Friday, May 31, 2024

The grim fifties in Ireland and Cork City

St Patrick's Street, Cork, in the 1950s

Over 500,000 people left independent Ireland between 1945 and 1960. The 1961 Irish Census of population at 2,818, 341 was lower than the 1926 Census. The latter was the first Census of the Irish Free State.

The 1950s: “It Was a Great Time in America” but "Between 1946 and 1961, 531,255 people, almost 17% of the population, left Ireland. Forty per cent of those between the ages of 10 and 19 in 1951 were gone by 1961. Most of the migrants went to Great Britain, but 68,151 left for America during and after World War II (1941–1961).

This piece is an addendum to a personal piece I wrote last year: Michael Hennigan's year of 1953 and 70 years later

Recently I located Google photos of Geraldine Place, which was in the centre of industrial activity in the City of Cork, Ireland.

In the 1950s in Ireland, the economic situation was grim as other countries in Western Europe were recovering strongly from the Second World War.

Geraldine Place is a side street of Albert Road and the plants of Henry Ford and Son, and Dunlop (a British tyre company) were located in the Marina by the River Lee.

Cork City has several places called after Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha husband of the British Queen Victoria. One street is called Coburg.

We lived at 26 Geraldine Place from 1955-1959.

I remember that my parents had a brochure on emigration to Canada. Of course, I thought it would be nice to travel on the depicted big ship.

Alas, we decamped to Bandon, one of the few new towns built by the English planters.

My parents ran a grocery store here. There was a second access around the corner (second image). Still, my parents and 7 children didn't leave much spare room.
I'm the one in the middle
My father drove a Ford Popular (the nearby car in the top image).

We walked to the Model School, across from the City Hall on Anglesea Street.

I recall my eldest brother Mossie running in front of a car at lunchtime. A crowd gathered but he wasn't injured.

This is Geraldine Place today.


In the 1870s Lithuanian Jews in the Russian Empire arrived in Dublin, Belfast and Cork.

The Cork City Council has said that a "considerable population of Lithuanian Jews settled in the Albert Road area that subsequently became known as ‘Jewtown.’ The area consists of a collection of six terraces comprising a total of 99 two-bay single-storey attic houses called Hibernian Buildings. The Jewish heritage sets it apart from anywhere else in the city, whilst the modest artisan dwellings are an excellent reminder of the city’s industrial heritage."

Adjacent to the Gasworks, they observed the kosher food laws and celebrated the religious festivals. They spoke mostly Yiddish, a language that sounds like German but also contains some Hebrew.

The men were pedlars. "There was an occasional Hebrew teacher, carpenter, or shopkeeper, but mostly they were door-to-door pedlars who left home on a Monday to sell household items and holy pictures around the county, and returned on a Friday, in time for Shabbes."

Gerald Yael Goldberg (1912 – 2003) was an Irish lawyer and politician who in 1977 became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Cork. Goldberg was the son of a Lithuanian Jew.

In Dublin, Robert Briscoe (1894 – 1969), also of Lithuanian parentage, was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1956 and 1961.

His son Ben Briscoe (1934 – 2023) had also been a Lord Mayor of Dublin, and he was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1965 to 2002.

James Joyce’s 'Ulysses' is set in Dublin on 16 June 1904 and the character of Leopold Bloom is based mainly on Jews whom Joyce knew in Trieste, then in the Austro-Hungarian empire, where the book developed in 1905–1915.

Joyce worked as an English language teacher, and many of his pupils were Trieste Jews. Italo Svevo, an Italian-Hungarian novelist and short-story writer, was a friend of Joyce.

James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom was the atheistic son of a Hungarian Jewish father and an Irish Protestant mother.

Cormac Ó Gráda (born 1945) an Irish economic historian and professor emeritus of economics at University College Dublin, has written that Bloom could hardly have been a product of the city’s bona fide Jewish community, where intermarriage with outsiders was rare and piety was pronounced. In the book 'In Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce,' Cormac Ó Gráda wrote that the real story of how Jewish Ireland — and Dublin’s Little Jerusalem in particular — made ends meet from the 1870s, when the first Lithuanian Jewish immigrants landed in Dublin, to the late 1940s, just before the community began its dramatic decline.

In Cork, the Jewish population peaked at about 500 and began a steep descent from the 1950s.

Birth of James Joyce's Ulysses coincided with the genesis of Irish democracy

James Joyce on Irish diversity, migration and Europe

James Joyce again

In James Joyce's 'Ulysses' the character Mr Deasy says "Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the Jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?"

"- Why sir?" Stephen Dedalus asked, beginning to smile.

"- Because she never let them in," Mr. Deasy said solemnly.

In 1904 Joyce was employed for a time by Francis Irwin, the headmaster and owner, of the the Clifton School in Dalkey, South Dublin. Irwin was a Trinity-educated and a pro-British Ulster Scot.

The real "Mr Deasy" was a Catholic from West Cork.

Timothy Deasy established a brewing business in Clonakilty, West Cork in c.1768.

His grandson Rickard Deasy (1812–1883), was born at Phale Court, Enniskean, West Cork. He attended Trinity College and became an Irish lawyer, judge and Member of Parliament.

Joyce used the name “Deasy” as it related to the Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment (Ireland) Act 1860. It became known as the "Deasy Act" and it favoured landlords, not tenant farmers.

(Cover 'Dublin Opinion,'the satirical magazine, 1956, plus other data from the 1950s)

Ford of Cork in the 1950s

According to the Irish Examiner newspaper "In the late 1940s, Ford in Cork had returned to full production and the new decade began well, with the 75,000 vehicle being driven off the assembly line at the Marina...It would be the first of many landmarks in the decade, culminating in the 150,000th vehicle being made at the Marina at the end of 1958 — a doubling of production in just eight years.

In 1958 the output was at 150,000 — a doubling of production in just eight years."

However, the data are flawed.

Grimes, Thomas (2008) Starting Ireland on the "Road to Industry: Henry Ford in Cork." PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

Dr Grimes noted that "The 8,286 vehicles exported during the years 1955 to 1960, was too little to materially improve the efficiency of the Marina plant."

During the Depression Henry Ford's earlier enthusiasm for opening a plant in his father's homeland, and he confirmed the decision to abandon manufacturing, to pull out of Cork and convert the site into a distribution centre. All that remained was to run down tractor production and transfer operations to Dagenham, East London.

The Fordson brand of tractors built on the Marina peaked in February 1930 at 6,712 employees.

"Employment at the Marina, which numbered about seven thousand workers in early 1930 had largely disappeared by June."

Economies were in chaos and countries were introducing tariff barriers. The tractor building ended in 1932 and car assembly was introduced.

Ford closed down activities in 1984 along with Dunlop.