Tag Archives: Cork

Iowa’s first execution: The shameful story of Peg-leg O’Conner

When the state of Iowa is mentioned most people think of rolling prairies, but the history of this part of the ‘American Heartland’ also has an Irish hue to it. In the nineteenth century many Irish worked the coal mines scattered throughout the region which acted as fuel stations for the rapidly spreading railroad network. Even before the railroads stretched across the continent there were important lead mines being worked near the frontier town of Dubuque. Linked to the early history of Dubuque was the story of a Cork-born amputee named Patrick O’Conner who worked in the mines and who happens to be recorded as the first execution in the history of the state of Iowa in 1834.[1] Of course at the time Iowa was neither a state nor did it have the judicial authority to sentence a man to death. So, why exactly was a one-legged Cork miner killed in 1834 in Iowa?

O’Conner’s earliest recorded misfortune occurred travelling to Galena, Illinois on a riverboat. He fractured one of his legs in some unexplained accident and the injury was serious enough that the leg had to be amputated. Some locals in Galena sympathized with O’Conner’s predicament and organized a collection to buy him a wooden leg and to pay the doctor’s bills, but their goodwill soured when O’Conner ‘begun to display a brawling and quarrelsome disposition’.[2] If it is difficult to imagine fighting a peg-legged Corkman, we can at least imagine that this disposition might have resulted from his despondence over the loss of his leg and a probable increase in alcohol consumption either for the pain or the anguish. Perhaps the man had always had a ‘quarrelsome disposition’ that rubbed people the wrong way.

Eventually the townspeople of Galena drove him out of the town after two incidences involving a local merchant named John Brophy. Apparently O’Conner had shot at Brophy through a window and then Brophy said he saw O’Conner intentionally set fire to his own cabin, causing serious damage to the surrounding buildings.[3] It seems O’Conner had some sort of financial difficulties with the store owner, but we have such limited information on the episode the exact details of what happened are somewhat obscured. In 1833 O’Conner fled to the lead mines of Dubuque and entered a partnership with another Irishman, George O’Keaf [sic]. The pair shared a small wooden hut without incident for a year and then on 19 May 1834, in what seems to have been an unfortunate accident, O’Conner shot O’Keaf when he tried to force his way into their locked cabin returning from work.

Another miner who accompanied O’Keaf back to his cabin offers us the only account of what happened and tells us that O’Keaf asked to be let in and O’Conner replied ‘Don’t be in a hurry I’ll open it when I get ready’.[4] A few minutes passed and as it had started to rain O’Keaf tried to enter by breaking the lock on the door and O’Conner shot him. The fatal shooting appears to have been a tragic misunderstanding. O’Conner appears to have mistakenly believed that it was someone from Galena, possibly Brophy, trying to kill him. O’Keaf was a young and popular 22-year-old miner and O’Conner proved spectacularly unrepentant and stubborn. When people arrived on the scene and asked why he had shot him he replied with a glib ‘That is my business’.[5] His stubbornness continued at the impromptu ‘trial’ in Dubuque and when asked to select his counsel said, ‘Faith, and I’ll tind [sic] to my own business’. Later when asked if innocent or guilty he said, ‘I’ll not deny that I shot him, but ye have no laws in the country, and cannot try me’.[6] Legally speaking O’Conner was entirely correct; federal law did not yet extend into the newly acquired territory and the Governor of Missouri rejected any responsibility for the trial saying it should take place in a court that had legal standing in the neighboring state of Illinois. However, in previous cases men sent to trial in Illinois were released because the crime had taken place outside the state’s jurisdiction. This contributed to the decision to unofficially try O’Conner in Iowa where the jury found him guilty.[7]  In this way it seems that O’Conner was sentenced to hang because he served to purpose of advertising to the wider community that Dubuque was a town that would not let the law get in the way of some harsh summary ‘justice’.

The arrival of a priest, Rev. Fitzmaurice, from Galena further ratcheted up the tense atmosphere in the town. He strongly denounced the trial as ‘illegal and unjust [sic]’ after which the sizable Irish Catholic presence in Dubuque ‘became cool on the subject and… intended to take no further part in the matter’.[8] Strangely, even though the account in the Annals of Iowa states that the jury had set the execution for 20 June 1834, commenting on the crowd, it states:

Up to this we did not believe that O’Conner would be executed. It was in the power of the Rev. Mr. Fitzmaurice to save him, and he was anxious to do so. Had he appealed to the people in a courteous manner, and solicited his pardon upon the condition that he would leave the country, we confidently believe that they would have granted it; but he imprudently sought to alienate the feelings of the Irish people from the support of an act of public justice, which they, in common with the people of the mines, had been endeavoring to consummate. This had the effect of closing the avenues to any pardon that the people might have previously been willing to grant (emphasis added).[9]

It is obvious here that the writer of this historical account realized the contradiction in telling the tale of Iowa’s first execution. The sentence was neither legal nor deserved. Why exactly would anyone believe that O’Conner might not be executed after receiving that sentence and, more importantly, why would the tone of the priest’s appeals matter one way or the other? The writer tries to shift the blame from the people involved in the trail to the priest. A direct appeal to the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, to clarify whether the townspeople of Dubuque had the right to sentence this man to die returned a response validating O’Conner’s position and stating that the laws of the United States did not yet apply to the new territories. Even this statement did not shift the determination of Dubuque’s leaders to kill O’Conner and the President in his reply perhaps sensed their bloodlust as he ended his letter with the statement that ‘he thought the pardoning power was invested in the power that condemned’, indicating his hope that the people of Dubuque would show mercy.[10]

This was not to be the case though and whether or not poor O’Conner’s Irishness had played a part in his death sentence, it was about to play a part in shortening his life quite dramatically when:

A few days before the execution, a rumor got afloat that a body of two hundred Irishmen were on their way from Mineral Point, intending to rescue O’Conner on the day of execution. Although this report proved not to be founded in truth, it had the effect of placing the fate of O’Conner beyond the pardoning control of any power but force.[11]

