he could make alterations and extensions, which would mean an expenditure of some thousands of pounds. He highlighted that in the motor industry in the past there was a very serious problem around not having up-to-date plant machinery.

During the meeting, the City Engineer argued that the rent should be £550. A small shop in the same street had been rented recently at £100 a year; those premises were new, but not at all as extensive as St Peter’s Market.

After further discussion it was agreed that the company pay the Corporation for the premises £50 a year in addition to all charges, which, calculated on the present basis, amount to £203 17s. This arrangement was accepted by John P O’Mahony on behalf of the company.

In 1925, John Patrick decided to make the Universal Motor Company a limited company. The National Archive in Dublin reveals the company formation documents. The certificate of Incorporation of the Universal Motor Company Limited was on the 2 September 1925. The company was formed with compliance to the requirements of the Companies (Consolidation) Act 1908. The first directors were John Patrick O’Mahony, David O’Mahony (a brother), both registered at 40 North Main Street, Joseph O’Mahony (a brother) of Knock, Rochestown and Charles P. McCarthy, an incorporated accountant of 50 South Mall. The chairman was John Patrick O’Mahony. The nominal capital of the company was £10,000 divided into 10,000 shares of £1-0-0 each.

The money was borrowed in late September 1925 from The Munster and Leinster Bank Limited on 66 South Mall Cork. However, in February 1926, the company ran into financial problems and the bank appointed Mr. Alexander Joseph Magennis as a receiver and manager of the property of the company. By 1927, the receiver had sold off the Cornmarket Street premises and the garage on North Main Street was replaced by the Lee Hosiery and Clothing Factory. The Universal Motor Company Limited was eventually dissolved in July 1945.

In East Cork c.1934, John Patrick O’Mahony diversified into the hurley making business in Killeagh. His brothers Joe and Paddy were also involved in the business. They brought ash in from forests in Clare and Longford for manufacture. The hurley manufacturing continued until the 1970s. Hurling was a competitive sport in East Cork. Dungourney Hurling Club were All-Ireland champions 1902 and Munster Champions in 1907 and also in that decade were winners of the Roche Cup, Cork Athletic Grounds Cup and the Dr Mangan Cup. There was a great heritage of hurling in the area before the O’Mahony brothers set up their business.

Parts of the above article were first published in this column in 2008. Sincere thanks to Pat Reen, Eamonn O’Mahony, Betty O’Mahony and Sheila Healy for their insights into the O’Mahony clan.


1241a. Advertisement for Universal Motor Company. 1924 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Lord Mayor’s Echo Column, 17 February 2023

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a civic reception in City Hall for Cork City FC who are celebrating their fortieth birthday this week. It is appropriate that the first event to mark the club’s birthday was held in City Hall, as, in the words of the founding Chairman, Jim Hennebry, “Cork City FC was conceived in the Cork Lord Mayor’s office”. The idea was mooted by the late Hugh Coveney (RIP) with Joe Delaney (RIP) FAI and Pat O’Brien, President of FAI (RIP).  Officially the Club was born in Bundoran at the League of Ireland AGM in July 1984.

For the People of Cork:

On 25 September 1984, the Cork Examiner published a write-up of an address of Jim Hennebry to the Cork Rotary Club luncheon on the vision of the club. He noted that Cork City AFC belongs to the people of Cork rather than to the group of individuals who formed the club. Jim further praised the efforts of the individuals who took up the challenge of getting a team into the League of Ireland in serious recessionary times.

Jim highlighted that much of the club’s income is derived from contributions from the private and commercial sectors in Cork business life, and he felt that sponsorship has a major role to play in the future of the game here;

“There is an urgent need for commercial involvement in the club, and having a team in the League of Ireland can only benefit Cork City as a whole. It is important that a city the size of Cork should have a recognised League team. With the support and backing of the people of Cork the team will continue to prosper. A successful team will have great effect would have on the city in terms of community spirit, and the commercial life of the city…The people behind Cork City soccer team hope to bring back top class football to the city, and hopefully it will not be too long before the League championship, or the FAI Cup are back on Leeside”.

From 1984 onwards, a boldness to put football in Cork and Cork itself on the map grew. The connections grew and the ambitions grew. Partnerships, friendships and followers grew.

Unrivalled Longevity:

Whilst many great clubs have been celebrated on Leeside over the years, such as the great Cork United, Cork Athletic, Cork Celtic and Cork Hibernians, the longevity of Cork City FC is unrivalled.

Much credit for the club’s longevity must go to FORAS, who stepped in to ensure the continuation of Cork City FC ahead of the 2010 season. Ten years ago, when the club celebrated its 30th anniversary, it became the first League of Ireland club from the city to do so, so to reach 40 years is yet another precious milestone.

Over the 40 years, the club has enjoyed some great days – the first national trophy, the League Cup, in the 1987-88 season, a first league title in the 1992-93 season and, finally, the first FAI Cup in the 1997-98 season.

The club has won the Premier Division title twice more, in 2005 and again in 2017, when City then lifted the FAI Cup as well to become the first Cork club to win a double since Cork Athletic in the 50’s.

As well as the national stage, the club has proudly represented our City, County and Country on the international stage in European competition for over 30 years. Beginning with a defeat against Torpedo Moscow in 1989, the club has memories such as the famous draw with Bayern Munich, defeating former European Cup finalists Malmo FF and Dutch side NEC Nijmegen in 2004 and Europa League runs in 2016 and 2017.

A Social and Cultural Asset:

Cork City FC is a really important social and cultural asset to the city and region of Cork. It matters in our city and region and how it adds significantly the essence of building community values in Cork and grassroots sports initiatives in Cork – the tangible and intangible benefits.

One does not have to look far to see how Cork City FC is rooted in the life of the city and how proud the city is of it, and how it represents the many legacies of football clubs going back over 100 years.

Indeed one just has to go to any match to see the sense of pride, ownership and love for Cork City FC amongst players, management and the supporters who chant, laugh, cry and shout more and then even chant, laugh, cry and shout more Cork City FC on.

That essence of pride is hard to physically replicate. There are individuals who have spent decades every week supporting the team and there are parents or guardians who proudly bring the next generation on in all kinds of weather, and they wouldn’t miss it for anything. There are incredible special moments of human connection are bound up with Cork City FC.

One cannot buy that energy or connection but it is so important to have in a city such as Cork whose heart when it comes to social and cultural capital beats very passionately.

It is a testament to the impact and reach of the club in the city that so many friends and supporters joined the 40th birthday celebrations in City Hall. You can also see this reach clearly in the range of Cork City FC provides an enormous ripple effect across different layers of Cork City FC from the physical street corner green all the way up to the professional side of the teams – as well as the senior men’s team, there are seven academy teams (boys and girls), an amputee team and a senior women’s team.

As well as their loyal fans, I know the club is very fortunate to have the support of many great sponsors, without whom the club would simply not be able to function.   Zeus Packaging are in their second year as the club’s main sponsor, while the club is also fortunate to count University College Cork, the Mardyke Arena, SONAS Bathrooms, EZ Living, Everseen and Audivox among their key sponsors.

How lucky is our city to have a club with such memories and cultural and sporting heritage and which promotes community values and togetherness. Happy 40th birthday Cork City FC!