Recalling the smells and sounds of Cork city... our home

There are memories of riding via pony trap, Cork’s fruit sellers and corner shops of old in this week’s Throwback Thursday by Jo Kerrigan. And an Easter call-out too...
Recalling the smells and sounds of Cork city... our home

A photograph of horses and traps on Patrick Street. Patty O’Boyle recalls how her uncle used to drive her family around on a pony and trap.

REMEMBER those tales of MacCurtain Street and the Cuban House on the corner of Patrick’s Hill that we featured a week or two ago in Throwback Thursday? Well, Jerry Holt, who has shared with us so many of his memories of old railway days, writes in connection with other Cork establishments which catered to the male hairstyles of yesteryear.

“Jo, there was a barber shop on Parnell Place called ‘The One Bright Spot,’ if I’m not mistaken. You could see the City Hall if you looked one way and for the life of me I can’t remember the other landmark if you looked up Oliver Plunkett St direction. Perhaps one of your readers could fill in the blank?”

We have hunted high and low, Jerry, and found some great information from one Patty O’Boyle on the Old Photos of Cork Facebook page, where, in 2014, she commented on a horse-drawn wagon on Parnell Place. We have done our best to trace Ms O’Boyle (nee Bleasdale) but with no luck so far. However, the detail she gives is so delightful that we really wanted to share it with all of you.

“This picture shows Ogilvy and Moore’s, next door to my grandmother’s bed and breakfast, The Star Hotel, at 10 Parnell Place. I think the houses were knocked down in about 1974. Next to that was my great aunt Lizzie O’Connell’s house, no 11. 

"As children we would come over from Liverpool with my mother every summer for six weeks, and roam the streets of Cork all day long. Fitzgerald’s Park, Patrick St, Roche’s Stores, and all the cinemas were ours. We would get the bus to my cousins in Ballyphehane, and maybe my Uncle Neilly was driving it.”

Every church and monastery in town was known to them, recalled Patty.

“We played at the river banks, and on river chains, and on the steps of the old Opera House in the evenings with the Lindopps from Lower Oliver Plunkett St.

“My Uncle Joe was our hero, our toy maker, joker, and, magically, our horse driver. He drove my grandmother and all of us in a pony and trap before the car took over completely. The houses were later remodelled from the lovely Georgian buildings they were and all the beautiful objects from the big houses: paintings, statues, maps, furniture, and objets d’art that Joe got at the auctions cheap were sold for £40 after my grandmother died in 1966. A bust made of marble of an Irish patriot was given to the museum and I think it may still be there.”

Ms Boyle gives some family information which may strike a chord with some of our readers.

“My mother was Betty Lomasney, and my grandmother Mary Lomasney.”

And she mentions that establishment named by Jerry Holt above, but not as a barber’s.

“Old Mrs Crowley was our neighbour at the One Bright Spot, “The Temperance Hotel” where we served in her corner shop: snuff, chocolate and tobacco. Frank Mitchell had the corner shop around on Lower Oliver Plunkett St, and Lena was across the road in the dairy. Every day the fruit men came down from Dublin in their wagons to the docks and they stayed in a huge room at the Star. It had ten brass beds in it. Other rooms had all at least two brass beds.

“My sisters and I had a candle at night, and the horse trough in the street was for ever a source of fun and temptation.

"The smells were of oranges, oats, horse manure, and the noises were of old shawlies and tramps calling out their wares or us calling them names. The loveliest sound came from the opera singer who stayed in digs in the house at the back of the tiny wedge- shaped yard that backed on to Oliver Plunkett St. Every night she practised. We had a miraculous childhood there, and I loved the City as my home.”

Patty, if you or any of your friends read this, do please get in touch. Your memories are truly wonderful!

Fruit seller at Camden Quay, Cork, in 1976. Jerry Hold recalls a fruit seller on Pope’s Quay.
Fruit seller at Camden Quay, Cork, in 1976. Jerry Hold recalls a fruit seller on Pope’s Quay.

Jerry Holt also relates a popular legend at the time, concerning the lady fruit seller on Pope’s Quay, also mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Apparently she was at her usual corner one day when a lorry carrying sugar beet bound for the factory in Mallow, shed some of its load as it turned up towards the Northside. The wily fruit seller was quick to gather up the beets, and sell them as parsnips. Sensible woman is all we can say! Reminds this writer of an occasion in the Sixties when a lorry overturned on the old Dublin road and shed hundreds of jars of Nescafe into the hedgerows. People came swiftly from far and wide to tuck those jars into bags and pockets and spirit them away. Or the memorable occasion more recently when an entire tray of fresh scones was found by the side of a city street, clearly having been left behind by someone loading a delivery van. Manna from heaven, did anyone say?

That mention of The One Bright Spot brings back recollections of other marker points that could be ticked off as you went past on the top deck of a bus. The Winning Post was a pub on Washington St, just beyond Macari’s ice cream parlour (that was itself beyond The Book Mart). And coming in past St Augustine’s Church, you would always look out for what film was currently showing at the Capitol.

“On the No 8 bus to Bishopstown, we would call out all the names on the gates of the houses going up from Dennehy’s Cross,” recalls Katie O’Brien.