An armed mob of townspeople, moved by their enthusiasm for the execution and fearful that their prize might be snatched from their grasp, decided to lynch O’Conner rather than keep him in jail or give him an official trial in another state. As O’Conner was driven in a cart to the gallows the priest consoled him, offering him confession and last rites while the crowd shouted obscenities at the pair. A fife played the ‘Dead March’ and over one thousand spectators watched the hanging, after which a public collection was taken to pay for costs of execution, the coffin, and the burial.[12] Sympathetic contemporary newspapers and historical accounts detail the event and other vigilante lynchings throughout the American West with a thin veil of legality and solemnity in their efforts to legitimise their actions. In reality these executions served dual purposes as both perverse forms of entertainment for some and as a form of intimidation for others.[13]

After the account of the execution of O’Conner in the Annals of Iowa the writer sought to assuage any concerns by ending with the following lines: ‘Immediately after this, many of the reckless and abandoned outlaws, who had congregated at the Dubuque Mines, began to leave for sunnier climes. The gleam of the Bowie knife was no longer seen in the nightly brawls of the street, nor dripped upon the sidewalk the gore of man; but the people began to feel more secure in the enjoyment of life and property.’[14] Strange justification for executing a man because of, what was by all accounts, an accidental shooting. Perhaps the real goal of the execution was to send a strong message to the Irish community, as well as the wider public, that some influential townspeople had the power to execute anyone who committed a crime in their town. It was a lesson that would be repeated against a wide range of ethnic groups throughout the nineteenth century across the vast expanses of the United States.


[1] Eliphalet Price, ‘Trial and Execution of Patrick O’Conner’, Annals of Iowa, (State Historical Society, Iowa City, 1865), Vol. III-V, pp. 566-74.

[2] Ibid. p. 567.

[3] In another of the firsts for Iowa, an Irishman named Nicholas Carroll was apparently the first person to unfurl the Star Spangled Banner in the region in 1834. Ibid. p. 528.

[4] Ibid. p. 568.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. p. 569. The Jury was composed of six Americans, three Irishmen, one English, one French and one Scottish man.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid. p. 570. This aspect of O’Conner’s execution tends to be ignored in accounts, for example when the Iowa Recorder detailed the historic event in the run up to the tenth execution in Iowa. See Iowa Recorder, 7 March 1923.

[9] Price, ‘Trial and Execution of Patrick O’Conner’, p. 570.

[10] Ibid. p. 571.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. pp. 572-3.

[13] Regarding a similar incident, Frank Fargo wrote in the Daily Alta California of the Vigilance Committee hanging of James P. Casey in 1856, ‘the whole living throng moved forward with scarcely an audible voice, save that of the officers in command. A solemnity and stillness pervaded the whole party that at once was significant of the might and power in those brave hands’. Frank Fargo, A True and Minute History of the Assassination of James King of William, and the Execution of Casey and Cora (Whitton, San Francisco, 1858); David Goodman, Gold Seeking: Victoria and California in the 1850s (Stanford University Press, Stanford), p. 95-6.

[14] Price, ‘Trial and Execution of Patrick O’Conner’. pp. 573-4.

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Jewish Waterford, 1893-1940

Cormac Ó’Gráda’s book Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce, was a ground-breaking work for looking at religious and ethnic minorities in Ireland historically. I recently heard Ó’Gráda speaking as part of the UCC Historical Society’s History Week. Ó’Gráda spoke about the potential of the 1901 and 1911 census, especially in relation to the study of minorities in Irish life from that period. With that in mind, and following on from some tentative work which I had done for my PhD thesis, I’ve decided to sketch a portrait of Waterford’s Jewish community from the end of nineteenth century up to the beginning of the Second World War.

The Beginnings of the Jewish Community in Waterford

According to Louis Hyman, in his history of Irish Jewry up to 1910, ‘At the close of the seventeenth century, the Council of the Waterford Corporation encouraged the settlement of foreign merchants.’ One man who applied to trade freely in the city was Jacob Nunes who was given the freedom of the city to conduct trade in 1701.[1] Thus Nunes has a fair claim to being Waterford’s first Jewish settler. Again, Hyman notes that ‘individual Jews resided in Waterford in the eighteenth century, and some were there in 1805, one of them, surely Josias Jacob, registered with the Dublin Goldsmith’s Company in 1809. About the middle of the nineteenth century, the grandparents of the late Professor James Desmond Bernal settled in the town.’[2] According to the census of 1871, there was still only a solitary Jew in Waterford, however that was all about to change. With the introduction of what are popularly known as the May Laws, many Jews in Tsarist Russia made their way to Britain and Ireland. As Hyman notes, this movement of Jews from what was sometimes called Russian Poland, and Lithuania, had the effect ultimately of strengthening the communities of Jewish settlers in places other than in Dublin and Belfast.[3]

One of the earliest mentions of the new Jewish community in Waterford comes from 1893 with the death of Joseph Diamond at the age of 68, who lived on 8 Manor Street in the city centre, a street in Waterford that would in time form a central part of the Jewish community in the city.[4] Many of the Jews then settled in Waterford were Welsh, and were part of the Jewish community in Britain that were middle-class emigrants from Central Europe, what were known in Ireland as “English Jews”. The lives of these Jewish people were in stark contrast to those who would come to make up the bulk of Britain, Ireland, and Waterford’s Jewish communities in time, those fleeing pogroms and persecution in Russia.

