THEY still stand among us, long after they fell out of use... I’m talking this week about the old horse troughs of Cork city.
Once places where the beasts of burden could stop to take a little water on board, many of these decorative stone ornaments have now taken on a new life as containers for bright flowers.
We mentioned the troughs a few weeks ago in Throwback Thursday and one of the old photos we used intrigued our readers, who wondered where it was taken.
Pat Kelly, of Marian Park in Blackrock, writes with some authority on the topic of surviving horse troughs, knowing of at least six.
“One in St Lukes, one on the Lower Glanmre Road, near St Patrick’s, one on Parnell Place, one at Capwell/Douglas street, one at Watercourse Road, one on O’Connell Street.”
Noel O’Regan recalls the one on Washington Street - “on the left coming out, at the point where the new bridge is today,” as does Mike English.
Yes, it was just up from the Book Mart, where hundreds of children queued for their schoolbooks in September (that was in the good old days, when any version of a standard text would do, whereas these days they are reprinted and reformatted and rewritten every darn year so that last year’s dog-eared copies have to be dumped, and misfortunate parents have to shell out for shiny new volumes with perhaps a single changed page of notes to justify the re-issue. Oh this throwaway world…)
Rant over. Back to the troughs...
We were reminded by several readers not to forget the dog trough outside what was for so long the famed Old Bridge Restaurant on Patrick Street, close by Patrick’s Bridge, and bearing the welcoming message Madrai (so that no cats or horses might be tempted to avail of its comforts).
Created by legendary sculptor Seamus Murphy, it’s still there, and possibly the only one of its kind in the country. And what a place for it to be set too - outside one of the most fashionable coffee-and-cake houses in the city, where generations of well-dressed women shared gossip and pastries and watched everyone else go by.
Now, there has been a great deal of serious discussion about the location of that ‘mystery trough’ we showed a few weeks back, shown on the facing page in print.
The only information we had was that the scene was in Cork city in the 1920s.
There are two horses in the picture, one drinking deeply, the other looking on longingly, waiting his turn. Both seem to be drawing coal carts, so it’s probably near the quays, where they collected the coal to take to the depot.
But where is it? On what street? There is a tall chimney in the background which just might be Thompson’s, but we have little else to go on. We went on a hunt around the city to find out.
Could it be the one on the Lower Road, near St Patrick’s Church (above left in print)? There is Thompson’s chimney in the background.
The rest of the original 1920s picture doesn’t look that familiar - domestic housing on one side, industrial buildings on the other - but remember this was a century ago, and our streetscapes have changed a lot.
You have to start looking at secondary clues in the 1920s picture. Those few coal sacks on the carts look empty, so they are likely to be on their way back to the quays to refill, rather than coming from them, in which case the carts would be heavily loaded.
So, probably the quays lie to the left. In the top right you can just see -P TYRES on the high wall. That could have been the Dunlop tyre company, set up on the Lower Road in the early 1920s. (my paternal grandfather came down from Dublin to get that going, which is how I know).
So possibly the location is the Lower Road. But it might be somewhere else altogether. Corkonians, get together and study this mystery image closely, and let us have your conclusions on this page!
And now to that chocolate slice recalled so longingly by Tim Cagney. It found an echo in other readers’ memories too.
“I went to Donnelly’s school on Glasheen Road in the early ’60,” says Anthony McCarthy.
“At lunchtime, if we had a few pence, we would play pitch and toss. Even if I say so myself, I was pretty handy at this and often won well.
“Now, at the bottom of the lane going up to the school there was a sweet shop we called Mrs Browne’s as she was the owner.
"She used to stock Thompson’s cakes, and my absolute favourite was the chocolate slice. When I won at pitch and toss, I always bought one of these on the way home to Bishopstown.”
And, like Tim Cagney, Anthony had his rituals about consuming the delectable treat. “I always ate the bottom layer first, and then the top two together. They were sumptuous, and I can still taste them. If I remember right, there would be a layer of no-chip marmalade? Around the middle layer.”
The ones today, he says scornfully, are only trotting after Thompson’s.
Anthony also remembers those oddly-named rubber dollies.
