Liam Ó hUigín: Grattan Street, Healthcare, The Marsh

Liam Ó h-Uigín 1-1.jpg


Liam Ó hUigín: Grattan Street, Healthcare, The Marsh


Liam grew up on Henry Street in The Marsh and recalls playing football on Grattan Street which was busy and full of activity with businesses, pubs, shops a fire station, barber shops and tenements. He discusses some shops and games in more detail.

Speaks of the poverty in the Middle Parish which necessitated buying goods on credit and selling clothes and jewellery to pawnshops. Mentions pawn locations. Mentions bringing empty bottles to shops to fill them with milk.

Discusses the conditions of the tenement houses in the Middle Parish including the sanitation arrangements such as outdoor toilets and the use of newspaper as toilet paper, he also mentions heating issues including timber, turf and coal which was available via a voucher scheme. Further discusses cooking, washing in the tenements including the introduction of gas and electricity. Also mentions medicines for lice and worms administered at home.

Says that boys and girls played different games separately when he was growing up. Mentions some of these games in more detail.

Discusses foods (including tripe and drisheen, pig’s tongue, Connie Dodgers) meal routines and the shops where food was purchased. Liam and his mother brought lunch to his father where he worked on the docks.

Returns to the topic of corner shops and shopping and the types of food available there, further comparing this to supermarkets today.

Speaks of the death of his mother and the change in living circumstances that this entailed.

Describes getting a vaccination in the dispensary, what it was like inside and who worked there.

Mentions fights outside bars at night time.

Talks about air raid shelters built in Cork city during the Second World War, what they looked like and where they were located.


24 July 2019




Cork Folklore Project Audio Archive


Cork Folklore Project










59 Minutes 41 Seconds



Original Format


Bit Rate/Frequency

24bit / 48kHz

Time Summary

0.00.00 - 0.00.31


0.00.31 - 0.02.55

Memories of Grattan Street and surrounding area Shops and Buildings

Grattan Street was a busy street with many businesses. Most important was the fire brigade. When the new St Francis Church was being built (Broad Lane church as it was called by people in the Middle Parish) the fire brigade amalgamated with Sullivan’s Quay and the priest of Old Broad Lane church moved into the old fire brigade building while new church was being built.

Children missed the excitement of the fire brigade.

Very vibrant street. 6 pubs: Kellehers, Crosses, Landers, Carrols (later called the Tostal Inn), Ramble Inn (owned by Mrs Brick) two Murphys public houses near Broad Lane which runs from Grattan Street to North Main Street.

Shops and sweet Shops: The Rodisses, The People’s Dairy, The M Laundries, 2 Gents Hairdressing Saloons (called barber shops): Leahy’s and Keanes. Where the Community Centre is now was called Mechanics Hall, because the mechanics had a union and meetings there. Later it was known as Matt Talbot Hall.

There were lots of tenement houses in the area.

[Liam’s phone rings.]     

0.03.06 - 0.05:04

Tenement Houses, Lanes, playing in Graveyard

Where Patrick Hanely Buildings are now there were tenement houses. Liam only barely remembers them as they were being demolished in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They were derelict sites for a while, which was his playground.

St Peter’s Cemetery down Peter Church Lane, playing among the headstones, and hiding or planking cigarettes.

Shops: Manning’s Shops at corner of Henry Street and Grattan Street, Mrs Mullins at corner of Coleman’s Lane. From Coleman’s Lane to Adelaide Street there were 4 or 5 houses there with 4 or 5 families in each house. Remembers Shinkwin? Family, the Dineens. When they moved out they went to Gurranabraher, Ballyphehane and the suburbs in Ballincollig.

0.05:04 - 0.06.56

Childhood Games and Activities

Very little Traffic on the roads at the time. Liam was living in Henry Street round the corner from Grattan Street. Recalls soccer matches from one end of the street to the other and wouldn’t see a car. Friends who came from Blarney Street or Barrack Street couldn’t understand why the streets were so wide and loved it for a game of football.

