A ship crashes into a bridge... and story of a Celtic cross on Lower Road

Throwback Thursday: We reel in the years to 1965 this week, when a ship collided with a bridge near City Hall, while a Celtic cross in the city piques our interest
A ship crashes into a bridge... and story of a Celtic cross on Lower Road

The Lower Road, showing the Celtic cross, which was not a commemorative monument, but believed to have been an advertisement for a nearby sculpture works

REMEMBER a week or so back, when Pat Kelly enquired if anybody other than he remembered a ship hitting the bridge near the City Hall?

Well, Tom Jones was swift to email in from the Florida Keys, to confirm that he indeed did remember the incident, having actually been there at the very moment it happened! Here is what he told us:

“I can most certainly offer personal insight into a ship hitting the bridge near City Hall/Albert Quay. I believe the incident Pat Kelly speaks of happened in 1965.

“At that particular time, I was working for Suttons Hardware Stores, which were located in that vicinity, as a messenger boy. On that day I had been sent over to Metal Products, aka the Nut and Bolt Factory, located in Jew Town, to pick up some product. I had just crossed the bridge and was passing by the quay when a ship was coming into dock.

“Now, I’ll swear what follows is recorded clearly in the crowded library of my recollections. The ship was approaching really fast, and two dockers shouted a warning. A heavy rope was thrown from the ship to be wound round the bollard on the dock. I witnessed them trying to catch it but with no success, perhaps thankfully in reflection for their own safety.

The 1900 OSI map of Cork city, showing both a fountain and a trough marked in front of the Unity Garage site on Alfred Street
The 1900 OSI map of Cork city, showing both a fountain and a trough marked in front of the Unity Garage site on Alfred Street

“Indeed, if they had been successful, maybe the ship would have demolished a portion of the dock along with them!

“Consequently, the ship crashed into the bridge, crushing the pedestrian walkway over which I had just cycled only moments before.

“All of this experience took place in a minute of time, more or less, in my life.

“Yet it is still so vibrant in my memory, and I am so pleased when others put forth their memoirs, for they truly reveal to me how much I once was a part of Cork, and that Cork was, and still is a part of me.”

What a memory, Tom, of an unforgettable (and presumably shocking) experience all those years ago. Suttons Hardware, you were working for? Didn’t they have a huge place on the South Mall? The one that was burned down in 1963 or 1964?

Jim McKeon was interested in our mention a couple of weeks ago of the little toll house which still stands at St Luke’s above Summerhill North.

“There are TONS of interesting facts about old Cork: the toll spots, one in St Luke’s, another in the house facing Spring Lane in Blackpool,” he said.

“The herds of pigs and cattle had to be paid for entering the city on their way to the boat and the UK marts.

“And then, Cork’s old British names fascinate me. There are over 50, ranging from Buckingham Place and Windsor Terrace to York Hill and Victoria Cross, etc.

“Also the colourful place names: Elbow Lane, Cutthroat Alley, Bulldog Lane, Hangdog Road, Strawberry Hill, Sober Lane, and on.”

Jim has actually published a book, Echoes At The Fountain, which, he tells us, is filled with great old city photos: “Pana with just a few bikes, three taxis facing Roches Stores, contacted by a phone on the pole in the middle of the street. What a change from that quiet scene to today’s city traffic!”

Yes, the old names of Cork streets and lanes are a whole study in themselves, Jim. Isn’t there a Widdershins Lane? Widdershins is the opposite to clockwise (or sunwise, as it was originally known before clocks were invented). Paradise Place? Keyser’s Hill, echoing our Viking past? And Cockpit Lane? Fishamble Lane?

All those wonderful little alleys off North and South Main Street, which were once the arteries to the great importance of the main thoroughfare?

Does everyone know that the romantically-titled Lovers’ Walk used to be Lepers’ Walk?

Where is your favourite place name? Often they can tell you things about the hidden past.

Fenn’s Quay, for example, back behind the Court House, indicates that a river ran here once. (It still does, down underneath that Tarmac pounded by cars, buses, lorries, day and night, and, if we are not mistaken, there is a picture in the archives of a medieval bridge discovered there during excavation works before all was covered in again.)

Until recently, there was a shop called The Marsh in this area, reminding us of the muddy wastes which once surrounded Cork.

Castle Street was originally the quay leading to the then main street. And of course everybody knows that Patrick Street with its meandering line, still has a branch of the Lee flowing underneath it.

As Patricia Lynch wrote in one of her books: “Cork is built on and over the river, and one day it will go floating away down and out to sea.”

She also related the legend that once a year, usually at Samhain, a great grey castle rose out of the mist on Patrick’s Bridge, and those who entered would find themselves in Tir na n’Og.

Kevin Hickey asked last week if anyone could supply the name of that second-hand record and tape shop on MacCurtain Street in the early 1980s. Paul Horgan was the first to respond.

