Monthly Archives: April 2021

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 29 April 2021

1097a. SS Ardmore II, c.1930 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 29 April 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Advent of SS Ardmore II

During the First World War the City of Cork Steam Packet Company lost six vessels, and the company were determined to replace the losses with the construction of new vessels. In particular, the new ships were designed to meet the requirements of the cross-Channel trade, especially the cattle trade. One of the ships replaced was the SS Ardmore, which was hit by a torpedo on 13 November 1917. It was replaced by the SS Ardmore II, which looked very similar in design to the original.

On 28 April 1921 at noon, the SSArdmore II made her maiden visit to Cork with flags flying and decorated with bunting. She was welcomed by the sirens of all the vessels in the river. She was the largest of the fleet of the Steam Packet Company’s cross-channel steamers and was built by the Ardrossan Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company, Ltd North Ayrshire, Scotland. From 1919 for a time, Harland & Wolff Ltd managed the yard on behalf of the Royal Mail Group.

The SS Ardmore II was launched in August 1921 in the presence ofdistinguished company at Ardrossan Port. The Managing Director of the City of Cork Steam Packet Company Sir Alfred Read, at the launching ceremony, was very anxious not only to restore their pre-war position in that trade, but to improve on it, and that they were “contracting for vessels that would give the maximum of service”.

The christening ceremony was performed by Lady Margaret Pirrie. At the event, she was presented with a silver chalice as a souvenir that looked like the Ardagh Chalice. Margaret Pirrie was Belfast’s first woman justice of the peace and the first woman to receive the freedom of that city. Pirrie was also involved in charity work, working as president of the Royal Victoria Hospital. She also served on the Senate of Queen’s University, Belfast, and as president of Harland & Wolff’s, the Belfast shipbuilding firm of which her husband was chair. 

The SS Ardmore II was fitted to carry about 1000 mixed cattle. In addition, she could carry 75 first-class passengers, and also accommodate for steerage passengers. The ship was fitted with five steam cranes for handling cargo. The Cork Examiner described the vessel and its sea route: “She is a beautiful vessel, and most up-to-date in every way, and an idea of her well-appointed accommodation may be gathered from the fact that she cost over a quarter of a million…The Ardmore will ply between Cork and Liverpool, and on her first visit to Cork to visited and inspected by a fairly largenumber of people who greatly admired her beautiful proportions. She leaves or Liverpool to-day at two o’clock”.

Owing to the unfortunate strike of joiners, which began in November 1920, the City of Cork Steam Packet Company was forced tobring the steamer into commission before her saloon and cabin accommodation were properly built.

The SS Ardmore II was to be the first oil-burner to be used by a cross channel company between England and Ireland with a speed of 14 knots. Previously the first steamshiptocross the Atlantic was in 1838 when Cork’s SS Sirius established the record.

The insulation was by the J D Insulating and Refrigerating Company, Ltd, Liverpool, and the cooling system was by the Thermotank Company, Glasgow. The ventilation was through the use of tempering batteries by James Keith Blackman Company, Ltd. and the ventilation arrangement in the cattle spaces was created by the same firm.

Fast forward to 11 November 1940, the SS Ardmore II had on board 500 cattle, about the same number of pigs (which were deck cargo), and a quantity of agricultural produce. The actual crew of the vessel numbered 20 and with them were five cattle or bullockmen. Still owned by the City of Cork Steam Packet Company she was commanded by Captain Thomas Ford of Liverpool. Thomas had been with the City of Cork Steam Packet Company for sixteen years. He was well known in Cork, Dublin, Liverpool, Fishguard and other ports through his lifetime at sea. 

 On 11 November 1940, the SS Ardmore II departed Cork for Fishguard with a cargo of livestock. Hours later she was reported missing with her crew. An uneasy vigil was maintained. Air and sea searches proved futile. On 26 November one of her lifeboats, unfilled, was washed ashore on the Welsh coast. The body of Captain Ford was discovered near Aberystwyth on 3 December. Ten days later that of Seaman Frank O’Shea was retrieved from another Welsh beach. His remains were returned to Cork for burial.