If a woman with a pram approached while they were playing football they would pick up the ball or if they played near the Mercy Hospital they knew that they should keep quiet without anyone telling them and Liam thinks that has changed today.

Many of his friends live in Grattan Street and everyone was a happy family until there was a row and they had a battering match with “stones down the quarry”.

They used to swim by the Mercy Hospital by the ladder. And then on to ‘the pipe’ up the Lee Fields and then the weir and every second day they had the Lee Baths one day for boys one for girls. Today it’s mixed.   

0.06.56 - 0.11.32

Poverty-Buying on Credit and using Pawn Shops

Could get messages or shopping on tick or on credit. Milk, bread, quarter (pound) of cheese. There was no bottle of milk you had to bring in your own jug. If you ran out of money the shopkeeper would write it into a book and at the end of the week you could pay it off. A few people could afford not to be ‘on tick’.

There were a few pawn shops on the North Main Street one near north Gate Bridge Jones, another across from Coleman’s Lane called Twomeys. There may have been more. There was one at the bottom of Shandon street owned by Jones as well.

There were 18 or 19 pawn shops around the city one at bottom of Patrick’s Hill, one by fire brigade station on Sullivan’s Quay, two on Barrack Street.

People would pawn clothes. Tradesmen would pawn trowels on Monday morning. Often for drink/ alcohol. Wives would pawn husband’s suit and take it back the following Saturday for going to mass. Nearly everyone used the pawn it was the forerunner to the Credit Union.

If you pawned a pair of shoes for 10 shillings, you got a docket and you had to pay 11 shillings to get it back.

Wives would be stressed making sure they could get the husband’s suit back in time for mass.

It was a thriving business. If you didn’t claim your pawned items after a certain period it was put for sale in the window.

Some people would pawn things openly. Other people would hide it under a shawl, or pretend to be pawning something for someone else. People felt ashamed. Almost everyone was scraping a living.

Even some shopkeepers looked after people who may not have had enough to pay at the end of the week.

At Christmas the shopkeeper would give you a present of a Christmas Cake or Christmas Candle depending on what type of customer you were.  

0.11.32 - 0.13.02

Work, Pawns, Showing off Wealth

Liam doesn’t remember what or whether his family pawned. Liam’s dad was a docker which was paid on a daily basis and his mother was shrewd enough to put away some money every day. He knew that relations of his pawned things though.

Bracelets, wedding ring, engagement ring, rarely a watch very few people had watches.

Liam knew someone who went to work in Dagenham and he came back a Dagenham Yank with a different accent “a twang” and a watch. He walked into centre of Henry Street, pulled up his sleeve and pretended to be winging his watch while looking at Shandon clock tower just to show off his watch.  

0.13.02 - 0.13.46


Phones were also very scarce. One shop in Henry Street had a phone and there was a queue there for people wanting to use it. There was another phone booth by Vincent’s Bridge coming down Sunday’s Well. Liam remembers playing there and being afraid to go in to answer the phone.

0.13.46 - 0.18.37

Tenement conditions, Emigrants, Social Comparison, Fuel Poverty

Laneways around there: Philip’s Lane from Grattan Street to North Main Street. Skiddy’s Castle from Grattan Street to North Main Street. Coleman’s Lane, Peter Church Lane (now Avenue), Broad Lane (at the back of the church), all on to North Main Street from Grattan Street.

Conditions were basic looking back with an outdoor toilet. One family on Henry Street had ten families with one cold tap in back yard and one toilet between them. They had to clean out every morning and bring an enamel bucket upstairs every morning.

Had an inferiority complex about relations coming home from England. The relatives would be dressed up in finery but later Liam discovered they were also badly off but made the effort when coming home.

The story of someone’s uncle who came back from America after 40 years and the family had moved out to the suburbs and they had a barbeque. And the uncle used the toilet inside the house. He said he used to eat inside and the toilet was outside and now it is reversed!

They used newspaper instead of toilet paper.

Turf and timber blocks for fuel for heating which father got going out the Straight Road.

