Echo 130: Cork mourned the death of one of its most esteemed mayors in 2004

The Echo is celebrating 130 years this week. Here we take a look back at the stories that had Cork people picking up the paper in years gone by
Echo 130: Cork mourned the death of one of its most esteemed mayors in 2004

Lord Mayor Cllr. Tom O'Driscoll making a presentation to former Lord Mayor and Cllr. Mr. Gerald Goldberg on the occassion of his 90th Brithday in 2002. Photograph Mark Kelleher

THE New Year’s Day edition of the Evening Echo in 2004 led with “Death of ex-mayor aged 92”, and Nicola Cooke’s report said Cork was mourning the death of one of its most esteemed and well-known former Lord Mayors.

Gerald Goldberg had died in Marymount Hospice, which was then situated in St Luke’s, after a long illness, and The Echo noted the Fianna Fáil politician had been the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Cork, serving from 1977 to 1978, and he had had a highly successful legal career, working as a solicitor for 62 years.

“Born of Lithuanian immigrants who settled in Cork, Mr Goldberg was also involved in numerous charities, as well as being a patron of music and arts in the city,” we reported.

The then-Lord Mayor, Colm Burke, led the tributes, saying the city had lost one of its most outstanding citizens, adding that Mr Goldberg in addition to running a busy legal practice, he had given much of his time to the community.

“As a solicitor, he took on the cases of the under-represented and took risks where many people wouldn’t have,” Mr Burke said.

“He defended the Jewish community right throughout his life and was very proud of his heritage.” The following day, the paper led with a tribute from Mr Goldberg’s great friend, Dr John O’Mahony SC, who said Mr Goldberg had dominated the courtroom like no other, and had been the country’s pre-eminent criminal lawyer.

“He was always there for the under-dog,” Dr O’Mahony said. “He was the best warrior and advocate that they could have.” 

In the article, Mr Goldberg’s age was amended to 91.

Gerald Goldberg was born in 1912 into a Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish family in Cork, and his father was a door-to-door pedlar, selling household wares and holy pictures, and, like other men in his trade, his rounds took a week to complete, earning them the nickname “Weekly Men”, or in Yiddish, “Vicklemen”.

Mr Goldberg would remember his father, a Lithuanian Jew and an ardent Irish Republican, hanging up in their home a picture of Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra, the Prince and Princess of Wales, (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra,) successfully fooling raiding Black and Tans hunting down Republicans.

It was a trick Mr Goldberg’s father had learned in the old country, where Jews would dupe marauding Cossacks by displaying portraits of the Tsar.

As a child, he saw lying in state the bodies of both martyred Lord Mayors of Cork, Tomás McCurtain and Terence MacSwiney, which had a profound effect upon him, and as a young man he was denied admission to the Blueshirts because of his religion, something which would later influence his dislike of Fine Gael.

During his term as Lord Mayor, Mr Goldberg opened the pedestrian Trinity Bridge by Morrison’s Island.

Not far from the synagogue on the South Terrace, and less than a mile from the area around what is now known as Shalom Park, once the home of many Jewish families, and traditionally known as “Jewtown”, the bridge was soon named by local wags “the Passover”.

From the late 1800s, Cork was the home of many Lithuanian Jews, most of them making their home in Jewtown. By the mid-20th century, perhaps 450 Jewish people lived in Cork.

Nowadays, there are only a few Jewish people left in Cork, and none in Jewtown, and the old synagogue is owned now by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

For all of that, though, Hannukah is still celebrated every year in Shalom Park.

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