Burning of Cork, Winthrop Street

2021 Decade of Centenaries Programme

Cork City Council’s aim is that the Commemoration will help us learn more about contemporary society, by giving us a deeper understanding of how Irish society was shaped by our past and to focus on the role of community in the city of Cork, to re-affirm the city’s community ties, with family orientated events that will be inclusive of all sectors of society.

The Principles and Values which the Council will seek to enshrine as part of its commemorative programme are as follows:

• Cork City Council wish to reflect the pride in Cork and its people and the roles they played in the events of 100 years ago, pride in their heroic efforts, and their resilience in rebuilding their city. Honour the courage of the so-called ‘ordinary’ people who took part in the struggle, and their perseverance in the face of adversity;

• Honour the reasons why they took part in the struggle and continue to seek to bring about the type of Ireland the Volunteers envisaged – equality, fairness, women’s rights and access to jobs. Reflect on the experiences of women during this period and their contribution to the events that occurred, including their changing role in society;

• Recognize that history is not black and white, that stories most be told from all sides to allow for reconciliation and healing, and that the trauma of the period needs to be addressed, perhaps through the schools as an educational programme on the effects of conflict. 

'BY EVERY MEANS AT OUR COMMAND'- The War of Independence in Cork – Cork Public Museum


Cork City played a major part in the War of Independence, witnessing a number of military engagements that would have a significant impact on both the nature and outcome of the conflict.


Using original artefacts, images and documentation, this exhibition at Cork Public Museum will illustrate the roles played by the Republican and Crown forces while exploring their strategies, tactics, equipment and experiences of war.


A significant item on display will be a Black & Tan uniform on loan from the National Museum of Ireland.  Due to the Covid-19 disruption, it is hoped that the Irish Civil War will also be dealt with in this exhibition, allowing it to stay in place until at least 2023.

Cork: A City Burned ~ A City Reborn and Cork: A Library Burned - A Library Reborn


This two-part exhibition Cork: A City Burned ~ A City Reborn and Cork: A Library Burned ~ A Library Reborn,                       

The Burning of Cork - on the night of December 11 and early hours of December 12, 1920 - was one of the darkest moments in the history of Cork and of the Irish War of Independence.  Members of the British Crown Forces set fire to the commercial heart of the city and destroyed its City Hall and Carnegie Free Library in a spate of arson attacks, leaving hundreds of businesses in ruins and thousands of citizens unemployed. 

Cork City Library  presents both exhibitions online, due to public health advice, detailing the spiral of deadly episodes leading up to the Burning of Cork, what happened that night, and how our Beautiful City responded to rise from the ashes and rebuild over the following decade.  With rarely-seen images and stories of many unknown people involved in the lead-up, on the night of the Burning of Cork itself, and in its aftermath, please visit this upcoming exhibition and enjoy new insights into our city's historic past.

The loss of Cork's purpose-built Carnegie Free Library is often overlooked in public memory of the Burning of Cork by British Crown Forces in the early hours of Sunday, December 12, 1920. In a new online exhibition from Cork City Libraries, the history of the earliest public library service in Cork, who ran it and who patronised its reading rooms will be told in fascinating new detail.

Cork City Libraries Exhibitions

The story is also told of how the Carnegie Free Library became another innocent victim in the ongoing violence and reprisals across Cork city during the War of Independence. Visitors to the exhibition will learn how some of the library's readers were caught up in the conflict themselves and even played an indirect role in events leading to its destruction by fire. But tragedy turned to triumph, and the upcoming exhibition will also show how a dedicated long-serving librarian led the campaign to ensure the destroyed stock of almost 15,000 books was replenished through generous donations from institutional and personal libraries around the world.  This story of an incredible public service, how it was built up, destroyed and then restored will fascinate those who see it. It will interest not just those who love books and libraries, but anybody interested in discovering new details of Cork's history. 

The Tom O’Neill Collection

Tom O'Neill well-known historian and collector will transfer his huge collection of c.20,000 objects to Cork Public Museum. This collection is related to Irish military history from 19th century up until modern day covering Irish Regiments in the British Army, First World War, the War of Independence, the Free State Army, the Emergency and the FCA. 


Cork Public Museum will create an exhibition as well as creating an 'education pack' around the exhibition to maximise its potential as an educational resource for schools and third level institution, not just for the Commemoration Programme 2021 but for years to come.  It is proposed to receive the collection in Autumn/Winter 2021.

For Those That Tell No Tales – Crawford Art Gallery

This is a collaborative exhibition between Cork Public Museum and the Crawford Art Gallery. This is a photographic exhibition dealing with Crown Forces, Republicans, Civilians killed in Cork City during the War of Independence/Civil War.  The Crawford Art Gallery will host the exhibition while the museum will facilitate in the production/framing of the images.

For Those that Tell No Tales Exhibition

Tadhg Barry Exhibition – Cork City & County Archive


‘One of Our Own’ Tadhg Barry (1880-1921), Labour Man, GAA Pioneer, Journalist, Revolutionary.


Historical exhibition and events exploring the life and times of trade union activist and City Councillor Tadhg Barry and his place in History. Barry trained the first Camogie team in Cork and was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers Cork Corps. He was killed while interned during the Truce period, just before the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.


Tragically, he was the last prominent Irish casualty of the War of Independence. His life and his major role in the revolution have been largely written out of the nation’s historical narrative. It is intended to link up this event with the Mother Jones Festival and National Heritage Week.

Digitisation of War of Independence Material

Cork City and County Archives will digitise 100 key documents from its collections related to the War of Independence and 1912-1922 revolutionary period and will display them online with descriptive information.


