Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ O’Sullivan: Ballyphehane



Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ O’Sullivan: Ballyphehane


Life History: Ballyphehane, Childhood, Emigration


Lizzie hails from Wolfe Tone Street on the Northside of the city. After spending a few years in England as a young adult she returned to Cork and was an early resident of the Corporation development in Ballyphehane. Lizzie has lived in Ballyphehane ever since.
Elizabeth talks about her places of growing up, Wolfe Tone St, Gurranabraher. Her schooling and first job. Emigration to England and marriage. Returning to Cork and establishing herself in Ballyphehane where she raised her family. Her father’s experience of the First World War. Her grandparents. The Development of Ballyphehane. Ballyphehane Church and Credit Union. Consumer history. TB in Cork. Arrival of Electricity. Family outings around Ballyphehane. Bonfire night. Sense of Community in Ballyphehane. The Bandon Train. Pre-marriage social life and dances. Musgrave Park.


30 November 2017




Cork; Ireland; Ballyphehane; England; 1920s-2000s


Cork Folklore Project Audio Archive


Cork Folklore Project










1 HR 23 Mins 11 Sec



Original Format


Bit Rate/Frequency

24bit / 48kHz


The following is a short extract from the interview transcript, copyright of the Cork Folklore Project. If you wish to access further archival material please contact CFP, folklorearchive@gmail.com

JF: Obviously you'd been out to Ballyphehane to visit Jimmy's family and that. But had you been out to Ballyphehane when you were a child?

EOS: No. There wouldn't be much of Ballyphehane built at that time now. The little houses below, in O’Growney Crescent, they were there. Now, I don't know whether they were all there or not. But there was some of them there. Parts of Pearse Road was there. There was a part of Connolly Road, because do you know up by the cross now when you go up before you come to the park? That was only all earth from that down. And I remember when I thought I was glamorous then you see. You'd have the high heels and you'd have the bit of glamour as you'd think you would. And I was saying I'm not walking down there. I'd destroy my shoes. And he gave me a backer up on his back. This is true now. He could be listening to me. The Lord have mercy on him. And he gave me a backer down before I destroyed my shoes. It was terrible.

JF: Was this up in Friar's Walk was it?

EOS: Up there now by the park there. So that wasn't finished.

JF: So was there still orchards and market gardens and stuff around?

EOS: I don't remember them now but there is, there was a family up there now, they're gone, the Varians. They were only up a couple of doors there. And they came from the market gardens. They were telling me one day. There's a very nice chap. They were living in the market gardens and they just moved. And then they were building just after that. They were building up by Sonny Fords, the shop. I can remember now there was a woman across the road and she died. And they asked me to go up and call Georgie. He was working on the flats for the Corporation.

Time Summary

0.00.35 - 0.02.25

House of Birth. She was born in 88 Wolfe Tone Street, maiden name Cambridge. Her father was Denis and her mother was Margaret O’Connor. She speaks of her family being twelve in total, six boys and six girls. She talks about growing up in Wolfe Tone Street. She lived in a tenement of about five or six floors with the ground floor occupied by the ‘caretaker’, a couple. Each floor cleaned their own and she remarks that she had a very good life even in the tenement.

0.02.26 - 0.04.26

Schooling. She went to St. Vincent’s Convent School, and remained there until second class. She recounts an event in school when a lay teacher made a public display of her for failing to answer a question in class and that sense of humiliation experienced never left her memory. After that event she switched to North Presentation school, she was around 8 years old at the time, and finished her schooling there. She left the North Pres before she was fourteen and went to work.

0.04.26- 0.07.27

First Job in Shoe Factory. She talks of her one and only job in Cork she had that of a Shoe Factory on Hanover Street where the present Labour Exchange is situated, owned by Dwyers. She found working there to be ‘okay’. She makes a general observation that in her life she never met ‘horrible people’, yet brings up that incident with the teacher again. She stayed in Dwyer’s until she was twenty one or two until after meeting her husband when they decided to go to England. Her mother was angry at her for giving up a ‘good job’ with pay at three pounds seven and six pence a week. She found the Dwyer’s to be good people to work for. They also had Lee Boot on Washington Street where Square Deal is now. There was no doctor on site as at the Sunbeam but there was a doctor on the South Mall that you could visit. She remembers the doctors rooms opposite the Victoria Hotel.

0.07.28 - 0.11.56

Time in England and marriage. She speaks of her time in England. She got married there. She worked in factory jobs, one of which did remote controls on the floor where she worked. She went to Birmingham first and then up to London. She got married in 1952. Never experienced anti-Irish prejudice while there. Her husband’s name was James but they called him ‘Jimmy’. He was a crane driver when she was over there with him. He was working in the railway as a fireman when he went to England first, before Elizabeth met him. She met him in Cork after he returned briefly. Only stayed in England for a few years and decided to come back after Elizabeth became pregnant. They almost went to Australia after a scheme came out trying to entice people to live there. The scheme assisted you in the fare out there, ten pounds. They had all the forms signed to go out after getting each round of papers signed by a priest or a Guard, which cost one shilling. Just at the final stage of going when she became pregnant and she had morning sickness and that ended that endeavour.

