Over the next few months we will be asking experts that have worked with the museums collection over the years to select specific objects for our online exhibitions.
Here they are, and here are their choices.
Michael is a native of Cork who lives and works in the city. An avid collector of memorabilia. He owns a large library of Cork books, photographs, postcards and maps, which have taken over 40 years to amass. He is also an author and his previous publications include, Hidden Cork (2009), Pure Cork (2011) and Cork Burning (2018)
St. Patrick’s Bridge 1861.
View of St Patrick's Bridge under construction 1861.
An early photograph of St. Patrick’s Bridge during construction. From the poster in the foreground we can deduce that the ship the Great Eastern has arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh). This fortunately gives us the date when this photograph was taken, as this ship received temporary repairs in September 1861. During the building of St. Patrick’s Bridge up to one hundred stone cutters and masons were employed. In November 1859 the foundation stone was laid by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Carlisle. On 27 May 1859 a temporary wooden pedestrian bridge was erected. Just three months after this photograph was taken, on 12 December 1861, the new St. Patrick’s Bridge was officially opened to the public and it was equipped with ornate gas lamps.
Provincial Bank and Anglesea Bridge 1865.
View of the Provincial Bank and Anglesea Bridge (Parnell Bridge) 1865.
This photograph shows the old stone Anglesea Bridge and the former Provincial Bank then under construction. The chief engineer of Anglesea Bridge was Thomas Deane and it was completed in 1830. It was built principally to allow access to the old Corn Exchange building which opened in 1833 (now the site of Cork City Hall). By 1863 the bridge was becoming an impediment to river traffic. On 10 October 1863 a ship became wedged in the constricted archway of the bridge effectively closing access to and from the river. This bridge was not replaced until 1882 with the construction of the Parnell swivel bridge. The Provincial Bank, built in the Victorian Renaissance style and designed by the Architect W. G. Murray, was completed in 1865. It is constructed of limestone and sports wonderful Corinthian columns, keystones and pediments. This photograph can be dated to 1865 as the workmen’s trestles are still in position prior to its opening.
The Holy Trinity Church.
The Holy Trinity Church c.1860's
As early as 1825 Fr. Mathew decided that a new church should be built in the city. The foundation stone was laid on 10 October 1832, Fr. Mathew’s birthday. The site chosen was Charlotte Quay (now Fr. Mathew Quay). The original design by the architect George R Pain had a 182 foot tower and spire. Unfortunately the project was plagued with problems due to its location near the river. This was compounded by the 1832 Cholera epidemic in the city which decimated any attempts at fund raising for the church. Lawsuits involving the architect, cost over-runs and the great Famine further hindered its construction. By 1850, the architect Sir Thomas Deane was employed to complete the church albeit without the tower and spire. The architect William Atkins was engaged to oversee the completion of the interior.
The Cork Park Racecourse.
The Cork Park Racecourse c.1900's.
The National Steeplechase was held in Cork Park Racecourse in 1869, and the prize money was a then-considerable £200. Such was its popularity that thousands arrived, but unfortunately the weather made the course wet and muddy - not the ideal conditions for horse racing. On 27 February, the owners of the Cork Park Racecourse sold the land to Henry Ford for the sum of £11,500 and a nominal rent of 1 penny per year. This involved the building of a road through the centre of the racecourse which is now Centre Park Road. The last race took place on Easter Monday 1917 and the construction of Henry Ford’s tractor factory commenced shortly after.
The Cork Blackrock & Passage Railway Station.
The Cork Blackrock & Passage Railway Station c. 1860's.
In 1848 the Cork Corporation leased land for the construction of the Cork Blackrock & Passage Railway covering an area of 1000 feet in length and 100 feet wide along the line of the embankment. On the 8 June 1850 the new terminus building in the photograph was erected on the corner of Victoria Road and the Navigation Walk South Jetties, where the grain silos now stand. The Builder magazine of June described it as a plain Italian building with a large crowning cornice and a very flat pitched roof. The material used was brick coated with Portland cement and a very light roof spans the platforms and tracks. The Architect was Mr. Hargreaves and the builder was a Mr. Moloney. It is recorded that in 1869 Mr. Clancy fell down the steps of the booking office and that he was compensated with a free pass for one year. By January 1879 the old station was no longer in use as the railway had been rerouted to Albert Road. The old station became part of Messrs. Furlong’s flour milling operation until its demolition in the early 1930s.
The Old St. Finbarre’s Cathedral.
The old St Finbarre's Cathedral 1865.
The old St. Finbarre’s Cathedral was built in 1735 in the old renaissance style. The cathedral in the photograph has parts of the tower and spire from the previous cathedral, which had been damaged during the siege of Cork in 1690, incorporated into the design. When this cathedral was being demolished a beautiful English doorway was removed and rebuilt into the South wall in Dean Street. Thomas Lane, who was skilled in the art of photography, and the learned Dr. Richard Caulfield, Cork’s premier historian, published a photographic book about the City in 1866. This photograph was taken from the Bishop’s Palace opposite, just prior to its demolition in 1865. The image was taken at 10.20 and it clearly shows that the old weather vane is missing from the top of the spire.
