'Up the Coal Quay': A look back at one of Cork's favourite markets

'Up the Coal Quay': A look back at one of Cork's favourite markets
Flower sellers at the Coal Quay, 1955. 

The origins of the outdoor market, which was originally housed indoors in the premises that is now the Bodega bar and restaurant, go back to 1840.

That year, when local government reformed, St Peters Market was set up, which became known as the 'Irish Market', to distinguish itself from the English Market, set up by the English corporation.

Christmas week at the Coal Quay Cork, 1933. 
Christmas week at the Coal Quay Cork, 1933. 

As well as selling necessities like fruit and vegetables, the Coal Quay also sold flowers, secondhand clothes and shoes and bric-a-brac.

It quickly established itself as a go-to spot for bargain hunters, to scour out the hidden gems amongst piles of old garments, household possessions and old furniture.

At Christmas, the Coal Quay was a popular spot for people to purchase fresh sprigs of holly or children's toys. 

Children from the Marsh area of Cork looking at some of the Christmas toys on sale at the Coal Quay, 1930.
Children from the Marsh area of Cork looking at some of the Christmas toys on sale at the Coal Quay, 1930.

The spirit of the Coal Quay was not what was sold there, however. 

What made it unique was the street traders, from the black-shawled female traders to Kathy Barry forever immortalised in the song 'Up The Coal Quay'.

Kathy Barry. 
Kathy Barry. 

"Cabbages and prams, chickens and hams, you buy them Up the Coal Quay, 

"Dealers in shawls, farmers an' all, you hear them Up the Coal Quay;

"Buskers sing bustle 'n' swing, it's the scene Up the Coal Quay, 

"Oh what a fool, I left that old school, I also miss Kathy Barry's."

Kathleen Barry, popularly known as Kitty or Kathy Barry, was born on August 16, 1906 to Mary and John Barry. 

In 1947, following the passing of her mother, Kathy took over the family business, the Eating House, on Dalton’s Avenue just off Cornmarket Street.

A 'shawlie' pictured on the Coal Quay, 1965.
A 'shawlie' pictured on the Coal Quay, 1965.

Historian Richard T Cooke stated that Kathy, who was affectionately dubbed the 'Queen of the Coal Quay' was "renowned for her beauty and her sociable, good-humoured nature".

"Her business soon became noted for its mouth-watering bangers and mash and the delicious succulent crubeens which were cooked in a great big black bubbling cauldron. 

"Other rare delicacies and illicit liquor were also on the menu.

My father, John Cooke would drop in there every now and again for a drop of the black stuff and a chit-chat. The atmosphere would be buzzing and the craic ninety especially when the Coal Quay would be thronged with country folk on Fridays and Saturdays," Mr Cooke stated. 

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, iconic Cork man Andy Egan, known affectionately as 'Andy Gaw' frequented the Coal Quay.

Andy Gaw
Andy Gaw

Andy, who was renowned for his immense kindness would distribute coins to Cork children, enabling them to have some pocket money to spend in the market.

In recent years, the Coal Quay Market has become a trendy spot selling wildflowers, organic fruit and vegetables and handmade items.

After weeks without it, Cork people will be glad to see the imminent return of the historic market. 

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