THE date was Tuesday, June 14, 1892, and on the streets of Cork, a new arrival burst onto the scene: The Cork Evening Echo.
Fifty-one years after launching the Cork Examiner, the Crosbie family had decided to introduce an evening newspaper which would bring the latest news of the day to the Victorian streets of the city and county.
A hundred and twenty-five years later, the Evening Echo is still going strong — and all this week, we are celebrating this landmark anniversary in these pages.
Those first editions of the Evening Echo in 1892 would have reported on the imminent UK General Election, held from July 4-26. The Irish Parliamentary Party had just suffered a devastating split caused by news of Charles Stewart Parnell’s scandalous relationship with the married Katharine O’Shea.
The party broke into rival wings — the anti-Parnellite Irish National Federation, and the pro-Parnellite Irish National League — but their total vote held up well, and together they received 297,258 of the 385,115 votes cast in Ireland, and 81 of Ireland’s 101 seats.
At the time the Echo launched, Cork were the reigning All-Ireland hurling champions, having beaten Dublin in the final the previous March. Cork, represented by club side Redmonds, were leading 2-3 to 1-5 when the Dublin side left the field in protest at a disputed goal. It was the Rebel County’s second All-Ireland title — the start of a three-in-a-row.
Also in 1892, free primary schooling and compulsory education up to the age of 14 was introduced through the Irish Education Act, Liverpool FC was founded, and the first Sherlock Holmes story was published.
Sadly, those early editions of the newspaper — which was a broadsheet until 1991, when it became a tabloid — have not survived.
The earliest surviving copy of the Cork Evening Echo dates to a few years after its launch — Wednesday, May 6, 1896. Three pages of that day’s paper are archived on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland.
As was common for newspapers of the day, adverts took prominence on the front page, and stories ran, often to great length, in small print along a single column width.
On that Wednesday in May, 1896, the Echo reported that Chief Secretary for Ireland, Mr Gerald Balfour MP, wanted to introduce a new Education Bill which would give a grant of 10 shillings to each child who was attending school.
However, Dublin MP John Dillon, who had recently been installed as chairman of the Irish National Federation, had issues with the plan and it was decided to adjourn a decision to a later date. There is nothing new under the sun — elsewhere in that Evening Echo on May 6, 1896, was a report on policing problems...
However, compared to today plethora of issues facing the gardaí, this was a matter of somewhat lesser importance: namely, the material used for police overcoats!
In a letter to the Editor, M.N Crowley, who worked in the Blackwater Woollen Mills in Banteer, wrote that there were 12,000 active policemen in the country at the time, each needing a minimum of four yards of material to make their overcoats.
The cost of the 48,000 yards of material would be at least £14,000, a sum deemed excessive by some. Mr Crowley said the government believed it was essential to pay this amount and as a mill worker, he thought all southern woollen mills would benefit from the deal.
The Inspector General asked that woollen mills interested in supplying the material submit two samples of their goods so that a suitable supplier could be found. The fact that it was far cheaper to maintain the uniforms of policemen in Scotland was something that the police administration declined to comment on.
Meanwhile, the Echo reported that a woman, Catherine Sullivan, had been found dead in mysterious circumstances in Holly Hill, Skibbereen. A post-mortem carried out by Dr Timothy Joseph O’Meara revealed she had, in fact, died of heart problems. The coroner, Mr B Neville, accepted the doctor’s findings.
In Macroom court, Johanna Riordan, of Caherdahy, was charged with opening her public house in breach of the Sunday Closing Act.
Her solicitor, Mr Murphy, told the court she had done so due to extenuating circumstances. These were not stated in the article but were taken into account by the judge, who handed down the minimum penalty for the crime — a ten shilling fine.
Ellen Donoghue, of Skye’s Lane, was in court for biting the thumb of Mary Sheehan. The two women had had a row which ended when Donoghue bit Sheehan, resulting in blood being drawn. Donoghue had already spent 14 days in jail, which the judge ruled to be sufficient punishment for the crime.
A 15-year-old boy, Denis Collins, appeared in court on charges of wilfully damaging a tree at St Finn Barr’s Place. He had been arrested by Constable Travers, who witnessed the assault, in which Collins used a hurley to break the bark from the tree. The boy was fined two shillings and told to pay the cost incurred by the court.
