Category Archives: Cork City Events

Kieran’s Our City Our Town 6 June 2024

1256a. South Gate Bridge by Nathaniel Grogan, c.1790 (source: Crawford Art Gallery).
1256a. South Gate Bridge by Nathaniel Grogan, c.1790 (source: Crawford Art Gallery).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 6 June 2024

Cork: A Potted History Selection

Cork: A Potted History is the title of my new local history book published by Amberely Press. The book is a walking trail, which can be physically pursued or you can simply follow it from your armchair. It takes a line from the city’s famous natural lake known just as The Lough across the former medieval core, ending in the historic north suburbs of Blackpool. This week is another section from the book.

What’s in a Painting? Nathaniel Grogan’s South Gate Bridge:

Archived in the collections of the Crawford Art Gallery is an evocative painting of South Gate Bridge in the closing decade of the eighteenth century by artist Nathaniel Grogan (c. 1740–1807). He discovered his talent as an artist as a young man, receiving some instruction from the artist John Butts. Grogan enlisted in the British army and went to America for a time. He returned to Cork and became known for his composition skills of drawings of the city and its environs.

  One of Grogan’s popular works is that of South and North Gate Bridges. The image presented is that of South Gate Bridge, which reveals quite a lot of the life and times in this corner of the city, especially in its focus on the bridge, the debtor’s prison and the fishing community.

It is said that the first South Gate Bridge was built sometime in the twelfth century AD as a timber-planked structure, giving access to a Hiberno Norse settlement or access to a well-settled marshland with inhabitants of Viking descendancy. When the Anglo-Normans established a fortified walled settlement and a trading centre in Cork around AD 1200, South Gate drawbridge formed one of the three entrances – North Gate drawbridge and Watergate portcullis being the others.

In May 1711, agreement was reached by the Corporation of Cork that North Gate Bridge would be rebuilt in stone, while in 1713 South Gate Bridge would be replaced with an arched stone structure. South Gate Bridge still stands today in the same form it did over 300 years ago, with the exception of a small bit of restructuring and re-strengthening in early 1994.

  In the painting, the Debtor’s Prison at South Gate Prison is very prominent, with its peaked roof and chimney piece at the left-hand side of the bridge. It is known the prison was built concurrent to the bridge in the 1710s. However, many of its records have been lost to time. What is known is that there were stern penalties if you owed money and could not pay the debt in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland. The debtor was imprisoned until the money was paid. If they did not have enough money to pay the debt, then it was not unusual for the person to remain in the prison until they died there.

Debtors were not entitled to medical attention. Those who could not get their families to arrange payments of rent at the prison had to take the dampest and darkest cells. If payment was not made for food, they were given bread that was boiled in water three times a day. The practice of imprisoning debtors caused many calls for the reform of laws around debt. It was only in 1872 when the imprisonment aspect was removed by the Debtors Act (Ireland).

In the foreground of the painting there is a focus on fishermen. Records reveal that such fishermen lived around the Frenches Quay, Crosses Green and South Main Street areas. Several resided in the stepped lane known as Keyser’s Hill that runs from Frenches Quay to Barrack Street via Elizabeth Fort. Twentieth-century oral history records that the South Parish fishermen used sturdy open rowing boats, usually around 18 feet in length. The boats were heavy and required considerable strength to row.

Washington Street and the Wide Street Commissioners:

As the late eighteenth century progressed, the population increased and the Corporation of Cork came under pressure to improve the lot of the citizens. The medieval fabric of the city simply could not cope with the demands of the population. Fines were placed on illegal dumping and scavengers, and wheelbarrow men and street sweepers were appointed to keep the streets clean. Many of the buildings in the city were in need of much repair and certain lanes in the old medieval core needed to be reconstructed.

  In 1765 a commission was established to deal with the problems facing the expanding city, especially in relation to the various health risks posed by inadequate facilities. Known as the Wide Street Commission, it was first set up in Dublin. In Cork, its primary job was to widen the medieval lanes and thereby eradicate some of the health problems stemming from them. They also planned to lay out new, wider streets for the benefit of the citizens.

Sixteen commissioners were appointed in 1765, but due to financial restrictions it was the early nineteenth century before they made an impact. At that time, streets such as South Terrace, Dunbar Street and Washington Street (then known as Great George’s Section of Holt’s Map of Cork (1832), showing Great George Street; opened in November 1824) were laid out, and streets such as Shandon Street were widened.

