Dr Pettit, a former teacher who lectured in UCC for almost 30 years, who wrote several books on the history of Cork, delivered countless lectures and talks, and led thousands of people on walking tours of the city, died unexpectedly on Wednesday. He was in his late 80s.
Former lord mayor Tom O’Driscoll, who honoured Dr Pettit in 2002 for his outstanding contribution to civic life, described him last night as one of the city’s greatest historians.
“He loved Cork, and his expertise and his incredible sense of humour during his talks and walking tours really brought the history and character of the city to life,” said Mr O’Driscoll.
Dr Pettit, famous his signature fedora hat and pipe, boasted one of the most impressive slide collections of 20th century Cork streetscapes. One of his slide shows sold out three shows in the Opera House in the 1980s. He delivered a lecture in St Peter’s Church last April on life in Cork in 1916, and a talk on Cork in the 1800s during the Mother Jones Festival in Shandon last July.
“A city is there to be appreciated and to be experienced,” he wrote in the opening chapter of his book, A Thousand Years of Living by the Lee. “The best way to do so is to go out and about on the streets to see with one’s own eyes the shape, the colour, and the texture of its houses, churches, public buildings, bridges, shops, railway stations, quays and places of industry.”
Dr Pettit is survived by his wife, Aruba Coghlan, well-known in ballet circles. His remains will lie in repose at his home in Summerhill North tomorrow until his removal at 6.30pm to St Patrick’s Church, Lower Glanmire Rd. Requiem Mass will be celebrated at 11am on Monday, with funeral afterwards to St Michael’s Cemetery in Blackrock.