Shortly after the death notice of Joseph Diamond, the Jewish Chronicle noted that a congregation had been established in the city, with Mr R Smullian as president, and so prayers were held for the  Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, for probably the first time in Waterford’s history.[5] A year later, the Jewish Chronicle again mentioned the new congregation noting that:

Mr and Mrs Goldring presented a Scroll of the Law to the newly-established congregation. In the evening they gave a party to which every Jewish resident of Waterford was invited. Mr M. Simon presided  and great satisfaction was expressed by the Chairman, Mr Hanasan[sic], President of the congregation, Mr R. Smullian, Mr Levy, Mr Diamond and others at the formation of the congregation.[6]

With the congregation up and running in Waterford city, the Jewish community there could do perform rites of their faith in their new home, rather than travelling to other cities in Ireland with synagogues. The development of the congregation breathed life into the city’s Jewish community and it wasn’t long before the city saw its first Jewish wedding, something which attracted a great deal of interest from Waterford people generally:

On Wednesday 14th inst the first Jewish wedding that has been solemnised in Waterford took place in the synagogue 88 the Manor. The couple were Miss Fanny Diamond and Mr Jack Lappin. The ceremony was performed by Rev J. E. Myers of Cork assisted by the local minister Rev Simon Aarons. The wedding created a great deal of interest  in Waterford and the synagogue was filled with Christians. Rev J. E. Myers  preached on Sabbath morning and also at a special service on Sunday evening, the latter attended by several Christians. Mr Goldring, President, and his wife have made handsome presents to the synagogue. Mr Robinson is Treasurer and Mr J. Levy is Hon Sec.[7]

The development of the community was of interest in particular to JE Myers, who ministered to the Cork congregation, and who visited Waterford on a number of occasions.[8] The community was growing in strength and in no time, there was a plan to open a Hebrew School in the city.[9] As the Jewish community grew and developed, children were born into families in Waterford, like the Sherowitz family. The progress of the community in Waterford was followed closely by the Jewish Chronicle, and many notices, no matter how small, relating to the city’s community, appeared throughout its pages. And so we know that some of the members of Waterford’s Jewish community got involved in politics, like Harris Sherowitz who sent a letter to John Redmond MP on the Aliens Act in 1905, signed by many, in the hopes that he would seek amendments to it. There was a significant difference between the size of the community in 1901 and by 1911. The interwar period was the peak of the Jewish community in Waterford, built as it was by the community that had developed and was captured in the census of 1911. Waterford’s Jewish community was at its most numerous in the city then: there were around 62 Jewish people in Waterford at that date. It was never bigger, before or since. While these numbers obviously pale in their significance when placed next to the Jewish communities of Dublin, Cork or Limerick, nevertheless the Jewish community in Waterford left their mark on the city. These maps show where Waterford’s Jewish community settled in the city (click images to enlarge them):

Fig. 1: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1901

Fig. 1: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1901

As you can see from Fig. 1 above, the very small community that existed in 1901, was centred in the main around John Street and Manor Street. This concentration would remain in 1911, as you can see from Fig.2, below:

Fig. 2: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1911

Fig. 2: Jewish Settlement in Waterford, 1911

To get the full effect, Fig.3 below shows both the 1901 and 1911 settlements overlaid on each other:

Fig.3: 1901 and 1911 Jewish Settlement in Waterford, overlaid on each other.

Fig.3: 1901 and 1911 Jewish Settlement in Waterford, overlaid on each other.

These few streets then, encompassed Waterford’s Jewish community until the beginning of the Second World War.

The Figure of the ‘Jewman’ in Popular Imagination and Memory in Waterford

Once the community strengthened, and became a more visible presence in the city, centred as it was around John Street and Manor Street, the figure of the ‘Jewman’, in that peculiar Irish turn of phrase, was a figure of curiosity and later, folk memory. In Waterford a song was sung called ‘The Jewman’, and according to Dermot Power was popular at one time with workers in Denny’s Bacon curing factory back in the late 1920s and 1930s, when the community was at its height. If as Hyman’s history of the Jews in Ireland has it ‘they knew no trade but peddling’, a fact contested in Ó’Gráda’s work, then this aspect of Irish Jewry is well summed up in the opening verses of ‘The Jewman’:

 At the top of town, Anne Street, a lady does dwell,

Her name I won’t mention, I dare not tell,

One cold winter’s morning the Jewman did call,

And unslung his bag outside of the hall.

He knocked at the door with his usual grin,

Saying good morning, missus, is your husband within

Says she no he’s not I want nothing today,

Ah take something said the Jewman don’t send me away.[10]

In the song, the woman takes some blankets on the promise of payment the following week, and duly the following week no payment is forthcoming, so the Jewman makes a grab for his goods, is hit over the head with a can by the woman before both are brought before a court, the song finishing with the testimony of ‘a big red nosed Bobby’ and a suitably amdmonished Jewman:

Said the Jew oh your Worship my poor head is sore,

And I’ll never go look for me wool anymore.[11]

As Cormac Ó’Gráda notes of such songs, and this particular one seems to have existed in a variety of versions Dublin as well, were indicative of views among Irish people that were ‘more xenophobic than strictly Anti-Semitic.’ Indeed, he contends that ‘the outlook of most Irish people of all persuasions was blinkered, parochial, and prejudiced by today’s standards.’[12] Such was the power over the local imagination of this figure, the ‘Jewman’, that one of Waterford’s lanes, Kneeff’s Lane, was popularly known as ‘Jewman’s Lane’. Indeed, the popular folk memory of the ‘Jewman’ and ‘Jewman’s Lane’ were revisited in a recent documentary about the Barrack Street area in the heart of Waterford city (the relevant segment is from 36:00 to 38:45):

As we’ve seen, the first Jewish marriages and other occasions were of deep interest to many locals, and something of this interest first present in the 1890s remained in the 1930s, as when the Munster Express carried a small notice relating to the Jewish Day of Atonement in September 1931.[13] Members of Waterford’s Jewish community found themselves in court on occasion, and in a rare display of anti-Semitism, a local District Court judge told a member of the family that he should count himself lucky, given what was happening to his people in Hitler’s Germany, though many rushed to defend the judge saying his comments were not meant in such a way.[14] There was also this joke which appeared in the pages of the Munster Express:

Munster Express, June 26 1936

Munster Express, June 26 1936

Still, whether this properly reflects the relationship between the Jewish community and their hosts is difficult to ascertain for certain, perhaps like the figure of the ‘Jewman’ this was more parochial than anti-Semitic. One of the more unusual stories involving Ireland’s Jewish community and Waterford comes from the late 1930s as well. Frank Edwards, a member of the Communist Party of Ireland and rugby player with Waterford City RFC and teacher in Mount Sion, took a leave of absence from his teaching duties in the school to join the International Brigade  to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War. Upon returning, Edwards was refused his old job and barred from teaching in any Catholic school. Rev. Herzog, the Chief Rabbi in Ireland, gave Edwards a job teaching in Zion Schools, recently established on Bloomfield Avenue in Dublin, where Edwards would work for the next thirty years.[15]

