Cork 1920: This exhibition revisits the most turbulent year in the city’s history
Brought to you by St Peter’s Cork.
It’s 100 years since Cork was burned to the ground.
You wouldn’t know it to walk them today, but our city streets were the stage on which some of the most shocking events of the War of Independence played out.
Now you can explore this tumultuous and shocking period in Cork’s history by visiting Cork 1920 – The Burning of a City at St. Peter’s on North Main Street.
Image: Clare Keogh
Through thought-provoking stories, archival material, historic photographs and compelling witness statements, the immersive exhibition highlights the vision, passion, energy and imagination of the men and women of 100 years ago in a powerful way.
A gathering storm
Life was dangerous in Cork in 1920. Citizens endured months of curfews, military raids, repeated arson attacks, ransacked homes and looted businesses. Ordinary life was peppered with instances of murder, destruction and indiscriminate violence.
People could be shot simply for having their hands in their pockets.
Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain’s assassination by the Royal Irish Constabulary in March of 1920 made headlines around the world. He was shot dead in his family home on Thomas Davis Street on the morning of his 36th birthday.
His successor, Terrence Mac Swiney, would bring the global spotlight back to Leeside in October following his death, aged 41, from hunger strike after 74 days without food at Brixton Prison, where he was imprisoned by the British Government.
A shocking end to an already tension-filled year came to a head with the Burning of the City on December 11th, 1920. More than 40 business premises, 300 residential properties, City Hall and the Carnegie Library were also destroyed by the fire, causing damage equivalent to €155 million today.
Image: Cork Public Museum – The Michael Lenihan Collection
An immersive experience
At St Peter’s, the story of The Burning of Cork is brought to life inside a series of muslin panels, which echo the eerie, smoky atmosphere in the city on the night it was burned.
Two individual audio-visual boxes help to heighten the visitor experience, inviting you deeper inside the story to hear witness testimonies from a 1960 documentary on the Burning of Cork and a dedication to Rebel Women.
Image: Clare Keogh
Images from the archives at Cork Public Museum have been brought into vivid colour, offering a unique opportunity to see Cork as you’ve never seen it before.
Even if history isn’t usually your thing, it’s impossible not to be moved by the chilling witness accounts from people living in the city as it crumbled around them. Overall, it’s a testament to Cork’s Rebel spirit and the massive rebuilding effort it took to put the city back on the map after it had been all but wiped out.
A lunchtime talk
Join historian Gerry White, military historian and author, for a lunchtime talk on the Burning of Cork live at St. Peter’s on Thursday, March 12th, 2020 at 1pm. Tickets are €6 and available here.
The Burning of Cork is free to visit at St Peter’s North Main Street until December 2020. Visit the website for more information and follow the St. Peter’s Cork Facebook feed for updates on an upcoming Cork 1920-themed series of gatherings, talks and workshops. #Cork1920