Cork City

Cork City

CORK CITY: (Irish – Corcaigh – a marsh- old English: Citie of Corcke.)

The second city of the republic of Ireland, known as the rebel city, has a population of 136,000 people. Built upon waters, like Venice, the city centre is on an island between two channels of the River Lee. The city centre is just upstream from Cork Harbour, which is one of the biggest natural harbours in the world. Many bridges, giving a continental air to the city, span the city centre. Cork City has all the amenities of a large city, but still retains the friendliness and atmosphere of a small town. The visitor to Cork will be taken by the charm of the city, and captivated by its hilly streets, and some of its historic bridges. The Cork Coat of Arms depicts two castles sheltering a boat with the Latin inscription “Statio Bene Fide Carinis”, a safe harbour for ships.

Cork has hosted a Stage finish of the Tour de France, the Eurovision Song Contest, the Irish Open Golf Championship at Fota Golf Club and the European Capital of Culture in 2005.


Cork started as a 7 th or 8 th century settlement around an Early Christian Monastery on the south bank of the River Lee. It was here that St.Finbarr founded his monastic settlement on what is now called Gillabey Rock. The Irish Calendar of Saints recorded St. Finbarr as a scholar, missionary and Bishop. His Saint’s day is September 25 th. Out of Irish mythology he entered history as the 1 st Abbot of Cork. He was succeeded in 630AD by St. Nessan, who was succeeded in turn by Roisseni in 685AD. The Cork monastery became a large centre of learning, a tradition that still continues in Cork today. The Vikings continuously raided this seat of learning. The most serious raids took place in 822, 838, 845 and 863AD. In 863, 900 and 952AD the Abbots themselves were killed. According to the “Annals of the Four Masters” Cork was burned in 1081 and again in 1089. In 1139AD Cormac Mc Carthy of Cashel Co. Tipperary built a new Abbey of St. Finbarr’s. A new learning site opened on St. Finbarr’s rock, an era of Dominicans ( whose first house was founded by Lord Phillip Barry, ancestor of the Barrymore’s, in 1229), Franciscans, Augustinians and Knights of St. John of Jerusalem who settled at Red Abbey Marsh, now Georges Quay. This Norman and post-Norman learning lasted in Cork until the Suppression of the Monasteries. The Franciscan Friary on the North Mall was the first religious house to be suppressed locally, passing into the hands of a Cork merchant David Shegan in 1540. This same property was acquired by Andrew Skiddy in 1566 and subsequently purchased by the Earl of Cork. By the end of the 9 th century Viking invaders began to put down roots in the settlement. King Henry 2 nd of England granted the town to the Anglo-Norman Lords in 1177 and it became a royal borough receiving a set of charters from 1189 onwards. A thriving trade in wool and cowhides helped its development at this stage. Cork went through a lean period in the 14 th and 15 th centuries. It lost its charter in 1492, having supported the English pretender Perkin Warbeck. In 1586, as part of the plantation of Munster, large estates were assigned to English planters like Sir Walter Raleigh (who introduced the humble potato to Ireland). Because of violent armed opposition the whole thing collapsed in 1598.

After this Spanish forces helping Hugh O’Neill of Ulster were defeated at the battle of Kinsale in 1601. In 1603 the Corporation refused to proclaim James 1 st King and so they were given the name “Rebel Cork”.

The city then helped Cromwell in 1649. In 1690 the city backed the loser King James 2 nd and John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough took control for William of Orange (of the Battle of the Boyne fame).

In the 17 th and 18 th centuries Cork grew rapidly in size and importance. Commerce was built up especially in the butter trade. It also remained an important base for Fenian activity throughout the 19 th century. Up to and during the War of Independence (1919-21) Cork’s reputation as the rebel county increased, because of its continued involvement in the ambushing of military convoys and general resistance to British rule in Ireland. A pattern of stubborn resistance followed by violent repression, included the burning of Cork by the Auxiliaries on the 11 th December 1920, which was one of the most devastating acts by Crown Forces of the entire Anglo-Irish War. The eight months prior to the burning had seen a serious upsurge in violence, as Irish Volunteer attacks on Crown Forces and the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) were met in turn with savage reprisals and the imposition of curfew on the streets.