The legacy of Waterford’s Jewish Community

Ray Rivlin’s Jewish Ireland: A Social History, contains a chapter on sport and entertainment.[16] The chapter opens with the story of Maurice Woolfson, a Jewish Waterford man who led local club Evergreen, when they achieved great victory on the field in the 1930s. The Woolfson name is an important one in the early history of Waterford soccer. Isaac Woolfson, was in the 1930s, chairman of the Waterford and District Association Football League and a key figure in establishing the first Employer’s League in 1931, forerunner to the factory leagues. Like many of the figures explored in Anthony Clavane’s Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?, men like Isaac, Maurice and later ‘Duffy’ Woolfson, emigrant Jews from the poor edges of Russia, who were not of the middle-class “English Jew” origins of earlier Jews in Waterford, used sport, and soccer in particular as a means of integration and acceptance. Cormac Ó’Gráda, discussing the wide variety of sporting and other bodies established by Ireland’s Jewish community noted that success in the sporting arena ‘fostered communal pride’ but he also noted that it wasn’t long before many Irish Jews, and the membership of their sports clubs, moved beyond the community itself. [17]In 1938, with Maurice Woolfson as chairman, Evergreen won the FAI Minor Cup, beating Sligo United 2-1 in a game held at Kilcohan Park in the city. On his leaving for Dublin 1940, the loss was lamented by all involved in the club.

The Woolfson family dispersed from Waterford but returned in 1971 for the inauguration of the Maurice Woolfson Perpetual Challenge Trophy for the local Schoolboy League at half time during a League of Ireland game between Waterford and Finn Harps. However, as was noted by a journalist at the time, the contribution of the Woolfson family to Waterford soccer amounted to a lot more than just a silver trophy, ‘no matter how magnificent’.[18] The same might be said of the entire Jewish community, who breathed life into the streets on which they lived in Waterford, leaving a long lasting impression on the city and its people.


[1] Hyman, Louis, The Jews of Ireland: From Earliest Times to the year 1910, Shannon: Irish University Press 1972, p.22

[2] Hyman, The Jews of Ireland, p.79

[3] Hyman, The Jews of Ireland, p156 and 161

[4] Jewish Chronicle, 1 September 1893

[5] Jewish Chronicle, 22 September 1893

[6] Jewish Chronicle, 20 October 1894

[7] Jewish Chronicle, 23 November 1894

[8] Jewish Chronicle, 27 March; 17 July 1896

[9] Jewish Chronicle, 6 November 1896

[10] Power, Dermot, The Ballads and Songs of Waterford from 1487, Waterford: Munster Express 1992, pp.10-11

[11] Power, Ballads and Songs of Waterford, p.11

[12] Ó’Gráda, Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce: A Socio-economic history, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2006, p.180

[13] Munster Express, September 25 1931

[14] Munster Express, Septembr 27 1935

[15] Rivlin, Ray, Ireland: A Social History, Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2011, p.110

[16] Rivlin, Ray, Jewish Ireland, pp.209-210

[17] Ó’Gráda, Jewish Ireland, pp.186-187

[18] Munster Express, April 23 1971

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Filed under Irish History, Memory, Nineteenth Century, Social History, Spanish Civil War, Sports History, Twentieth Century

My house in history, 1882-1945

For the past number of years, I have lived on Friar Street in Cork. The row of houses, according to a foundation stone near my door, were built in 1882. Inspired a little by the MyHomesPast project in Britain, I decided to take a look at the history of my particular house since it was first built. Using old street directories and the online censuses of 1901 and 1911, I found an interesting story of several different families.

One of the earliest mentions I can find of my current house comes from the Guy’s Cork Directory for 1893, which lists a man by the name of John Driscoll as the occupant, making him more than likely the first resident of the house. It is difficult to be sure just who John Driscoll was, since by 1901, he had moved, and in the immediate vicinity there were three John Driscolls living on James Square, St. Finbarr’s Terrace and Tower Street.

1901

According to the 1901 census the family living in my house were the Pollocks. The head of the family, William, was then 40 years old. Originally from Newry, Co. Antrim, William was a book binder by trade and at that time he was one of about roughly forty or so  people plying their trade with the bookbinders in the city. He was a member of the Cork Typographical Society and later the Cork Trades Council.

His wife, Kate, who was nine years younger than her husband, was originally from London. They married some time in 1892.There were then four children in the family – one girl and three boys. Jane, the eldest of the children was then 6; William, the next child was 4, with the two younger boys, John and James, aged just 2 and 1 years old respectively. William’s religion was listed as being Church of Ireland, although his wife Kate was listed as being a Catholic. As a result, all four children were also being raised as Catholics, as was the custom then in Ireland.

1911

Ten years later, there were new residents in the house.  This time, the residents were the Hawkes family. In 1901, the Hawkes had been the next door neighbours of the Pollock family. In 1901, Richard Hawke, an iron moulder, was forty-three, just three years older than his neighbour William Pollock. The changeover had taken place some time between 1901 and 1907, since according to the Guy’s Cork Directory for 1907, Richard Hawkes and his family had already made the move next door. Richard’s wife was Catherine, then 36 years old. They had two children, two daughters: Annie who was twelve and Gertrude who was just six, the same age as neighbouring Jane Pollock. Some time in the interim, tragedy struck the Hawkes family, and Catherine had passed away. Interestingly, in the new segment on Return Form ‘A’, where the details of the length of the marriage and the details of the children produced by the marriage could be entered, the figures seem to have been entered initially, only to have then been scratched over so as to be illegible.

Richard’s two daughters still lived with him and Annie, now 22, was apparently unemployed, although her younger sister Gertrude was working as a dress maker, while Richard (now apparently 56 – possibly to avail sooner of the new pension which had been introduced in 1908) was still working as an iron moulder.