Some people got a voucher for a peck of coal which might only be a large shovel full. Some families got vouchers for free shoes like in the shop Furlongs in South Main Street (owner may have been lord mayor later) Liam wasn’t sure where the vouchers came from- maybe the Health Board. Doesn’t think there was any child benefit. Maybe the Sick Poor would provide the vouchers. They would visit people and the people would try to hide that they were calling.   

0.18.37 - 0.22.42

Cooking, Bathing, Hygiene and Medicines

No cooking facilities only the fire. Mother would cook pot of potatoes on the fire and then transfer to the hob.

1948 no electricity in Henry Street at the time.

When they got gas in mother told him not to leave kitchen door open to hide it from Liam’s grandmother who lived upstairs and was the real tenant. It wasn’t an oven it was a thing on a stand with two rings on it. Older people were afraid of being gassed.

Saturday night the galvanised bath was put in front of fire with hot water and washed, and if you were the last person in the bath the water would be dirty. And then the children were lined up against the wall to get a weekly does of cod liver oil, or Brutlax, California syrup of figs, Senna? All because of worms. Some newspaper put on the table and hair combed with fine tooth comb to get rid of lice- it was an ordeal.

Brutlax was like chocolate but a laxative.

Milk of magnesia used as well. Given those every Saturday night to prevent you getting sick. Some of them had a terrible taste.

If someone got sick taken to the dispensary.

0.22.42 - 0.24.12

Children’s Games Different for boys and girls

Spent much time in the derelict site where Patrick Hanley Buildings are now, used to connect to Cove street. They had battering matches with stones and they were going to the Mercy Hospital 4 or 5 times a week. They used to play chasing hiding from the nuns around the Mercy Hospital.

Could bring a spinning top and hit is with a whip up and down the road without fear of traffic.

Girls would tie a rope to a pole and swing around it and skipping as well. 

0.24.12 - 0.31.57

Food, traditions, routines. Lunch at Work

Porridge for breakfast which you eat if you were given. His grandchildren now have a choice of 5 cereals. Goodie- bread and milk mixed maybe with sugar sprinkled on it.

Some shops on North Main Street like Simcox or Currans Bakery you could get bread wrapped in soft tissue paper which was kept in a drawer at home for when visitors came to use for the toilet because it was better than newspaper.

Potatoes and cabbage. Father loved pigs meat: pig’s heat, backbone, pig’s tail, crubeens. Liam still loves a crubeen except for the trouble of cooking of it, and it’s messy to eat.

Mother was reared around Vicar Street. Barrack Street, Blarney Street, Shandon Street: that’s the way people lived because there was little Gurranabraher built and Ballyphehane wasn’t built yet.

Tripe and drisheen is still a favourite, can get from Reilly’s in the market. Tripe cut into little pieces, with cornflower, onions, “white sauce”, drisheen put in later. Tripe and drisheen would be weekly. Liam loved the pig’s tongue because it was lean. Set day for each food.

Liam’s dad was a docker and he would cut the ear off the pig’s head, put it in a sandwich with bread and butter, wrap in newspaper and that was his lunch. He wasn’t the only one.

Thinks tripe is from sheep’s stomach. Blood in the drisheen.

Connie Dodgers for Lent allowed one meal and two collations. Con Lucey said you could have a biscuit with a cup of tea as a collation. Liam thinks it was Larry McCarthy’s bakery that made a biscuit twice as big as the normal one.

For Lent had to fast every Friday and couldn’t eat meat, except for people of a certain age.

Religion was a big thing for people at the time.

Lent didn’t bother Liam’s dad.

Dockers worked hard. Where Elysian Tower is now, where the Eglinton Baths were Liam went with his mother and a bowl of soup and bread and butter and a tea towel over it. The dockers sat on the kerb eating their soup and sandwiches and they were all black with dirt no washing of hands.

All the work was shovelling coal, Liam worked there for 2 days and had enough of it- nearly wanted a small shovel to fill the shovel he had. His dad was small but very wiry and strong. “They were marvellous people”

0.31.57- 0.37.05

Pastimes, Shops and Opening Hours

Dad spent time in the pub maybe too much. People listened to the radio or sat in front of the fire reading the newspaper. Some people with go hunting or play football or hurling.