Samuel Lewis, in his section on Cork in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837), describes the work of the commissioners: ‘The streets were created and repaired under the directions of the commissioners and nearly £6000 is annually expended in paving, cleansing, and improving them.’ The privilege of licensing vehicles of every description plying for hire within the city was also vested in these commissioners.

Lewis describes that the general appearance of the city, particularly since its extensive improvements, is ‘picturesque and cheerful’. He further outlines that “the principal streets are spacious and well paved; most of the houses are large and well built, chiefly of clay-slate fronted with roofing slate, which gives them a clean though sombre appearance; others are built of the beautiful grey limestone of the neighbourhood, and some are faced with cement; those in the new streets are principally of red brick”.

John Windele, in his Historical and Descriptive Notices of Cork (1849), describes a dense habitation prior to Great George’s Street: “The sight of this beautiful street a few years ago was occupied by some of the narrowest and filthiest lanes and alleys of the town and most densely inhabited by a squalid and impoverished population”.

Caption:

1256a. South Gate Bridge by Nathaniel Grogan, c.1790 (source: Crawford Art Gallery).

Lord Mayor Cllr McCarthy Goes Poster Free, 11 May 2024

Ahead of the upcoming Local Elections on 7 June Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Kieran McCarthy has gone poster free on poles across the south east local electoral area. Kieran noted; “I have been particularly inspired by the work of Douglas Tidy Towns who have advocated the non-postering of posters in Douglas Village. I also have a very keen and active interest and participation in promoting the environment and heritage in the city”. 

“To those asking about if I am still running because they don’t see my poster – As an independent candidate I am very much in the race in this local election in the south east local electoral area of Cork City – I have been canvassing for several weeks at this moment in time. I won’t get to each of the over 15,000 houses in the electoral area, but certainly and against the backdrop of a very busy Mayoralty post, I am daily trying to knock on doors in the various districts of my local electoral area. My manifesto is online at www.kieranmccarthy.ie, which champions such aspects such as public parks, environmental programmes, city centre and village regeneration, and the curation of personal community projects such as my historical walking tours, concluded Kieran”.

Read my manifesto here: 2. Kieran’s Manifesto, Local Elections 2024 | Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Kieran McCarthy

Kieran continues his suburban historical walking tour series next Saturday 18 May, 11am with a walking tour of Ballinlough. The meeting point is at Ballintemple Graveyard, Temple Hill, 11am. The tour is free, two hours and no booking is required. Kieran noted of the rich history in Ballinlough; With 360 acres, Ballinlough is the second largest of the seven townlands forming the Mahon Peninsula. The area has a deeper history dating back to Bronze Age Ireland. In fact it is one of very few urban areas in the country to still have a standing stone still standing in it for over 5,000 years. My walk will highlight this heritage along with tales of big houses such as Beaumont and the associated quarry, rural life in nineteenth century Ballinlough and the development of Ballinlough’s twentieth century suburban history”.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 9 May 2024

1252a. New memorial to Seán O'Donoghue, Ballygiblin, Mitchelstown (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1252a. New memorial to Seán O’Donoghue, Ballygiblin, Mitchelstown (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 9 May 2024

Ballygiblin Memorial to Seán O’Donoghue

A new memorial has been unveiled in Ballygiblin, Mitchelstown to the memory of Seán O’Donoghue (1898-1922), Commandant of the Cork No.1 Brigade, 1st Battalion who was deeply involved in the Irish War of Independence in Cork City.

The associated memorial booklet is now on sale in book shops in Mitchelstown. The text compiled by the memorial committee outlines that baptised as John, Seán was born in Gurteenabowl, Mitchelstown in 1898. He was the 5th child born to his parents William & Nano (nee O’Mahony) O’Donoghue.

On completion of his education, he was employed in the warehouse of Messrs Dwyer, Cork and he lived with his aunt in Roches Buildings. Seán was a member of the Gaelic League, the Lee GAA Club and the Lee Rowing Club. At an early age he joined A Company, 1st Battalion, Cork No 1 Brigade, becoming Quartermaster of the company. He was subsequently promoted to Quartermaster of the Cork Brigade. At the beginning of 1921, he was appointed Commandant of the 1st Battalion.

A loyal and courageous officer, Seán was involved in several engagements with the Black and Tans in Cork and at the signing of the Treaty, he took the Republican side in the Civil War. 

On the afternoon of Saturday, 11 December, the day after Martial Law had been declared, in the south of Ireland, Sean O’Donoghue received word that a party of Auxillaries travelling in two lorries would depart Victoria Barracks that night at 8pm. The report also mentioned the possibility that Captain Campbell Kelly, a British Army intelligence officer based at Victoria Barracks who was known to torture IRA prisoners, would be travelling with them.