The Pollock family had moved only a number of streets away, to a house on Mary Street. Intriguingly, William Pollock was now listed not as a member of the Church of Ireland, but rather as a Presbyterian. By 1911, their had been an addition to the Pollock family, four-year-old Gerard. The two eldest children, Jane and William, were working by then. Jane, 16, is listed as being a draper’s shop girl, while young William, just 14, was also apprenticed to a draper.

Future Years

Richard Hawkes was still living in the house on Friar Street in 1925, according to Guy’s Cork Directory for that year, and the house was valued at £6. His old neighbour, William Pollock, was also still living at his house in Mary Street, a house according to the same directory valued at some £19, although this house was in fact one house split into two, an early sign of its later life as a tenement building in the 1940s. By 1930, however the house on Friar Street was in the hands of one of Richard Hawkes’ daughters, since Guy’s Cork Directory for that year lists the occupant as Mrs. Hawkes, who was still residing in the house by 1945. As for the house in Mary Street, William was still listed as the principal occupant in 1930 although the house was in the hands of William’s daughter Jane by 1935, suggesting that like his old neighbour Richard, he too had passed away and a chapter of the history of my house on Friar Street had come to an end.

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The Cork International Car Race, May 1937

I have posted here before about early motor racing in Tramore, Waterford, but today I am going to take a quick look at the Cork Car Race, an international motor racing contest that took place in Cork in May 1937.

My interest on this occasion is less to do with the races themselves or how they came about but rather their popular reception and the way in which they were reported on. I encountered this motor race while doing other research in the Cork City Library’s Local Studies Room. I was trawling through the microfilm of the Evening Echo, Cork’s long-running evening daily, when I happened upon the Cork Car Race and the extensive coverage afforded it by the Echo. Two things in particular struck me about the coverage of the race. One was the employment in the newspaper of photographs, cartoons and even the advertisements in the issue of the paper covering the Race.

Photographs of the racers in their cars abounded, but more strikingly, there was a cartoon and one particular advertisement that showed perfectly the cross-section between major sporting events of this kind, commercialism and popular entertainment at that time. And so, first to the cartoon:

 

The cartoon depicts a disgruntled fisherman whose weekend leisure has been disrupted by the noise and pageantry of the big event, the Cork Car Race. Clearly, such novel sporting events were not to everyone’s taste!

Secondly, there was this advertisement:

Source: Evening Echo, May 22 1937

Source: Evening Echo, May 22 1937

Anyone who knows Cork, knows that Tanora holds a special place in the hearts of many Cork people. Here we see the company cleverly employing ad copy to capitalise on the novelty of the Cork Car Race. This shows brilliantly the intersection between sport and commercialism that had become so developed in the interwar period (the Evening Echo of this period is equally full of cigarette and drink advertisements showing hurlers, footballers, tennis players and jockeys among other things).[1] It may be the case that the ad was used before or since, but the timing of the ad in this particular edition of the Evening Echo in which about a quarter of the paper was given over to the Cork Car Race is especially remarkable.

As with the races that had taken place earlier in the decade in Tramore, the speed and excitement was the main draw for the many spectators, and the Evening Echo reported crashes and even stories of cars catching fire in great depth, the crash of Bira (Birabongse Bhanudej), Prince of Siam, being of special interest. Most of the scrapes were fairly tame in reality, however one driver from England, Cyril Mervyn White, who only weeks previously had come inside the top 10 in a race in Britain in his Bugatti, ended up in the Mercy Hospital following a crash during a time trial and later died from his injuries.[2]

The race was a major international event, the second of its kind in Cork, even  being the subject of a British Pathé newsreel. The race would only run one more year, in 1938, but as can be seen from these images of 1937, the Cork International Car Race was not just an exciting (or if you fancied a quiet spot of fishing, excruciating) experience, but was ripe too for commercial exploitation by local firms such as mineral water bottlers like John Daly.


[1] For a discussion of the various aspects of sport and commercialism see Collins, Tony, Sport in Capitalist Society: A Short History, London, New York: Routledge 2013; see also Collins, Tony, and Vamplew, Wray, Mud, Sweat and Beers: A Cultural History of Sport and Alcohol, Oxford: Berg, 2002

[2] Evening Echo, May 22 1937; May 26 1937

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Teddy Boy “Terrorists” & Mod Invasions: Youth sub-culture in Waterford, 1950-1985

One of the most remarkable books of Irish social history to appear in the past twelve months is Where Were You? by Garry O’Neill, a superb photographic record of youth culture and street style in our capital, Dublin, from 1950 to 2000. The various subcultures the book represents from Teddy Boys through to mods, rockers, punks and skinheads and beyond weren’t exclusively Dublin-centric developments. Although largely imports and imitations of both American and English youth subcultures, all of these were adopted by Irish teenagers and twenty-somethings, as a means of collective and individual expression of difference from their parents. These subcultures were very often also linked to violent and social criminal behaviour. Here, I’m going to take a brief look at some of those in Waterford from the 1950s to the middle of the 1980s.

The Teddy Boy, and Girl, emerged in post-war Britain, a subculture that appropriated Edwardian dress  (hence the shortening to Ted/Teddy) and subverted it through their associations with American Rock ‘n’ Roll and cemented their mythical status as troublemakers through the Blackboard Jungle and Notting Hill riots of respectively, 1956 and 1958. The style of the Teds was imported into Ireland in the same period, and caused panic akin to that in the British press.

