Memories of Cork: We miss the banter and craic, and odd lock in

In her weekly column, Throwback Thursday, Jo Kerrigan hears more childhood stories from Corkonians still living at home and abroad, in our weekly Throwback Thursday
Memories of Cork: We miss the banter and craic, and odd lock in

David Murphy attended secondary school in Crosshaven, when it was run by the nuns. Here is the campus pictured back in 1979, including the school, convent, boarding school and St Brigid’s Church, Crosshaven.

DAVID Murphy contacted us a few weeks ago, recalling Carrigaline Pottery in the 1960s, when he went to primary school just across the road.

Living in Toronto for the past 30 years (and occasionally homesick for Leeside), he now shares with us more memories of his younger days.

“I was born in St Finbarr’s, like any good Corkman in 1964. Up until I was nine or 10 we lived in Kerry Pike and I started my education at Clogheen National School, a three-room building with coal fires and outdoor plumbing.

“Some of us were delegated to put coal on the fire at regular intervals during the day. The headmaster, Mr O’Donaghue, had taught my mum before me. Kerry Pike was fun. We were country kids, picking blackberries, hunting for mushrooms, and picking the odd apple from someone else’s trees. Life was simple.”

When David was in 5th class, the family moved to Carrigaline.

“My God, a school with indoor plumbing We were about a 10 minute walk from the school. Carrigaline seemed like a metropolis compared to the Pike. There were shops, garages, and of course the Pottery and Roberts Hardware, descendants of the original Hodder Roberts. We would cycle everywhere, especially up the river to do some fishing.”

Secondary school was at Crosshaven.

“It was a convent school, gone now. I was one of eight boys in my year. Those nuns were something else, big on the strap. 

"I would cycle to school from Carrigaline to save money, and on weekends I worked at Joe Donovan’s petrol station in Douglas and cycle there and back too. How we didn’t get killed on the roads with all that cycling, I don’t know, but the traffic was far less than it is now of course.”

David Murphy recalls being brought to Myrtleville to study rock pools as part of biology.
David Murphy recalls being brought to Myrtleville to study rock pools as part of biology.

Field trips were what David remembers most about school in Crosshaven. 

“They were fun. For biology we went to Myrtleville to study rock pools; and our woodwork teacher used to drag us to the boatyard once a month to look at Tim Severin’s boat being built for the Brendan Voyage. Loved that.”

In 5th year, David dropped out of school and took up a apprenticeship as a French polisher with a company located in St Patrick’s Mills in Douglas.

“I finished my apprenticeship with my City & Guilds, and then did two years to get my Masters. That has stood me in good stead in later years: I’ve worked all over North America, and even in the Smithsonian.”

While still in Cork, he tried the army for a few years, stationed in Ballincollig after recruit training in Collins Barricks.

“We used run up Patrick’s Hill at 6am most mornings! But for me the army was good as I spent most of my time training and playing volleyball. In fact I met my wife under a net, lol. We both still have a passion for the game, and both of us are refs.”

As a side note, our son Eoghan played international U21 for the Irish team in Biellia, Italy!

In 1990 the Murphys moved to Toronto, and David is proud to state that he has never been unemployed.

“We are well settled here with our two kids, but still miss lots of things about Cork. The banter, the crack, and the odd lock in.”

Crosshaven back in the late 1970s.
Crosshaven back in the late 1970s.

On return visits, though, he feels sad to say that the country has changed.

“People are too busy with themselves for the odd chat these days. Cork was a friendly, happy town, but now it’s become a city with CCTV and shutters. I can still find the old Ireland in places like Castletownbere. Now that is like the land that time forgot. The shops still close their doors for a passing hearse, things like that.”

David ends with praise for Throwback Thursday. “Tell your editor to give you a pay raise for the work you are doing! It brings back memories each week to us who are abroad, and it has kept us in touch with our native city.

“I look forward every Thursday morning to your excellent column, and once a year of course to the Holly Bough. Keep the ‘blood and bandage’ flag flying!”

We will, David, and you keep reading. It’s nice to think of you over there in Toronto enjoying all the ‘sca’ from Cork with your morning coffee.

Michael Nolan tells us that he was born in Sundays Well over a decade earlier than David, in 1951.

