Lions, a headmaster and broken pottery... some more Cork memories 

Derailed lions, the old Innisfallen, Carrigaline Christmas ware - your memories keep coming, says Jo Kerrigan in her weekly 'Throwback Thursday' column
Lions, a headmaster and broken pottery... some more Cork memories 

People returning from England on the Innishfallen in 1939.

PAT Dennehy writes to tell us how delighted he was to read Jerry Holt’s memories of Glanmire Station (now Kent) and the old days of excursions and ‘specials’: “While reading last Thurs. Throwback Column (30/09/21) and Jerry Holt’s memories, I was transported (no pun intended) back to the years, 1966 to 1970 that I served in Glanmire Road (Kent Station) and in the CIE Freight Offices (both Road & Rail) on Penrose Quay. I was then promoted to the CIE Computer Dept. in Dublin. Computer technology was in its infancy back then, and the IBM 360 Mainframe, which took up a whole building, had less processing power than a mobile phone does today! I remember Jimmy O’Keeffe and the stationmaster, Theo Linehan, quite well.

“During my tenure at Penrose Quay I remember the M.V. Innisfallen sailing from there to Fishguard. Around 1969 a new Innisfallen appeared which sailed from further downriver at Silversprings, and plied between Cork and Swansea. I stand corrected if this was not the case.”

Oh it was the case, Pat, you are absolutely right. In the earlier days, the grand old boat would come right upriver and tie up on the quay just off the Lower Road and Summerhill North. 

"If you lived nearby, you could hear the hooter as it sailed majestically past Blackrock Castle, and if you were meeting friends or relations from England, coming for their summer holidays, you would know it was time to get down to the quay to be there to welcome them.

A view of Cork docks (Innisfallen on right) 04/08/1932.
A view of Cork docks (Innisfallen on right) 04/08/1932.

We lost a lot when the boat left Penrose Quay: that sense of having the Innisfallen belong to us, part of the city itself. And does anyone remember the cars being swung off the ship to the quayside in nets? That was something to watch in the days before drive-on-drive-off was invented. Silversprings wasn’t too bad, because you still had the magic of passing Blackrock Castle (just) before the boat docked, which has to be one of the most beautiful sights on any voyage, and wonderful to open a sleepy eye to from your cabin as the boat sailed upriver.

But when shipping service were shifted to the deep-water port at Ringaskiddy, we lost it altogether. As we did the Cork-Wales route eventually, more’s the pity. Oh bring back the Cork-Swansea ferry!

The Innisfallen passing Blackrock Castle.
The Innisfallen passing Blackrock Castle.

“The journey was the longest on the Irish Sea route, and possibly the roughest,” recalls Pat Dennehy. 

“People leaving these shores for work in the UK used this route, and I often witnessed very sad scenes when it sailed each evening, with emigrants and their families and friends taking a long farewell. 

"It was operated by the B & I Line whose offices were next to ours, across Railway Street.”

And it wasn’t always sad one-way trips either, Pat. This writer’s parents embarked on honeymoon from Penrose Quay in December 1938, on their way to a ski resort in Switzerland. That trip involved not just the Innisfallen but a train to London, another train down to the English coast, a boat to Ostend, and then several trains across Europe before they finally reached Adelboden. You took your time in those days – there wasn’t any choice.


Rick Holt’s piece on food storage in pre-fridge days also brought back memories to Pat. “At home we had one in the backyard, exactly as described. I remember my Mum used to cover all the items in it with a muslin cloth. How long food stayed good in it I can’t remember. My Grannie, who lived not very far away from us (we lived in one of the four Railway Houses at Buttevant Station) had a biscuit tin buried under a hedge in her front garden and that is where she kept the butter solid over the summer months.”

An excellent idea, Pat, and one practised by our long-ago ancestors who buried little barrels of butter in the bogland to keep them fresh. Some have been dug out today by archaeologists and the butter is still there. Probably not as fresh and tasty as it was, but still there.


The CBS Pipe Band Blarney Street leading the parade of elephants from the Bandon Railway to Chipperfields Circus September 1959.
The CBS Pipe Band Blarney Street leading the parade of elephants from the Bandon Railway to Chipperfields Circus September 1959.

Casting his mind back to conversations with his dad, Pat remembers him recalling an incident in the ’50s involving a circus train.

Chipperfields Circus was touring Ireland at that time and was using the train to transfer from one venue to the next. (Now isn’t that a fascinating topic to think on? How on earth did they manage elephants and other large animals on a railway? One hopes they didn’t travel with giraffes.)