“Believe it or not, a few years back, maybe ten years or so, I bought a pair of rubber dollies in Ballincollig for just €2! I could not believe my eyes when I saw them, I grabbed them quick, and wore them out through a lot of summers thereafter. Ah, great memories - as was tea in the Savoy now and then. Thank you for this page, and keep those old stories coming.”
We will, Anthony, we will - but we would also like to hear more from you about those rare treats of tea at the Savoy!
Jennette O’Leary writes to tell us helpfully that rubber dollies could be bought in Drummie’s on Pope’s Quay back in the day.
“They came in two colours, white and black. You could also buy plastic shoes in Drummie’s. Those came in white, blue, green, and pink, and were great for swimming in the sea.”
But how did rubber dollies get that peculiar name, please - anybody - tell us. Surely someone must know?
Jennette also enjoyed the details on the Thompsons chocolate slice.
“I remember though that there was also a layer of a sweet substance like honey or syrup on either side of the thick chocolate in the middle of the cake.
“We used to have a guy called Georgie in an estate car coming round to our side of the city with a good stock. Everyone came out of their houses to check out his fresh cakes, skulls and pans. He even gave credit (tick) on the book until Friday!”
But, Jennette scolds, we should have mentioned Chester cake also. “John’s by the Mon was the best, ever. I’m still on a diet after all those sweet things!”
Now enlighten us, readers - isn’t Chester cake known by another, more local (if slightly less refined) name here in Cork? Donkey’s Gudge? Wouldn’t want to get it wrong, so do let us know.
Jennette proudly proclaims that she is Northside through and through.
“I’m originally from Churchfield Gardens, and I didn’t move too far, as I currently live on Fair Hill.
My Mam was a full-time Mam when I was young. So I grew up with Blacka jam, apple tarts on Sunday, and buns during the week. My Dad worked when there was work. There were seven of us and we got by.”
Jennette’s childhood was happy, she says, although her first day at school in North Pres on Gerald Griffin Street does bring back a few traumatic memories.
“My Mam was pushing me from behind, and the biggest nun I ever saw in my life was pulling me by the arms. When they got me in and my poor Mam left, the nun roared ‘Sit down and sing the rhyme!’”
This was one little girl who definitely didn’t like school at that time.
“When Mam put me on the bus with the others to go to school, I would get off at the next stop and head back home!
"One time I returned home, and my Mam wouldn’t let me in. I waited for quite a while, and a lovely neighbour came down the path and asked if I was locked out. My Mam opened the door and told Molly what I had been doing, Molly pleaded with her to let me in so eventually I did, but I didn’t try that again!”
Time passed, however, and Jennette actually loved school in the end.
“I sat my Leaving Cert, and have continued in education since. I often called back to both primary and secondary schools to check in with the old familiar faces. I enjoyed every minute of it. We had a class reunion a few years ago in the Maldron of our Communion class. What a night! Our group photo is up on the wall there.”
Katie O’Brien has a similar story to tell of hated early schooldays.
“It wasn’t the baby school that gave me the problems, though, it was going from that small, friendly place to a huge convent school with terrifying nuns that did for me.
“The first morning, as I sat there, shaking, trying to listen to the teacher, the door crashed open and a huge, imposing nun strode in, veil flapping, rosary clinking. Immediately, the entire class rose to its feet as one and chanted some incomprehensible mantra in unison. I hadn’t a clue what was going on and shrank down even further into my seat (at an old wooden double desk, scratched and battered by years of use).
“It was quite some time before I learned that what they were shouting was ‘Dia’s Muire dhuit’s Padraig, a Mathair!’ How was I to know?”
Katie spent several months emulating Jennette in escaping from that classroom on every pretext from sore throat to headache, and getting home to safety and familiarity.
Her mother, she says, was driven distracted, worrying that her little girl would never learn anything.
“But eventually, I learned to get on with the others, and got clued in on the ways and forms of behaviour (although the first time I saw a gigantic skipping rope in the yard, and 20 girls at a time jumping in and out to a complicated system, and me being pushed relentlessly forward in the line, I nearly ran home again).
“And it didn’t hurt my education in the end,” adds Katie, “although I had to be past school and in postgraduate study before I really discovered the joys of learning. School wasn’t about enjoying yourself back then, though, was it?”
Let’s hear your memories. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork.