The Suburbs of Cork

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter I-6 | Start of chapter

The suburbs of Cork, on the south side of the river, possess fewer pictorial attractions than those on the northern shore. The Lough of Cork, a considerable sheet of water south-west of the city, is the scene of one of Crofton Croker's popular legends. He says, that it was once a small, fairy well, covered by a stone, concerning which a tradition had been handed down from remote times, which predicted, that if the stone which covered the well were not replaced every morning, after the dwellers in the valley had taken from it their daily supply of water, a torrent would rush forth, inundate the vale, and drown all the inhabitants. This calamity was at length incurred by a certain princess, who, neglecting the injunction, forgot to close the mouth of the well, and caused the destruction of her father and his people. Similar legends to this are, however, told of many other lakes in Ireland. Cambrensis and Hollinshed both relate a very similar legend, which they apply to Lough Neagh, in whose waters, it is said, a "whole territorie were drowned," and that "still the fishers, in a clear sunnie daie, see the steeples and other piles plainlie and distinctlie in the water." Moore has thus paraphrased this idea in one of his beautiful melodies—

"By Lough Neagh's bank, as the fisherman strays,

When the clear cold eve's declining,

He sees the round towers of other days

In the wave beneath him shining."

The Cemetery, near the village of Evergreen, stands on the place formerly occupied by the Botanic Garden. The walks, which are tastefully arranged, are adorned with flowers and shrubs, intermingled with the weeping-willow and the dark cypress, whose hearse-like plumes wave above the grave of the forgotten dust—

"Sad tree that droops when others' griefs are fled,

The only constant mourner o'er the dead."

If a stranger pass from the south to the opposite side of the river, and should seek out the celebrated "groves of Blackpool," he will be disappointed to find the sylvan retreat that his imagination has pictured, transformed into a poor suburb, consisting of straggling cabins, without a single tree to lend its shade to the once umbrageous haunt of the muses, and the

"Birth-place of sweet song,"

where the lyrics of many a street-minstrel were first warbled to admiring crowds. Sunday''s Well is a more inviting suburb than that last mentioned. It occupies the south side of the hill, which overhangs the river, and is considered a remarkably healthy locality. The prospect from it is delightful, and from the elevation upon which Blair's Castle stands the view of the city and the winding river with its picturesque shores is absolutely magnificent. These attractions made Sunday's Well formerly a favourite retreat for the citizens, and several pretty cottages and snug boxes are still to be found there, embosomed in gardens and pleasure-grounds; although, amongst the élite, Glanmire is now considered the fashionable rus in urbe of Cork. The place takes its name from one of those ancient wells, which, before the introduction of Christianity, were held sacred by the Druids, and were afterwards converted by the Christian missionaries to the promotion of the religion they came to teach. The Well, in its present state, is a small circular building covered with stone, overshadowed by venerable trees, in whose holy precincts a few pious devotees may still be seen performing their devotional penance during the Sunday mornings of summer. The water is very clear and cold, but pleasant to the taste, and is supposed from its sacred character to possess peculiarly sanative virtues in many diseases.

In this village the facetious and learned Father O'Leary once resided; and, according to Mr. Windle, the ill-fated Lord Edward Fitzgerald lay concealed for some time in a cottage near the present basin: the place was called Jemmapes. In speaking of the circumstance, he makes the following remarks:—"It would appear from his (Lord Edward Fitzgerald's) life, by Mr. Moore, that, after concealment had become necessary, he had sought it either in the immediate neighbourhood, or in the city of Dublin; but many persons are still living who were cognizant of his sojourn at Jemmapes, and who also met him at some of those private meetings of United Irishmen, at that time held almost nightly in the city."

From the barracks, which crown the heights on the north side of the river, another noble and extensive prospect may be obtained. Descending on the eastern side of the hill, we approach the beautiful and justly celebrated suburb of Glanmire. It receives its name from the little river Glanmire, which, stealing like a coy virgin from its leafy covert, unites with the broad Lee, about three miles from the quay of Cork. A delightful walk open to the public, and not unaptly termed the "Lovers' Walk," adjoins the town on the Glanmire side. It runs parallel to the river amidst a wilderness of trees and flowering shrubs—through whose interlacing branches, glimpses of the Lee, with numerous white sails flitting over its bright waters, may be occasionally caught.

Although the road under the brow of the Glanmire hills, crowned as they are with superb country seats, and overlooking the winding arm of the bay, combines more points of the picturesque than is often to be met with; it is from the river that the finest views of its enchanting shores can be had. I shall not therefore dwell on their beauties here, but request my readers to accompany me in my pilgrimage to the far-famed Blarney Stone.