The Steamer Blarney.
The steamer Blarney c. 1900.
The steamer Blarney passing the old St. George Steam Packet Company. On the left is the Cork Bonded Warehouses on Custom Quay. The SS. Blarney worked on the Cork-Bristol route until it was sold in 1910. The ship was built in 1889 and was a single screw steamer with a triple expansion engine. This area where the North and South channels meet is known as the tongue.
The Cork Glasshouse Factory Chimney.
Cork Glasshouse Factory chimney c.1900.
This extremely rare photograph is of the Cork Glasshouse chimney, which was once a major landmark on the south side of the city. It was located on the grounds of the Beamish & Crawford brewery, having been acquired by them following the closure of the glass factory. The Cork Glasshouse Company was Cork’s first glass factory founded in 1782 by Thomas Burnett, Francis Rowe, and Atwell Hayes. Skilled English glass workers were employed to oversee the new works. The company experienced differing fortunes, changing hands many times. Access by river for transport to the works and the introduction of steam driven machinery ensured its survival until 1818. Strong competition from the other local glass companies, mass produced English glass and excessive taxation all played a role in its closure. The chimney, which had been used as a coal store, was ultimately demolished in 1915. The enormity of the structure is evident from the photograph: the inside diameter was 50 feet and the walls at ground level were 4 feet thick.
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria in Cork.
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria, Cork 1903.
This photograph shows King Edward VII and Queen Alexandria in their royal carriage passing the premises of George Southwick, a boot manufacturer at 51 South Mall Cork in 1903. The people peering through the windows are on the first floor premises of Herr Theo Gmur, Professor of Music. The King and Queen were on their way to visit The Greater Cork Exhibition of that year amidst great pomp and ceremony, much to the delight of the local aristocracy and public officials. The enormity of the wheels of the royal carriage in relation to the people onlooking conveys their insignificance amidst this imperial pageantry.
DR. CLAUDIA KINMOTH
Dr. Claudia Kinmonth began working at Cork Public Museum in 2017, cataloguing The Jack Lynch Archive, and managing conservation for accreditation. Her two main publications for Yale University Press are Irish Country Furniture 1700-1950 (1993) and Irish Rural Interiors in Art (2006). In 2018 she won the Royal Dublin Society's Library & Archives Research Bursary, instigating research on 18th century recycling. Her Moore Institute Fellowship at N.U.I.G. is facilitating an enlarged edition of Irish Country Furniture (with Cork University Press), with fresh material on furnishings such as Noggins, horn spoons, earthenware and Gods in Bottles. She is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy.
Her choice of ten objects reflects the diversity within the museum’s collection, and her passion for objects that reveal interesting stories about the people that created or used them. Most of them, like Kinmoth’s forefathers and family, originated in or around Cork.
(Above) Model of Christ in bone, made by french prisoners at North Gate Bridge, 1798.
One of the most intrinsically impressive objects in the museum, probably dating from 1798, was made by French prisoners in Cork Gaol. The vitrine of pine frames a religious scene, beautifully cut from pieces of animal bone.
The details are so finely carved, that it’s hard to believe the maker(s) didn’t have access to piercing saws, files and drills. Less mysterious is the Catholic symbolism of the three figures inside, centered on the vivid and bloody crucifixion, flanked by women with shocked, sorrowful expressions and surrounded by the traditional symbols of Christ’s passion. All carved in brightly painted bone they include three dice, spears, a cockerel, a ladder, a suspended tassel and lantern and, significantly, a French tricolour. This is a sophisticated version of Ireland’s wooden, vernacular ‘god in a bottle’.
Diamonds, chevrons and mitred cross banding in patterned straw-work brightens all the wooden surfaces: a poor-man’s marquetry. Golden and iridescent on the inside where, protected from light, tiny silk curtains frame the scene. Skilful prisoners had time but limited materials. Bone was a by-product of their meagre diet, straw of their bedding. The museum has several other prisoner-made artefacts, including an Irish harp carved from a scapula bone.
Republican Silver Loving Cup.
(Above) Republican Silver Loving Cup 1922.
This elegant two handled ‘loving cup’ is one of four items of rare ‘Republican silver’ in the museum’s collection. Underneath the cup, an engraving explains: ‘Made in Cork during the occupation of the city by the Republican forces in the Civil War 1922 Barry M. Egan.’
From June to September 1922 Cork was in the hands of anti-treaty Republicans, so normal transportation of silver between Cork and Dublin for testing before hallmarking became impossible. In response, William Egan and Sons, a family of firm of silversmiths, forged special Cork stamps, keeping local trade alive and hallmarking silver themselves. The cup is prominently stamped on the outside with a tower, the letters WE and a two-masted ship; imagery reflecting the city’s coat of arms. Egan’s destroyed their stamps after that brief period.
The loving cup in various forms has an ancient history, but at weddings was offered to the bride and groom to share, hence having two handles. The typically Irish mether or madder was another communal wooden drinking vessel, often with four handles. Like the loving cup, it was passed around and the contents merrily shared. Silver, like wood, has antimicrobial properties, so is especially appropriate for shared implements.