“I spent my first few years in Strawberry Hill school. The family then moved over to Friars Walk, and I transferred to Greenmount school where my father and his brothers had attended in their day. In 1959 the family moved to a new house, just built in Ballyphehane, but I remained on in Greenmount. I was there until sixth class when we did the Primary exam and then went to Crawford Street to sit the entrance exam for the Tech.”

Michael first year under the Crawford Tech banner was at their branch in Parnell Place, and then Sawmill Street in 1966.

“I qualified to go on a Senior Engineering Technician (SET) course designed to prepare us for industry, at Crawford St. After the first year they made it a four-year course and we became a Junior Engineering Technician (JET) course. These were the forerunner of future diploma and degree courses at the RTC in later years.” His first job was in a drawing office in Midleton, where he spent 2 and a half years.

“Then I got a job with P.J. Hegarty & Sons, and spent the next 40 years in the construction industry finishing up as a construction manager, Quality Assurance manager, and Presentation Manager.”

In 2009, with the downturn in the construction industry, he took the option of early retirement, along with many others.

“It was the best thing I ever did. Now, I am thoroughly enjoying living half my time in Cork city and the other half in Kerry, where I have just completed acting in a comedy play in the open air!”

Good for you, Michael! You have the right attitude to seizing life and all its options.

Oh, and we must tell you this delightful anecdote from Jerry Holt – you remember, he who broke tradition by having a beard while employed by CIE? Now this was back in the days when all too often Cork airport was fogbound and the captains of industry and well-to-do merchants of the city had to take tokens for the train to Dublin to catch their flight there. (Back then, only the wealthy could afford to fly – the rest of us took the boat if we had the mind for travel.) But Jerry reveals a story coming in the opposite direction.

“One day, Dublin airport was fogbound for a change, so planes were diverted to Cork. The Inspector was told to arrange a ‘special’ to take the passengers back up to Dublin where they should have landed. The only one available happened to be the Rosslare boat train which wasn’t needed until the next day. It did have a dining car, but no catering facilities or staff could be rustled up at such short notice.”

Jerry was given the job of train guard for the special.

“I was told that buses were bringing a load of passengers and their luggage to be loaded on the train, that an Aer Lingus steward would accompany us to Dublin, and that he and I were to do a head count and generally look after everybody. What I didn’t realise was that amongst the passengers were a large number of rugby supporters who had flown in from Scotland expecting to arrive in Dublin, only to find themselves in Cork. Naturally they were all drunk. Another group were from a flight from somewhere in Europe, not sure where, but they all had ski equipment as well as suitcases.

“Anyway, the train set off and the steward and I started counting heads, but we had hardly left the tunnel when the passengers wanted to know when the bar was opening. On being told there was no bar and no catering they got angry and the steward got scared and ran back into the guards van. He didn’t emerge for the duration.”

Things could only get worse, and they duly did.

“We only got as far as the first signal at Mallow and the train was stopped. Unfortunately there were two signal cabins at Mallow and only one signalman; nobody was expecting a train at that time of night and the man who should have been in Mallow North had slipped away for a bit. Because the signalling was interlinked this meant that the remaining signalman had to run between both cabins to pull the appropriate levers in order to give a clear signal for our special to proceed. This took some time.”

Eventually they got going again and things settled down. All was well until the train was stopped at Inchicore, just outside Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station. A signalman at Cherryville Junction had spotted that one of the axles on the ‘special’ was glowing red.

“We had what was known as a ‘hot box’, a seized bearing, very dangerous. So he sent word to stop the train as soon as possible.”

Wouldn’t you know it, the coach was in the middle of the train.

“I had to arouse the poor passengers from their slumbers and usher them into the next carriage. There was uproar, people complaining and trying to stay put. ‘The train’s on fire, you’ll have to move to the next coach,’ I was shouting. One fellow was so cross he opened the carriage door. Inchicore was probably the busiest place on the railway at the time with engines and trains flying around the main lines. Nightmare. Of course it took some time for a pilot engine to help my driver shunt our train back and forth in order to remove the errant carriage and reassemble the train.

“Finally got onto the Heuston platform and discharged the passengers, the bags and cases and the bloody skis. I didn’t see the air steward slip away. I got a fresh driver and headed back for Cork so the train could be cleaned and readied for Rosslare.”

The next night, Jerry had to take a train of empty carriages to Mallow, ‘Bring a bag,’ said the driver.

“He stopped the train alongside a field of cabbages, we filled our bags and went about our business. Never a dull moment on the railway…”

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