Items will relate to prominent figures in the revolution, and key events and topics. During the Commemorative period of 1921, a time of great challenges and strife, Cork City played a pivotal role in our country’s fight for freedom.

Cork City Council’s Street Art Initiative


Cork City Council’s  Arts Office will support a series of Street Art via Murals throughout the city by artists, in association with community associations and groups. 

Street Art is an important part of the history and identity of many cities. It has the ability to breathe life into communities and keep urban areas and their residents energized and inspired. 

Cork City’s Commemoration Programme has been a victim of the Covid 19 Pandemic as opportunities for citizen’s personal interaction with events, exhibitions, lectures etc. have been limited.  Street Art provides an important visual realisation of commemorations.  

The Irish Revolution (1919-1923) In its International Context - Diaspora, Diplomacy and Solidarity.

The Council will support the project “The Irish Revolution (1919-1923)” In its International Context - Diaspora, Diplomacy and Solidarity. 


The Project to be carried out in cooperation with Professor Dermot Keogh, Dr Mervyn O'Driscoll, Head of School of History, UCC and Historian, Dr Owen McGee.   The project involves the international reaction (China, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, France, Italy, The Vatican) to the death of Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney.


An illustrated book of essay entitled: The Irish Revolution in a global Context, Diaspora, Diplomacy and International Solidarity will be published and the Council will also fund a series of online lectures on this topic during 2021.

Engagement & Endurance: Cork City Women in the 1920s

One hundred years ago the city of Cork was a city of conflicting loyalties and difficult and dangerous place to live in.  The country was in the middle of the War of Independence and the city carried the scars of that conflict. The Great War had also led to the deaths of thousands of Cork men while over 2,000 citizens had perished in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918/19.


For the women of Cork city, it was a particularly difficult time. Hundreds had lost a husband or child in the Great War or were nursing wounded veterans of that conflict; others suffered a similar loss in the Flu pandemic; more were actively involved in the War of Independence and there were those who were just struggling to put food on the table.


This story will focus on the conditions endured by women during this dramatic time in the history of Ireland. It will be told through the lens of women from different traditions but who could be defined by their courage, commitment, compassion and contribution. Their stories will illustrate the important role played by women during this difficult period and the impact that their struggle and sacrifices would have on society.


The documentary produced by St. Peters Cork and Wombat Media will include the stories of a war widow, a member of the Protestant and Unionist tradition and supporters of the Republican movement.  These women were among the forgotten and unsung heroines of Irish history. Their story deserves to be told. 

Cork City Library Lectures

Cork City Library have presented a series of lectures in its History Roadshow during 2021. 


MYLES DUNGAN : What did you do in the War of Independence, Grandad? – based on a new book Four Killings (Head of Zeus, London, 2021) which is to be published in May by Myles Dungan, extracts three of the aforementioned killings – which took place during the War of Independence – talks about the bloody narrative of his extended family during the revolutionary era and offers suggestions on how to research the activities of your own ancestors in that seminal conflict.  The lecture will be delivered via Zoom.  Attendance is free, tickets must be booked via Eventbrite. 


MYLES DUNGAN : The War in the Shadows

A talk on Michael Collins, the Squad and the IRA versus British Intelligence.  Myles Dungan, PhD, is one of Ireland’s best-known and most respected broadcasters, hosting current affairs, arts and sports programmes on both radio and television for more than two decades. 


SINÉAD MCCOOLE :The Eyes & Ears – Women’s Role in the Campaign of Independence

Sinéad McCoole is an Irish historian, author, broadcaster and scriptwriter, specialising on women in Irish history.

Ballycannon Boys – St. Vincents Hurling & Football Club.

St. Vincents Hurling & Football Club will produce a documentary about the Ballycannon Boys, Ballycannon, Clogheen.  In the early morning of 23rd March 1921, six members of 'C' Company, First Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade were shot by a party of Black and Tans and RIC at a farm at Ballycannon, Clogheen. The documentary will include interviews with family members, local historians and club members giving their own perspectives. 

Lord Mayor’s Trees for Schools Initiative


The Council has liaised with primary and secondary schools in the city for the provision of a tree to be planted at each school.   The Lord Mayor of Cork has offered a tree to every school in the city. The planting of a tree is an act of faith that speaks to our city’s past, present and future. The Cork 2021 trees will symbolise the resilience, sustainability and hope. 

To take place Autumn 2021.

UCC School of History War of Independence Webinars, Autumn 2021

The Council will support UCC School of History in hosting a series of webinars in the autumn of 2021, to mark the centenary of the conclusion of the Irish War of Independence.  The webinars are intended to both facilitate public engagement with this part of the Decade of Centenaries, and to highlight the work of scholars working in the field.


The webinars will be structured as themed panel discussions, each addressing a different aspect of the War of Independence, such as the intelligence war; imprisonment; conflict trauma; gender and the war etc, a panel will also discuss the Republican Courts establishment.  Experts in each strand will gather for a hosted conversation, which will include questions from a live, remote audience.


The webinars will take place in the autumn of 2021, every two weeks from September to November. University College Cork will make them available to the public as live Zoom events.  Participation will be free, and the recorded proceedings will be made available on YouTube and other platforms.  The webinars will be supported by the UCC Events Office.


The webinars will be hosted by Dr John Borgonovo, lecturer in the School of History at University College Cork, who is a specialist in the history of Revolutionary Ireland and the associate editor of the acclaimed Atlas of the Irish Revolution. 


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