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Cork Lives
Angela Murphy and her dad Jim Murphy at the recently opened Passage West Maritime Heritage & Museum Centre on Cork Street, Passage West. Picture: Larry.
Angela Murphy and her dad Jim Murphy at the recently opened Passage West Maritime Heritage & Museum Centre on Cork Street, Passage West. Picture: Larry.
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VIDEO: 30-year dream comes true for Passage family

GETTING the keys for the Passage West Maritime Museum was the day a 30-year-old dream came true for proud local man, Jim Murphy, and his daughter, Angela.

Jim, aged 78, has been a tireless advocate for his beloved Passage West all his life and Angela is following in his mighty footsteps.

The Murphys have long been eager to share their pride in the town’s amazing maritime history with the wider public through the opening of a museum in the town.

“We want the people, not just of Passage West but the whole Harbour area, to realise what history and heritage is there on their doorstep”, points out Angela Murphy, Chairperson of the Passage West Maritime Museum.

Thanks to the unstinting support of a very dedicated Museum Committee, assisted by Cork County Council, and the people of Passage West, the Maritime Museum opened its doors to the public on July 8.

The Museum celebrates the fact that Passage West is the birthplace of Ireland’s steam ship industry. The City of Cork, which was the first steam ship built in Ireland, was launched from the site of the Museum back in 1815.

The Sirius became the first ship to cross the Atlantic under steam having left Passage West in April 1838, under the command of local man, Captain Richard Roberts.

Angela Murphy and her dad Jim Murphy who has been working on the museum project for 30 years.The newly opened Passage West Maritime Museum on Cork Street, beside the public library. Picturte: Larry Cummins
Angela Murphy and her dad Jim Murphy who has been working on the museum project for 30 years.
The newly opened Passage West Maritime Museum on Cork Street, beside the public library. Picturte: Larry Cummins

The Museum site was provided by Cork County Council and is located between the Passage Association Care of the Elderly (P.A.C.E.) premises and the local library on the town’s Main Street.

The location has a very special significance for Angela and Jim as it is the site of the former Town Council offices. Before that it was the Vocational School where Angela was a pupil.

Jim was a local Labour Party Town Commissioner for 25 years and was also a former Chairman of the Town Council. Angela served as a Labour Party Town Councillor for the last three years of the council prior to its abolition in 2014.

Both Jim and Angela campaigned hard to get a museum for the town while they were on the Passage Council. Fianna Fail County Councillor Seamus McGrath gave his backing to the project when he was County Mayor.

While many newcomers to Passage West might not be aware of its unique history, a lot of the older families are steeped in shipbuilding and maritime traditions stretching back over generations.

“When myself and my father started the Passage Maritime Festival six years ago, we began to realise that local people had many maritime artifacts that they had nowhere to store and that they wanted to share with other people,” Angela points out.

“The townspeople are really, really behind us. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them”, Angela acknowledges.

There was great delight in Passage West when it was announced that the Museum Project had been awarded a grant of €100,000 under the Urban, Town and Village Renewal Scheme. The grant is administered by Cork County Council.

The Museum Committee got the go ahead from the County Council to commission graphic artists to design wall-high panels featuring the ships and history of the dockyards. The extraordinary high quality of the graphics is something that many visitors comment on.

There was huge community involvement in getting the Museum up and running. Local man, John O’Connor managed to rescue a half model of an I855 locally constructed ship called the Thornhill from a skip outside a house in the town.

Some of the exhibitions inside the new museum. Picture: Larry Cummins
Some of the exhibitions inside the new museum. Picture: Larry Cummins

John brought the piece of wood along to the local Men’s Shed group to show it to Jim Murphy. The significance of the find wasn’t lost on either of them so John put in huge work to have the ship model restored in time for the Museum opening.

John’s brother, Kevin, is in the process of creating a model of the Passage West dockyard for the Museum. Kevin O’Regan, Municipal Officer for the Ballincollig / Carrigaline/ Harbour Municipal District, was instrumental in procuring a very good quality second hand museum display cabinet for the Museum. Meanwhile Heritage Officer, Conor Nelligan is working with Angela to organise events to celebrate Heritage Week in August.

Angela Murphy readily admits that it took trojan work on the part of a large number of people to get the Museum open. All the while Angela was doing an evening course in UCC in conjunction with the Cork Social, Health, and Education Project (S.H.E.P.) and is now a qualified advocate.

Even though Angela and her dad, who is Vice -Chairperson of the Museum Committee, often have different views on how things should be done, they never fall out for long.

“I’d be lost without my dad and mum, Carmel. Dad wouldn’t be where he is and I wouldn’t be where I am were it not for my mother,” Angela admits.

Together they are determined to help make the Maritime Museum a focal point for the town and a source of pride for the community.

There is no entry charge to the museum. Instead visitors can make a donation or become a member of the Friends and Supporters Group. These voluntary contributions will be used to pay the Museum’s running costs.

Opening Hours: Wednesday and Saturday, 10.30 am to 1pm, and 2pm to 5.30 pm. Thursday and Fridays, 2pm to 5.30pm. Sunday, 2pm to 5pm.

For more information call 087 135 7634 or see www.passagewestMaritimemuseum.ie