Description of Cork

Cork is a mixture of some fine streets, broad quays, and many ill-paved lanes, the whole being set off by a charming frame of scenery that compensates for many a defect. It is a county and a city with a population of 97,281, and is well situated on the Lee, as Spenser thus describes:

"The spreading Lee that, like an island fayre,

Encloseth Corke with his divided floode"—

as it emerges from a wooded and romantic valley upon a considerable extent of flat, alluvial ground, in its course, over which it divides. The island thus formed commences about one mile above the town, is enclosed by the north and south channels of the river, and contains a large portion of the city. "In 1689," says Macaulay, "the city extended over about one-tenth part of the space which it now covers, and was intersected by muddy streams which had long been concealed by arches and buildings. A desolate marsh, in which the sportsman who pursued the waterfowl sank deep in water and mire at every step, covered the area now occupied by stately buildings, the palaces of great commercial societies."

Cork has over four miles of quays, and large sums of money have been spent in harbor improvements; vessels drawing twenty feet of water can discharge at all stages of the tide.

The earliest notice of the town dates from the time of St. Fin Barre, who flourished about the seventh century. He founded an ecclesiastical establishment on the south side of the chief channel of the Lee, and it ultimately attained to a high reputation among the schools of Ireland. Then the Danes, after repeatedly plundering it, took a fancy to settling down here themselves, and carried on a somewhat flourishing commerce until the Anglo-Norman invasion. At that time the ruling power was in the hands of Dermot McCarthy, Lord of Desmond, who promptly made submission to Henry II. on his arrival in 1172, and did him homage. For a long period the English held the place against the Irish, living in a state of almost perpetual siege. They were compelled, Holinshed says, "to watch their gates hourlie, to keepe them shut at service time, at meales, from sun to sun, nor suffer anie stranger to enter the citie with his waepon, but the same to leave at a lodge appointed." Camden also describes it as "a little trading town of great resort, but so beset by rebellious neighbors as to require as constant a watch as if continually besieged."

Cork took an active part in the disturbed history of the Middle Ages. It declared for Perkin Warbeck, and the mayor, John Walters, was hanged for abetting his pretensions. It was made the headquarters of the English forces during the Desmond rebellion. In 1649 it surrendered to Cromwell, who is said to have ordered the bells to be melted for military purposes, saying that, "since gunpowder was invented by a priest, he thought the best use for bells would be to promote them into cannons."

A noticeable event in its history was the siege by William III.'s army under Marlborough and the Duke of Wurtemburg, when the garrison surrendered after holding out five days; the Duke of Grafton was killed on this occasion.

Read "On an Irish Jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara" at your leisure

On an Irish jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara

Read On an Irish jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara at your leisure and help support this free Irish library.

Samuel Gamble Bayne was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, and educated at Queen's University in Belfast. At the age of twenty-five he left for America with a view to making his fortune. He invested in an oil well in Pennsylvania and later founded a bank which subsequently came to be the JP Morgan Chase bank in New York. By the time this book was written he was wealthy enough to be referred to as a billionaire. His account of the tour through the north, west and south of Ireland is a pleasant snapshot of how that part of the country was in the early part of the 20th century. He describes what is to be seen, gives some background history and, through the illustrations especially, provides wonderful glimpses of the area's social history.

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