Liam plays golf now but at the time it was only for the elite doctors and solicitors. Liam’s dad never stood inside a golf club.

Liam was 10 when his mother died she would offer him tripe and drisheen or a creamy cake for dinner and he would choose the cake.

The corner shops are gone now because of the supermarkets.

Corner shops on Henry Street were: Bode’s?, Mannings, Horrigan’s, Dermot’s on Adelaide Street. Dermot’s was first all-night shop in the city- wouldn’t be there during the day. Open from 8pm to 8am. A salesman in coca cola told Liam that Dermot lived on Pope’s Quay and owned a Morris Minor car and he drove it to Adelaide Street 7 days a week and the car was ten years old and there wasn’t 5,000 miles on it because that was all the driving he did.

In Ballypheane Liam sees people carrying lots of bags after shopping in Aldi on Tory Top Road. Liam remembers going to Dermot’s for quarter pound of cheese (3 or 4 slices), half pound of tea, 2 eggs, there were no fridges so you bought and you ate them there was little storage. Dermot would put greaseproof paper over the blade and cut perfectly a few slices of cheese which had come from a timber box. Girls were interested in the box for making cots for dolls. There was no variety of cheese available just the one block. Sugar was available in quarter pounds rather than big bags. Men coming home from the pub would be sent back out to get a box of cocoa or milk from Dermot’s.

There was no one on the street after 12 o’clock unlike today when there’s lots of people around after nightclubs.  

0.37.05 - 0.39.00

Death of Mother and Family Living Arrangements

When Liam’s mom died his aunt who had 6 children moved upstairs from Liam. She has 5 daughters and 1 son and the son died of meningitis at 4 years old. Liam’s grandfather was dead. Aunt moved to grandmother in Vicar Street to look after her. Liam was going to school in Mardyke, father’s place during the day, went to grandmother’s in Vicar Street for food and washing and then back to the Marsh to sleep. He skipped school for almost 3 months (‘on the lang’) until the school wrote to his dad, who gave him a lecture. He was nearly 14 then and on the verge of leaving school anyway.   

0.39.00 - 0.44.13

The Dispensary now Grattan Street Health Centre, Tinsmith and Nurse

Lots of cases of meningitis. Everyone in Cork used to go to the Dispensary. Everyone now in their 70s seems to remember Dr Cagney. He would give a bottle of coloured water. If you forgot your bottle you had to go to Mr Gamble the tinsmith in Grattan Street. He made ponnies, gallons, billycans. But when plastic came in there was no need for tinsmiths.

Remembers getting injection or vaccination from Dr Cagney, thinks it may have been for smallpox but is not sure. He dreaded the needles for the syringes which were “like six-inch nails”.

You went through a gate, into a yard and there were steps leading up to the entrance. A grey-haired woman maybe called Mrs O’Keefe. There were benches like in a church. There were hatches. You queued up for the doctor. And the hatches gave you the medicine.

Other place for illness was Mercy Hospital.

Recalls a midwife Nurse Anthony who called to people’s houses. Liam thought when younger than it was the midwife who brought babies on her bicycle. Aunt lived on Thomas Street (a continuation of Peter’s Street) to the back entrance of the Mercy Hospital where the “dead house” was where Liam’s mother was laid out. Remembers the Quirkes and the Horgans, Glandons?, McCarthys living there too and they all moved out when Mercy took over the whole block.

Liam doesn’t remember playing around inside the Dispensary.

0.44.13 - 0.45.35

Making vs Buying Lunch

People who worked in Dispensary didn’t live in area. Doesn’t think people make lunches for work anymore. In modern day people go to shops like Spar for sandwiches and rolls. Wives/mothers used to make “lunches for them in the morning” for children who were working and there was a can with milk, tea and sugar.

0.45.35 - 0.46.14

Families Living in Dispensary Grattan Street

Thinks Mrs O’Keefe was only working there, possibly the cleaner. Mrs O’Keefe may not have been her name. Liam doesn’t think they were charging people in the dispensary.

