Over centuries the river Lee has been an integral part of Cork’s development with merchant traders taking advantage of the world’s second deepest natural port to bring opportunity and prosperity to the region.
In present day Cork it is clear that relationship with the river is much changed.
It is clear to that the river will change in the years ahead.
In recent months the OPW’s Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme has sparked much controversy with plans for new raised walls to replace the existing railings and cut quay stones in many places.
With those changes very much in mind we have created the following following video and series of photo blends, mixing new and archive photographs taken from the Irish Examiner files, in the hope that they will provide for posterity a true sense of the river’s development over time.
Fitzgerald Park, 1936 & 1937 and modern day:
The park has been a place of sanctuary for Corkonians for over a century. Bordered on one side by the river, its beautifully maintained gardens offer great views up and down the Lee as it flows below Sunday’s Well. Under the current OPW proposals, a raised soil bank and glass walls on the river side will restrict views and take from the park’s sense of openness and natural beauty.
Lapp’s Quay, 1949 and modern day:
Here, we see the ship ‘Sarabande’ which was carrying Baltic refugees who had fled northern Europe during World War 2 across the Atlantic to Canada. Also in the picture is the Cork Custom House, behind Suttons Coal Office, which still in existence today. In recent decades, Suttons building was demolished to make way for the new City Quarter Office which once housed the Irish Examiner and Evening Echo offices.
Morrison’s Island, 1953 and modern day:
Here we see an old photograph of the Cork College of Commerce building next to Moores Hotel. People were able to stroll along the river back then but today, cars are parked all along the river side of the road.
Many new developments have sprung up here since 1953 with new apartments on Morrison’s Island and the exceptional Cork School of Music across the river on Union Quay. Looking ahead, planning permission has been granted to demolish the old Brooks builder’s providers building at the Union Quay side of South Terrace.
North Mall, 1934 and modern day:
There are few places better to take a walk in Cork than along the North Mall. Not much has changed here over the last few decades. As you stroll past the historic Georgian buildings, you’ll see the wonderful green iron railings produced only a kilometer away at the Robert Merrick Iron Works on Parnell Place over a century ago. The large elm trees offer cool shade and are a fantastic sight on a sunny day.
Under the OPW’s flood relief scheme, the railings will be kept but will be reinstalled as a barrier between the road and the footpath. A concrete wall will then be built on the river side of the footpath where the railings are today. The mature trees on North Mall will also be removed and will be replaced with younger ones.
Union Quay, 1934 and modern day:
No longer can a boat the size of the Duke of Devonshire (pictured) make their way up to Union Quay due to the immovable Parnell Bridge, but the area still has a strong relationship with the river today. There are a lot more cars parked on the quay today than there was in 1934, but wide footpaths, trees, bars, and cafes make it a more friendly pedestrian environment than when shipping and industry were big here.
To the left of the picture, the dome of City Hall can be seen under construction and surrounded by scaffolding. Today, the Elysian Tower and the One Albert Quay developments dominate the cityscape from this vantage point.
Words, video and pictures: Kevin O’Brien and digital desk