All posts tagged Cork City

  • Lady’s Well, Cork: Renovations

    I had previously commented on the deteriorating state of Lady’s Well in Cork city. Thanks to works by Cork City Council* the site has been cleaned up and new structures have been put in place around the well. The necessity for grids over the well may be seen as unfortunate, but will not impinge on the well excessively as does not seem to be used for religious-spiritual reasons. These additions will ensure the preservation of the site and perhaps a revival of devotional activity in the future?

    DSC_0847 DSC_0854


    *I had raised the matter with one of my local representatives, Kiernan McCarthy (, who has done significant work in promoting Cork’s heritage.

  • The Postbox: History, Nationalism and novelty

    Postboxes, once essential pieces of communications infrastructure which connected villages, crossroads and neighbourhoods to the rest of the world, are still noticeable features of landscapes and roadsides. Public postboxes in the Republic of Ireland, administered by the semi-state organisation An Post, are green. While more recent boxes tend to be more functional, older ones had distinct designs such as the hexagonal-sided Penfold or the familiar small box attached to a telegraph pole.

    VR for Victoria Regina 1837 - 1901

    VR for Victoria Regina 1837 – 1901 Greenmount Cork

    ER for Edward Rex 1901 - 1910

    ER for Edward Rex
    1901 – 1910 Douglas Cork

    Postboxes also have symbols, representative of the time of their production. Previous to the current An Post there was P&T (Dept. of Post and Telegraphs) and  Saorstát Eireann (Irish Freestate). However, there are even older boxes, still in use, which feature the royal insignia from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when all of the island of Ireland was part of the UK.  You can still find boxes with ER (Edwardus Rex) or VR  (Victoria Regina) which date from the period 1901 – 1910 and c.1850s-1901 (although Queen Victoria’s reign was 1837 – 1901, postboxes didn’t come to Ireland until at least the c.1850s) respectively. Although rather solid and simple devices, it still is marvelous, if not surprising, that they have survived so long. It is nice to consider the thousands of letters (with the intentions, news, connections and emotions they contained)  that would have passed through them.

    It is noteworthy that these very clear, albeit ordinary, symbols of the British Monarchy survived in places through times when such things were readily destroyed. While statues, flags and buildings were attacked for nationalistic reasons, these objects survived, possibly being saved because of their very ordinariness or usefulness. Also, when the majority of Ireland transitioned to becoming a Free State, these boxes did pose an issue; however, a rather straightforward, yet clever, and utterly Irish, solution was to paint the red British boxes green. This transformation has lasted for over ninety years. The symbol of British Monarchy, covered over by green paint can be a metaphor for so many features in the Irish state, from Primary Schools to Common Law.

    On your travels throughout Ireland, and even in your own neighbourhood, check the postbox, you may find an interesting piece of heritage, geography, symbolism and materiality. However, make sure you get there before 4.30pm .

    For more:

    Irish Postal History site

    An Post: History and Heritage: The Post Box

  • The Lough, Frozen

    The Lough

    The Lough (pronounced lock) is one of Cork city’s most well known features. It is a freshwater lake, with a selection of birds and fish, that serves as a centre of recreation. December 2010, when the photo was taken, was first time I’d ever seen it frozen, with the abnormally cold temperatures that winter causing many freak events. Until then, I never thought, I would actually see the Lough like this. The place has been forever changed, maybe enriched, after this, I am always aware of the potential changes that exist within the waters.

    Reflecting from a much wilder winter, I am struck at how relatively minor temperature fluctuations have significant impacts on our understandings and experiences of place. Although my preference for human geography has involved me moving away from climatology and meteorology, it is still important to acknowledge the power of physical forces in defining and shaping our worlds.

  • Lady’s Well, Cork: Slipping Away

    Lady’s Well is one of the few wells within Cork city. It is located north of the city centre, on the eastern slope of the small valley that leads out to Blackpool. It gave Lady’s Well Brewery, just below the well, its name, while what is now Leitrim Street was formerly called Lady’s Well Street.

    The well has had a varied modern history. There seems to have been no record of religious activity on the site and by the 1980s no surface trace of the well existed, although the shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary was on the site, which was demolished in the later 1990s. A City Council sponsored excavation in 2000 revealed a cast-iron basin surrounding by sandstone flags as being the likely earliest flooring at the well. At that time, the well and grotto were consolidated.

    I visited the site on 26th Feb 2012 and again on 24th Feb 2013. When I intended to blog about the site recently, I returned to get more recent photos. On my initial visit I found the site to be untidy and generally a bit run down – in particular, drinks cans allover the site and in the well. This poor state was one of the main motivations for revisiting the site, as it didn’t want to misrepresent its current condition. However, the site was in an even poorer state on my second visit. Messiness and evidence of drinking was compounded by neglect and vandalism. The photos below which compare the site over the two visits clearly illustrate the change, especially in terms of the well itself, which is now inaccessible as the basin is completely filled in with bits of broken paving.

