The metal mines of West Cork
(Cornwall: The Trevithic Society, 2010)
Mining has a long history in Cork going back 4,000 years to the copper mines on Mount Gabriel and other parts of the Mizen Peninsula. Surprisingly little has been published on the history of mining in the county, although what has been published is a bit like the work of James Joyce: there isn’t much of it but it’s of a very high quality. Diane Hodnett’s The metal mines of West Cork maintains the high standards of her predecessors in the field. Her book concentrates on mining in West Cork in the nineteenth century, one of the great eras of mining in the county. Despite the lack of original source material, apart from records on the famous copper mines at Allihies where the account books have survived, she has produced an very informative work. Drawing heavily on material from ‘The Mining Journal and Railway Gazette’ and incorporating information gleaned from visiting and surveying the sites, Diane Hodnett provides concise accounts of 26 mines in West Cork. The material is grouped into six parts: the Crookhaven and Goleen Mines; the Schull mines; the Ballydehob mines; the Sheep’s Head peninsula mines; the Skibbereen and Glandore mines, and the Beara peninsula mines. The locations of the mines are shown on copies of OS maps, the history of each mine recounted, and the account accompanied by photographs old and new. The metal mines of West Cork is a first-rate work of industrial and social history. It is available for reference in the Local Studies Library.
A new history of Cork
Dr. Henry A. Jefferies
(Dublin: History Press, 2010)
Cork city has a long history stretching back to the foundation of the Celtic monastery, sometime in the sixth or seventh century. Until recent years it would have been difficult to recommend a succinct, reliable, one-volume history of the city dealing with its history from the earliest times up to the modern era; the present volume by Henry A. Jefferies fulfils that need admirably. Dr Jefferies is a reliable guide who takes us from the possibly mythical Finbarr up to the days of the Celtic Tiger and beyond. To accomplish this in 140 pocket-sized pages is a remarkable achievement.
Dr Jefferies admits that the early history of Cork is ‘very poorly documented’ and deals cautiously with the controversy surrounding the existence or non-existence of Finbarr, before concluding that it is likely that he did exist and may have been connected to the ruling dynasty of Connacht. The section on Viking Cork is good; Jefferies draws on recent archaeological evidence and on his own researches in the historical record to give a coherent and plausible account of Viking Cork. He situates it on the south bank of the Lee around Barrack Street, Sullivan’s Quay and French’s Quay and also on part of the south island near the South Gate Bridge and the former Beamish and Crawford brewery. In contrast to some other historians he feels that Viking Cork was not a walled town but quite modest in extent although still important to the MacCarthy kings of Desmond with their stronghold at Shandon.
From the Viking era to the present, Jefferies is a sure-footed guide to the rest of the history of Cork, showing a thorough familiarity with the sources, primary and secondary. Nothing of note in the history of the city is omitted. The prose style is lively and engaging and the author is not afraid to voice his own opinions on a variety of topics. In format the book is a genuine pocket book which will fit easily into any reasonably sized pocket. Adding to the attractiveness of the book are the many illustrations which integrate well with the text. Some city maps are also shown, although I would question the wisdom of including Carty’s map of 1726 and Beauford’s of 1801, both of them are far too much reduced in size to be of any real use to the reader.
All-in-all, A new history of Cork, in many ways a cut-down edition of the same author’s earlier Cork: Historical perspectives published in 2004, is a fine guide to anyone seeking an overall view of the history of the city by the Lee.
Mansions and monuments: people and places of bygone Passage West and Monkstown
(Cork: Rosmathún Press, 2011)
Colman O Mahony, one of the finest local historians of his generation, has added another outstanding volume to an already impressive body of work. Mansions and monuments deals with Dr O Mahony’s home places of Passage West and Monkstown and brings to light a huge amount of information on the areas, gleaned from a lifetime’s perusal of Cork newspapers and a variety of other sources. Different geographical areas in the twin towns are dealt with in different chapters, providing masses of information about the houses in each area and the occupants of the houses, and there is an interesting chapter on the impact of the First World War on the towns. The book will be a treasure trove for future generations of genealogists and place-name hunters. There are valuable appendices on Monkstown graveyard, Marmullane churchyard gravestone inscriptions, memorials in St John’s Church, Monkstown, and in Marmullane church, along with Passage West and Monkstown birth, marriage and death notices.
The density of the information in the book is such that it is fair to say that this is a book to dip into for reference rather than to read through from cover to cover.
Cork City: A field guide to its street furniture
(Cork: Finch Fortune, 2009)
Many of us are oblivious to the varied street furniture of Cork city, apart from maybe the Toll House at St Luke’s or the old cannon gun which serves as a bollard on the Grand Parade. Tom Spalding’s splendid guide to Cork’s street furniture should remedy this situation. It’s a beautifully illustrated guide to bollards, mooring posts, pillar boxes, water fonts and a host of other items of street furniture often unnoticed. He even has sections on humble coal holes, rain gutters and sewer covers. The photographs are accompanied by an informative, very readable text. Read this book and you’ll never look at the ‘Beautiful City’ in the same way again.
Cork City: A field guide to its street furniture is available in the Local Studies Library at Cork City Libraries.
