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Irish: Corcaigh
County Cork
Cork City Montage Quick Collage of CC Commons Cork Images.jpg
Sights of Cork
Grid reference: W672718
Location: 51°53’50"N, 8°28’12"W
Population: 119,418  (2006)
Local Government
Council: Cork
Cork North Central
Cork South Central

Cork, the county town of County Cork, is a port town on the south coast of Ireland. It is the largest city in the Republic of Ireland after Dublin, and by far the largest city in the province of Munster.

County Cork has earned the nickname of "the Rebel County", while Corkonians often refer to the city as the "real capital of Ireland", and themselves as the "Rebels".

The city is built on the River Lee which divides into two channels at the western end of the city. The city centre is located on the island created by the channels. At the eastern end of the city centre they converge; and the Lee flows around Lough Mahon to Cork Harbour, one of the world's largest natural harbours.[1][2] The city is a major Irish seaport; there are quays and docks along the banks of the Lee on the city's east side.

Name of the city

The name of Cork, in Irish ‘’Corcaigh’’, is from the Gaelic corcach, meaning "swamp".

In his Latin Description of Ireland of the twelfth century, Gerald of Wales calls the city Corcagia (albeit that the name appears only in oblique cases).[3]


Patrick Street c.1890–1900.

Foundation and refoundation

Cork was originally a monastic settlement founded by Saint Finbarr in the 6th century.[4] Cork was founded as a town by Scandinavian settlers at some point between 915 and 922. These Norse and Danes founded a trading port in its capacious harbour.[5] It has been proposed that, like Dublin, Cork was an important trading centre in the global Scandinavian trade network though unlike Dublin, Norse Cork is poorly recorded.

Middle Ages

The city's charter was granted early, in 1185 under King Henry II, granted by Prince John as Lord of Ireland. The title of Mayor of Cork was established by royal charter in 1318, and the title was elevated to Lord Mayor in 1900 by Queen Victoria on her visit to the City, on which occasion she granted a knighthood to the incumbent Mayor.[6]

The mediæval population of Cork was about 2,100 people. In 1349 came the Black Death, and in this plague almost half of the townspeople died.

The city was once fully walled, and some wall sections and gates remain today.[7] For much of the Middle Ages, Cork city was an outpost of English culture in the midst of a predominantly hostile Gaelic countryside and cut off from the English government in the Pale around Dublin. Neighbouring Gaelic and Hiberno-Norman lords extorted "Black Rent" from the citizens as payment not to attack the city. The Cork municipal government was dominated by about 12 to 15 merchant families, whose wealth came from overseas trade with continental Europe – in particular the export of wool and hides and the import of salt, iron and wine. Of these families, only the Ronayne family were of Gaelic Irish origin.

In 1491 Cork was involved in the Perkin Warbeck rebellion, a last, violent twitch of the English Wars of the Roses. Perkin Warbeck was a boy promoted by disaffected Yorkists as being the lost prince Richard of York and thus a pretender to the English throne. The Yorkists landed in the city and recruit supported for a plot to invade England and overthrow King Henry VII. The Mayor of Cork and several important citizens went with Warbeck to England but when the rebellion collapsed they were all captured and executed. Warbeck became a serving boy in King Henry’s household.

Modern period

A description of Cork written in 1577 speaks of the city as, "the fourth city of Ireland" that is, "so encumbered with evil neighbours, the Irish outlaws, that they are fayne to watch their gates hourly ... they trust not the country adjoining [and only marry within the town] so that the whole city is linked to each other in affinity".

Cork continued to thrive throughout the modern era. At the Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, Cork and Dublin were the only two towns to elect two members each to the new House of Commons.

In 1849 Queen Victoria visited Cork in her first tour of Ireland. She landed at the Cove of Cork (now known as Cobh), which was renamed “Queenstown” in her honour. The Queen came to Cork again in 1900, and granted the City the honour of entitling its mayor “Lord Mayor”.

In the Irish War of Independence, Cork was a hotbed of Irish republicanism. In 1920 as the war intensified, the centre of Cork was gutted by fires started by a rogue detachment of the British auxiliary forces, the “Black and Tans” in revenge for an IRA attack.[8] The city saw fierce fighting between Irish guerrillas and the army. During the Irish Civil War, Cork was for a time held by anti-Treaty forces, until it was retaken by the pro-Treaty National Army in an attack from the sea.

Queenstown was renamed Cobh in 1922 under the new nationalist regime in Ireland.


Cork has churches of several denominations. Some Roman Catholic masses around the city are said in Polish, Filipino, Lithuanian, Romanian and other languages,[9] in addition to the traditional Latin and local Irish[10] and of course English.