0.46.14 - 0.50.55

Attitude to health, Pubs, Fights, Market Gardens, Childhood Mischief

There was no such thing as being left on a trolley. The Mercy hospital was the only hospital Liam knew, and every child in the Marsh went there at least once after a fall, hit with a stone on the head, a few stitches. Although, Liam’s aunt lost a son to meningitis. Didn’t have the medicines we have today.

They were simple times but he doesn’t remember going hungry ever.

Lots of pubs on Grattan Street and people were spending lots of time and money which put a burden on the family. Saturday night on Grattan Street there would usually be a fight, stripped to the waist.

Bonfire night used to be a great night but no longer.

No awareness of mental health. Called the Lee Road the Madhouse Road. First coloured person Liam ever  saw was on Sheares Street and when they saw him they called him “Johnny the Black” and they got a chase.

A chase was very important for children at the time. Fisherman on Wise’s Quay near Vincent’s Bridge the children used to throw stones in to frighten the fish away and the fisherman would chase them.

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday the market gardeners would bring their produce on horse and carts to the Coal Quay and the shopkeepers would come to buy vegetables off them. Liam and the children would steal (“knock off”) some cabbage and carrots. “Oliver Twist was only trotting after us”.

0.50.55 - 0.51.15



You’d get a few sweets in Woolworths from the girls who worked there, to prevent them trying to steal them!

0.51.15 - 0.55.10


WW2 Air Raid Shelters in Cork

Three air raid shelters on Sheare’s Street, 2 in Henry Street and maybe a few in Grattan Street, at least one. O’Connell on Sheares Street was in charge of air raid shelter no 3. Fear of being bombed by German’s during World War 2 mass concrete buildings rather than underground. Liam has photograph of an air raid shelter on Patrick Street outside the Victoria Hotel and a photograph of it being knocked down.  

The son of the man who had the key to air raid shelter no 3 would rent out the space to old children if it was raining and they wanted to use it to play cards. In the 1940s. he lived at corner of Moore Street and Sheares Street. They were being demolished in 1948 or 1949. Air raid shelter remains inside the door of Elizabeth Fort and there are 2 on the grounds of the South Infirmary (Victoria Hospital), they’ve now been converted to stores.  

If you stand at bottom of South Terrace and you look up at “Rock Savage” on top of the hill at the back of the South Infirmary you can see it protruding out.

Liam remembers the LDF became the FCA and that their “top coats” were good as blankets during the winter as you could put your hands into the pockets. Nearly every house had an army coat on the bed.

Everyone was issued with a gas mask, Liam has one from a friend of his. Everyone had to be measured for their gas mask at the city hall or in schools. Liam’s dad wasn’t not in the LDF but his uncle was and it was his coat that was on the bed.

0.55.10 - 0.59.24

Grattan Street, Dispensary, surrounding lanes, Terence MacSwiney connection

Grattan Street was busy, vibrant street, always something happening there. Can’t believe seeing the traffic there now.

Liam took a photograph of Prince Charles stopped in traffic outside the plaque to Patrick Hanely Buildings.

The Dispensary was a historical place, there was a time when Grattan Street was a river and Meeting House Lane from North Main Street (at the side of Bradleys) was the entrance to any of the buildings on Grattan Street. Henry Street was known as Penrose Quay.

On Adelaide Street at the back of where Curran’s Restaurant was there was a square called Penrose Square- after the Penrose Family that lived in Tivoli.

If you come down Coleman’s Lane from Grattan Street and enter North Main Street up on the wall there are four plaques for the building where Terence MacSwiney was born. People think he was born in Blackpool because they confuse him with Tomas MacCurtain. Terence married one of the Murphy brewers. Liam is very interested in Terence MacSwiney and loves talking about him, maybe because he comes from the same area in Cork.

0.59.24 - 0.59.41


Outro. Interview Ends.


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Cork Folklore Project, “Liam Ó hUigín: Grattan Street, Healthcare, The Marsh,” accessed June 18, 2024,