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Cork Independent


Technical memories part 51 a glass jar of hope

Thursday, 11th April, 2013 1:00am

“Thus the laying of the foundation stone of the new school today marks another stage in the development of Vocational Education in Cork; the new building, as you are aware, will house both the School of Commerce and Domestic Science, allowing additional accommodation for the further development of science and technology in the existing buildings” (Journalist, Cork Examiner, 25 June 1935)

The pinnacle of vocational education projects in Cork in the 1930s was the creation of a new building for the Cork School of Commerce on Morrison's Island. On 24 June 1935, in the presence of a large and distinguished gathering, Thomas Derrig TD, Minister for Education, laid the foundation stone of Cork's new £60,000 Municipal School of Commerce and Domestic Science. The attendance included William T Cosgrave TD who travelled especially from Dublin for the occasion. The site and the foundation stone were first blessed by Rev J Canon Murphy, St Finbarr's South Chapel, who then delivered a short address. The Canon blessed the stone. He noted that they took that day the first step in the direction of a “great municipal, commercial academy, which they hoped would be worthy of the size, dignity and importance of the city of Cork”. He prayed that this great inception might one day become a source of knowledge and instruction to many generations of the youth of the City of Cork “that they might learn many useful lessons of culture and science and skill, which would then be useful members of society and reflect credit on the city of their birth”.

Mr William Ellis welcomed the Minister for Education on behalf of the Vocational education committee of the city of Cork, and said the Minister was engaged that day on the “inauguration of a great work, which would prove of immense benefit to the city educationally and would reflect credit on it in other aspects as well”. He asked the Minister to lay the foundation stone of a building of whose future they had such great hopes. Mr Derrig was then presented with a silver trowel by Mr Sisk, the builder. When the stone was laid, in a cavity of the stone was placed a glass jar containing a prospectus of the school, copies of the “Cork Examiner,” and other daily newspapers, and contemporary coins. The Minister added his card to this collection.

Speaking first in Irish and subsequently in English, the Minister said it gave him great pleasure to be present on this important occasion in the history of vocational education in the city of Cork. He asserted that the school was being erected at a moment when Ireland was endeavouring to expand its industrial development, resources and commerce; “They would send out from it young and women equipped to take their parts in the development of the country and advancing its interests and making its citizens prosperous”.

The Minister congratulated the architect, Henry Hill and the builder Sisks on the “admirable, yet simplicity of the building”.   It was, he noted, a source of satisfaction to him to record that workmen and tradesmen of Cork played such an important part in the building of the school, and the materials and fittings would as far as possible be Irish. Speaking at the subsequent luncheon in the Victoria Hotel, the Minister noted that the constant demand for the extension of technical schools and for the erection of new ones was a “sure tale of progress”. A problem he highlighted was the training of girls for domestic service. It was his opinion that these girls, if properly trained could obtain suitable positions in this country. He was in full agreement with the Chairman of the County Cork Vocational Committee, that to raise the position of the domestic servant in this country was a matter of great importance. To succeed in this endeavour “they can only do so if the girls themselves are prepared to take out a full course of training, which he was sure all the Vocational committees, throughout the country would only too glad to supply”.

Mr A J Magennis proposed the toast “vocational education”. He was doing so as a member of the City of Cork Vocational Education Committee and chairman of the School of Commerce sub committee. He was past president of the Incorporated Chamber of Commerce and Shipping.   As chairman of the School of Commerce committee and in his experience as a professional accountant, he described that the work of the principal and his staff as not surpassed in the Free State; “There is scarcely a business in the city where you will not find past students of the school holding positions of responsibility, all of whom bear unmistakable marks of the training they have received in that in that institution. I can with confidence assert that this school has since its inception, definitely raised the standard of business efficiency and office organisation, not only in the city, but wherever our students have found employment”.

To be continued...

A list of winning projects in the 2013 edition (City and County) of the Discover Cork: Schools' Heritage Project can now be viewed at Kieran's heritage website



686a. Henry Hill's design for Cork School of Commerce and Domestic Science, c.1935 (source: Cork City Library)






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