The IRA considered Captain Kelly a major threat and were anxious to eliminate him. Armed with this information, O’Donoghue decided to act. Though time was short he managed to muster the following Volunteers: Michael Baylor, Seán Healy, Michael Kenny, Augustine O’Leary and James O’Mahony. He also sent word to Anne Barry to have the grenades ready. As darkness fell, she took them from her home and hid them in the front garden of a house owned by the Lennox family at Mount View on the Ballyhooly Road.

            Under the cover of darkness, the men took up their positions behind the wall between Balmoral Terrace and the houses at the corner of Dillon’s Cross. Michael Kenny took up position at Harrington Square, on the opposite side of the road to the ambush party and within braking distance of the ambush position.

Michael Kenny wore a mackintosh overcoat, scarf and cap to give the impression that he was an off-duty British soldier. His task was to act as a lookout and to slow down the lorries as they approached the ambush position. At approximately 8pm, the two lorries, each containing 13 Auxillaries, left the barracks and drove towards Dillon’s Cross. As the leading lorry approached Harrington Square, Michael Kenny stepped out to the edge of the footpath, put up his hand and signalled the driver to stop. As he slowed down, the second lorry passed, Kenny gave the signal to the men behind the wall. He then made his escape to the IRA hideout in Rathcooney.

At the signal the ambush stood up and hurled bombs at their target. As the bombs exploded, they each drew their revolvers and fired at the Auxillaries, before making their escape. Seán O’Donoghue and James O’Mahony made their way to the Delaney farm at Dublin Hill. Seán was carrying the unused bombs and he hid these on the Delaney land. The two men split up and went on the run.

This ambush heralded a night of arson and terror for the citizens of Cork, culminating in the burning of a large part of the city centre.

The turbulence behind the Pro-Treaty and Anti-Treaty sides took a darker turn when across February, March and April 1922, the IRA, particularly Anti-Treaty elements, began to seize sizable amounts of weapons from evacuating British forces. The steamship Upnor was a small British Army stores carrier of about 500 tonnes deadweight. She was loading at the ordnance stores on Rocky Island with arms and ammunition from the recently disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary for Plymouth when Seán O’Donoghue and his comrades of the 1st Brigade, 1st Southern Division of the IRA got to hear of it.

A well organised and executed operation followed. On 29 March, the Upnor sailed. This was reported by intelligence sources in Cobh and the plan swung into action. The Admiralty tug Warrior, crewed mostly by local men was at the Deepwater Quay in Cobh. Her master was enticed ashore and Captain Jeremiah Collins, a master mariner, IRA officers – Seán O’Donoghue, Dan Donovan, Michael Murphy and Seán O’ Hearty boarded with some volunteers and took the ship to sea some hours after the Upnor.

By means of a ruse, they caused the Upnor to heave to and even though the Upnor‘s master was suspicious, he let them come alongside. Sean O’Donoghue and his contingent boarded and captured the ship and she was brought to Ballycotton at 4am on 30 March. Meanwhile a large number of lorries and cars had been commandeered and brought to Ballycotton. The town had been sealed off and when the Upnor arrived, she was quickly unloaded and her contents dispersed inland.

On 28 September 1922, a party of Irish Free Government’s National Army forces consisting of one officer and ten soldiers had been operating in the Carrignavar, Whitechurch and White’s Cross districts, carrying out searches. At approximately 3.45pm when they reached a point some two miles beyond Dublin Hill, Blackpool, and about a mile from the place where the motors were seized, they were ambushed by Seán O’Donoghue and his comrades, who were in occupation of strong positions and poured a hail of bullets in the direction of the National Army troops, who were forced to halt their cars and alight, proceeding to engage with Seán and company. A brief fight was sufficient to rout them and the soldiers pursued them across country for a considerable distance.

Sadly, Seán O’Donoghue was located, removed from the Delaney family home and killed by the Free State Government troops in a field nearby. His body was brought to Cork by the troops.

A Celtic cross memorial now stands near the Delaney family home at Dublin Hill, Cork. Commadant Seán O’Donoghue’s name is inscribed on this memorial. The new Ballygiblin memorial also recognises Seán’s contribution to the Irish War of Independence and the tragedy of the ensuing Irish Civil War.

Caption:

1252a. New memorial to Seán O’Donoghue, Ballygiblin, Mitchelstown (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

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.

Caption:

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