What caused the loss of the ship was not verified for nearly sixty years. In February 1998, the wreck of the SS Ardmore II was found by divers three miles south of the Saltee Islands, off the Wexford coast, in 183 feet of water. The hull showed signs of a large explosion from a mine near the engine room. In the Second World War section of the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition in Collins Barrack Museum, Dublin there is a model of the SS Ardmore II and a plaque on Cork’s Penrose Quay also remembers the 1940 tragedy.


1097a. SS Ardmore II, c.1930 (source: Cork City Library).

1097b. Plaque commemorating the sinking of SS Ardmore II, Penrose Quay, Cork (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1097b. Plaque commemorating the sinking of SS Ardmore II, Penrose Quay, Cork (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1097b. Plaque commemorating the sinking of SS Ardmore II, Penrose Quay, Cork (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Call out 1: Cllr McCarthy’s Make a Model Boat Project 2021

Douglas Road and Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy invites all Cork young people to participate in the eleventh year of McCarthy’s Make a Model Boat Project. This year because of COVID all interested participants once again make a model boat at home from recycled materials and submit a picture or a video of it to the competition organisers. All models should be photographed or videoed and emailed to by 23 May 2021.

The event is being run in association with Meitheal Mara and the Cork Harbour Festival Team. There are three categories, two for primary and one for secondary students. The theme is ‘At Home by the Lee’, which is open to interpretation. The model must be creative though and must be able to float. There are prizes for best models and the event is free to enter. For further information, please see the community events section at

Cllr McCarthy, who is heading up the event, noted “I am encouraging creation, innovation and imagination amongst our young people, which are important traits for all of us to develop. I am going to miss this year seeing the models float at The Lough. The Make a Model Boat Project is part of a suite of community projects I have organised and personally invested in over the years– the others include the Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project with Cork City Council, the Community local history walks, local history publications, McCarthy’s Community Talent Competition and Cork City Musical Society.

VIEW winning model boats from 2020:

Cllr McCarthy: Another bypassing of local concerns, Ford Distribution Site, 22 April 2021

22 April 2021, “Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said the green light for the development is another example of An Bord Pleanála bypassing local councillors’ concerns and the concerns on the ground”, More than 1,000 residential units set for Live at the Marquee site, Pictures: More than 1,000 residential units set for Live at the Marquee site (

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 22 April 2021

1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).
1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 22 April 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Ambush of Tadhg O’Sullivan

Targeted round ups of IRA members by the RIC and Black and Tans continued right throughout April 1921. Company Captain within the 2nd Battalion, Cork City No.1 Brigade and Kerry native, Tadhg O’Sullivan was shot on the evening of 19 April 1921. Originally Tadhg was reared on a farm north of the village of Barraduff, County Kerry and was passionate in the study of Irish being inspired by his national school teacher. In his teens, he set off for Cork City, where he was employed on the clerical staff of Messrs Dowdall O’Mahony, butter merchants. Later he transferred to Fords.

Tadhg joined the IRB and enrolled as a Volunteer. He took an interest in the organisation of the Fianna – the youth section of the Volunteer movement. He was active in organising recruitment meetings throughout the county.

Tadhg eventually rose to becoming Captain of C Company, 2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade. He was constantly on duty and participated in many major operations in the City. He was one of the two Kerry men on the inquest jury of the murdered Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomás MacCurtain. Florence O’Donoghue was the other Kerryman. In the summer of 1920, Tadhg participated in the attack on Farran RIC Barracks and also in the Barrack Street ambush on 9 October 1920. He was again to the fore in the Parnell Bridge ambush, which took place on 5 January 1921. He was also one of the Belfast hungers strikers in 1920. Tadhg was also one of those taken in the big round-up at Cork Union hospital. However, he was released on that occasion.

