'I love that the city is walkable': Curling up in Cork after a childhood in York

For England-born Danielle O’Donovan, the friendliness of the people is one of Cork’s best qualities — and the English Market is one of its greatest luxuries
'I love that the city is walkable': Curling up in Cork after a childhood in York

Pictured at the Nano Nagle Centre, Douglas street were, from left Dr Danielle O'Donovan, programme manager at the centre, Anthony Wade, President Cork Deocrative and Fine Arts Society (CorkDfas), and Tony Harpur, CorkDfas.

BEAUTY is in the eye of the beholder and for programme manager of Nano Nagle Place, Danielle O’Donovan, who was born in York, England, and has spent her life studying the history of art and architecture, Cork is a place to behold.

“It’s hard to explain, it’s a vibe,” she said.

“I love that you can just randomly strike up a conversation with a Cork person and they will chat right back to you, and vice versa! People meet eyes and smile at each other, or say hello.

“I’m not sure if Cork people realise how odd that is!

“We had a lovely intern from Norway working at Nano Nagle Place just before lockdown, and she couldn’t get over how friendly people were. She loved it and swore to come back!”

Danielle, 43, has been in Cork since the age of 11. She lived in West Cork with her family before moving to the city in 2016, when she was commuting to Dublin to work with the Irish Heritage Trust.

“We moved to Cork city to make my commute easier.

“At the time I was working for the Irish Heritage Trust whose head office is in Dublin, but we were living in West Cork.

Danielle O'Donovan. She has been in Cork since the age of 11. She lived in West Cork with her family before moving to the city in 2016, when she was commuting to Dublin to work with the Irish Heritage Trust.
Danielle O'Donovan. She has been in Cork since the age of 11. She lived in West Cork with her family before moving to the city in 2016, when she was commuting to Dublin to work with the Irish Heritage Trust.

“It didn’t make a huge amount of sense really! So we moved very close to the train station so I could commute to work more easily. I would merrily troop down O’Mahony’s Avenue at 5.05am to get the 5.15am train to Dublin.

“Obviously when a job came up at Nano Nagle Place that was such a great fit for me — with an emphasis on heritage, education and digital, I was quite happy to ditch the 5.15 train!”

The compact size of Cork is another attractive quality for Danielle.

“I love that the city is walkable, and while walking, the city is so visible from all around,” she said.

“I love that you can see the city below you as you walk down into town, and then that while on the flat of the city, the city curls up around you. I also love looking up. It’s an architectural history thing.

“Once you start looking up, you can’t stop. So I look at shop fronts, then the building above the shop front, and I try to guess how old it is and how it relates to the buildings next to it.

“Cork doesn’t have those uniform brick terraces you see in Dublin but there are lovely small runs of terrace that share the same features, you just have to look out for them.”

While Danielle enjoys living in Cork, she described the level of dereliction in Cork as ‘really scandalous’.

Pictured at the presentation of the handing over of the Nano Nagle letters at Nano Nagle Place were Kay Dunne, Danielle O'Donovan and Susan Richert. Picture: Howard Crowdy
Pictured at the presentation of the handing over of the Nano Nagle letters at Nano Nagle Place were Kay Dunne, Danielle O'Donovan and Susan Richert. Picture: Howard Crowdy

“Cork is a beautiful city but we seem content to allow 18th century buildings to be held up with girders,” she said.

“I was walking past a shop on Oliver Plunkett Street and noticed the whole ground floor was being held up with timber uprights.

“I’m interested in architecture, heritage and education. Mixing these three things together and creating engaging content and lessons about our built heritage has always been important to me.

“If you can lead people to look with new eyes at their surroundings, and appreciate them, and even begin to read them as valuable pieces of architecture, then buildings and streetscapes are less vulnerable.

“Nano Nagle Place is a wonderful example of investment in built heritage, it’s an exemplar I hope will be followed.”

A firm fan of the English Market, Danielle said she is a frequent visitor of the Cork hub.

“It’s one of the great luxuries of living in Cork. You can read a recipe in a recipe book and be almost guaranteed to find all the ingredients in the market!”

In terms of Cork characteristics, Danielle said she thinks her tendency to be fashionably late is a Cork trait.

“I am always slightly late. I do think I picked up this habit in West Cork, where it’s kind of a state of being to be slightly late at all times.

“We had a great talk a few years ago in Nano Nagle Place called ‘A Brief History of Cork Time’ where the speaker, Peter Hession, explained that Cork clocks were set differently to Dublin ones, or indeed, to Greenwich Mean Time.

“So perhaps I’m just running on Cork time?”

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