Maritime Cork: Cork people harbour opinions about their city’s waterways

Maritime Cork: Cork people harbour opinions about their city’s waterways

The Cork Harbour Water Guardians, with their boat, Lady Pauline. Picture Dan Linehan

I am encouraged by the response of readers to the last two columns, on whether Cork has a love/hate relationship with the River Lee and, following protests in Cobh over access to riverside walks, on who owns Cork Harbour.

Corkonians have a great pride and interest in the river and in the harbour into which it flows. However, there is concern about how the public interest is represented.

“Consultation is a façade to confirm decisions already made,” has been a general response. Others suggested: “Voluntary organisations should have more statutory recognition to express their views.”

There is considerable voluntary commitment to maritime Cork.

I have been told about the Cork Harbour Water Guardians, who gather water samples using their own boat, the Lady Pauline.

“We aim to provide an improved quality of life for all citizens, whether in terms of drinking water or recreation, or whether they simply value Cork Harbour’s continued well-being,” is their stated purpose.

The Cork City Missing Persons Search and Recovery group now has a second boat, obtained with support by business and statutory organisations. The 5.8-metre RIB will be based at the Port of Cork city marina and is fitted with side-scan sonar to assist in river searches.

I have been told about the 30-year history of the Daunt Sub Aqua Club and about the Cork, Blackwater, and college sub-aqua clubs. “The harbour and the coast of Cork are great diving areas,” according to club members.

Then, there is the growth of interest in Cork’s currach club, Naomhoga Chorcai, reflecting, it has been said, a currach revival.

“There is growing interest in currachs and they can be seen on the Lee regularly. Although many of these craft are no longer in everyday use in their native communities, as they were in the past, there has been an extraordinary growth in interest in Cork.”

Another reader drew attention to Cork Harbour’s “first step into high-tech industries,” referring to Whitegate oil refinery: “This September will be the 60th anniversary of the opening of the refinery, which construction was one of the major changes in the harbour, building a pier and facilities for tankers.

“It was a step into high-tech industries, which injected a huge amount of money into the community and to the harbour board for the shipping movements.”

“Did you know that the man who proved there is life in the deep ocean was a professor in Cork university?” wrote another reader.

This was Charles Wyville Thomson, professor of natural history in then Queen’s College, Cork, in 1853.

He was particularly interested in studying biological conditions in the deep seas and set out to disprove the then prevailing scientific theory that the abundance and variety of marine life decreased with increasing depth.

He led the HMS Challenger expedition of 1872-76, which sailed 70,000 nautical miles, surveying and exploring. He published ‘Depths of the Sea’ about the expedition, followed by 50 volumes detailing its scientific findings and laying the foundation of oceanography. For his work, he was awarded a knighthood.

And a final note, sent by a reader in Kinsale, told me of a historic connection between the town and King James II: “James Walsh, together with his son, Philip, commanded the ship that carried the defeated King James II from Kinsale to France after the Battle of the Boyne.”

Readers of The Echo know a lot about the maritime history of the city and county. But there is one commonly held regret, that “Cork City does not have a maritime museum, nor public memorial acknowledging its maritime history.”

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