Readers' blog: Unmarked history on the streets of Cork

Over the next few years, we will find ourselves in a whirlwind of War of Independence centenary commemorations. It was a nationwide fight for freedom and here the rebel streets of Cork city heaved with revolution.

Readers' blog: Unmarked history on the streets of Cork

Over the next few years, we will find ourselves in a whirlwind of War of Independence centenary commemorations. It was a nationwide fight for freedom and here the rebel streets of Cork city heaved with revolution.

Today as you walk around the city you may pass places which played an important role in the War of Independence but they have been left unmarked by a plaque or information sign.

Number 3 Fr Matthew Street was once the main nucleus of Cork's revolutionary movement. On what was then known as Queen Street, No.3 was called An Grianan and was the headquarters of Cork's Cumann na mBan, Gaelic League, and Na Fianna. The building hosted concerts and lectures, and among those who graced its doors were James Connolly and Countess Markievicz.

In January 1916, Connolly delivered a lecture one Sunday evening in An Grianan to a group of 30 on the subject of street fighting. In 1912 Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson attended an event there after a Manchester Martyrs commemoration in the city.

An Grianan bustled with revolutionary activity in those days and during the War of Independence, it suffered from aggressive raids from the authorities. Today, unfortunately, An Grianan suffers in the form of neglect.

Number 3 Marlboro Street is where the Cork Celtic Literary Society was founded in 1901. Terence MacSwiney was one of the main driving forces behind this nationalist organisation and its objective was "To strive for the establishment of an Irish Republic."

The founders along with MacSwiney were Liam de Roiste, Fred Cronin, Bob Fitzgerald, Dan Tierney, and Batt Kelleher. In 1902 Maud Gonne MacBride was made honourary president of the society and her husband Major John MacBride was made vice president. Also in 1902 a Cork branch of Inghinidhe na hEireann was established in the city and shared the same address as the Celtic Literary Society. During the War of Independence, the society had moved to 31 Washington Street.

Just over Parliament Bridge, you'll find No.1 Parliament Street, the former premises of Peg Duggan's flower shop and arms dump for the IRA. Peg, along with her sisters, were instrumental in the Cumann na mBan movement on Leeside and the unassuming flower shop on Parliament Street saw many IRA figures coming and going, dropping arms, collecting arms and relaying messages until the authorities eventually shut it down.

The Wallace sisters, Nora and Sheila, ran a newsagent's at 13 Brunswick Street (later known as 4 Augustine Street) and it was effectively the headquarters of the Cork Brigade.

The Wallace sisters were members of the Irish Citizen Army and stocked their shop with labour pamphlets and among those who crossed its threshold were Connolly and Markievicz. Also visiting the shop on a daily basis were members of the Cork IRA who used it not only as a meeting place but as an intelligence centre.

Thomas MacCurtain, MacSwiney, and Sean O'Hegarty were regulars at the Wallace shop but in May 1921 the authorities closed it down and the sisters were expelled from the city centre. The following month when the truce was called, the shop reopened to great fanfare.

Shelia died in 1943 and Nora kept trading in the shop until 1960. She died in 1970. Sadly the shop is no longer there as it fell victim to the wrecking ball in the late 1970s.

There are many more sites scattered across the city. You can't turn a corner without meeting ghosts from the Irish revolution on Leeside and now in the years of centenary commemoration, it's apt time to acknowledge the rebel streets of Cork.

Pauline Murphy

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