Inspired on Leeside: What makes Cork a special place?

In advance of the Crosstown Drift event, Eoghan O’Sullivan asked some of the participating authors about what makes Cork a special place for them.

Inspired on Leeside: What makes Cork a special place?

In advance of the Crosstown Drift event, Eoghan O’Sullivan asked some of the participating authors about what makes Cork a special place for them.

Thomas Morris

The first day of the snowstorm I took residence in Dan Lowreys. After eight hours of very committed imbibing, I decided it was finally time to waddle home.

As I laboured my way up York Hill, I saw a man eating a bag of chips off a bonnet of a car. He waved me over and invited me to take a chip, which I duly accepted.

Then, after I finished the first chip, he insisted I have another.

No, no, I said. I’ll go get my own. Where did you get these ones?

Take my bag, he said.

I can’t do that, I said. They’re your chips!

It’s alright, he said, I’ve got a burger here.

No, no, I said. I’ll go get my own.

Cue: one minute of REALLY intense discussion — and the man telling me he’d be offended if I didn’t take his chips, and me then taking his chips, whilst he tucked into a burger off the bonnet of a car, whilst the snow did fall.

I don’t want to fall foul of the usual Dublin/Cork divide, but when I lived in Dublin: someone once robbed my chips off me; in Cork, meanwhile, someone gave me their chips.

Generosity of this nature goes beyond inspiring — it belongs in the realm of the holy.

Thomas Morris’ debut collection of short stories, We Don’t Know What We’re Doing, is out now on Faber & Faber

June Caldwell

My most enduring memory of Cork is back in the early 2000s...I got it into my head it’d be a stellar idea to bugger off to Cape Clear at Christmas on my own (with no money) and stay in a hostel with just a small bag of food and no one to annoy me. The journey down was long and excoriating (seriously lads, is Cork further away from Dublin than Donegal?).

When the bus passed through Skibbereen I was so tempted to get off and scrap the island idea. As for the ferry ride in December, I genuinely screamed my lamps out as the ship rose high up off the waves, smashing down again...I thought I was on the Lusitania...all the hardcore seafaring locals gazing on in disgust.

When I got to the island the hostel was basic and a long walk from anywhere civil that might serve a hot whiskey in a gale. I had a jar of Dolmio with some manky pasta for my Christmas dinner and on the way back to Baltimore one of the islanders who gave me a lift to Skibb admitted that they all thought I was there ‘to have an affair’.

A cross between The Quiet Man and an Edna O’Brien novel, so I’m expecting great (exciting) things when I visit next.

June Caldwell’s debut collection of stories is out on Apollo

Alan McMonagle

The first time as an adult I spoke to an early hero, Pat McCabe, was in the wings of the Triskel Arts Centre a few minutes before he was due on stage. September, 2013. I was determined to say hello to my former school teacher (St Michael’s Boys NS, Longford town, many lunatic moons ago).

I wanted to express my admiration, and indeed gratitude for the early spark he had kindled inside his dithering past pupil. I think I was even going to give him a line or two from his first published work, The Adventures Of Shay Mouse.

I blundered over to him, and blurted out as to whether he remembered throwing me out of class for laughing at his attempts to explain the terms condensation and evaporation to the tune of Cliff Richard’s ‘Congratulations’.

He looked at me, his eyes already taking on the appearance of glazed almonds, and said, ‘No wonder you became a fiction writer’; I’m looking forward to catching up with the master this midsummer Saturday. I hope he sings for his Cork audience.

Alan McMonagle’s debut novel, Ithica, is out on Picador

Pat McCabe

O yes, there are many cool things about Cork but then everyone knows that and it serves no purpose me elucidating them further much less furl them in banners of sweet honey-caramel-style words like they speak themselves — lest it further inflate the absurd sense of self-worth for which all them Corkies are noted throughout the rest of the inferior world — but I think I will have to make an exception for the Armoured Car, which in case you didn’t know is not a car at all but a dog.

When I heard it first I hadn’t been anywhere near Cork City — but tell me this, did you ever hear a lyric better than this: ‘He had cast iron jaws and steel padded paws/every nail was like an iron bar/an aunt of mine did say/that he’d never give in if you ran him from here to Castlebar!’

