Edward Fitzgerald became the first elected Lord Mayor of Cork on 23 Jan 1901 when he was elected by 28 votes to 24 for Eugene Crean. Born in 1846, Fitzgerald entered public life in the 1870’s. He married Johanna O’Donoghue in January 1872 with whom he had 8 children.
Soon after his election, he proposed that an exhibition be held in the city.
On 1 May 1902, the Cork International Exhibition was formally opened to the public. The exhibition was the result of two years of work by Fitzgerald and his organising committee. It attracted exhibitors and visitors from as far away as the US, Canada and Japan. So popular was the event that it re-opened in 1903, and nearly two million people in total visited it including the king and queen of England, who made Fitzgerald a Baronet.
The site of the exhibition is on the Mardyke grounds of the present day Fitzgerald Park, which was named after the first elected Lord Mayor, plus the area that is now the sports grounds of U.C.C., as well as the Cork County Cricket grounds. The exhibition was spectacular with displays of manufactured and craft produced goods and also art, horticulture and fisheries. The social element to the event was huge, with extravagant lunches, gala dinners and formal balls.
The main hall of the Cork Exhibition under construction, 1902
Elected for a further 2 years, Lord Mayor Sir Edward Fitzgerald was active in securing a Carnegie Free Library for the City, which was the forerunner of the Cork City Library.
He died at his residence, Ovens House, on 22 June 1927 aged 81 years.