Cork, named after the Gaelic “corcach” (a marsh), is a vibrant city on the south coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, with a population of over 200,000 people. It is located on the delta of the River Lee where the river waters begin to mix with the tidal ocean waters at the head of Cork Harbour.
The city of Corcach arose gradually from the watery marshes over the centuries. Much of the city’s shopping and commercial activity is now located on the centre island surrounded by two branches of the River Lee.
Cork is a friendly city where people are very proud of their place and are happy to talk to and assist anyone. The city has absorbed diverse arrivals for many years, invaders such as the Vikings, the Normans and the English. It provided a home for Jews and French Huguenots and in recent times has become home to arrivals from all over Europe and across the world.
However Cork has also witnessed the departures of many thousands of Cork people seeking new lives. The town of Cobh at the entrance to Cork Harbour provided the departure point for the emigration of over a million people starting before the Irish Famine of 1845-1849 and continuing for over 100 years. Only one in four of everyone born in Munster in 1831 died at home of old age.
It remains a city of communities based on location, origin and extended family and other networks such as hurling clubs. A place of music, singing, festivals, unique dialects, passion for Cork sport and a love of language, slang, contradictions, craic, fun and humour where diverseness is a subject of immense open hearted curiosity.
Unlike most modern cities, many Cork people still stroll casually in the hope of meeting friends, strangers who become friends and neighbours. “Doing Pana” (walking along its principal avenue, Patrick Street) is a natural art form, punctuated by loud salutations, obliviousness to traffic and friendly banter.
Cork suffered enormously during the Great Famine losing thousands of its poorer inhabitants to hunger and fever, which swept through the laneways and tenements of the city already coping with an influx of starving people from the countryside. It was into this background and these streets that Mary Harris was born in 1837. The story of Mary Harris represents the story of millions of people across the world, her inspirational, resilient and rebel story remains a blueprint for hope for many. The people of Cork are proud of Mary Harris, Mother Jones.