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Cork Independent

Cork Profile

Richard T. Cooke,

Thursday, 21st September, 2017 9:24am

When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up?

I wanted to be God because God can do anything. I remember one day on my way to school I saw a dog lying at the side of the road. He was a black furry looking terrier and he wasn't moving. I couldn't understand why he wasn't moving. I'd never seen a dog like that before. A lady walked past me and said that the dog was dead and to leave him alone. That was my first experience of death and I wanted nothing more than to bring the dog back to life. At that moment, I wanted to be God because God can breathe new life into anyone and anything. After it dawned on me that God's job was already taken, I decided that I wanted to be a mechanic like my father.

Tell us about your career progression to your role today:

Both of my parents were very educated. My father was an armchair traveller and had a beautiful way of telling stories. Most nights my two brothers and I would eagerly listen as he would recount tales full of adventure. I loved the ones about the sea - I used to imagine my bed was ship on the vast ocean and I always would end up on an island like Robinson Crusoe.

My parents loved the history of Cork. Anywhere we ever travelled to, my father would tell us about the history of that area. That's where the first seeds were sown for the passion I have for the history of Cork and its people. Over my career in history there were certain people I was blessed to meet who nurtured my passion and generously gave of their time, knowledge and friendship such as CJF McCarthy, Dr Sean Pettit, Wally McGrath, Kieran Burke, Ann Barry, Tim Cadogan and many more beautiful people.

We lived in the North Mall area and when my mother used to take my brothers and I into town we'd go over the North Gate bridge, up the North Main Street, up Kyle Street and onto the open air theatre that was called the Coal Quay. It was a stage setting for any musical with its stalls, dealers and shawlies and the chit-chat echoing through the old market. And across the road would be farmers with their horse and carts laden with organic farm produce.

It was a wondrous sight for a young child like me especially the characters that moved in and out of the Coal Quay with their quintessential Corkonian ways. It was these characters that inspire the songs that I write such as 'Up the Coal Quay', 'Cork City is my Home' and many more.

What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?

Meeting people.

What motivates you?

Coming up with brand new ideas. Nothing excites me more that composing a new piece of music or a new song. It's like a breath of fresh air.

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

Do a course in psychology.

If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?

I'd be a captain of a sailing ship or else an astronaut and build my own rocket - I love space. I love an adventure.

What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?

Having a family.

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?

My parents.

What is the life dream now?

I saw half of the world - I'd love to see the other half.

How do you switch off?

Playing my guitar.

What is your favourite Cork memory?

Going down to Youghal. In fact, I have so many happy memories about travelling to this magical place that I wrote a song about it called 'Off Down to Youghal We Go'.

What is your favourite place in Cork?

My home.

Do you have a favourite quote or motto?

An 18th century writer once wrote ‘The greatest gift that God could give to a human being is a friend’. I'm very fortunate, I've lots of them.

When are you at your happiest?

When I'm with my family.

Any regrets?

Yes, I've got a barrel load of regrets. And I dare say, when I breathe my last breath in 50 years time, the barrel will be overflowing.

What is your hidden talent?


What might we be surprised to know about you?

I don't drink coffee and I don't drink milk.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

The Celebrating Cork Past Exhibition will be held in the City Hall on Friday 29 September. Admission to the event is free.


Name and position: Richard T. Cooke, President of the Cork Adult Education Council

Age: Over 18!

Family: A big happy bunch!

Pets: They're all now in heaven. My first pet was a cat called Fluffy.

Favourite thing about Cork: Everything, especially the community spirit.

Least favourite thing about Cork: I can't think of anthing.

One thing you'd change about Cork: Nothing.

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