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Cork’s sociable harbour

Wednesday, 12th June, 2019 4:24pm

My new book ‘The Little book of Cork Harbour’ has recently been published by The History Press (2019). Following on from last week, below is another snippet from the book– focussing on some of the sociable aspects of the harbour’s history.

 

Royal Cork Yacht Club

The Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) traces its origins back to 1720.

It began with the establishment, by six worthies of the time, of the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork, headquartered in the castle of Haulbowline Island. Membership was limited to twenty-five, and strict protocol governed all the club’s activities, both afloat and ashore.

One rule, for example, ordered ‘that no boat presume to sail ahead of the admiral, or depart the fleet without his orders, but may carry what sail he please to keep company’.

Another forbade the admiral to bring more than ‘two dozen (bottles of) wine to his treat’. The rules were applied with some rigour by the founding six members, who formed the club’s committee in 1720. One of the six was 24 year old William, the 4th Earl of Inchiquin, and probably the first admiral of the club.

The Victorious Goalers

‘The Victorious Goalers of Carrigaline and Kilmoney’ is a rare Cork Harbour ballad, which tells of hurling games played long before the GAA came into being.

On 17 December 1828, a local team from Carrigaline and Kilmoney defeated a team from the neighbouring parish of Shanbally-Ringaskiddy. Such matches were not infrequently organised by local landlords and in this case the team from Shanbally was led by William Connor, a naval officer of Ballybricken House (now demolished).

The venue was Cope’s Field, a large field north-east of Carrigaline Castle. The ‘goal’, as the contest was termed (in Irish, baire), was conducted according to rules similar to the present GAA ones.

There were eighteen to twenty players a side, the sliotar covered with stitched leather, an agreed referee, marked endlines and a change of sides at half time.

Royal Victoria Baths, Glenbrook

The Royal Victoria Baths were opened in 1838. The baths were tremendously popular with the people of Cork. The hot salt water was believed to be invigorating and a valuable treatment for rheumatism, lumbago and similar complaints.

During the nineteenth century, the baths were probably Cork’s most popular seaside resort. Towards the end of the century, other destinations further down the harbour became increasingly accessible by river steamer and the baths began to lose their popularity. They closed around the turn of the century and were derelict by 1929.

Bowling at Castlemary

The sport of road bowling has a long connection with county Cork. A painting by Daniel McDonald from 1842 is entitled Bowling Match at Castlemary, Cloyne. It is the possession of the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork.

It shows a mid-nineteenth century bowling match. The bowlers depicted are reputed to be Abraham Morris, a leading Cork businessman and Orangeman, and Montiford Longfield, likewise an Orangeman.

This narrative is unusual as the participation of such establishment figures in bowling in the nineteenth century is a strange one. Local police viewed the game as dangerous on public roads and bowl players regularly found themselves in trouble with the law.

Queenstown, the health resort

In the nineteenth century, Queenstown (now Cobh) was promoted as a health resort on account of its climate and location and was on par with Bournemouth in the south of England and Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.

The promenade on the water’s edge was and still is a favourite place for locals and visitors to relax. The bandstand was originally built for the visit of Queen Victoria in August 1849.

During the summer months, regular band recitals take place there. The two cannons in the promenade were returned from the Boer and Crimean Wars in 1899 and 1854, respectively. Later, the promenade was named after US President John F Kennedy.

Ford boxes and holiday homes

In the late 1800s, Crosshaven flourished from a quiet backwater into a tourism resort. The numerous bays like Graball Bay were unrivalled for bathing accommodation – even bathing dresses and towels could be attained.

One media story records a local lady who erected two comfortable tents which could dine at least fifty people, and which were in constant demand.

By the 1930s, the area had witnessed many light wooden holiday bungalows constructed by Cork’s citizens. Many were constructed from disused Ford delivery crates for cars in the mid twentieth century.

Ford boxes were salvaged from the Ford factory on The Marina and sold en masse after they had been used to ship motor parts over from Dagenham. Hard and enduring, the boxes became a marvel around Cork and were used as dog kennels, fowl houses, pigeon lofts, piggeries, flooring for trailers, boxes for storing grain, and even dancing platforms.

The Majorca Ballroom

The big news of Thursday 30 May 1963 was the opening of a lavish new ballroom in Crosshaven. It was built on the most modern lines and was the brainchild of brothers Jer and Murt Lucey, who also owned the Redbarn Ballroom in Youghal, with a number of chalets and a fully equipped caravan park.

There was to be dancing space for over 2,000 and the soft, subdued lighting and lush decor took quite a lot of thought and planning. One of the features of the ballroom was its revolving stage.

The first to take the stage were Clipper Carlton and Michael O’Callaghan. The building and site of the Majorca Ballroom was bought in July 1995. The building was dismantled and the site taken into enlarging the adjacent boat yard.

Kieran’s next walking tours:

Saturday 22 June, The Friar’s Walk: Historical walking tour with Kieran, discover Red Abbey, Elizabeth Fort, Barrack St Callanan’s Tower and Greenmount area. Meet at Red Abbey tower, off Douglas Street at 11am. Free and it lasts two hours.

Sunday 23 June, The Lough and its Curiosities: Historical walking tour with Kieran, explore the local history from the legend of the Lough to suburban development. Meet at green area at the northern end of The Lough, entrance of Lough Road to The Lough at 2.30pm. Free and the duration is two hours.

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