Well all that coverage by water of Cork especially at the Lee fields where the Kingsley Hotel now stands (on a flood plain!) brought me way back to when and where ‘I sported and played’ thereabouts. So as a break from the doom and gloom of winter weather and all affairs current, allow me the indulgence of wandering back to those seemingly endless days halcyon days of frolics and sunshine.
Well back in Cork City, especially in those long Summer holidays of youth, how best to spend Sundays with the lads usually started with a debate as to whether we should go ‘up de park’ or ‘down de park’. If there was a big hurling game involving either the Glen or Cork itself then there was little argument but then again 56 to 66 were lean enough years for Cork County hurlers- mainly due to Waterford! But the club championship fare was always of a high order or at least it was fiercely competitive. ‘Down the Park’ of course meant gong to the Athletic Grounds – later redeveloped as Pairc Ui Caoimh in the mid-seventies. The trip down Leeside and the Marina was a great afternoon out though it was a good 5 mile walk there at least, but not a bother on us young fellows. But barring the attractions of a good hurling game then our inclination was to head ‘Up the Park’ which was in the other direction altogether towards the western suburbs of the city by way of the Mardyke. This was a proud elm tree-lined walk complete with babbling brook alongside most of its length (long ago covered in and the dear old elms fell foul of disease). The same Mardyke was last week awash with floods, not just water they say but tears too. But then it was one of these places that made Cork special. Cross over to the other side of the Western Road to enjoy the wooded ways and scholarly pile of UCC –which got a right lash too last week.
But back again to the Mardyke itself we often dallied alongside the Cricket Club there and often watched a while, each time we wondered what the point of the game was – they obviously had not experienced a real man’s sport like hurling! However, years later as university students we became pavilion members, the main attraction of which lay in its Good Friday facilities! The tennis club came next but heavy shrubbery shielded the lady players’ niceties from view of our youthful curiosities. Maybe just as well. Boys, however, had boys stuff to be getting on with! And a lot of that was to be had in de Park itself – Fitzgerald as we would gaily leap over flower –beds. If you dared go next or near the prize rose beds the keeper would be after us wielding his big pointy stick- threatening in a bellowing voice that he would stick it ‘where the sun don’t shine’ if we didn’t clear off. But that only added to our glee as we clambered up trees to seek refuge. That recourse only made matters worse because the second big ‘no, no’ was climbing his precious trees – we would be blissfully unaware that our new arboretum perch was some rarity from the jungles of the Amazon as we shaped bows and arrows from its copious branch outlets!
So many memories now of where we sported and played crowd back as I write, perhaps best saved for ‘the book’.
De Park lies along the be-shrubed banks of the river Lee and just upstream from there the Daly’s Bridge spans the river – this bridge is known to generations of Corkonions as the Shaky Bridge. Across the river and along its banks there stands the lofty and fine houses of Sunday’s Well, this place too has its stories. Even still when ever I hear The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee sung, it is to this very spot by ‘de park’ do my thoughts stray and my fancies take flight.
Well thank you for indulging that wee trip down the elm-leafed memory lane that was triggered by the very thought of the word Park. In turn the idea links in with another Park which featured next in my life – that of the Peoples Park anseo. I sat in the Park on a glorious sunny afternoon on my very first day in Waterford and it reminded me very strongly of ‘Up De Park’/ Fitzgerald’s and I rarely pass up an opportunity to walk through it and appreciate what a great city space it is and we are indebted to the City Fathers of the mid- Victorian era for the provision of this facility for the people of the city. People may not appreciate it now but back in 1857 the provision in this way by a city council of a public park was extremely progressive. A little while ago I was watching a documentary about the development of the very concept of such a thing first emerged in Britain in a district near Liverpool but it became a reality in 1847 and is regarded as being the first publicly funded municipal park in the western world and became a model for others to follow. Waterford therefore was very quickly off the mark considering planning for our park began within the subsequent 5 years and opened within 10. The original English project was the direct inspiration for Central Park, New York which was developed 10 years after Waterford.
The name ‘The Peoples Park’ was first used by a journalist in one of the local papers of the time, saying something like it had become very much the people’s park and the name stuck. This name, by the way is also used in respect of the parks in Dun Laoghaire and Limerick City.
Who’s Your Man?
In preparation for its 150th anniversary the Park underwent extensive upgrading beginning back in ‘06 under the Mayoralty of Davy Daniels and most agree that a fine job was done in terms of furthering enhancing its natural assets but also the play-ground amenities, fully enjoyed by all ages. Glad to see the Sevastopol cannon guns restored to this location. Equally the Park Café is a wonderful facility. Perhaps when new parks are eventually developed, as promised, one of them could be named in honour of John A Blake MP- man who almost single- handedly drove the whole project, from concept/perception of need, establishment of committees, fund-raising, petitioning of Parliament, site acquisition/draining. He had a sterling career of service and probably one of the best public representatives this city has known in its long history. There is a plaque to him on the front wall of the aforementioned Café. A friend of mine, of a long established Waterford family, was at a family funeral in London some time ago and was surprised to see a tomb there bearing the name of a John A Blake MP –Member for Waterford. He wondered who he was!
To conclude with a quick reference to’ park’ matters of a different sort altogether – I read that Dublin has lifted all on-street parking charges in the central/core retail areas of the capital to encourage in-town shopping during the entire Christmas period. So, a model well worth following – now!
Go Seachtain Eile, Slan