On this particular night, one of those wagons got derailed somewhere between Rathmore and Millstreet and all the Civil Engineering Staff (known then as the Permanent Way Staff of which Pat’s dad was a member) in the area were called out in the middle of the night.

“Some travelled from Mallow on an engine and guard’s van to the location. It was apparently a foul night with wind and torrential rain. The engine and van returned to Mallow, and when the derailment was sorted the C.E. Staff travelled back there on the circus train. My dad and one of his colleagues jumped into one of the wagons soaking wet and exhausted.

“After a short period of time my dad remarked to his fellow traveller that there was an ‘awful stench’ in the wagon. There was then there two almighty roars. 

"Dad struck a light and there were two other passengers in the wagon, a ferocious looking lion and lioness in two cages. As the train was now moving on its way to Mallow, the two boys had to ‘stick it out’.

“My dad said he was never as happy in his life to reach Mallow Station. What had made him very fearful was the fact that a friend of his called Bill Stevens, a lion tamer with Fossett’s Circus, had been mauled to death by a lion some years previously. I think that was in 1953 in Dublin.”

“Keep up the great work, adds Pat finally, “as it is greatly appreciated by us Exiles (far away in Kildare…)


Mary O’Leary was thrilled to see a mention of the old national school at Kerry Pike and its headmaster, Mr O’Donoughue.

“Your column keeps on giving! Mr. O’Donoghue (Mick Donoughue to us) who was the principal of Kerry Pike N.S. was dad’s cousin! I hadn’t thought of him for a long time.” Mary’s younger two daughters went to Kerry Pike N.S. when the family lived on the Lee Road.

“Mick Donoghue was long retired and dead by the time my two got to Kerry Pike. A new school had been built [with indoor plumbing one trusts, Mary], and things had moved on. The Principal was still referred to as ‘the Master’ by some though!”


Angela O'Donovan's Christmas themed Carrigaline Pottery.
Angela O'Donovan's Christmas themed Carrigaline Pottery.

Angela O’Donovan has been enjoying the recent pieces on Carrigaline Pottery.

“My dad, Barry O’Donoghue, worked there from the late 1960s onwards until the 1990s. Carrigaline Pottery became Cork Art Pottery Limited, and when this failed, the workers formed a workers co-operative in 1984, Carrigdhoun Pottery Co-operative Society Ltd.

“This was later bought by a Brazilian family and was subsequently sold on to Stephen Pearce, finally closing in the 2000s.

“Barry was Sales Manager at the time of his retirement and he travelled to places like New York, London and Germany for trade shows. Carrigaline Pottery had a healthy rivalry with Arklow Pottery.

“At home, we used Carrigaline Pottery every single day. Dad would often bring home samples to see how they would fare in the home for example, would the transfers used survive the wash-up? 

"Our everyday ware was largely a mish-mash of random patterns until he brought home the “Honeysuckle” pattern which became a household favourite and so he bought some for a matching set. We had a shelf in the kitchen with mugs featuring teams from the English league, I remember Liverpool, Burnley, Leeds, West Ham, etc. And Bosco, of course.

Things were a little different at Christmas, recalls Angela, when her mother would feed visiting family, friends, and a neighbour or two.

“The Wedgewood china, a wedding gift to my parents, would be brought out for the starter and main course, but for us children the highlight of the meal was the dessert which was served on special Carrigaline Pottery featuring a truly jolly Santa Claus and some holly and poinsettia flowers. I’m not sure if this pattern ever went into general production, but we loved it at home. It was still slightly mis-matched: some pieces had a red band on the rim and some had a gold band. It was a big job to ensure everyone got a matching cup, saucer and plate!

In her own house now, Angela is proud to have Carrigaline Pottery in daily use.

“It was a gift from Mum and Dad when I moved into my own home. Dad brought home about 10 different plates and asked me to pick my favourite pattern; I chose Tamarisk and dad got a staff discount on his purchase.”

She noticed the pictures sent in by David Murphy from Canada, featuring Blue Band and Autumnware.

“Carrigaline Pottery used to export to places far and wide. They were featured on ‘shopping telly’ in North America on QVC, so that may have been the source of some of David’s pieces.”

And Angela thoroughly enjoyed our description of smashing old reject plates and other pieces, sourced from the pottery dump.

“We visited Belleek Pottery a few years ago, and our daughters had great fun smashing some pieces there as Belleek don’t sell seconds.”

We seem to recall that Waterford Glass didn’t do seconds either, but don’t think they ever allowed visitors to smash the rejects. These were put back into the furnace as ‘cullet’ for melting down and re-using.

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