The film in particular, so emblematic now of the Teds, was indeed popular in Waterford – being showed at regular intervals in The Coliseum (originally opened as a skating rink in 1910) cinema on Adelphi Quay from 1956-1958, but there seemed to be no desire to imitate the famed riots of their British counterparts among the youth of the south-east. One group of self-styled Teddy Boys in Waterford though in 1956 found themselves up in court for breaking and entering into various city premises and generally terrorising people on the streets; despite pleas of clemency from one of their mothers, one boy, McCarthy, was sentenced to two months in jail. The headline of the report was sensational, calling them Teddy Boy Terrorists:

teddy boys


Teddy Boys were most often referred to in Waterford in relation to more positive stories of youths – with local dignitaries and the clergy happy to be able to provide examples contrary to the behaviour of the Teddy Boys. But soon the Teddy Boys gave way to other emerging youth sub cultures in the early 1960s. Again taking their lead from their British counterparts, the mods and rockers of Ireland attracted the opprobrium of Ireland’s clerical class, as this stern warning from the Bishop of Ossory indicates:

Ossory Warning

Such fear-mongering was largely misplaced and indicative of a failure to understand that even in Ireland, now in the televisual age, would be open to much wider and disparate cultural influences, especially among the young. An article in the Munster Express of June 26, 1965 readily acknowledges this, if lamenting its impact on the fortunes of Irish language and culture by saying that ‘now we have more than Anglicisation: we now have world-wide Americanisation.” The journalist goes on to write, half-aghast, that “we hear so much about ‘Mods’ and ‘Squares’ that one cannot help wondering how certain sections of the community will be described next.” An article in the same newspaper in 1967 reporting a talk given by Frank Hall suggests that the Irish youth are becoming increasingly odd, and worse, unmanly, suggesting we institute mandatory military service in order to inculcate “general manliness and normal behaviour”, after all, he notes “there are no Beatniks or Mods in the defence forces.” But mods were such a part of Irish life by this time that Jacobs biscuits even did an ad for their Club Milk that saw bankers, mums, and Gardai, as well as too-cool-for-school mods doing the “Club Milk Kick!”

The mods gave way to various other youth subcultures in the 1970s, notably skinheads and a little later punks. There was a strong skinhead contingent in Waterford who became associated with the Waterford Football Club and who along with their Shamrock Rovers counter-parts caused serious trouble at games throughout the period:

A clipping from a Waterford FC match in 1973 that ended in a nil all draw.

A clipping from a Waterford FC match in 1973 that ended in a nil all draw poking fun at its skinhead following.

But it was in the wake of the post-punk new wave and the Mod revival led by bands like The Jam, that Waterford would see panic on the scale of the early Teddy Boy scares in the 1950s. Indeed, it was in the 1980s that what was a Mod revival for the UK, was probably the real flowering of Mod culture in Ireland, and this was strong in Dublin, Cork and Waterford especially. Tramore, the seaside town in County Waterford that we’ve seen in the past play host to motor car races, was in the early 1980s a popular rallying point for mods and scooter enthusiasts. Perhaps fearing that this would lead to an Irish version of the battle of Brighton beach, captured evocatively in the 1979 film Quadrophenia the local newspapers led with a bold headline. The Munster Express was certainly raising the alarm with this notice in June of 1983:

Mod Invasion

There appears to have been little enough to have worried about, and tellingly, the paper the following week steadfastly insisted that it was not whipping up a storm of controversy, but their ‘Invasion’ headline was based upon a reliable local Garda source. There had been a major rally in 1982, and there was certainly a crowd in 1983, but whatever the Munster Express had been expecting to happen that Whit weekend didn’t seem to!

Issue 3 of Mod revival fanzine 'Who Are You' featuring Tramore

Issue 3 of Mod revival fanzine ‘Who Are You’ featuring Tramore. Source: irishjack80s.web.com

A girl looks on at Mod revivalists in Tramore in 1982. Source: irishjacks80s.web.com

A girl looks on at Mod revivalists in Tramore in 1982. Source: irishjacks80s.web.com

Mod revivalists line up along the Prom in Tramore in 1982. Source: irishjacks80s.web.com

Mod revivalists line up along the Prom in Tramore in 1982. Source: irishjacks80s.web.com

 

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Anatomy of a Football Ground: Turner’s Cross, Cork

Our notions of what constitute a historical site can be limited, and limiting. As Shane Faherty has previously shown here on The Dustbin, landscape and memory intersect in remarkable fashions. Following on from this, I am going to consider the interaction of landscape and memory of a football ground in the heart of Cork. Since I moved to my current residence in Cork, I have been closer than ever to two of the city’s most active sports grounds – Musgrave Park, Munster’s second home and Turner’s Cross, home ground of League of Ireland football club, Cork City. Being so close to both, I take advantage regularly and watch games at both grounds. Turner’s Cross is a particularly interesting football ground so here’s a look at how the ground has changed, both physically and in usage, over the years.

OSI Historical 25" Map of Turner's Cross.

OSI Historical 25″ Map of Turner’s Cross.

There was a time, before the First World War, when to play football ‘at the Cross’ in Cork meant something rather different than it does today. Prior to the outbreak of that war, football’s home in Cork was the grounds at Victoria Cross, rather than those which are now the home of Cork City Football Club at Turner’s Cross. This ground at Victoria Cross was in use from about 1909 when a team calling themselves Cork City opened the ground – Victoria Cross would continue to be used right into the 1920s, often for big games, like when Cahir Park of Tipperary were beaten by Cork Bohemians 2-1 in front of a crowd of roughly 6,000 in the Munster Senior Cup final.

Athletics Ad, Turner's Cross from Irish Independent, September 1906

Athletics Contest, Turner’s Cross from Irish Independent, September 1906

John Bale’s work Landscapes of Modern Sport identified ten views of the sports landscape including viewing them as artifacts, history, and place. His work along with that of Simon Inglis’ on the football grounds of Britain have previously shown the deep historical layers of the football ground – as a place of history and memory in its own right as well as one that is a  part of the historical process of modernisation; you need only think of the impact on surrounding areas in the wake of a grounds’ construction. Mike Cronin and Roisín Higgins contend  that sporting grounds require a rethink with regards to heritage – its is not merely a matter of built heritage, but for many sports grounds they suggest ‘are important for the games that were played there, the historical forces that shaped them and the people who played and watched.’¹Above in the very first picture, we can see Turner’s Cross before it became a football ground, where it is simply a recreation ground with a cycling track around it. Initially it was used by rugby club, Cork Constitution, who had been founded as a cricket team for staff of the Unionist newspaper by editor Henry Laurence Tivy in 1892 and who took up rugby in the winter months to maintain their fitness. At the same time as it was being used for rugby it was also being used for GAA. For instance in 1901, the Freeman’s Journal reported of a match between Constitution and Cork on April 6th that was witnessed by some 2,000 spectators, while a Gaelic football match between two representative sides of Cork and Tipperary had been reported by the same newspaper back on January 15th the same year. It would take some time before this ground was changed into anything resembling the football ground that exists there today, before it could become the kind of football ground where in the words of JB Priestley, you pushed through the turnstiles ‘into another and altogether more splendid kind of life.’