A heroic figure named Terence MacSwiney became the Lord Mayor of Cork. He replaced the murdered Lord Mayor Thomas MacCurtain. MacSwiney was himself jailed, and died in Brixton prison after a 74-day hunger strike. They both had commanded Cork’s No. 1 Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. Their deaths only served to rile society further and alienate the so-called forces of law and order from the very people they were supposed to serve. Since the beginning of the War of Independence in January 1919 the Irish Volunteers had been spectacularly successful in forcing the R.I.C to abandon police stations in rural areas leaving these areas virtually ungovernable and resulting in widespread resignation from the force. The British Government now tried other options for policing in Ireland. They recruited former soldiers demobilised at the end of the Great War. However the ‘Black and Tans’, as they became known, because of their assorted police and military uniforms proved to be wholly undisciplined and largely ineffective. In fact, their only accomplishment was to make a bad situation worse. Now the British Government’s solution was the creation of a highly trained mobile, elite, police unit called the Auxiliary Division of the R.I.C and commanded by Brigadier General F.P. Crozier. It consisted of 1500 men in companies of 100 each.

On arriving in Ireland they were sent to the Curragh Training Camp in County Kildare to undergo a six week police training course and then the khaki-clad Cadets, resplendent in black leather belt and Balmoral cap (later changed to a dark blue uniform with black leather belt and dark green Balmoral cap), were dispatched to the locations most in need of their presence. K. Company of the Auxiliary Division R.I.C arrived in Cork in October 1920 and was quartered in Victoria Barracks (now Collins Barracks) under the command of Colonel Latimer, where it quickly earned the undying hatred of the majority of local people.

Florence O’ Donoghue, Adjutant of Cork No. 1 Brigade and a noted historian of the period said the Auxiliaries were a “reckless, courageous, desperate force, hard-drinking and unprincipled”. Throughout November and December “their drunken behaviour became so pronounced that no person was safe from their molestations. Age or sex was no protection. Poor women were robbed of their few shillings in the streets by these ‘gentlemen’ in broad daylight. After their raids on houses, articles of value were frequently missing. Whips were taken from shops with which to flog unoffending pedestrians and drink was demanded at the point of a revolver”. Volunteer Captain Sean Healy of A Company 1 st Battalion Cork No. 1 Brigade later wrote that the Auxiliaries “violated all international laws of warfare. They had no respect for women or children and not even the sanctity of the Red Cross was respected. They used prisoners as hostages, some of whom they murdered and tortured”. In the face of such provocation and in order to retain the support and confidence of the local population, the Irish Volunteers were left with little option other than to engage the Auxiliaries. The Flying Column drawn from the ranks of Cork No. 3 Brigade in West Cork under the command of General Tom Barry (an ex serviceman) was the first to do so. On the 28 th November 1920, in the County of Cork, the Column ambushed a force of the Auxiliaries at Kilmichael on the road between Macroom and Dunmanway. During intense fighting, seventeen Auxiliaries and three members of the Column died. This skirmish proved that the Auxiliaries were not invincible and paved the way for the imposition of Martial Law in Munster six weeks later. Enraged by the death of their comrades K. Company of the Auxiliaries intensified their operations in Cork City. Sean Hegarty, Officer Commanding Cork No. 1 Brigade of the Irish Volunteers ordered the 1 st Battalion, which was based on the north-side of the city, to launch an attack as soon as possible. On Saturday 11 th December at 8pm the Auxiliaries were attacked near Dillon’s Cross and many of them were wounded in the attack. Now the City braced itself for the predictable reprisals. At 9.30pm a number of Lorries laden with Auxiliaries approached Dillon’s Cross where they set fire to a number of houses. They proceeded to the City centre where they torched eleven major buildings, including the City hall and the nearby Carnegie Free Library. The fire-fighters were harassed by the Auxiliaries by firing on them and interfering with hydrants and slashing hoses with their bayonets.

The British Government refused steadfastly to accede to demands for a public enquiry and speaking in the House of Commons Sir Hamar Greenwood, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, refuted the suggestion that the fires in Cork had been started by the forces of the Crown. Total damage to the city eventually exceeded £3 million and the Anglo- Irish War continued. The signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 still did not bring peace to the city, with the anti-Treaty forces taking control of the city for a time. These forces were eventually overcome, but the leader of the pro-Treaty forces Michael Collins, was killed in an ambush at Crossbarry approximately 15 miles from Cork on the road to Bandon. Michael Collins was portrayed by the actor Liam Nesson in Neil Jordan’s film of the same name.

Richard Wine was the first mayor of Cork in 1273 and his successor was Richard Lee in 1274. In 1579 Queen Elizabeth of England presented the then mayor of Cork, Maurice Roche, with the first mayoralty chain as a reward for his services in the Desmond rebellion. The first Catholic mayor of Cork for nearly 200 years was William Lyons; he was elected on 25 th October 1848. Sir Daniel Hegarty was the first Lord Mayor of Cork in 1900. Queen Victoria, of England, conferred the title of Lord on the mayors of Cork.