Churches include:

  • Church of Ireland:
    • St Ann's Church, Shandon
    • St Fin Barre's Cathedral
  • Roman Catholic:
    • Cathedral of St Mary & St Anne
    • St Augustine's Church (Augustinian, OSA)
    • Chapel of St Finn Barr (UCC)
    • Holy Trinity (Capuchin)
    • St Finbarr's (South) Church


The Glucksman Gallery at UCC

Music, theatre, dance, film and poetry all play a prominent role in Cork city life. The Cork School of Music and the Crawford College of Art and Design provide a throughput of new blood, as do the active theatre components of several courses at University College Cork (UCC). Highlights include: Corcadorca Theatre Company, of which Cillian Murphy was a troupe member[11] prior to Hollywood fame; Cork Film Festival,[12] a supporter of the art of the short film; The Institute for Choreography and Dance, a national contemporary dance resource; the Triskel Arts Centre; Cork Jazz Festival; the Cork Academy of Dramatic Art (CADA), and the Graffiti Theatre Company.[13] The Everyman Palace Theatre and the Granary Theatre both play host to dramatic plays throughout the year.

The English Market in Cork

Cork has been gaining cultural diversity for many years as a result of immigration from Europe and far beyond, bringing growth in multi-cultural restaurants and shops. Cork saw significant Jewish immigration from Lithuania and Russia in the late 19th century. Jewish citizens such as Gerald Goldberg (several times Lord Mayor), David Marcus (novelist) and Louis Marcus (documentary maker) played important roles in 20th century Cork. Today, the Jewish community is relatively small in population, although the city still has a Jewish quarter and synagogue.[14]

Recent additions to the arts infrastructure include modern additions to Cork Opera House and the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery. The new Lewis Glucksman Gallery opened in the Autumn of 2004 at UCC, was nominated for the Stirling Prize in the United Kingdom, and the building of a new €60 million School of Music was completed in September 2007. Construction of the €50 million Brookfield UCC Medical School complex was completed in 2005.

There is a firm rivalry between Cork and Dublin: Cork folk generally view themselves as different from the rest of Ireland, and refer to themselves as "The Rebels"; the county is known as the Rebel County. This distinctly Corkonian view has in recent years manifested itself in humorous references to the region as The People's Republic of Cork. Citizens of the Real Capital can be seen adorning themselves with T-shirts and other items which celebrate The People's Republic of Cork, printed in various languages, including English, Irish, Polish, Spanish and Italian.


The city has many local traditions in food. Traditional Cork foods include crubeens, and tripe and drisheen. Cork's English Market sells locally produced foods, including fresh fish, meats, fruit and vegetables,eggs and artisan cheeses and breads. During certain city festivals food stalls are also sometimes erected on city streets - such as St Patrick's Street or Grand Parade.[15]


The Cork accent displays various features which set it apart from most of the accents used in Ireland. Patterns of tone and intonation often rise and fall, with the overall tone tending to be more high-pitched than the standard Irish accent. English spoken in Cork has a large number of dialect words that are peculiar to the city and environs. Unlike standard Hiberno-English, some of these words originate from the Irish language, but others through other languages Cork's inhabitants encountered at home and abroad.

Sights about the city

The Angel of the Resurrection, St Finbarre's Cathedral

Cork features architecturally notable buildings originating from the Mediæval to Modern periods.[16] The only notable remnant of the Mediæval era is the Red Abbey.

There are two cathedrals in the city; St Finbarre's Cathedral, often referred to as the South Cathedral, belongs to the Church of Ireland and is the more famous of the two. It is built on the foundations of the city’s earlier cathedral from 1862 to 1879 under the direction of architect William Burges.St Mary's Cathedral, often referred to as the North Cathedral was built in 1808 and is the Roman Catholic cathedral.

St Patrick's Street, the main street of the city which was remodelled in the mid 2000s, is known for the architecture of the buildings along its pedestrian-friendly route and is the main shopping thoroughfare. The reason for its curved shape is that it originally was a channel of the River Lee that was built over on arches.[17] The adjacent Grand Parade is a tree-lined avenue, home to offices, shops and financial institutions. The old financial centre is the South Mall, with several banks whose interior derive from the 19th century, such as the Allied Irish Bank's which was once an exchange.

Cork City Hall
St Finbarre's Cathedral

Many of the city's buildings are in the Georgian style, although there are a number of examples of modern landmark structures, such as County Hall tower, which was, at one time the tallest building in the Republic of Ireland[18] until being superseded by another Cork City building: The Elysian. Across the river from County Hall is Ireland's longest building; built in Victorian times, Our Lady's Psychiatric Hospital has now been renovated and converted into a residential housing complex called Atkins Hall, after its architect William Atkins.