Even after the period 1914-1921 in which the demographic make up of football in Cork changed considerably, with the haemorraghing of its military base, Turner’s Cross was not necessarily the premier soccer ground in the city – as it had been previously, it was used by a variety of sports. For example in the space of a fortnight in September of 1923 it was used, according to reports in the Irish Independent for both hurling and soccer matches.  UCC’s Mardyke grounds would for many years also be an important site of football in the city, with many clubs playing their football there, including Cork’s first League of Ireland club, Fordson’s. As it happens when this club became Cork FC in the 1930s they played games in both the Mardyke and also at Turner’s Cross.  For instance, that ground was used for a rare home international in 1939 that took place outside of Dublin, as Ireland took on Hungary. John A. Murphy notes in his history of the Mardyke, Where Finbarr Played, that football was one  sport that managed to see an interaction as it were between ‘town and gown’ when soccer was played at the Mardyke, as  when Cork’s League of Ireland sides was Cork Athletic.² As well as the Mardyke, another ground, this one in the Ballintemple area of Cork,  was also an important football ground: Flower Lodge.³

Best FL

George Best runs out for a game at Flower Lodge

Flower Lodge, at one time home to Cork Hibernians is no more, instead it it is now Pairc Uí Rinn, the second home of GAA in Cork after the much larger Pairc Uí Chaoimh and named for Cork’s most famous hurling son, Christy Ring. During the 1970s when Cork Hibs were at their height, there were two big sides in the city, the others being Cork Celtic whose home was in Turner’s Cross, who made it their home from 1959 to 1979. The new Cork club, Cork City FC founded in 1984 played their football in Flower Lodge until the owners of the ground, the AOH, sold it which saw Cork City move to Turner’s Cross in 1986.

Flower Lodge

Grounds where Flower Lodge were built on OSI 6″ Map

FL 2005

Aerial view Flower Lodge (now Pairc Uí Rinn) in 2005

Now with only one senior team playing in the League of Ireland, football in Cork did eventually settle in its home of Turner’s Cross. And so as well as being the home of Cork City FC, it is also the home of the Munster Football Association, the regional body in charge of the game in the province and organisers of the Munster Senior Cup, Munster Junior Cup and the Munster Senior League.

The turnstiles of Turner's Cross with MFA above it, before this sign was done up recently.

The turnstiles of Turner’s Cross with MFA above it, before this sign was done up recently.

Brilliant rare footage of Turner’s Cross as it was in the 1970s is available to us through In My Book We’re Ahead, an RTÉ production that followed Dublin football club, Shelbourne FC, during the 1975 season (see especially 7:00 to 10:30 in the video below):

Of course, the ground is rather different today to how it appears in the documentary and has gone through many structural changes since the early 2000s. As you can see from these two aerial shots below, even in a five year period the ground changed considerably – seating was installed in the ‘away’ end, behind the left-hand goal as we are looking at it here, and as well as the main Donie Forde stand being roofed, so too now was the smaller stand on the opposite side of the pitch, even though the ‘Shed End’ remained intact.

Aerial View of Turner's Cross in 2000

Aerial View of Turner’s Cross in 2000

Turner's Cross in 2005 before the redevelopment of the Shed End (righthand side behind goal).

Turner’s Cross in 2005 before the redevelopment of the Shed End (righthand side behind goal).

The Shed too though would change after 2005, covering as it does now the whole of that end of the ground:

Turner's Cross after redevleopment of Shed End.

Turner’s Cross after redevleopment of Shed End.

More recent improvements to the ground include the building of a roof on the away end so that now all four stands in the ground have roofs. Of course, that is only part of the story – the structural story of the grounds development from the recreational origins and its cycling track to what it is now. It has another story of development too – a more personal, qaulitative one that is harder to pin down – one of memories – of sporting triumph and tragedy which is much harder to track than any structural changes. My own memories of Turner’s Cross vary – Waterford United’s 3-2 victory over Cork City in the 2011 season stands as one of my most enduring and treasured, but I have also enjoyed many nights where I can cheer on Cork City quite untroubled by the implications, since the outcome in no way affects my support for Waterford United or their own progress in Irish football. Through this I finally understand Nick Hornby’s feelings toward football in Oxford when he was a student, away from his beloved Arsenal in Fever Pitch.

The Shed at Turner's Cross before redevelopment.

The Shed at Turner’s Cross before redevelopment.

An anatomy of a football ground is one thing from the outside and of course another from the inside – inside the ground there is on match day the colour and noise of the Shed End and the colour and noise of the Family Enclosure with their flags, trumpets, and drums, the power of the floodlights, such a feature of Irish football now, bearing down on the pitch. Turner’s Cross too has a slightly raised pitch, and slightly sank stands, so that you always feel close to the action no matter where in the ground you are. The story of Turner’s Cross and its varied usage is a perfect example of how an Irish sports grounds can offer a way into our complex historical and sporting heritage, where different sporting and political traditions were played and played out on the same blades of grass, surrounded by the same banks of earth, echoing from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first.

The Shed refurbished at Turner's Cross on match day

The Shed refurbished at Turner’s Cross on match day

_________________________________

¹ Cronin, Mike and Roisín Higgins, Places We Play: Ireland’s Sporting Heritage, Cork: The Collins Press, 2011, p.84

² Murphy, John A., Where Finbarr Played: A Concise Illustrated History of Sport in University College, Cork 1911-2011, Cork: UCC 2011, pp.100-117 for a full rundown of the links between soccer, the Mardyke and UCC.