    Although, the well is an acknowledged heritage feature and was renovated with community support, it seems to have slowly deteriorated. Its location on a secluded section of the hillside above the brewery but out of site of the houses above means its an ideal location for ‘anti-social’ behaviour, with evidence of drinking, vandalism and fire-lighting.

    I am slightly conflicted over what the visits have revealed. Firstly, it is a shame that one of the few examples of a holy well in the city is in this condition; and, as a result, I have contacted one of my local councilors about the issue, who will raise it at the City Council. However, this  also presents a study in the decline of a holy well. Many hundreds of the 3,000 holy wells that were believed to have existed across Ireland can no longer be found or have deteriorated beyond recognition. Although, intentional actions are involved here, the site is a metaphor for what has happened to so many sites. Wells which are no longer the focus of devotional activity can fall into disrepair and become unattractive, furthering their demise. It would seem the central reason for the survival of so many wells is the role of devoted people who frequent and upkeep them.

    While the physical structures and role of Lady’s Well in the nomenclature of the city ensure the site will remain in the future, what exact form this will take is uncertain. I shall return to the site and the topic.

    Looking south at the site: it is two levels.

    Two views, one from each visit, looking south at the site: it resembles a mini-amphitheatre, with a curved shape on one side and it is spread over three levels – a back support level with the ground behind it, a middle level with an empty grotto at the far end and the lower level which has the well at its centre.

    LadysWell Cork Compar

    The well’s poor condition, marked by litter mainly, in Feb 2012 is replaced by one of complete disrepair in Feb 2013, presumably through intentional vandalism.

    The view of the site in Feb 2012 from the laneway between Richmond Hill and Leitrim Street.

    The view of the site in Feb 2012 from the laneway between Richmond Hill and Leitrim Street.




    Cork City Council, 2009 Coburg Street and Saint Patrick’s Hill Area Action Plan 2009

    Lady’s Well Excavation Report, 2000

    CO074-062 (Archaeological Survey of Ireland, Record Details) on Posted: 14 Jan 2009

  • 12 Days

    While there is a massive emphasis on the lead up to Christmas, the post-Christmas period – the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, between 25th December and 6th January, the feast of the Epiphany – can often be overshadowed. So, I was heartened to see that the Christmas lights were still lighting in Cork city on 3rd January. While the Christmas lights seem to go up too soon (mid-November), at least we can say that they have not been taken down too soon.

    2013-01-03 21.16.22

    Christmas Lights on St Patrick’s Street, Cork, 3rd Jan. The photo, taken outside Penny’s, looks eastward, showing displays of lights which run across the street, rows of lights going from the lamp posts to adjacent buildings and a Christmas tree at the top of Winthrop Street.


  • Christmas Lights

    Christmas lights are one of the most prominent ways in which the festive season makes a (visual) impact on the landscape. This part of the world has, over the past 10-15 years, witnessed increased participation in the practice of illuminating the exterior of houses and gardens with Christmas lights. This has been seen as one of the many Christmas practices which the Irish and the British have adopted from the North Americans. In the Republic of Ireland, the adoption of Christmas lights can be linked to the display-of-wealth and neighbourly-competitiveness that accompanied the Celtic Tiger in the 2000s.

    Based on a desire to explore the light displays in Cork and to compose a blog-post, I, along with my girlfriend (research associate), drove around the city in search of illuminations. The meandering route had vague destinations that were intermixed with random detours and wanderings. Upon the discovery of a noteworthy house – based entirely on our opinions on the richness and quantity of the displays – we slowed down, stopped momentarily and took a photo with a standard digital camera. The nature of the photos were influenced by the quality of the device, the inclement weather and the desire not to linger excessively outside private residences.

    In journeying, we speculated on the topic of Christmas lights as the focus of a PhD study, and found that with little effort a considerable range of social and cultural factors could be linked to the displays, including variation based on socio-economic areas, the meaning behind decorating a house, the influence of US American culture, any possible cluster of displays, the opinions of the owners, neighbours and passers-by, and so on. As with all good academic musing, the subject at hand was successfully related to all major social, cultural, political and economic issues, both historical and contemporary.

    A number of brief observations were made throughout the evening’s engagement with the Christmas illuminated landscape. Firstly, there did seem to be a general correlation between the displays and socio-economic areas, with working-class and lower-middle class areas having a greater number of very elaborate displays, compared to the more sombre illuminations of middle-class areas. In fact, many middle-class areas were devoid of exterior lights, although there was usually some effort an internal illumination, such as Christmas trees or candle arches in the windows. Next, there were several instances of clustering effects, with a number of houses in a row having similar types and scales of decorations – this may lead to observations of competitiveness, social norms and other factors.

    Thirdly, this is a night-time spectacle. Christmas lights and such decorations are enjoyed, consumed and noticed in the dark, while in daylight the wires are visible, the shapes obscure and the overall impression is absent. The illumination of the landscape in the dark hours of the winter symbolises the role of the festivities in Northern Europe, as the dreary night-time is transformed by the injection of complex and coloured arrangements of lights.