Michael Murphy, Commandant, 2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History (WS 1547), describes of Tadhg’s death on 19 April 1921:

“One of my best company captains named Tadhg Sullivan was held up in Douglas Street by two British intelligence officers in mufti. He made a dash to escape and got into a house No. 80 Douglas St. He ran upstairs and got out on the roof through a landing window, closely followed by the two British officers. Sullivan got on to the roof of the adjoining house when the officers appeared at the landing window and shot him dead. He was unarmed”.

The Cork Examiner on 20 April 1921 describes that the tragic occurrence took place in the course of a general roundup in the south and south-west side of the city, which began about 7pm. Numerous parties of police from Union quay and Tuckey street stations visited the district, which they practically enveloped up to Friar’s Walk and Barrack Street.

At 7.30pm pedestrians coming from every point converging on the district were held up, questioned and searched, and about fifteen persons were temporarily detained, one man, Liam Barry, residing in White street, was arrested.

The extensively drawn cordon gradually closed in towards Douglas Streetvicinity. There was quite a large number of passersby, and amongst them, was Tadhg. He was observed by a party of about eight or nine police. They called on him to halt, but instead he started to run away, whereupon the police pursued.

As he ran a short distance along the street Tadhg seems to have escaped the bullets of his pursuers, and then he was seen to suddenly dash into a house. The police by this time were reinforced by a second party of constables, coming from an opposite direction. Tadhg was followed into the house – the hall and stairway of which bore the marks of considerable firing. Cornered as he was, Tadhg made a desperate effort to escape, and rushing into a back room, endeavoured to get away through a back window.

Tadhg was in the act of descending into the yard below, which offered an avenue of escape, when he was overtaken by his pursuers and shot dead. His dead body with several bullet wounds was subsequently found in the yard below. Fr McSweeney, CC, St Finbarr’s South, and Fr Father Nunan, CC, were immediately summoned, but on their arrival Tadhg had already passed away.

Tadhg’s remains were then conveyed to Union Quay Barracks, and afterwards transferred in a military lorry to the Victoria Barracks, where the circumstances of his death were to be the subject of an inquiry.

On the afternoon of 22 April 1921, Tadhg’s funeral took place from the South Chapel to St Finbarr’s Cemetery where they were interred in the Republican plot. The cortege was limited in extent by order of the military and armed soldiers walking on foot at both sides of the hearse, in three lorries, and accompanied by anarmoured car. The order was served on the Administrator of the parish about one hour before the funeral was timed to start was obeyed. Despite the warnings, the streets from the church – over Parliament Bridge, along the South Mall, Grand Parade and Washington Street – were lined with people. The coffin was draped in the tricolour flag.

Have a story of relative to tell involved with the War of Independence in Cork, get in touch with Kieran at


1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).

1096b. House of Tadhg O’Sullivan’s death, second from the right with plaque above front door (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1096c. Gravestone of Tadhg O’Sullivan, St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).
1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).
1096c. Gravestone of Tadhg O'Sullivan, St Finbarr's Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1096c. Gravestone of Tadhg O’Sullivan, St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

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

 1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 15 April 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Washington Street Ambush

Patrick Murray was Officer in Command of C-Company of the 1st Battalion, Cork No.1 IRA Brigade. In his witness statement for the Bureau of Military History (WS1584), he describes the Spring activity of an active IRA service unit in the city centre.

Patrick outlines that when the active service unit began, it comprised six members from each of the two battalions in the city. The men on the unit were: Danny Healy, Stephen McSwiney, Jim Barrett, Liam O’Callaghan, Seán Twomey and Patrick Murray from the 1st Battalion; and Florrie O’Donoghue, Jim Counihan, Ned Fitzgibbon, George Burke, Jim Fitzgerald, Peter Donovan and one other from the 2nd Battalion. Seán Twomey was put in charge.

There was a special space/ office in the city dealing with the unit’s intelligence and communications. This office was under the control of George Buckley. Only two or three selected couriers were allowed to know where the office was, for fear of anyone being followed into it.