“I can still remember Villa Sancta Anna and The Chimes, but when I drove past there recently, none of those old names remained. Maybe they aren’t fashionable these days. 

"Then, going down the hill into Bishopstown itself, we would stand up on the front seats upstairs in the bus and chant Bishopstown Bar, Bishopstown Bar!, just before the conductor called it out.”

Katie also remembers the Carrigrohane Road being uniformly known as Smelly Straight in her childhood.

“That was because it was the city dump and emitted a certain… aroma… Doesn’t do now, though.”

Blackrock soccer players: Back row, from left: Val Sheehan, Pat Fitzgerald, Ned Barry, Tony Allen, John O’Leary, John Lynch, Jerry O’Leary. Front, from left: Paul McCarthy, Michael O’Leary, John Barry, Edward Gosnell, John ‘Langton’ Fitzgerald. Very front with ball: Thomas ‘Mala’ O’Mahony
Blackrock soccer players: Back row, from left: Val Sheehan, Pat Fitzgerald, Ned Barry, Tony Allen, John O’Leary, John Lynch, Jerry O’Leary. Front, from left: Paul McCarthy, Michael O’Leary, John Barry, Edward Gosnell, John ‘Langton’ Fitzgerald. Very front with ball: Thomas ‘Mala’ O’Mahony

Tom Jones writes to applaud Pat Fitzgerald for his recollections of ball games in old Blackrock.

“I am sure he could write a tome on soccer and the old soccer fields at Church Road in Blackrock. For instance, was that Tucker Allen who famously played for Cork Hibs in later years, in the photo? 

"I believe there were four pitches at that Church Road location many years ago.”

To be fair though, he stresses, on the northside of the City, there was a soccer field too, near Murphy’s Rock, known as the Blackpool Celtic pitch.

“There many intense games of soccer were played between teams of renown such as St Mary’s, Castleview, Rockmount, and other teams of equal respect and distinction. 

"Sometimes a genuine great game of soccer broke out between the inevitable fistfights and general scuffles, for such was the passion and rivalry involved.”

Maurice Buckley’s fishing remembrances awaken memories in Tom too.

“While I would be no fisherman then of any degree, I also recall the multitude of mullet parading past Patrick’s Bridge on a summer evening, their underbellies glinting in the light of day.

“And many people fishing near the old North Gate Bridge where I was born, plus fishing nets hanging or drying, upon what was then iron railings along the quayside from the Coal Quay to the Opera House. 

"Although, at times, some people would be engaged in foul-hooking - or was the colloquialism ‘strook hauling’used back then? - before the fishing bailiff could catch them.”

The mention of Roche’s Pub on McCurtain St brought back many sweet recollections of days gone by for Tom Jones.

“I would not have the definitive answer, but I thought it was owned by Rory Gallagher’s grandmother. I actually drank a pint or two of Bulmer’s cider there on occasion, albeit a bit underage, but such were the times of our lives. Hey, nobody carded anyone back then!”

In fact, says Tom, Dennis Falvey, “though he later was known as Dean Falvey, was a very good friend of mine from my Blarney St schooldays, and was associated with Don Gallagher, Rory’s brother in the Cavern Club in Leitrim St. Was that the forerunner of ‘Beat Clubs’ in Cork back then? It was certainly there at the Cavern, with Eric Kitteringham on bass, and Norman Damery on drums, that I believe Rory began to bloom into the brilliant blues guitarist he became before bringing his amazing virtuoso talent to the world stage.”

He did indeed, Tom, although to be fair, he worked a long slog through the traditional routes first – those gigs in Germany with Johnny Campbell (this page, Sept 2020), and stints as warm-up band at the Arcadia with his group The Fontana. Oh he had learned his trade from the beginning, that’s for sure. Anybody else remember Rory sitting out on the windowsill up on the third floor of St Kieran’s College on Camden Quay at lunchtime, playing his guitar quietly where he could get some peace and quiet?

Members of Cork Junior Red Cross technical school making Easter baskets for local hospitals in 1952.
Members of Cork Junior Red Cross technical school making Easter baskets for local hospitals in 1952.

Now next week is Easter! What are your memories of this big festival in childhood? Did you get an Easter egg, or was that beyond your family’s resources? Note, we said ‘egg’ singular, not the multiple foil-wrapped offerings that kids expect today. How could you appreciate the joy of that single chocolate egg when there are dozens of them piled up?

We were fortunate in being related to O’Brien’s in McCurtain St, where Uncle Jim spent long hours in the sweet factory above the Ice Cream Parlour, carefully creating hundreds and hundreds of half-eggs, coating the special moulds with warm liquid chocolate and letting them harden before tucking a small bag of sweets inside and sealing two halves together with piped ruffles of pink icing. The best thing about an O’Brien’s egg was that it could be inscribed with your very own name. 

Nothing could beat the delight of receiving your egg on Easter Sunday, opening the box and taking a deep sniff of the wonderful contents. You were reluctant even to break into it, damage its perfection in any way.

Let us know your own memories of the Easter egg and other traditions of this spring festival, or anything else that this week’s page brings to your mind. Email or leave a comment on our Facebook page: (

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