There was great excitement following the final rehearsal of the Cork Amateur Orchestral Society. In the days leading up to their concert on May 6, the Evening Echo had been previewing their programme and mentioned some highlights. The popular Herr Swerts was due to conduct the orchestra and the reporter wrote of his excitement at seeing the impending show.
Another story revealed that The Flying Squadron, a special branch of the British Navy, had docked five ships in Bantry Bay, bringing with it thirsty soldiers and some devilment.
The Navy boys were given shore leave, 600 at a time. Some took the opportunity to go pony riding, others went shopping in the area; however, most of them did what sailors have done since time immemorial, they went on the beer.
The pubs in Bantry were not prepared for business on this scale and most ran out of alcohol not long into the leave time.
The Echo also noted that the HMS Dreadnought, the flagship of the Flying Squadron, was due to arrive any day. Let’s hope the pubs were able to re-stock in time for its arrival!
In other news from West Cork, the Bantry Bay SS Company was urged to bring its steamer to Bere Island to allow for the transportation of passengers and goods. A new beautiful pier had recently been built on the island and locals believed it was time they had a proper steamer service.
The Echo correspondent in Charleville wrote of the success of the Kilmallock Cattle Fair, despite two other cattle fairs taking place on the same day, at Kanturk and Bandon. Buyers travelled to it from Limerick and Waterford.
There was an article which had appeared in the London Sun about a young opera singer, Miss. B Delritta, who had just returned from a successful tour of the United States in the role of Gretel in the opera Hansel And Gretel.
You might wonder why the Echo was so happy with the starlet’s success. Miss Delritta was in fact Miss Bridie Conway, from Blarney. She had travelled from Cork to London to study music and been talent spotted on Drury Lane. The county of Cork had held a function to honour Miss Conway before she went on tour to America and she was given several pieces of jewellery as a gift from the Mayor of Cork city, Daniel Horgan.
Elsewhere, the Evening Echo proudly boasted that it was “the only newspaper printed in the south of Ireland that ran foreign news stories”. To support this, it reported on a robbery in a Chicago shop where the female employee bravely refused to hand over money until the thief shot her in the hand. In the ensuing panic, the shop owner was killed and several bystanders were shot.
There was also concern at the increase in Danish bacon sales. Denmark’s pig farms had the capacity to butcher 24,000 animals per week, compared to 12,000 in Ireland, 2,381 of which were Cork pigs. It was feared that the Danes would soon dominate the bacon market.
In an edition of the Echo later in May, it was reported the Catherine Sutton steam collier had rammed into a coal ship operated by the Clyde Shipping Company in the bay at Queenstown (now Cobh), causing it to sink and lose its load of 200 tons of coal. The collier went on to ram the Cockchafer owned by the Board of Trade. It was not badly damaged and miraculously the Catherine Sutton was not damaged in the slightest, despite her trail of destruction. The ship’s captain was not prosecuted.
However, research revealed that the vessel would go on to collide with a ship in the River Mersey in England in 1897, causing it to sink and resulting in the deaths of crew members.
Queenstown was also in the news for its lack of a morgue. At an inquest, the question was raised about the amount of bodies left floating in the sea, which was distressing for both visitors and passers-by to see. There is no mention as to why so many people were being found dead in the sea off the Cobh coast.
In other coast-related news, the Echo’s Skibbereen correspondent wrote of two ships that were in distress off the coast of Baltimore at Toehead, where a large vessel had got into difficulty in thick fog. The reporter stated that assistance was on its way to the vessels.
A second vessel was in difficulty in the area, and the reporter wrote that he believed it was soon to become a wreck due to its close proximity to the rugged coastline.
A cyclist wrote to the paper to recommend that people with bicycles ride out to Ballincollig to the army barracks. There they could avail of free concerts given by the 12th Royal Lancers in the barracks square each Monday and Thursday. Sounds like a pleasant way to pass a 19th century evening.
“A 15-year-old boy, Denis Collins, appeared in court on charges of wilfully damaging a tree at St Finn Barr’s Place. He had been arrested by Constable Travers, who witnessed the assault, in which Collins used a hurley to break the bark. The boy was fined two shillings and told to pay the cost incurred by the court.”