Cork City, Part 2

Up early, and on a mission, I found the tourist office and hit the pavement running. OK fine. Let’s be honest. There were no zombies chasing me, so I was walking… but I like to think I can outwalk the Olympic speedwalkers. OK fine. That’s a lie too. My endurance is better though, and I can walk further and further everyday. That is the truth.

I started the day at the Cork City Gaol (pronounced ‘jail’). It is, after all, the old prison in Cork city. The prison opened in 1824 and closed in 1923.

I was especially interested in touring the jail (Gaol) because in 1927, the Gaol served as the broadcasting site of Radio Eireann – Cork’s first radio station! The station stopped broadcasting in 1958, but the building now houses a radio museum. More on that later.

The Cork City Gaol was restored and reopened to the public in 1993. Inside, there are intricate wax figures that depict life in the prison while it was open. With your admission, you receive a leaflet for a self-guided tour of the prison. Following numbers, you read the true stories of some of the prisoners and guards living and working on site.

Prisoner Thomas Raile, convicted of stealing books served his time in solitary confinement and turned to religion. Here, the scene is depicted with Rev. Nelligan in 1865. After his sentence, he was unable to get a reference so he spent his time in the streets, begging to survive.

Edward O’Brien, pickpocket, is nine years old. He has seven previous convictions and has been convicted of petty theft. He is sentenced to three weeks in jail with whippings twice a week. He is sent to reformatory school after his release.

The exercise ring in the yard outside is worn down from prisoners walking silently, single file around the circle. The practice was  popular in the 19th century across Europe and America.

Those are a couple snapshots of the Cork City Gaol. Many more stories leading up to the closure of the Gaol in 1923 after conditions inside the prison deteriorated and the place was seething with vermin. All the prisoners were then transferred to other Gaols.

Ahh. Communication. My happy place. One of them, at least! The radio museum did not disappoint. Small but full of interesting information on the technical advancements leading up to being able to broadcast across radio waves but also the important moments in history that marked the importance of radio in the world.

Seán Neeson was the first Station Director at Cork Calling (6CK). He has previously been imprisoned in the Cork City Gaol during the Irish civil war. Cork 6CK closed down in 1930, but Neeson directed the station until its final broadcast. The programmes had an emphasis on local culture, documentaries, news and event coverage, and music. Sounds a lot like CBC’s radio programming across its multiple frequencies! Lack of funding ultimately shut the station down, but other stations popped up around Ireland, continuing the love for radio for years to come!

John F. Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963. After his helicopter arrival in Cork, he used this very microphone to address the loving crowd after which the microphone was hastily removed by the Technical Supervisor of Radio Eireann and stored away for safe keeping. The microphone has not been live since.

There is a ton more information, antique radios, and technical explanations across the museum, but that gives you a small insight of the small radio display. No regrets about visiting this museum and Gaol.

Walking down the hill from the prison, I took the bridge across to Daly’s Bridge, dubbed the ‘Shaky Bridge’ by the locals. That is when I met Natasha and Lauren.

The bridge certainly did not disappoint. With Natasha and Lauren jumping their way across the bridge, there was a significant amount of human propelled bounce. Telltale sign of my being a tourist, I pulled out my trusty map to figure out the direction I was to be headed in. Spring break here in Ireland, all the students are off school, including these two lovely ladies:

They asked me where I was from, what I was doing in Cork? Did I like it? How long was I here for? Did I think they had an accent? Was their accent different from the one in Galway? What had I seen so far? Where was I headed? What’s the temperature in Canada? And many many more. It was great to be able to chat with them about where I was from, but also ask them just as many questions about where they were from, where they’ve been, what grade they were in (around grade 9, by the way), did they like Cork, did they like school, etc. Tit for tat! Surprising, though! There aren’t many teenagers that are so inquisitive back home. At least, it doesn’t seem like it! Did I have Snapchat? They asked. “I also have Instagram!” I said. Smiles all around, and a few sight recommendations later, I was back on my way!

Crossed Fitzgerald’s Park. See below, the disco ball tree.

Sprinkled with sculptures and ponds and fountains, it was a lovely stroll towards St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. The initial cathedral became a part of the Church of Ireland in 1536. In 1864, the structure was torn down and a new (imposing) cathedral was built which is the one that stands there today.

The cathedral’s designer was inspired by the French Gothic architecture. For those of you who have visited Paris, you surely recognize the style. There is an important ressemblance to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The inside is filled with symbolic representations of the biblical stories, of course, but also of William Burges’ interests and passions. This included astrology, so the astrological symbols are featured in the cathedral.

The organ is one of the biggest and finest organs in Ireland. I was treated to a hint of it when the man who plays it was practising. The organ sits in a 14 foot deep pit to allow an unobstructed view of the stained-glass windows. I can vouch for the sound. The hollowness of the church allowed the sound to resonate through your body, much like a small rock concert would. Weird comparison, I know. But it is what it is.

The church is still home to daily worship and Sunday liturgies. The next big one is tomorrow – St. Patrick’s Day Civic Service. Anyone willing to fly out should probably catch the next flight to be at church on time!

Realizing I was running out of time, I hustled back to the English Market downtown. Bought an obscene amount of olives from the most fantastic olive selection I have ever seen. I walked through town to see what else was available. I had run out of time to check out attractions, but there were a few cool pieces of public art that I got to see before catching the bus to Killarney.

I will be back. Next up, Killarney (kind of), but mostly the Ring of Kerry.


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