Of the first few weeks that the active service unit was in existence, Patrick notes: “We were actively engaged watching the movements of military and police. The members of the active service unit took turns in taking up positions along routes which were supposed to be taken by the police and military, but as they did not take any particular route with any regularity, it was often found that they would leave a street just when the military or police came into it”.

The unit’s first ambush occurred on 12 April 1921, just after 10am, when bombs were thrown into a lorry in Washington Street at the junction with Little Anne Street. The bombs failed to explode, and the military returned the fire wounding some civilians. The failure of bombs to explode became a serious problem in the city, as it was realised that, if a bomb did not go off, civilians and the Volunteers themselves would suffer heavy casualties through the retaliation of gunfire. Special men connected with the unit were allocated to the work of inspecting all bombs which were to be used in the city.

Michael O’Donoghue, engineer officer with the 2nd Battalion in his witness statement (WS1741) notes that he was present at the Washington Street ambush describes in his witness statement: “My three companions and myself were armed with revolvers. Our instructions were simple – to cover the retreat of a bombing party who were waiting to attack a military patrolling tender, which passed that way fairly regularly in the morning”.

After the ambush, Michael recalls looking east towards Broad Lane church or the then St Francis Church. “I saw one of our bombers limping along slowly and heavily holding his right side and half supported, half dragged along by a companion. Then, as if from nowhere, a side-car appeared and from it jumped down another of the attacking party. The wounded man is then helped up to a seat on the car, his companion sitting beside him and holding him. The jarvey sat on the opposite side with the other Volunteer behind him. The driver whips up his horse and off they trot in the direction of the Mercy Hospital”.

An official and stark proclamation was published in the Cork Examiner announcing that the competent military authority (Major General Strickland) had ordered the destruction of two large resident business premises near the Courthouse because they had been places where as the announcement noted “rebels and other evilly-disposed persons had consorted to levy war against His Majesty, King George V”.

Michael describes that one of the premises was Macari’s Café, a great resort of College students, where ice cream, minerals, fish and chips, peas and various other choice delicacies in fruit, fish and flesh. Macari himself, his wife and teen-age family were Italians who had settled in Cork pre 1914. It was a popular place for Cork youths especially students of all types, and IRA men were in and out casually every day and at, all times. The British wanted to punish Macari for not reporting to them the “comings and goings” of his clientele.

The other house officially condemned to destruction was Murphy’s public house and provision store round the corner of Messrs Dwyer’s stores near Clarke’s Bridge. The Murphys were a prominent Republican family from the Kinsale area of West Cork.

Michael outlines that the British military cordoned off Washington Street between the Courthouse and Wood Street. Macari’s and Murphy’s were entered by armed soldiers who ordered the occupants outside. Macari’s was blown up first. A demolition squad in khaki entered and set some explosives apparently on top floor. They withdrew to the street where they took cover at a safe distance. There then was a series of explosions and the roof was blown out, sending showers of slates and pieces of wood and masonry flying into the air. When the shower of smoke and dust had subsided the demolition squad again entered this time to complete the job by laying explosive charges on the ground floor.

Michael continues his detail: “Out again with them and back to the safety of the cordon. This time three or four tremendous explosions rocked the interior, completely wrecking everything within. Then the military repeated this programme of destruction in like mariner at Murphy’s. Not a solitary item of furniture or goods were permitted to be taken from either house and both buildings were utterly and completely wrecked in this brutal official reprisal”.

Have a story of relative to tell involved with the War of Independence in Cork, get in touch with Kieran at


1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1095b. Washington Street and the Courthouse, c.1910 from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.

Cllr McCarthy, Councillors vote to rename city street to honour Cork family,

12 April 2021, “Speaking at the full council meeting, Independent councillor and historian Kieran McCarthy said it would be important that the public is informed about this distinction; ‘I would like that the paperwork that’s sent out to the public on this once it’s sanctioned here this evening will allude to the fact that this is about the MacSwiney family and not just the individual’, Councillors vote to rename city street to honour Cork family,
Councillors vote to rename city street to honour Cork family (