South Presentation Convent in Douglas Street, Cork city, in 1933 - but do you remember a record shop being situated in the street in the 1960s?
South Presentation Convent in Douglas Street, Cork city, in 1933 - but do you remember a record shop being situated in the street in the 1960s?

“Leeside Music was the name of the record store on MacCurtain Street.” he revealed, and helpfully gave us a link to the Golden Pages of the day. The store was situated about halfway between the Bridge Street end of the street and the Everyman Theatre.

Anybody else remember patronising this helpful source of cut-price music? Fintan Bloss does.

“The store at 20 MacCurtain Street was originally called Swapshop, and later re-named Leeside Music,” he said. “It was run by Tony Ryan and Alan White.

“You could get second-hand records and cassette tapes, and exchange CDs. Instruments were also sold and repaired, if I remember correctly.”

Thanks, Paul and Fintan. Whatever somebody needs to know, others will be sure to come forward to address with helpful information.

Katie O’Brien remembers an earlier source of second-hand records, way up on Douglas Street. in the early 1960s.

“It was a dark little shop that sold secondhand film and romance magazines as well as much-used 45s, which usually required cleaning with a damp cloth to remove the surface grime. These quite often had the centre missing because they had come out of juke boxes. I had one spare centre piece at home in my collection of records which I could slot into these juke box discards to play them on my portable.”

The portable, which, says Katie, she loved to distraction, had been purchased at an electrical shop in Oliver Plunkett Street over several months.

“Not hire purchase, I hated the idea of that, but going in and putting money down on it as I got hold of any. And at last it was mine! I had to get batteries for it every so often, but I could take it anywhere, and did.

“My most vivid memory is playing The House Of The Rising Sun down on the beach at midnight by the campsite at Barley Cove. My parents were very cross when they woke up and found my sister and myself out on the sand instead of tucked up in our sleeping bags!”

Frank Roche writes to say that he has been reading with interest the articles dealing with the horse troughs in Cork, and especially with the Ship Street/Alfred Street area. “It’s amazing how much detail has survived and great that it has been made accessible,” he says.

Owen Kelly, continues Frank, points out that the Alfred Street trough appears to have been moved, and he tends to agree.

“In the 1900 OSI map, both a fountain and a trough are marked in front of the Unity Garage site,” said Frank. “Fergus O’Connor’s photograph (National Library of Ireland) - probably taken about 1910 - shows the trough, but the fountain (size/shape unknown) appears to be gone. The trough may even have been moved more than once.

“Also visible in O’Connor’s photo is a large Celtic cross. That photo - or a very similar view - was made into a coloured postcard (probably hand-tinted).

“When I saw the postcard some years ago, I tried to find out whom it commemorated but without success for some time. Eventually, I was told that it was not a commemorative monument but rather an advertisement for a nearby sculpture works.

“John A O’Connell, Monumental Sculptor, had his main yard on Watercourse Road - this was where the young Seamus Murphy began his apprenticeship in 1922.

“The trade directories and other sources say that the O’Connell firm had a showroom on ‘Lower Glanmire Road’ up to the 1940s - but don’t give an exact location or street number.

“In a letter to the Echo in 2007, Sean O’Connell - a grandson of the founder - states that the showrooms were ‘opposite St Patrick’s Church’. Elsewhere, the showrooms are referred to as the ‘Marble Works’.”

Perhaps, asks Mr Roche, one of our readers might have more information on the showrooms or cross? Well if they do, we are certain they will share it with us here, Frank.

And, as an aside, relating to sculptor Seamus Murphy, his favourite seat in later years was on the wall outside the little church at the bottom of Summerhill, not far from those showrooms, where he could see everyone coming and going and exchange pleasantries and gossip with friends.

After Robert Stephens’ vivid memories of the Rockmount U16 famous victory half a century ago, featured here in Throwback Thursday last week, many of you have shown interest in his poetry collection created during the Covid lockdown and recording his memories of a Cork childhood. Here is an excerpt from The Baths, commemorating long-ago hot summer days out on the Lee Fields:

With togs and towel under our arms.

We met at the Blockies and told a few yarns.

Hot summer days when school was out,

Happy times, I have no doubt.

Mock and Mongo, Tuck and Bob.

We passed O Mahony’s with Kay on the job.

All the way, to Dinny Greens shop,

This is where we met with Flop.

Now on Shandon Street, with a few yards to go,

Peelos on the right, with the green gardens below.

Nearing the end, we passed the Spa Inn.

Many a time, we would have loved to go in!

Turn to the left down Browns Hill,

We could now see water it gave us a thrill.

Onto the Bus, thru Sundays Well,

Last stop was reached to the sound of the bell.

Great crowds descended, from the bus.

Someone shouted, “what’s all the fuss?”

“Last man to the baths is a Langer”. someone shouted.

A day full of fun and no one doubted.

Happy memories of childhood. Send us your own recollections. Email jokerrigan1@gmail.com or leave a comment on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork

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