Country: Ireland (Eire)
Cork by the Numbers: Country dialing code: 353 City telephone area code: 21 Elevation: 531 feet Population: 186,239 Average January temp: 42°F (5°C) Average July temp: 59°F (15°C) Annual rainfall: 42.6 inches (108cm)
Quick reference: Time zone: GMT (GMT+1 during daylight savings) Electricity: 240 volts AC, 50Hz; English-style, square three-pin plugs are standard Currency: Euro Language: Irish (Gaelic) and English
Did you know? The name of the city stems from an Irish word meaning "marshy place" due to its location on the River Lee. Cork also has the nickname "The Rebel County" due to a history of independence from the Viking invasions to the Irish Civil War.
Orientation: The city of Cork is the principal city of Cork County, located on the Lee River near its mouth on the Cork Harbor.
The first recorded reference to Cork city can be attributed to Ptolemy. Writing in 150AD, using information received from Mediterranean ship masters, he makes mention of a town called "Ivuernis" which many believe to be the first allusion to what would in time become the modern city. In the seventh century the famous monastic settlement associated with St. Finbarr was established. This was a golden age in Cork's history and for 250 years the Abbey thrived while dignitaries and scholars from all over Europe came to learn here. Today the beauty of St Fin Barre's Cathedral and the motto of University College Cork ("Where Finbarre taught let Munster learn") are testament to the enduring legacy, both spiritual and cultural, of those times.
Invasion and Occupation
The Vikings, also referred to as Danes and Norsemen, invaded Ireland in about 820. Following their eventual defeat at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 the Norse survivors continued to live in the separate communities they had established in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford. They and their descendants became known as Ostmen from this time on. 1176 marks the beginning of the Anglo-Norman occupation. Henry II divided most of Munster among two of his men. He retained the "City of Cork" and the "Cantred of the Ostmen" for himself, exempting them from the control of his feudal lords. A wall was built up around the perimeter of the city; it remained for over five hundred years after the Norman occupation.
By the start of the 17th century, living conditions in Cork amounted almost to destitution. The defeat of the Irish at Kinsale in 1601 meant that the Crown's authority in Ireland was absolute and colonial outposts such as Cork were no longer needed. The insurrection of 1641 had further disastrous consequences for Cork's inhabitants. In 1664, many were expelled and forced to surrender their possessions and property. Some were allowed return in 1648 but another general expulsion took place in 1649 under Cromwell. To get an idea of the appearance of the city at around this time: it was described by Camden in 1586 as "of oval shape, surrounded by walls and encompassed and intersected by the river, and accessible only by rivers." It had only one straight street (now known as North Main and South Main Streets), about 690 yards long. The city was, on average, about 240 yards wide. East and West of the walls were waterways and marches. As such, most of the modern city is built on reclaimed land. Indeed, the Irish for marsh is corcach and it is from this word that the city derives its name.
The late19th century was a period of great rural instability with impoverished families being evicted in their thousands and the agitators committing vicious reprisals on extortionist Landlords and their agents. Eventually a leader emerged who inspired all of the Nationalist movements to work together in a peaceful pragmatic way—his name was Charles Stewart Parnell. Parnell was elected MP for Cork in 1880. Parnell's Nationalist Party made significant progress towards achieving its goal of Home Rule for Ireland, but Parnell's own career was cut short by an extra-marital scandal (the "Kitty O'Shea Affair") and the fragmentation of the Nationalist movement began again. Dubliner Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Fein as a monarchist party which envisaged a future for Ireland whereby an Irish parliament would have more power than mere Home Rule but would still retain the British monarch as head of state.
The policies of Sinn Fein changed radically when men like Padraig Pearse joined, young members who wanted nothing less than an independent self-sufficient Gaelic state. It remained a fringe movement until after the 1916 rising when the British authorities executed many of its members. In Cork the Lord Mayor Tomas MacCurtain was shot dead at home in Blackpool in front of his wife by a party of armed men, their faces blackened. MacCurtain's deputy Terence MacSwiney was made Mayor—also a Commander in the IRA he was arrested on August 20th 1920 by the crown forces for being in possession of a police cipher and two documents "likely to cause offence to his Majesty". He went on hunger strike in protest at the continuing arrest of democratically elected public representatives. MacSwiney was then transported to Brixton Gaol, where his hunger strike and subsequent death attracted worldwide attention. In Brazil alone some 300,000 Catholics petitioned the Pope to intervene on his behalf. Less than two months after MacSwiney's death, Cork was all but destroyed by the Black and Tans. This special force made up mainly of young unemployed soldiers, were stationed in Ireland to assist the police in maintaining law and order. They laid waste to St Patrick's Street; 21 shops were completely destroyed and another 44 were burned to the ground. The total damage was estimated to be £3 million.
The opening in 2000 of the Jack Lynch Tunnel at the city's limits (travelers to West Cork can now bypass the city-center) has meant that the amount of traffic through the city has been greatly reduced. This is very important as it paves the way for the redevelopment of Cork's main thoroughfare, St Patrick's Street. Architect and designer Beth Gali, whose most famous project was the transformation of central Barcelona prior to the Olympics, has been commissioned to oversee the operation. Proposals include the widening of the paths and the installation of new streetlights (designed specifically for this project and named "Sarah"). Furthermore, it's possible that Oliver Plunkett Street will soon be made pedestrian.
The last year has also seen two of the city's most important institutions undergoing major structural changes. The Crawford Art Gallery has added a, not uncontroversial, new wing to house contemporary art exhibitions. The Dutch architect, Erick van Egeraat, designed it: apparently local architects were dismayed at the gallery's decision not to award them the commission, Cork's significant ties to the Netherlands were obviously lost on them. In the 18th century the city was awash with Dutch merchants, and the Mardyke on the south side of the city was named in memory of their beloved Meer Dyke in Amsterdam. The bow-fronted houses throughout the city also highlight this mutual heritage.
The Cork Opera House has also been given a much-needed facelift. Although the addition of a few windows to the barren north-wall has made little difference, the front of the building can now be photographed without any immediate danger to sensitive lenses. The erection of a massive electronic advertising screen and a large Toyota ad, however, ensure that there is still work to be done. The movement of the Vangard Gallery from Macroom, and the opening of the Fenton Gallery have further bolstered the burgeoning art scene in the city.