Cork's most famous building is the church tower of Shandon, which dominates the North side of the city. It is widely regarded as the symbol of the city. The North and East sides are faced in red sandstone, and the West and South sides are clad in the predominant stone of the region, white limestone. At the top sits a weather vane in the shape of an eleven-foot salmon.[19]

City Hall, another notable building of limestone, replaced the previous one which was destroyed by the Black and Tans during the War of Independence in an event known as the "Burning of Cork".[8] The cost of this new building was provided by the Government of the United Kingdom in the 1930s as a gesture of reconciliation.[20]

Other notable places include Elizabeth Fort, the Cork Opera House, and Fitzgerald's Park to the west of the city. Other popular tourist attractions include the grounds of University College Cork, through which the River Lee flows, and the English Market. This covered market traces its origins back to 1610, and the present building dates from 1786.[21]

Until April 2009, there were also two large commercial breweries in the city. The Beamish and Crawford on South Main Street closed in April 2009 and transferred manufacturing to the Murphy's brewery in Lady's Well. This brewery also produces Heineken for the Irish market. There is also the Franciscan Well brewery, serving the local market with a variety of lagers, ales and stouts. In May 2008 it was awarded as the "Best Microbrewery in Ireland" by Food and Wine Magazine.


Winthrop Street in the city centre


The retail trade in Cork city is developing quickly with a mix of both modern, state of the art shopping centres and family owned local shops. Department stores cater for all budgets, with expensive boutiques for one end of the market and high street stores also available. Shopping centres can be found in many of Cork's suburbs. Others are available in the city centre, with plans and excavation work on-going for the development of three more large malls.

Cork's main shopping street is St Patrick's Street and is the most expensive street in the country per square foot after Dublin's Grafton Street. Other shopping areas in the city centre include Oliver Plunkett Street and Grand Parade. Cork is also home to some of the country's leading department stores.


Cork City is at the heart of industry in the south of Ireland. Its main area of industry is pharmaceuticals: Pfizer Inc and Swiss company Novartis are big employers in the region. Cork is also the European headquarters of Apple Inc where their high end computers are manufactured and their European call centre, R&D and AppleCare is hosted.[22] In total, they currently employ over 1,800 staff. EMC Corporation is another large IT employer with over 1,600 staff in their 560,000 sq ft engineering, manufacturing, and technical services facility.

Cork is also home to the Heineken Brewery which also brews Murphy's Irish Stout and the nearby Beamish and Crawford brewery (recently taken over by Heineken) which have been in the city for generations. For many years, Cork was the Irish home of the Ford Motor Company, which manufactured cars in the docklands area before the plant was closed in 1984. Henry Ford's grandfather was from West Cork, which was one of the main reason for opening up the manufacturing facility in Cork.[23] But technology has replaced the old manufacturing businesses of the 1970s and 1980s, with people now working in the many I.T. centres of the city.

Cork's deep harbour allows ships of any size to enter, bringing trade and easy import/export of cargoes. Cork Airport also allows easy access to continental Europe and Kent Station in the city centre provides good rail links for domestic trade. More recently, the online retailer, has set up in Cork Airport Business Park.[24]

In 2008, developers announced a 1bn euro plan to create an Atlantic Quarter in Cork's docklands area to rival that of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin making it one of the biggest and most ambitious plans undertaken in the history of the state.[25]

Port of Cork

Mouth of Cork Harbour

The Port of Cork[26] is the main port serving the South of Ireland. It is a major ferry port and is one of two free ports in Ireland, the other being in the Shannon area. Physically the Port of Cork is a vast area; the biggest port area in the world after Port Jackson in Sydney, Australia.

There are Direct services to France and to the United Kingdom.

A Water Taxi has been proposed to link the city with towns in the lower harbour.[27][28] The Cross River Ferry, from Rushbrooke to Passage West, links the R624 road to the R610, which avoids traffic congestion in Jack Lynch tunnel and Dunkettle area.

The port has over 10 berths, mostly privately owned.[29]


Rugby, Gaelic football, hurling and association football are popular sporting pastimes in Cork.

Gaelic games

  • Hurling is the most popular spectator sport in the city, and has a strong identity with city and county
  • Gaelic football is also popular, and Cork has won 7 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship titles.
  • GAA clubs in Cork City include:
    • St Finbarr's GAA
    • Glen Rovers GAA
    • Na Piarsaigh GAA
    • Erins Own GAA
    • Nemo Rangers GAA

The main public venues are Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Páirc Uí Rinn (named after Christy Ring).


Cork City FC are the largest and most successful association football team in Cork, winning two League of Ireland titles, two FAI Cup titles, and one "All Ireland" Setanta Sports Cup title. Association football is also played by amateur and school clubs across the city.


