WATCH: 'We can only stand in awe at their fortitude and bravery', Burning of Cork centenary commemorated in events across the city

WATCH: 'We can only stand in awe at their fortitude and bravery', Burning of Cork centenary commemorated in events across the city

Flames projected on Cork City Hall.

At approximately 10.30pm on the night of December 11 1920, Cork City Fire Brigade began to receive the first of the devastating calls alerting them to the fact that much of the city centre was up in flames.

In commemoration of the centenary of the Burning of Cork, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, Cork City Chief Fire Officer, John Ryan and renowned Cork playwright and author, Cónal Creedon took part in a ceremony outside Cork City Hall last night.

The ceremony was streamed via @corkcitycouncil's YouTube & Facebook channels.

 Flames projected on Cork City Hall.
Flames projected on Cork City Hall.

Surrounding streetlights and festive lights were dimmed in advance and imagery of burning flames were projected onto part of City Hall's river-facing façade as the participants spoke.

"It was an honour to represent the citizens of Cork at this small ceremony which, unfortunately, due to ongoing public health guidelines, could not be made open to the public," the Lord Mayor said. 

 Fifth generation firefighter Kevin Higgins in a 1952 Dennis wheeled escape at the Cork Fire Station. Kevin is the great great grandson of firefighter Patrick Higgins who was second in command during the burning of Cork in December 1920. Picture Dan Linehan
Fifth generation firefighter Kevin Higgins in a 1952 Dennis wheeled escape at the Cork Fire Station. Kevin is the great great grandson of firefighter Patrick Higgins who was second in command during the burning of Cork in December 1920. Picture Dan Linehan

"Cork saw more episodes in the War of Independence than any other part of the country. 

"The most catastrophic of all was the Burning of Cork on the night of December 11 and morning of December 12 1920, exactly 100 years ago.

"Over five acres of the city centre was set alight and citizens lives were thrown into chaos and fear. 

"The torching of the city destroyed 40-50 buildings, seriously damaged at least 200 more and left another 2,000 people unemployed and many homeless afterwards. 

"Unfortunately, much of Cork city’s planned commemorative events were severely compromised due to Covid-19. However, I strongly believed that this event needed to be remembered and recognised sensitively, not only in the second city but across the country."

Brothers Dick and Stephen Kenny, sons of Michael Kenny who took part in the ambush at Dillons Cross at the unveiling of a plaque to mark the centenary of the Ambush at Dillons Cross .
Brothers Dick and Stephen Kenny, sons of Michael Kenny who took part in the ambush at Dillons Cross at the unveiling of a plaque to mark the centenary of the Ambush at Dillons Cross .

Chief Fire Officer, John Ryan, lauded the heroism shown by the firefighters on that harrowing night.

"We, in Cork City Fire Brigade, are privileged to follow in the footsteps of Captain Alfred J. Hutson and the firefighters who gallantly fought to control this conflagration on the streets of Cork. 

"We can only stand in awe at their fortitude and bravery and we humbly salute them. 

"Indeed, descendants of some of these firefighters continue to serve in the Brigade today," he said. 

The Master of Ceremonies was recently retired City Librarian, Liam Ronayne, who sits on Cork City Council’s commemorations committee. 

The ceremony, which was broadcast live on Cork City Council’s Facebook page, commenced at 10:30pm. 

Part of the streamed ceremony was pre-recorded earlier this week on Patrick Street, which had been at the heart of the destruction 100 years ago. 

A vintage wheel escape appliance was placed on the street for the occasion and bagpipers from Cork City Fire Brigade played 'Amazing Grace'.

Earlier today, the Lord Mayor attended several other events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Burning of Cork.

Just after 10am, the Lord Mayor unveiled a plaque commemorating the Dillon's Cross Ambush when the K Company of the Auxiliaries were attacked by the A Company of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Cork Brigade. 

One member of the Auxiliaries died and there were numerous injuries, many serious.

At noon today, the Lord Mayor attended the unveiling of the Burning of Cork Commemoration Mural at the Middle Parish Community Centre. 

 Paul Cleary poses as a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Auxiliary Division arresting Ger Flemming and Seán Ó Cróinín members of the Cork Brigade Reenactment Group on Patrick’s Bridge, Cork, on the 100th anniversary of the burning of Cork City during the Irish War of Independence. Picture Dan Linehan
Paul Cleary poses as a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Auxiliary Division arresting Ger Flemming and Seán Ó Cróinín members of the Cork Brigade Reenactment Group on Patrick’s Bridge, Cork, on the 100th anniversary of the burning of Cork City during the Irish War of Independence. Picture Dan Linehan

Painted by artist Peter Martin, it was funded from this year’s Cork 2020 Commemoration Fund.

This afternoon, the Lord Mayor also laid a wreath in honour of the Delany Brothers at the Delany monument on Dublin Hill. 

The two volunteer brothers, Jeremiah and Cornelius were shot by Crown Forces on the night of the Burning of Cork in Jeremiah’s home. Jeremiah died instantly and Cornelius died six days later at the Mercy Hospital. 

The Lord Mayor also joined the Chief Fire Officer at the official installation of the heavy brass standpipe, used for pumping water during the Burning of Cork, in the raised garden in front of the Cork City Fire Brigade headquarters.

Yesterday's events preceded a centenary remembrance mass for former Lords Mayor Terence MacSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain along with the other victims of the 1920 turbulence which will be celebrated at 1:30pm on Sunday in the Cathedral of Saint Mary & Saint Anne.

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