One of Ireland’s great hotels has issued a public appeal for help to celebrate its 120th anniversary this summer.
The landmark Metropole Hotel in Cork, which was, until the mid 1950s, known as Ireland’s finest “dry hotel”, is now the spiritual home of the Cork Jazz Festival and is considering further expansion.
It has invited people to share their own special memories of the hotel over the decades.
“The memories can be from events held at the hotel, weddings, jazz memories or any stories of nostalgia,” a spokesperson said.
“The best entry will receive a complimentary family gathering for 30 guests and an overnight stay for two on the night of the anniversary function.
“They will also receive an invitation to celebrate at the exclusive party that will be held in June at the hotel.”
The Met was opened in 1897 and was owned by the Musgraves.
The property on MacCurtain Street was designed by architect Arthur Hill and built by John Delaney & Co Builders to the highest standards and opulence of the day, with most of its early guests being travelling salesmen and businessmen.
The hotel occupied the upper floors of the building with the ground floor and basement let out for retail, with two shops on either side of the main entrance - including the famous Turkish Delight sweet shop, ‘Hadji Bey’, run by Harutan Batmazian who had arrived in Cork from Armenia in 1903 and who had his own sweet stall at the Great Exhibition in Cork.
Lawson’s Outfitters occupied another unit and the name can still be seen over the shop door today.
Edward VII is reputed to have had tea on the roof of the Metropole when he visited Cork in 1903 for the city’s Great Exhibition, and other famous guests included Gregory Peck, James Mason, Frank O’Connor, John Steinbeck, John Huston and Walt Disney.
In the 1930s and the early 40s, the hotel was run by Jimmy Musgrave, who was the president of the Irish Rugby Football Union, and after whom Musgrave Park was named.
Douglas Vance was appointed hotel manager in 1944 and is credited with transforming its fortunes.
However, he made headlines around the world when he refused a request from the 1950s British film star, Dawn Adams, who was a guest of the hotel while attending the Cork Film Festival, to bathe in a bath full of milk.
He refused her request saying the people of Cork were finding it hard to make ends meet at the time.
The hotel was at that time a “dry hotel” because the Musgrave family believed alcohol should not be served there, and it was advertised as “Ireland’s Finest Unlicensed Hotel”.
Alcohol was normally served at functions by a publican who had been brought in and who was then charged a modest corkage fee.
Vance believed the hotel should have its own liquor licence to have some control over how much alcohol their guests drank while on the premises.
And while the Musgrave family were initially slow to change their minds, it is reported that Vance pointed out to Stuart Musgrave Jnr one fine Saturday the amount of drunk people attending six weddings in the venue.
Musgrave Jnr was said to have been appalled and the Metropole got its liquor licence in 1956.
The Jazz Festival was born in 1978, partially as a response to the fall-off in bed nights arising out of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
In 1977 the Metropole was sold to a consortium of local businessmen and a leisure centre was added.
In 1999 it was sold on to Ryan Hotels and it underwent a €9m refurbishment.
The hotel has been under new ownership since 2015 — a London-based family who also own the Cork International and Cork Airport Hotels — and following the purchase of an adjoining site, another upgrade and extension is being considered.
Anyone who would like to share memories of the Met should contact sales manager Susan Lavelle on (021) 4643700 or email: slavelle @themetropolehotel.ie.
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