A look back at Cork's 'merry' days

A look back at Cork's 'merry' days
Cork schoolchildren's summer excursion to Youghal July, 1931.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the well-known funfair in Kinsale was forced to cancel its opening in the Town Park for the first time since 1939 due to Covid-19.

"This was a difficult decision for us to make but in the interest of the health and safety guidelines associated with Covid-19, this is the right decision to make for our work colleagues, dear friends and loyal customers.

Cork schoolchildren's summer excursion to Youghal July, 1931.
Cork schoolchildren's summer excursion to Youghal July, 1931.

"We wish you all a healthy and safe year and we look forward to seeing you all again in 2021," organisers said in a statement. 

The funfair was first established in Kinsale by William Piper, who at the age of 20, established a small funfair on Short Quay before moving to the Town Park in 1939.

It has been run on the same site annually ever since.

Known affectionately as 'The Merries', the funfair would normally open over the June Bank Holiday weekend and run until the last Sunday in August.

Dungarvan Charity Carnival, 1935.
Dungarvan Charity Carnival, 1935.

William Piper’s son Bill Piper, who celebrated his 80th birthday in April, now owns the funfair and Bill’s son Brendan helps him with the running of the business.

Mayfield Hurling and Football Club carnival in May 1967.
Mayfield Hurling and Football Club carnival in May 1967.

"It’s the old traditional funfair, no big fast rides, it’s nice and calm for families and children to visit and that’s why we’ve got generations of families coming to visit us down through the years," Brendan said, speaking to The Echo recently.

"We’re so passionate about the funfair, it’s deep in our hearts and it’s in our blood and this is what we look forward to. 

"It’s hard work but at the end of it, as my dad says when you look around the park and see children enjoying themselves, that’s what it’s all about," he continued.

Piper's Funfair in Crosshaven has also been a stalwart funfair, entertaining generations of families through the years.

In Youghal, Perks, which now boasts one of the largest indoor funfair entertainment centres in Ireland, once ran a carnival roadshow. 

In 1931, schoolchildren in Cork were delighted to be brought on a trip to Youghal during their summer holidays to enjoy the swinging boats and other funfair rides.

Exhibitions were also a major source of entertainment in Cork. 

Butlin's Mirror Maze at the Cork International Industrial Exhibition at the Carrigrohane Road in 1932.
Butlin's Mirror Maze at the Cork International Industrial Exhibition at the Carrigrohane Road in 1932.

Fitzgerald's Park was once the site of the International Exhibition, an elaborate showcase of industry and art, held in Cork in 1852, 1883, and 1902.

The latter exhibition, the one which was held in what is now Fitzgerald's Park, was regarded as such a success that it was kept going for a further year to allow King Edward VII to attend.

The triumphant exhibition of that year featured kiosks, ornamental walks, tea houses, and perhaps most impressively, an enormous water chute.

The big wheel in the amusements area of the Cork Industrial Fair.
The big wheel in the amusements area of the Cork Industrial Fair.

Following the exhibition, the site was then turned into a public park, named after Edward Fitzgerald who was Lord Mayor of Cork from 1901 until 1903.

Whilst Cork, unfortunately, won't get to enjoy any large exhibitions, merry-go-rounds or bumper cars this year, we'll be holding out for a summer at The Merries in 2021. 

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