Cork celebrated Heritage Day on Sunday 17th August. Thirty-eight public buildings opened their doors to the public so people could explore the history and significance of buildings they walk passed each day. Tours and events were held across the city to give people a flavour of what makes the heritage of Cork something to be celebrated.
Built in 1722, Shandon, one of Cork’s most beloved landmarks dwarf the buildings that surround it. In the calm of the morning, its bells chime through the air with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. St. Anne’s Church is one of the oldest churches in Cork that is still in use today. The symbols from the past are evident as you walk through the church, from the ancient books ranging from 1599 to the 1800’s to the memorial inscriptions on the stone pallets that decorate the walls.
The first bell was donated to the belfry by Daniel Thresher, a benefactor of the church, and rang for the first time across the city on 7th December 1752. Today, Shandon has eight bells in its belfry ranging from tenor to soprano. The clock in Shandon Tower was installed in 1847, at the height of the Irish famine. Built by the Mangan’s and now looked after by Stokes Clocks & Watches on MacCurtain Street, it is one of the largest clock mechanisms in Europe one of its few rivals being Big Ben. There was an opportunity to see this mechanism when walking through the narrow corridors. Walking up the twisted stone stairway to the balcony is not for the faint hearted but the view at the top takes your breath away. Peering over the railing, you can see landmarks in Cork from UCC to the Port of Cork and everything in between.
AIB, 66 South Mall was one of the buildings to open its doors to the public and offer tours. Originally founded as the Munster Bank in 1867 and reformed as the Munster and Leinster Bank in 1885, in 1910 Arthur Hill a local architect and UCC graduate won a competition to design the new head office of the Munster and Leinster Bank. It would be opened 5 years later in 1915. The pink stone columns that the balcony seems to float behind have a unique history. They were originally destined for St Paul’s Cathedral in London, but when it was completed in 1711 six columns were leftover. John Sisk & Son, who built 66 South Mall knew about these six columns sitting in London, but they needed eight to complete the project. As fate would have it the quarry that these columns six columns were sourced from had been shut down. John Sisk & Sons travelled to London and arranged to open the quarry to source two more columns to complete the collection in AIB today.
The recurring decoration feature of tulip roses is evident throughout the bank. They are visible around the main room twisted out of gold, next to the cherubs faces on the top of columns carved from stone and this feature continues in the boardroom upstairs. The timber tables and penholders on the ground floor were built by the Sisk team in 1915 and are still used in the bank today. The clock that is visible in the main room of the bank is also looked after by Stokes Clocks & Watches. When approached, Stokes Clocks & Watches were unavailable for comment. The silverware in the glass case in the porch dates to 1890. It was made for James J Murphy, one of the past directors at a very turbulent time in history for the bank. In 1885 when the Munster Bank was forced to close James J Murphy stepped in and founded the Munster & Leinster Bank in its place. 602 individuals from around Cork commissioned this piece from Egans and Brennans who were jewellers in Cork at the time and donated it to the bank in James J Murphy’s name. AIB have an extensive collection of art upstairs including Irish artists such as Louis le Brocquy and William Crozier. Walking inside the boardroom you are greeted with painted portraits of the directors of the bank from the past. More tulip roses bud their heads up from around the decor of the room contributing to the continuation of the feature throughout the building.
Many Tongues of Cork in collaboration with Cork Migrant Centre organised an event at Cork City Library in the afternoon. Four artists: Arife Daci Hysaj, Joyce Kabedi, Samra Usman and Chloe Nyota shared poetry and prose in their chosen language including Albanian, Tshiluba, Urdu and Swahili. Their poetry was influenced by what was happening to less fortunate people in the world, beliefs and love for your beloved be that in the form of a friend, child or partner. Organiser Joanna Dukkipati shared her thoughts about her take on Heritage Day and why she believes it is important “I almost feel responsible for adding something to the culture of the city that I live in because I am consciously trying to be more of who I can be and I want to be more culturally aware and really contribute to the environment that I live in”.
Many Tongues of Cork gives the space for the artists to use their creative licence to express their thoughts through their own poetry or channel their expression through the words of another poet. It also gives the audience the opportunity to expand their knowledge of sound of language, culture and the deep heritage that is present in Cork today. It is a chance to socialise and connect as a community that is responsible for expanding the heritage and culture of Cork.
Towards the end of the day, as the chill of the breeze was creeping in, Trevor and Noel Welch were in Cork City Library talking about their time on pirate radio in Cork, during the 1970s and 1980s. This talk was part of launching their book The Jolly Roger, which tells stories about their time on pirate radio. Noel Welch talked about his time on pirate radio during the 1970s where it was forbidden to go on air with your own name. Broadcasting was possible out of anywhere be it a hotel room, an attic or a basement if it could fit a transmitter, a turntable and receive signal for the radio station. Since pirate radio was illegal in the 1970’s presenters needed to be careful about what was said on radio. Tales were recounted where it was not unheard of for the Gardaí to appear at the door and demand that those operating the pirate radio station hand over the transmitter to take the station of air. The protocol was to hand the transmitter over and then just replace it the next day putting the station back on air.
Cork has a rich heritage that could be seen blossoming across the city in many forms. The streets that have become so familiar were vibrate with activity and celebration as the people of Cork came together to celebrate the heritage which binds us together into one community.