Cork has two first division Rugby Union clubs: Cork Constitution (three-time All Ireland League Champions) play their home games in Ballintemple and Dolphin RFC play at home in Musgrave Park.

Several other rugby clubs play in the city at other levels.

Cork's rugby league team, the Cork Bulls, were formed in 2010 and play in the Munster Conference of the Irish Élite League.

Water sports

There is a variety of watersport in Cork, including rowing and sailing. There are five rowing clubs training on the River Lee including the Shandon, UCC, Pres, Lee and Blackrock clubs. Naomhóga Chorcaí is a rowing club whose members row traditional currachs or naomhóga on the Lee in occasional competitions.

The "Ocean to City" race has been held annually since 2005, and attracts teams and boats from local and visiting clubs who row the 15 miles from Crosshaven into Cork city centre.[30] The decision to move the National Rowing Centre to Inniscarra[31] has boosted numbers involved in the sport.

Cork's maritime sailing heritage is maintained through its sailing clubs. The Royal Cork Yacht Club located in Crosshaven (outside the city) is the world's oldest yacht club, and "Cork Week" is a notable sailing event.[32]

Other sports

Cricket has long been played in the city. The main teams are Cork County CC, situated next to the Mardyke, UCC Cricket, and Harlequins CC, located next to Cork airport.

There are Cork clubs active nationally in golf, pitch and putt, hockey, tennis, basketball and athletics.

Cork Racing, a motorsport team based in Cork,[33] has raced in the Irish Formula Ford Championship since 2005.

Cork also hosts one of Ireland's most successful Australian Rules Football teams,[34] the Leeside Lions, who have won the Australian Rules Football League of Ireland Premiership four times (in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007).[34][35]

Outside links


  1. "RTÉ Television – The Harbour". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  2. "Coastal & Marine Resources Centre – Cork Harbour Marine Life Research Project Report". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  3. De tritici semine per imprecationem Corcagiensis episcopi non proveniente (of wheat seed cursed by the Bishop of Cork)
    Luuius per Corcagiam (of the rivers of Ireland)
  4. Ó Riain, Pádraig (1994). Beatha Bharra (Saint Finbarr of Cork: the Complete Life). Irish Texts Society. ISBN 1870166574. 
  5. Moody, TW; Martin, FX; Byrne, FJ; Cosgrove, A; Ó Cróinín, D (1976). A New History of Ireland. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198217374. 
  6. "Charters issued to Cork city". Cork City Council. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  7. "Cork City Council website – History – Walls of Cork". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Cork City Library – History of Cork – The Burning of Cork". 1920-12-11. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  9. Ruth Egan - Fireball Media Ltd. "– Mass Times for Polish Community in Diocese of Cork and Ross". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  10. Mass noticeboard, Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Paul Street, Cork
  11. – Cillian Murphy – Other works
  12. "Cork Film Festival Website". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  13. "About the Graffiti Theatre Company". Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  14. "Information about the Jewish community in Cork". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  15. "Cork Midsummer Festival 2010 - Feasta Food Fair". 2010-06-27. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  16. ENFO Publication (Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government) Mediæval Cork
  17. "Cork City Library – History of Cork – St Patrick's Street – Historic Outline". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  18. "Cork County Council – About the "County Hall"". 1981-06-12. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  19. "Church of St Anne Shandon". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  20. "Cork City Hall". City Mayors. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  21. Discover Ireland – Cork – The English Market
  22. "Apple locations". 
  23. Nyhan, Miriam (2007). Are You Still Below?: The Ford Marina Plant, Cork, 1917–84. Collins Press. ISBN 1905172494. 
  24. IDA Press Release (23 April 2007). "Minister Martin officially opens Amazon in Cork". Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  25. Ralph Riegel (7 March 2008). "IFSC to get €10bn rival in Cork". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  26. Port of Cork
  27. "Permit sought for Cork water taxis - December 2007". Irish Times. 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  28. "Decision on Harbour Cat ferry terminals due soon - January 2009". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  29. Berths at Cork
  30. "The Race - Map of Route". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  31. RowingIreland (2007-05-02). "Press Release on National Rowing Centre opening". Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  32. "Cork Week History". 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  33. "Sony teams up with Cork Racing". Irish Examiner. 13 September 2006. Retrieved 13 September 2006. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 "ARFLI Premiership - Roll of Honour". Australian Rules Football League of Ireland. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  35. "Leeside Lions Website - Club Honours". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 


  • Merchants, Mystics and Philanthropists – 350 Years of Cork Quakers Richard S Harrison Published by Cork Monthly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) 2006
Cities in the Republic of Ireland

Cork • Dublin • Galway • Kilkenny • Limerick • Waterford