Family connection for one firefighter as Cork prepares to commemorate a burning memory 

Family connection for one firefighter as Cork prepares to commemorate a burning memory 

From left: Denis Walsh (left) and Alan Roberts (piper) both of Amber Watch in Anglesea Street Fire Station with John Ryan, Chief Fire Officer.

AS the people of Cork and the officers of the Cork City Fire Brigade commemorate the centenary of the Burning of Cork tomorrow, it will be a particularly poignant moment for one service member.

Kevin Higgins is part of a line of firefighters that stretches back to 1888 and is proud to carry on the family tradition.

“I am the fifth generation to be a firefighter in Cork,” he said. “Four of them served with the city brigade and one with the county brigade.

“My uncle John served from 1975 to 2010. His father, my granduncle was in the county brigade as a second officer. He would have been active in training personnel around the county.

“My great grandfather Martin Higgins also served and indeed his own father Patrick Higgins was also a member of the Cork City Fire Brigade. It is nice to carry on the legacy.”

His great grandfather Martin Higgins and his great-great-grandfather Patrick Higgins were both in action on that fateful night, December 11 1920.

Cork City Fire Brigade members witnessed and endured abuse throughout the night, as Kevin has heard from family members.

“They were both firefighters on the night of the Burning of Cork,” he explained. “They were both based in the Sullivan’s Quay Station. My father was very friendly with Martin and he passed on a few stories from that day.

“Soldiers were slicing their hoses open and turning off the hydrants to stop the water flow at City Hall.

“They were also threatening the firemen who were putting out the flames. They were basically harassed and abused for the whole night. It was a very distressing event.”

The Burning of Cork was one of the seismic moments in the War of Independence. Over 40 business premises and 300 residential properties were destroyed, while the City Hall and Carnegie Library were destroyed.

Given his family heritage, there was never any doubt he would join the Cork City Fire Brigade. Kevin joined in 2001 and he loves his role.

He will be working tomorrow and he is looking forward to remembering the efforts of all involved with the events which unfolded a century ago.

“It was a seismic moment in both Cork and national history,” he said. “There was a lot of antagonism leading up to those events and everything almost literally exploded on that night.

“We are having a little ceremony to unveil a standpipe which has been refurbished. It will be nice to remember their actions on that historic day. On Friday night there will be a moment of reflection amongst members in the three stations in Ballyvolane, Anglesea Street, and Ballincollig.

“Everyone will stand to attention in remembrance of the tragic event.”

Council to mark centenary 

Cork City Council recorded a short Covid 19-compliant ceremony on St Patrick’s St this week to mark the centenary.

This will form part of a wider ceremony which will be broadcast on Cork City Council Facebook at 10.30pm this Friday to mark the historic event.

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