Cork has survived through darker days than these.
One hundred years ago today, a shocking end to an already tension-filled year came to a head with the Burning of Cork on December 11th, 1920.
More than 40 business premises, 300 residential properties, City Hall and the Carnegie Library were destroyed by the fire, causing damage equivalent to €155 million today.
Our city streets were the stage on which some of the most shocking events of the War of Independence played out.
As detailed in the exhibition Cork 1920 – The Burning of a City at St. Peter’s on North Main Street, 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.
Watch the tribute on Facebook
A Covid-19 compliant ceremony, attended by the Lord Mayor of Cork, will be broadcast on Cork City Council Facebook at 10.30pm tonight, Friday, December 11th to mark the centenary of the Burning of Cork.
The ceremony will begin at 10.30pm, the time 100 years ago when calls in relation to the fires were first received by Cork City Fire Brigade.
“Over five acres of the city centre was set alight and citizens, lives were thrown into chaos and fear,” said Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh.
“The torching of the city destroyed 40-50 buildings, seriously damaged at least 200 more and left another 2,000 people unemployed and many homeless afterwards, “ he said.
“Unfortunately, much of Cork City’s planned commemorative events were severely compromised due to Covid-19. However, I strongly believed that this event needed to be remembered and recognised sensitively, not only in the second city but across the country”.
Chief Fire Officer, John Ryan said: “We, in Cork City Fire Brigade, are privileged to follow in the footsteps of Captain Alfred J. Hutson and the firefighters who gallantly fought to control this conflagration on the streets of Cork.
“We can only stand in awe at their fortitude and bravery and we humbly salute them. Indeed, descendants of some of these firefighters continue to serve in the Brigade today”.
Part of the streamed ceremony was pre-recorded earlier this week on St Patrick’s St which was at the heart of the destruction 100 years ago. A vintage wheel escape appliance was placed on St Patrick’s Street for the occasion and bagpipers from Cork City Fire Brigade played ‘Amazing Grace’.
If you’re taking a stroll around the city, head for artist Garreth Joyce’s mural titled “Those who suffer the most will prevail” on Liberty Street.
Joyce’s work depicts characters and players of both The War of Independence and The Burning of Cork – Terence MacSwiney, Margaret Lucey, The Wallace Sisters and Alfred J Hutson. The mural is the seventh and final mural in the current Ardú Street Art Initiative, made possible thanks to Cork City Council, Creative Ireland, and Fáilte Ireland (you’ll find free guided tours and audio tours arducork.ie.)
Picture: Clare Keogh