Tony Mullane, who was from Cork, was one of the four baseball pitchers in its history who was ambidextrous. He pitched both left and right to confuse his opponents. Between 1881 and 1894 he was the best pitcher in America’s major baseball leagues, winning a total of 285 games, which puts him among the top 25 greatest players of all time.

Cork City became the 1 st European Capital of Culture in 2005 replacing the original European City of Culture, which began in 1985. The European Capital of Culture programme is required to promote cultural co-operation and understanding across all of Europe. It is a celebration of our European commitment, which requires the chosen city to deliver events and activities that match Europe’s scale and significance.

Cork City of Culture was run from the Civic Trust House, which is located at 50 Popes Quay. Set back from the road it overlooks the River Lee and faces the Cork Opera House and Lavitt’s Quay. The House was built in the early 1700s reputedly for Richard Boyle 4 th Earl of Cork. The name of the architect is not known. It was occupied by a master cooper named Henry Maultby until 1876, when it was set up as the County and City of Cork Hospital for Women and Children. In 1885 the house reverted back to a cooperage and the building became a residence until 1980. In 1997 extensive refurbishment commenced to provide modern services and a fire escape, these were completed in 2003. There are many interesting Features of this building, including early Georgian red brick façade with small-pane heavy timber sliding sash windows. A number of original sash windows from this period are still in place and were used to provide a model for the new windows of the front elevation. It has a number of original timber panelled rooms and the original staircase typically representing the era it was built in. The importance of this building is portrayed in its historical and architecturally impressive façade facing south over the North Channel of the Lee, and because of its good quality interior.

Historic Outline of St. Patrick’s Street: The centre of Cork city is built on marshy islands in the tidal estuary of the river Lee. Many channels of the river originally divided those islands. In the eighteenth century some of those channels were spanned to form the principal streets of the city centre. Among those was St. Patrick’s Street. The general shape and position of the street is clearly visible in the very first map of Cork city dating from circa 1545. After the Siege of Cork in 1690 and the partial destruction of the mediaeval city walls, the city expanded outside the old city walls. Maps of 1690 and 1714 show some structures on the island on the northern side of present day St. Patrick’s Street and a bowling green to the south. Considerable developments had taken place on both sides of the river channel by 1726. Carty’s map of that time shows present day Bowling Green and French Church Street. On the map, French Church Street is named as French Church Lane.

By 1750, the streetscape on both sides of the channel began to assume a recognisably modern form. French Church Street, Bowling Green Street, Carey’s Lane and Drawbridge Street are all shown on the northern side of the channel. On the southern side of the channel, what later became Princes’ Street is shown with two names; the section from St. Patrick’s Street to Oliver Plunkett is named Presbyterian Meeting House Lane, while the section from Oliver Plunkett Street to the Mall is named Playhouse Lane. The outlines of Marlborough Street and Cook Street are shown but the streets are not named. A drawbridge, spanning the channel from Drawbridge Street to the opposite side of St. Patrick’s Street, is also shown.

Most authorities agree that St. Patrick’s Street was formed in 1783. It is not shown on Rocque’s map of 1774, but there are entries for the street in Luca’s directory of 1787. During the 1780s many of the streets that now form the city centre of Cork were formed by the spanning of the river channels between the islands of the Lee.

During the late eighteenth century and the opening years of the nineteenth, the North and South Main Streets still formed the commercial hub of the city. It was not until the 1820s that St. Patrick’s Street began to assume its role as the principal commercial centre of the city. A comparison of directory entries for St. Patrick’s Street for 1810 and 1824 indicates the increasing commercial importance of the street. The opening of the first St. Patrick’s Bridge in 1789 helped the development of the street by providing an approach from the northern suburbs. The revival of trade and commerce in Cork in the eighteenth century provided a great social and commercial boost to the city. The area to the east of the old city walls became increasingly important commercially. The development of the Grand Parade and the South Mall, and the streets running off St. Patrick’s Street, which were much wider and more suitable for commercial development than the narrow lanes adjoining the Main Street, all helped to shift the commercial centre of the city to the east of the areas around the Main Street. St. Patrick’s Street was the natural centre of this development.