Ah yes, spoken by Jimmy Crowley along with Stoker’s Lodge — and let me say this, that if Cork never produced another Murphy’s or English Market, what they have given to the world in Jimmy and Stoker’s and, as I say, this fabbo magnifico hunting dog anthem, it already has chiselled a granite jewel indomitable and which I have sung in homage to the city by the Lee, at the very least, 100000078 times at late-night lock-ins from here to Sparta right back by Constantinople and Vapariso, which is where Jimmy’s fleet-footed canine desperado barks his head off across the sky of all time.’

Pat McCabe’s latest novel, Heartland, is out now on New Island

Lisa McInerney

Galway is where I was born, but Cork is where I found my voice. I moved to the city alone, at 17, so it’s no

surprise that it’s knitted into the way I write, speak, even think.

I’ve lived by the Lough, danced to Sir Henry’s swan song, coveted the clobber in Primetime, walked from Lee Fields to Tivoli and back again, spent all-nighters putting the world to rights in Northside gaffs looking down onto the lights of the city centre.

I don’t think I’ve ever found a place that felt more alive as Cork did to me around the turn of the millennium; its dialect and accent and characters and landscape have been running through my work since. There’s no way of extracting it now, and that’s fine by me, like.

Lisa McInerney’s latest novel is The Blood Miracles, out on John Murray

Danny Denton

Too young to experience Sir Henry’s nightclub in its heyday, I was just old enough to get in there a few times as a sketchy underage lad.

It was a dark joy, that place: one room unfolded into another; music beat a response to all the wildness of young souls and multitudinous bodies; sweat dripped from the ceiling… Once, I waved at a girl across the room. As she waved back, a massive black spider crawled across her face.

She didn’t even notice. That was Sir Henry’s.

Much later on those nights, having spent the taxi money (sorry, Mam!), I’d walk the six miles home to Passage, down The Line, following in the dark the course of the River Lee. Oh, soulful river!

I loved that about Passage, and about Cork; that its beauty, its vibrancy is both offbeat and natural, and yet always wondrous, and always flowing.

Danny Denton’s debut novel, The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow, is out now on Granta

Eoghan O’Sullivan will host conversations with some of the Crosstown Drift writers on Saturday night at the Crawford Art Gallery.

Cormac Lally

Fate brought us to Skibbereen, Co Cork. After an unsuccessful house hunt in Clonakilty, we went to Skibb.

On our first day, in our first hour in the town, in the first pub we went into, we met our landlord. Just like that.

I started my business here, a fledgling half pipe dream that I could someway make my art pay the bills, or at least some of them.

Three years later we are still here, all four of us, part of a unique little part of the world, trying to buy our house and put down roots.

So far, better than its scenery, its weather or architecture, the greatest thing about Cork, I have found, is her people. We were welcomed into the community here, we were made a part of it.

The beautiful souls in the farmers market, the Gaelscoil, Levis's in Ballydehob, Connolly's of Leap, our local butchers, her musicians, poets and artists, it's thriving business, forward thinking and pure pride in the town!!. It's been the people of Cork that welcomed us and made it easy to stay.

Without them, our friends and neighbours, the laughs, the cries, the people we meet on the street, this would just be another place. Another town to try and survive in. Now it is our home. It's Cork's people that inspire me, every time.

Cormac Lally is a Leinster and Munster Slam Poetry champion.

Catherine Kirwan

Cork has an inherent drama that comes from its landscape. The river’s the thing, our living connection with history and the natural world. And what light - no two hours of the day look or feel the same.

Over the past quarter century, Corcadorca Theatre Company have opened the city to me, creating fresh perspectives on familiar places. I’m looking forward to seeing The Numbered this month at Fitzgerald’s Park, our riverside jewel, ever more precious as we battle the ruination planned for it by OPW Drainage.

The story I’m reading at St Peter’s is set by the Lough, in the strange world of the carp fishermen who, until recently, came from far and near in search of the big one.

I love Cork but, whisper it, I’m originally from County Waterford - and I’ll always support the Deise no matter how much it upsets my Crosstown Drift reading partner Gerry Murphy.

‘Darkest Truth’, Catherine Kirwan’s crime novel set in Cork, will be published in early 2019 by Arrow.

Gerry Murphy

'Rush Hour'

I know the pedestrian light

is in your favour

and you must go and go now

but I want to linger

just a little longer in your embrace

at the corner of Washington Street

and South Main Street.

I want to kiss

each individual hair of your head

from root to tip

while the lights change and change again

and the city grinds to a shuddering halt

and the sky tilts over

to reveal teeming constellations,

utterly silent, unbearably distant.

Gerry Murphy's latest collection of poetry, My Life As A Stalinist, is out now via Munister Literature Society

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