Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 14 October 2021
Journeys to a Truce: Landscaping The Lough
In October 1921, Irish newspaper outlets reported on the second visit of representatives of the American Committee for the Relief of Irish Distress. They came to view sites of devastation plus also how their White Cross fund was being distributed.
Founded in December 1920, the Committee for the Relief of Irish Distress was founded in America by Dr William J Maloney, a Republican cause sympathiser. The committee was inspired by the many charitable organisations that went out from the United States to offer relief in the days of the First World War. The committee influenced a series of great drives for funds, which were organised throughout 48 States of America. In a short period of time, it had at its command a large sum – approximately five million dollars – for the relief of people in Ireland.
From the establishment of the committee American members of the Religious Society of Friends were prominent in the ranks of its active members. In January 1921, several members of the latter group with experience in relief and reconstruction work in France and other areas devastated in the great war arrived in Ireland. Their mission lasted until April 1921. The delegation’s subsequent published report in August 1922 (which in the present day is now digitally scanned and online) outlines that during their first visit members visited nearly one hundred communities in Ireland in which acute distress existed.
Following the delegation’s first visit, over the ensuing 18 months £788,215 was sent to Ireland to be distributed through the Irish White Cross in Dublin and down to parish committees and in the Cork context to the city’s own Distress Committee. A total of £170,1398 was sent to Cork City to be distributed to those effected by the Irish War of Independence. For the most part documentation has not survived of how the Cork fund was spent.
One of the most prominent projects though of which information has survived was the near £5,000 spent was on the landscaping of The Lough during the summer and autumn of 1921. Nineteenth century maps of The Lough show the varied shapes of the natural spring lake, whose volume could grow and substract depending on the rain. It was also riddled with a build up of mud and overgrowth extending beyond its island birdlife island.
The 1921 works programme involved removing a depth of mud from four to ten feet deep in some places exposing the lake’s gravel bed. The mud was deemed a dangerous feature, both as a trap during skating times and a danger generator in the summer months, when the mud was exposed in the hot sun. During the summer and autumn of 1921, forty to fifty men were employed in the work per week, and in the short time, they removed hundreds of tons of mud. A Fordson tractor and lorry were kindly supplied by Messrs Henry Ford and Son. The horse transport and tools were provided by the Corporation of Cork.
Arising from the provision of the a horse and tools, the works programme was discussed at the meetings of Corporation members across September and October 1921. Apart from the removal of layers of mud, several other features were pursued – the reclaiming of ground to enable a playground for children, consolidating the immediate path around the Lough by providing kerbing on the edge of the Lough, creating an outside path twenty metres from the water’s edge as well as cutting small canals through the wildlife island to facilitate the further shelter of birdlife. It is all of the latter landscaping that has created the modern look of The Lough today.
On 14 October 1921, representatives of the Committee for the Relief of Irish Distress arrived back in Cork for another tour of Cork City – to hear about its reconstruction and to hear where possible further fundraised funding could go towards. The notable US representatives comprised Mr John J Pulleyn, Judge Richard Campbell, Miss Pulleyn, and Mr and Mrs C J France. In the course of an interview with the Cork Examiner the delegation outlined they had already visited Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, part of Kilkenny and Tipperary.
On arrival by motor car to the city, they were welcomed by Lord Mayor Donal Óg O’Callaghan and a number of local councillors. During their visit in Cork they visited the city centre’s burnt ruins to see the devastation first hand and to hear about the reconstruction challenges. The took a trip down the harbour with Frank Daly, the chairman of the Cork Harbour Commissioners, to hear about the port’s future economic prospects and also took time to kiss the Blarney Stone.
At a packed formal dinner in the city centre, which was held to mark the stay of the representatives, a number of speeches were made by. Judge Campbell noted he had just read what he deemed as one of the “best classics” – The Principles of Freedom, by Terence McSwiney – a collection of his writings compiled after his death. He remarked that it was a great honour to speak in front of Terence’s sister Mary McSwiney. He believed that her brother’s book upon the subject of liberty would “do honour to any country, and that the author would go down in history for the part he had played in the fight for liberty”. Mary McSwiney was asked to reply and she thanked the representatives present for all they had done and what they were still doing for Ireland, and referenced her brother’s ongoing legacy to the cause of Irish freedom.
The representatives Committee for the Relief of Irish Distress left the city to travel to Bantry and from there to Killarney and Tralee, Limerick, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Donegal and Belfast before returning to Dublin.
1121a. The Lough, present day, showing landscaped areas funded by the Irish White Cros fund – footpath kerbing and landscaping were principle elements that can be viewed today (picture: Kieran McCarthy).