ONE of Cork’s most colourful characters is to be remembered at a ceremony over Christmas.
On December 27, the family of well-known síbín operator Kathy Barry will join with Lord Mayor John Sheehan, retired Bishop of Cork John Buckley, city councillors, members of the Cork Middle Parish and Coal Quay Historical Society, and the Coal Quay Shawlies to mark 37 years since her death.
Ms Barry was a well-known figure around the city in the 1950s and 60s, running a síbín and ‘eating house’ on Cornmarket St, to the rear of Dennehy’s Bar, where pig crubeens, boiled potatoes, drisheen, and beer were served to both “peers and paupers”.
Cornmarket St, known as the Coal Quay, is famous for its street traders and still has a thriving market today.
Historian Richard T Cooke said Ms Barry was a hugely important figure in Cork city and her charitable nature endeared her to many people.
“Renowned for her beauty and her sociable, good-humoured nature, there were no flies on Kathy,” said Mr Cooke. “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. And in the twilight of the interior, the sweet scent of the smoke coming from the cosy turf fire warmly welcomed the many colourful characters from different parts of the world and from diverse walks of life who flocked to her establishment to enjoy such refreshments; and a good chit-chat and sing-song late into the night and into the wee small hours of the morning. It was Cork’s first nightclub.
“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 90, especially when the Coal Quay would be thronged with country folk on Fridays and Saturdays. You wouldn’t know who you’d meet there.
“Kathy was a very religious and charitable woman and this was often seen with penniless students and those who were less fortunate. She never refused free shelter or food to anyone.”
Former lord mayor Mick Finn recently asked Cork City Council to consider establishing a permanent tribute to Ms Barry, in conjunction with the organising committee of the annual Coal Quay Festival.
The ceremony will take place at St Joseph’s Cemetery on Tory Top Rd at 3pm the day after St Stephen’s Day.