³ For a comprehensive history of the move from Flower Lodge to Turner’s Cross see Carter, Plunkett, From the Lodge to the Box, available in the Cork City Library’s Local Studies Room.

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Those Pesky Kids! Football on the Street

This post is driven by the same impulses as those that produced my piece on fish ‘n’ chips in Ireland, which you can check out here.

The part of Cork I live in is reasonably old, with most of the houses dating from around the 1880s. The oldest houses are in terraced rows. There are plenty of children in the area, and in the good weather they can be seen out and about, playing. One particular gable end is a favoured spot of some boys to either kick a ball or hurl a sliotar at. The importance of having a gable end that can operate as a goal, or as someone to pass the ball back to you tends to be underestimated. This particular gable end is in a wide open spot near the major road artery that brings you around to all of the streets in the area. This is usually only used by maybe one or two kids at a time and rarely are full-blown matches played here.

richardmaynefootballThe iconic image to the left, taken by British photographer Roger Mayne in 1956, captures the essence of playing on the street. There was a time, before the mass provision of outdoor and indoor facilities for sport in Ireland by the local club, the local government, or private leisure companies – the field of dreams for many was the street. Often narrow, usually packed, dirty, noisy, and always hard, they saw sporting triumph and tragedy to match any of the great pantheons of modern sport. For many kids, being out on the street playing was a necessity – small, cramped housing in many of Ireland’s towns and cities invariably meant that children were more likely to be found on the relatively spacious streets as opposed to their small homes.

Not surprisingly, much of this play was not looked on too kindly by some adults, and certainly not by the police. The antagonism between ball-playing youngsters and either local residents or police, has a long established tradition in Ireland. In Dublin Tenement Life, Kevin Kearns’ excellent oral history of inner-city, working-class Dublin, a huge array of stories abound on this subject. Take for instance the testimony of Senan Finucan, a Clare native who was a policeman in the Liberties in the 1930s:

Children all in the streets playing football and handball. They shouldn’t have been but they’d just give a signal that the police are coming and they’d run. And children swinging on the lamp-posts, that was dangerous with the lorries coming along. And scutting that was highly dangerous. We always tried to prevent that.

Throughout the book there are stories from people playing in the streets, in pitch ‘n’ toss schools, keeping sketch for policemen that might be coming. Such things weren’t restricted to Dublin’s inner-city though. Way back in 1875, in Nenagh, north Tipperary, football was already popular with young boys in the area with many being brought before the Petty Sessions in order to be fined either for playing football on the street or trespassing in farmer’s fields to play games with a football.

On one occasion a total of more than thirty young boys were summoned by the court in Waterford to pay one shilling for the “nuisance” they had caused with their ball playing. He said that it was a pity there weren’t more playing pitches in the city, and thought it a good thing that the boys should be playing football, calling it a “natural” thing. The previous day he had fined two boys five shillings and warned those in front of him that future fines would be two shillings six pence.

Similar incidences happened elsewhere throughout the country, even in the county towns. In Bantry, to take another example, one boy was brought before court for kicking a football off the bonnet of a Ford car during a game in which fifteen or sixteen boys took part according to a report in the Southern Star in September 1930, while many years earlier boys near Borrisoleigh in north Tipperary were summoned to court for trespassing on a farmer’s land to play football, according to court reports in the Nenagh Guardian during August of 1909 – following in the footsteps of boys nearby back in 1875.

In 1905, a tiny notice appeared in the Limerick Leader, informing us that at the Petty Sessions recently two boys were each fined a shilling for playing football on Market Alley. And, in Derry in April 1925, a boy of 16 was fined the remarkable sum of five shillings for playing football in the street, with the magistrate quoted as complaining that it was ‘almost impossible to get walking on the footpath in some districts.’ It’s unlikely the surly magistrate had the sunny south-east in mind, but around the same time in Waterford there was much he would have recognised.  Between 1927 and 1930 especially there was a good number of cases appeared before the district court relating to young boys who had been apprehended for playing football in the street, often with broken windows becoming a problem from stray footballs.

For one journalist, this was the thin end of the wedge, writing in the Irish Independent in July 1933 that kids who are fined for playing football in the streets come ‘to treat as no more serious [the laws forbidding] street football the laws forbidding truancy and petty stealing.’ Moralistic alarmism this may well have been but remarkably, the same newspaper records an incident in Belfast where a woman, Matilda Kernaghan, 74 years of age died in hospital from shock and exhaustion. This was  following a fractured leg sustained after being knocked over by a boy during a game of football on the street in April 1937.

street footie 1

Irish Press, 19 January 1934

Only three years previously, the Irish Press reported of a near fatal game which saw two boys involved in a game brought before the circuit criminal court in Dublin, when one boy caused sever bodily harm to another he was playing against in January 1934.

In July of that same year, the Irish Press ran the story of a Dublin dressmaker who had collected some 400 footballs that had been put through her window by boys playing in the street, which a Garda cited in the case of 17 year old boy four shillings for playing football in Denmark Street. These were extreme and unusual cases, but were apt to cause panic and dismay.

street footie 2

Irish Press, 6 July 1934

Part of the problem of course was that where previously road traffic had been minimal in Ireland, it was increasingly the case that cars were on the roads. By 1940 things had reached such a pitch over this issue of playing on the streets, and the accidents it was causing that the ‘Safety First’ Association published a handbook Safety First for Children. The publication was the subject of an Irish Times article in May 1940, which threw scorn upon those parents whose children played on the streets.  Although the article acknowledges the dearth of playing spaces, nevertheless the blame lies squarely with the parents who don’t teach their children how best to behave on the roads.In Waterford, the problem had become such by the 1940s that the newspapers nonchalantly ended court reports with the topic in a careworn fashion:

The usual fines were imposed on a number of city youths charged with ball playing on the street

Highlighting a significant gap between those for whom streets were fields of play and those for whom they were to be patrolled, these stories bear out the gap between desired and actual behaviour at a time when it was deemed right and proper that children should be seen and not heard!

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