An A to Z of Youghal
(You would? Publishing 2008)
An A to Z of Youghal edited by Tim FitzGerald with entries from a variety of contributors is an enjoyable book to dip into for information on the history of the famous old walled East Cork town. There are entries on prominent persons associated with the history of Youghal including Cromwell and the ‘witch of Youghal’, Florence Newton. Other entries deal with the cinema in Youghal, the railway line, the lighthouse and a fascinating entry on ‘Quotations’ which lists the use of the name ‘Youghal’ in the works of famous writers including Rudyard Kipling and James Joyce. The entries are succinct, well chosen and replete with little known facts about the town. All in all, the book is a little gem.
An A to Z of Youghal is available in the Local Studies Library at Cork City Libraries.
Patrick Scott & Aidan Dunne
(Dublin: Liberties Press, 2008)
In the depths of winter and amid the economic doom and gloom it’s a pleasure to review a celebration of the life and work of the Cork-born architect and artist Patrick Scott . A richly talented man Scott, as well as being one of Ireland’s best know painters, has worked as an architect and has produced drawings, prints, sculptures, tapestries , works of industrial design, polychrome tables and set designs for the theatre. Truly a Renaissance man. He was made a Saoí of Aosdána in 2007. The book is sumptuously produced with wonderful illustrations of his work; the illustrations of his famous gold leaf paintings, geometrical designs in gold leaf on unprimed canvas, which show the influence of Zen Buddhism, are particularly beautiful. The text by Aidan Dunne is very informative about all aspects of the life of this amazing man.
Patrick Scott is available for consultation in the Local Studies Library of Cork City Libraries.
Rory Gallagher: The Ultimate Performer
Rory Gallagher was one of Cork’s favourite sons and a musical genius. He is probably one of the best known Corkman, albeit adopted, outside Ireland given his huge fan base in Europe and beyond. His life and work was celebrated in a photographic exhibition in Triskel last year which featured the photographs of Fin Costello. Rory Gallagher: The ultimate performer is a compilation of some of the photographs from that exhibition. Informative captions accompany many of the photographs but Fin Costello knows that a picture is worth a thousand words and the remarkable photographs capture the dynamism and energy of Rory’s performances. A must for all Rory fans.
Rory Gallagher: The ultimate performer is available in the Local Studies Library of Cork City Libraries.
The Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society 2008. Vol. 113.
One of the most venerable societies in Cork, the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society, issued its journal for 2008. The 80th birthday of the outstanding scholar Diarmaid Ó Murchadha is celebrated in this issue with articles in Irish and English on medieval Gaelic manuscripts and history and on Cork placenames, topics on which Dr Ó Murchadha has written with authority. Other highlights of the journal include a splendid article by John A. Murphy on ‘Six South Munster popular songs and their background’, an article by Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel on the architect Henry Hill’s journey through the south of Ireland in 1831, a fascinating article by Mary Lantry on the various depictions of the arms of Cork city and a spirited contribution from Pat Holohan on two Cork parliamentary elections in the 1830s and their connection with a broadsheet ballad.
The 2008 volume maintains the high standards of scholarship and readability of its predecessors. It is available in the Local Studies Department of Cork City Libraries.
The emergency years in Cork 1939-1945
(Published by the author; Cork, 2006)
Paddy McCarthy’s The emergency years in Cork 1939-1945 is an account of life in Cork during the years of WWII, a neglected topic despite the huge growth in the publication of local historical material in recent years. Mr McCarthy’s approach is logical and his prose is crystal clear. Each chapter deals with a different theme from the war years. There are some harrowing descriptions of the poverty and ill-health that stalked many in Cork before, during and after the war years and tributes to those individuals, Fr Dick Dalton was one, who tried to alleviate the suffering. The tragedies of the losses of the Ardmore, St Patrick and the Irish Pine at sea are recalled. Emigration saw many young men and women leave for war work in England and the money sent back to their families played no small part in helping many survive the difficult years. Rationing of foods and curtailment of transport were only some of the hardships endured by the population. The morale of the people was sustained by the cinemas, the theatres, cultural and musical societies and sport with the Cork hurlers winning the famous four-in-a row senior hurling All Irelands during that period. There are interesting chapters on some famous trials that took place around that time including the first case of criminal abortion in Ireland when a young woman died after taking abortifacient drugs supplied by her married lover. The emergency years in Cork is a valuable and very readable contribution to the social history of Cork. It is available in Cork City Libraries.
Collins Tracing your Irish Family History
(London: Collins, 2007)
RTE television’s series ‘Who do you think you are’ has enormously increased the number of people doing family history research in Ireland. Genealogy requires considerable patience to track down and sift through available sources. To the newcomer the number and variety of resources that need to be checked can seem daunting. Anthony Adolph’s Collins Tracing your Irish Family History is a very good and up-to-date guide to these sources, although a number have become available online since the book was published. In spite of this, this book gives clear and concise advice on how to track down and use parish registers, birth, marriage and death records and census returns to the more unfamiliar Griffith’s Valuation, army records and the bewildering, to the tyro genealogist, variety of wills available, or in many cases unavailable due to the disastrous fire in the Four Courts in 1922. The researcher will be hard pressed to find a livelier and more reliable guide than Collins Tracing your Irish Family History.
Collins Tracing your Irish Family History is available at the Local Studies Department of Cork City Libraries.