    Christmas Lights 12 1

    A series of rows and strings of light on a house near Ballintemple, although being an plentiful display it is still largely within the character of the house and surrounding area, as the lights are attached to the architecture features and shrubbery, thus, highlighting what is already present.

    CL 12 2

    This display near Ballinlough has additional lighted features, such as the reindeer and Santa climbing, which make it a distinct spectacle, especially as the surrounding residences mainly lack exterior illuminations.

    Cl 12 3

    The presence of candle arches in each of the windows creates a subtle Christmas display in this house near Ballyphehane. These arches, which originated in Northern European tradition, became very popular about 20 years ago, and can be found in the windows of many houses.

    CL 12 4

    A very elaborate illuminated collection covers this town house near Churchfield. The intensity of the display is emphasised by the fact that the entirety of the front of the house seems to be adorned with some feature or other. The photo captures a fraction of the sheer glow of the scene.

    CL 12 5

    The giant blow up Santa and snowman in front of this house near Ballyvolane make this a relatively unique display.

    Suggested reading: 

    Edensor and Millington (2009) ‘Illuminations, Class Identities and the Contested‘, Sociology, 43 (1), pp. 103 -121.

  • Sharing Cork

    Sharing Cork was a project I ran as an experiment for Geography Awareness Week 2012. I was interested in  developing an online project and engaging with social media.

    This year was the first time there was a Geography Awareness Week national programme being run in Ireland, with the Geographical Society of Ireland (GSI) in conjunction with the Association of Geography Teachers in Ireland (AGTI) coordinating the events. Sharing Cork was run as part of this, which assisted in its promotion.

    Sharing Cork was an online project which centred on my home city of Cork. It aimed to use social media to crowd-source contributions. I asked people to record (photo, video, audio recording, drawing etc) a part of their daily life and share it. Emphasis was put on the everyday angle behind the project.

    Participation in the project was explained as being as simple as ‘Record, Share, Enjoy’. Someone was to take a photo (or make a video, record audio, drawing or painting) of a place, activity or encounter from our daily life. Then, they shared it using  email, Twitter, Facebook, or by sharing a link from a site/page where they hosted their materials (eg. youtube, flicker, wordpress, audioboo).  Contributions were gathered, collated and shared in one place (via this site) for everyone to enjoy and hopefully learn from it.

    As well as being an interesting project for Geography Week, I intended to use it as a means of engaging with social media as a tool and to practice developing a site and online project. I consider it a success in terms of the latter motivation. I was able to use WordPress to generate a site and then link it in with social media. That link proved essential as both the Twitter and Facebook incarnations of the project generated specific interactions and contributions. The experiment with social media was limited in its impact, but nonetheless it showed the potential for the use of these platforms in research.

    Overall, I was reasonably pleased with the endeavour. The technical aspects worked, I got some contributions and I am more convinced than ever  about the growing role that social media and the web will play in research.

    The stats

    Website: It received 187 views (a unknown, but sizeable portion were from me). Monday 12th Nov was the day it received the most views, with 72 hits.

    Facebook page: 37 Likes (15 of whom are friends of mine on Facebook); the ‘Reach’, the number of individual people who have seen a post, of individual posts ranged from 0 to 43; there were 33 posts on the page, 26 of which were by me.

    Twitter: The twitter account had 43 followers, with it following 125 accounts – most followers seem to respond to being followed (especially since most were Cork-based organisations or businesses who have an interest in generating and connecting with followers). The account received 15 mentions and 19 retweets, 10 of which were by me via other accounts.

    Improvements for next year

    If I am going to do this, or something like it, next year (or in the use of websites and social media for my research), there are several lessons learnt:

    • Start early and promote in the lead up: I developed the project late, within a few days of the actual Week, and had little time to get the word out.
    • Engage with people and organisations that have strong social media presence: A retweet or a posting form the right person or organisation can have a significant impact. Also, contributions can be solicited from people or representatives directly.
    • Be persistent  In the ‘shallow’ online world, which has little memory, you need to ensure you have a continuing presence and relevance.

    Some Contributions


    Outside the Geography Building, UCC: 8am 2/11/12

    The WWI Memorial monument, South Mall, on 11th November, shortly before the commemoration event.

    St Finbarre’s Cathedral at night. While it looks beautifully lit here, one person I know who lives close finds the constant yellow glow in the sky a disturbance… (Courtesy of S. O’Connor).

    Foggy Cork, Glucksman Gallery, UCC (7.56am 15/11/12). It’s one of those foggy mornings that completely transforms the landscape, even in the city. While UCC is, in places, a green oasis within the city, this part of its character is emphasised in the fog, when visibility is limited. In the closeness of the fog everything seems quiet and isolated.

    Afternoon tea in the The Montenotte Hotel #gaw #sharingCork (Courtesy of M. Murphy).