St. Patrick’s Street Redevelopment: In the late 1990s Cork Corporation (now Cork City Council) was concerned at the amount of vehicular traffic using St. Patrick’s Street and other parts of the city centre. The city centre seemed to cater more for the motorist than for the pedestrian. Having put in place a number of developments to enable many motorists to bypass the city centre, the Council felt that the time was right to redevelop the city centre and to make it a more welcoming place for pedestrians. With this end in view, the Council invited architects to submit plans for a renovation of the city centre, to create a more vibrant, modern, visually attractive space, which would be more accommodating to pedestrians, while still allowing vehicular access vital to the functioning of a commercial city centre.

The design chosen by the Council was that submitted by the distinguished Catalan architect, Beth Gali. Her design emphasised the need to recover the public spaces of the city centre for its citizens. Cork City Council and the Government each provided a 50% share of the €13m required to fund the redevelopment of St. Patrick’s Street. Between summer 2002 and summer 2004, the entire street was repaved with granite and limestone in a variety of colours. Traffic is confined to four lanes, two lanes catering for general traffic 3.5 metres wide, and two dedicated service lanes for buses and taxis, each 2.5 metres wide. The design provides for a desirable level of traffic in the city centre rather than maximising the throughput of traffic. The pavements have been widened to create plaza-like effects. The new spacious pavements are now more pedestrian-friendly. To emphasise the sense of space, street furniture has been reduced to a minimum.

Special lamps illuminate the street. These include tall lamps (‘Pitmit’ and ‘Flannery’ designs) to produce both diffuse and concentrated lighting, and ground lamps set into the pavement. The designs of the tall lamps are reminiscent of ships’ masts, reflecting the city’s maritime culture, a vital element in the history of Cork. Commenting on the tall lamps, architect Beth Gali said she ‘tried to bring the spirit of the harbour into the city’. Completed in time for the city to celebrate and host the European Capital of Culture in 2005, the street’s redevelopment scheme was officially opened by the Lord Mayor Sean Martin on 22 nd September 2004.

The International Partners to Cork city are: – Cologne in Germany. Coventry in England. Swansea in Wales. Rennes in France. San Francisco in America. Shanghai in China.

LYRICS to “The Banks of my own lovely Lee” written by J.C.Shanahan.

How oft do my thoughts in their fancy take flight to the home of my childhood away?
To the days when each patriot vision seemed bright Ere I dreamed that those joys should decay.
When my heart was as light as the wild wind that blows down the Mardyke through each Elm tree.
Where I sported and played ‘neath each green leafy shade on the banks of my own lovely Lee
Where I sported and played ‘neath each green leafy shade on the banks of my own lovely Lee.

And then in the springtime of laughter and song can I ever forget the sweet hours
With the friends of my youth as we rambled along ‘mongst the green mossy banks and wild flowers
Then too, when the evening sun’s sinking to rest shed its golden light over the sea
The maid with her lover the wild daisies pressed on the banks of my own lovely Lee
The maid with her lover the wild daisies pressed on the banks of my own lovely Lee.

‘Tis a beautiful land this dear isle of song its gems shed their light to the world
And her faithful sons bore thro’ ages of wrong the standard Saint Patrick unfurled.
Oh! Would I were there with the friends I love best and my fond bosom’s partner with me.
We’d roam the banks over, and weary we’d rest by the waters my own lovely Lee
We’d roam the banks over, and weary we’d rest by the waters my own lovely Lee.

Oh what joys should be mine ere this life should decline to seek what shells on thy sea-gilded shore.
While the steel feathered eagle, oft splashing the brine brings longing for freedom once more.
Oh all that on earth I wish for or crave is that my last crimson drop be for thee.
To moisten the grass of my forefathers’ grave on the banks of my own lovely Lee
To moisten the grass of my forefathers’ grave on the banks of my own lovely Lee.

Cork Tram: In the recent Cork Area Strategic Development Plan one of the proposals put forward to ease the chronic traffic congestion in Cork is the development of a light rail or tram system. Ironically, in the previous 130 years two tramway systems had been laid and later dug up in Cork. The first, a horse-drawn system, had only a brief existence; the second, an electrically-powered system, was an integral part of Cork City life for more than 30 years and is still within living memory in 2005.

The Horse –Drawn Tram: The proposal to establish a horse-drawn tram system in Cork was first made in the 1860s by a talented, if eccentric, American named George Train. As well as being an early advocate of trams, he was a Fenian sympathiser, a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for the presidency of the USA and is credited with being the original Phineas Fogg in Jules Verne’s novel “Around the World in Eighty Days”. His plan for Cork was to link the terminal of the existing railway system with the horse-drawn tram. Due to the peculiar geography of Cork, with its city centre surrounded by the River Lee on both sides the route laid out by Train was circuitous. The Cork Tramway Company did not put his ideas into practice until 1872. The route chosen was that which Train had laid out 12 years before and the trams were popularly known as ‘Train cars’.