Shoe from the Cork International Exhibition.
(Above) Boot made by John O'Brien, shoe maker for the Cork International Exhibition 1902.
This cunningly constructed boot was specially made to show off the maker’s skills, for the Cork International Exhibition of 1902-3. Inspired by London’s Great Exhibition of 1852, hundreds of manufacturers, inventors, educators and entertainers had stands showcasing their products and skills.
Today the resulting museum stands on the same Mardyke site, where Cork’s celebrated exhibition was held. The multitude of attractions, stalls and rides included a gigantic water chute and a switchback railway, while imposing purpose-built pavilions covered a huge riverside area. Among the museum’s related postcards and souvenirs, one of the most intricate and magical is this man’s boot, incorporating portraits of celebrities such as Nationalist Daniel O’Connell, within the sole. Yet more astonishing is the second tiny shoe suspended behind glass and reflected in mirrors inside the boot’s heel. A leaflet by its Cork manufacturer John O’Brien, emphasises local materials: the seamless upper of local calf skin, hand-sewn with 1,354 stitches of Irish flax, and the tiny stitches in the sole of the miniature one being 44 to the inch.
In 1902 when many rural people still went bare-foot or carried their shoes to and fro to be worn in church, this object had special significance.
Garryduff gold bird
(Above) The Garryduff Gold Bird.
One of the tiniest of the museum’s many thousands of objects is, in terms of archaeological significance and intrinsic value, one of the most important.
The diminutive bird apparently represents a wren: a far more common Irish bird then than now. Made from a thin dome of gold, surrounded by filigree edging, in appearance like a flattened rope, it has ten applied gold scrolls intertwining across its body. In the style of Iron Age La Tene, the little bird dates from about the 6th century, or later. A pair of hooks fixed by gold solder onto the back, seem to have attached it to a person’s clothing.
Excavated in 1945 by University College Cork’s then Professor of Archaeology, Michael J. Kelly, it is simply named after the sixth century ringfort where it was found. ‘Garryduff 1’ is one of two small, adjacent ring forts near Midleton, County Cork, where numerous tools for working glass and metal, and samples of imported earthenware were excavated. These artefacts, yet the absence of weapons, indicated a peaceful settlement of high status. Significantly, Prof. Kelly became the first curator of the museum in 1945, and the gold bird became the logo for The Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.
(Above) Porthole window from the RMS Lusitania.
The sinking of RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915 was one of the greatest human tragedies of the early 20th century. Fast and luxurious, she carried 1,962 passengers along with cargo. Germany suspected she carried armaments, and, during World War 1, considered her a legitimate target. Her voyage from New York, towards Liverpool, took her into Irish waters, where U boats had sunk 23 boats within the previous week. When submarine U-20 torpedoed her below her waterline, she rapidly began listing to starboard, hindering the launch of sufficient lifeboats. Within a horrifying 18 minutes, the ship sank, with the loss of 1,198 lives. Boats rushed out from Cobh (then Queenstown) to rescue people clinging to wreckage in icy water and bring in the dead for identification.
Such loss of innocent passengers caused outrage and ultimately triggered the entry of America into the war. This porthole, with jagged shards of thick glass around the edges, is a reminder of the terrible violence of that event. Its hinges enabled someone to open it from the inside of a cabin, to let in air or improve the view. Among other items salvaged, the museum has a smaller window, and a prism; paradoxically all objects associated with vision, and evocative of life.
(Above) Evening dress and (right) detail, owned and worn by Maureen Lynch. Designed by Sybil Connolly.
(Above) Maureen Lynch pictured in the Sybil Connolly dress at an awards ceremony of the Irish-American Fund, Rockerfeller Centre, New York.
As the wife of Jack Lynch, Ireland’s Taoíseach (from 1966-’73 and 1977-’79), Máirín Lynch (1916-2004) was smart in every sense of the word. Her contribution to Irish politics awaits research and is under appreciated. Upon marriage, Máirín gave up her job as a Civil Servant, accompanying her husband around the world and becoming his confidant. A self-appointed ambassador for Irish manufacturers, she wore haut couture by Ireland’s leading designers. She promoted the celebrated Dublin couturier and fashion icon, Sybil Connolly (1922-98) by wearing her exquisitely detailed linen ‘handkerchief dresses’ on state occasions. Jack Lynch referred to Connolly as ‘among Ireland’s National Treasures’.
Sybil Connolly never revealed the secret of how she created her famous silky soft dresses, made of the finest Irish ‘handkerchief linen’ incorporating hundreds of parallel folds. One salmon pink example in the museum’s collection is entirely hand stitched, with integral corsets and hidden pink zips at the waist and wrists. Photographs in the museum’s extensive Jack Lynch Archive, show Máirín wearing similar ‘handkerchief dresses’. This one she chose to wear when Connolly won a prestigious award in 1970 in New York. A portrait of style icon Jackie Kennedy Onassis shows her, as ‘First Lady’ wearing a Sybil Connolly dress.