From the beginning the enterprise was dogged by ill feeling between the directors of the company and Cork Corporation. The horse trams never really became popular and when the Cork Corporation refused to allow an extension to the line the company folded in 1875.

The Electric Tram: Twenty three years were to pass before trams again ran in Cork this time powered by electricity. From the outset, the new company, called The Cork Electric Tramways and Lighting Company, formed a cordial relationship with Cork Corporation. The company was closely linked to the London-based British Thompson-Houston, a major electrical contracting company. The laying of the permanent way was subcontracted to William Martin Murphy, later to achieve notoriety during the Dublin Lock-out of 1913, who eventually became chairman of the company. The building of the power house was contracted to Edward Fitzgerald, whose name is commemorated in Fitzgerald’s Park in Cork today. Queen Victoria later knighted him. However, the real engineering genius behind the construction of the system, was Charles H. Merz, an English engineer and employee of B T-H. He later co-founded the world –famous Merz-McClellan engineering company and was to die in an air-raid in London during WW2.

The hub of the new system was situated at Father Mathew’s statue in St. Patrick’s Street and from there three cross-city routes radiated to six termini. The routes were; Blackpool-Douglas, Summerhill-Sunday’s Well and Tivoli-Blackrock. The gauge of the tramway was 2 feet, eleven and a half inches. This peculiar gauge was chosen for technical reasons to allow railway rolling stock to run on the tramway, which ran alongside the Muskerry Railway on the Western Road. It was thought there might be an exchange of traffic between the two systems, a development that never materialized. The first 18 cars of an eventual total of 35 arrived from Brush of Loughborough in 1898. The trams, powered by overhead electrical cables, began trial runs in early December 1898. The trams soon became a familiar sight on the streets of Cork and local newspapers reported that they caused considerable alarm, at first, to the horses, which pulled most of the wheeled traffic on Cork’s streets. The tram operated from 7.30am to 11.00pm every day including Sundays. The fares ranged from one penny to twopence, depending on the length of the journey. Later the fares were increased to three and a half pence but were reduced in the 1920s due to competition from Cork’s early buses.

The cars were broadly similar in design, all being double-deckers with some stylistic variations of detail among them. The colours of the trams were green with some cream or yellow under-panelling. One of the cars was a watering car, which sprinkled water to keep down the dust along the track. The system remained essentially unaltered from 1901 to 1931. The trams were an integral feature of Cork life, whether transporting families from the city to the ‘seaside’ at Blackrock or bringing hurling fans to matches at the old Cork Athletic Grounds. A number of Cork writers, including Frank O’Connor, refer to the trams in their works.

The arrival of the motor car and the bus and the increasing popularity of the bicycle after roads were improved in the 1920s spelt the death knell for the trams. On the 31 st March 1931 the trams finished service in Cork and crowds turned out to bid them farewell. After some days, however, the Irish Omnibus Company was not able to cope with the crowds due to lack of buses and the trams once again appeared on the streets in early April. This was only temporary and the last tram ran in Cork on the 30 th September 1931. Many of the former employees found work with the ESB (Electricity Supply Board) or the Bus Company. One of the trams was later used as a glasshouse near Blarney County Cork and another saw service as a bungalow in Inchydoney in West Cork. The Lawrence Collection of photographs has many scenes, which include Cork’s trams, a fitting memorial to a mode of transport held in great affection by a generation of Corkonians. If the traffic problems plaguing Cork worsen we may yet see the return of the trams, although with tarred and concrete roads we will probably not see a modern version of the famous watering car.
Road Bowling: A popular sport in Cork, one theory of how the sport was introduced was that Dutch soldiers arriving here with William of Orange in 1689 brought the game with them. In Holland a type of bowling named ‘Moors bowling’ is still popular there. Another theory is the Irish were always stealing English cannon balls, rolling them as far away as possible, thereby making it a game eventually. The last theory is that it was introduced here by linen workers arriving over from Yorkshire as it was their traditional sport at home. A solid iron bowl (ball) weighing 28ozs or 793.8 grams is used, its circumference is 18cm. Juniors use a 16oz bowl. The contestants throw the bowl over a specified distance of roadway, normally 4km, and the winner is the one who covers the distance with the least number of throws. Bowling can be found in Waterford, Limerick Mayo, Louth and Armagh.

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