0.11.57 - 0.14.07

Return to Cork and finding her home. She talks of returning to Cork to live with Jimmy’s parents at 53 Kent Road, Ballyphehane. She says then that she lived first with Jimmy’s grandmother in an old run down cottage house in a laneway off where the Bridewell Garda Station is. There was about eight houses there but she felt a bit frightened there by its darkness and isolation. They were condemned and people living there expected to get Corporation Houses soon. But Jimmy’s parents knew a man on Pearce Road who had a good job in the Corporation and he put a good word for them and they got the house at 60 Kent Road after it became vacant.

0.14.08 - 0.16.24

Ballyphehane before and during development. She talks of Ballyphehane before it was built up fully. She wouldn’t have visited Ballyphehane when she was younger. Only the little houses in O’Growney Crescent were there, maybe not all of them, when she was growing up. Part of Pearce Road and part of Connolly Road was also there. The place along Connolly Road at the crossroads by the Park was all earth the way down. She doesn’t remember any market gardens around here but recalls a family a few doors up, the Varians, who came from the market gardens. She remembers construction up by Sonny Fords, the shop, and she was asked to call Georgie who was working on the flats for the Corporation after a woman across the way had died.

0.16.27 - 0.19.44

Ballyphehane Church and Credit Union. They were there before the Church. They started the Church when Elizabeth came to Ballyphehane. She remembers a man who used to visit each house with his book collecting subscriptions for the Church, a shilling a week. The man who did the collection was a mason, the Hurley’s and he went to America afterwards and is still there. She talks of the Credit Union but you had to pay half a crown to join and you would get a little pink book. At that time it was over at the sacristy at the Church and you joined over there because they were building the new Credit Union. You had to have thirty euros [pounds? Shillings?] saved before you could borrow ten. Great service – and she remembers that it was a priest who first set it up after he went to America and brought the idea back here. He organised meetings for the local people in relation to the idea. She thinks O’Flynn was his name…died in the plane. It was all run by volunteers. She remembers David McAuiliffe, known locally as ‘Uncle Dave’ in relation to it. Elizabeth worked with him.

0.19.45 - 0.25.27

Buying household goods and groceries. She talks of her husband getting seven or eight pounds as wages for the week when she got married first. You would buy something with the two week holiday money he would receive. She bought her first fridge out in Togher for thirty five pounds. That would mean there would be no holiday but instead you have a washing machine and fridge. She talks about shopping for groceries and the Spar coming. First was the ‘Bally’, the ‘Ballyphehane Stores’ down the road where the AIB is now. When you got a bit more money you go to the supermarket, to Dunnes Stores. She talks of Luke Burke’s having a shop in Patrick Street and when he closed down Ben Dunne bought that. She recalls seeing a man in a café in town with her daughter Mary (who worked in Dunnes Stores) who ran the original Dunnes Stores back then and who featured in a documentary recently. Jackie talks about what shopping was like in there and mentions the people working in there some of whom were local and mentions a Mona O’Donovan.

0.25.30 - 0.31.09

Living in Gurranabraher with her family. Elizabeth speaks briefly on living in Gurranabraher and then recounts playing with her brother Paddy and him falling after she used to pretend he was a horse and she the driver on their way down to her grandparents who lived in the laneway off Wolfe Tone Street. She talks about her grandparents and their house which was a two roomed house which formed most of it and how they used to pawn items when they were on ‘the binge’ and how her mother would try to avoid them in street by going different route to town when they were in that state. There was eight [children?] in her grandmother’s house. Her mother married young. Two girls died of TB as it was rampant at the time. Her mother’s maiden name was Margaret Babbington. She doesn’t know much about the Babbingtons. She couldn’t remember her grandfather working.

0.31.18 - 0.38.12

Her father and WW1. James, Elizabeth’s grandson, mentions that her father (his great-grandfather) fought in World War One and Elizabeth urges him to speak on it as he knows more than her. James then recounts a story that he was told that the grandfather was fighting with the British Army and during this particular military engagement the healthiest and fittest were out in front and those that were injured were left behind and the priest, or ‘padre’ as they were called asked for volunteers to remain behind with the wounded which would have put their lives in danger. His great-grandfather volunteered and helped the priest by getting stretchers up to the wounded. His bravery was rewarded by a special medal and they have a very good photo of him in uniform. Elizabeth then remembers when she was younger and the medals being in the chest of drawers upstairs in the main bedroom, one of three. She remembers the medals being in there but she doesn’t know where they went subsequently. Her sister’s grandson did the research on the subject and unearthed the story of the bravery medal and James himself is involved in Camden Fort and the World War One room there and hope to do something on Denis Cambridge there for that. He then says that his grandfather became very good friends with the war chaplain, who was Archdeacon Duggan. Elizabeth then speaks about him and the easy way of him as he visited them in their house in Gurranabraher. She also relates a story of how she met him once and he said to her that her father was such a good man he went straight to heaven and brave as well. Elizabeth adds that her father was a very, very quite man, nice man. He never seemed to be affected by the war and he never talked about it. He died young of cancer at the age of fifty-six. Her grand-nephew and grandson have replica medals. She doesn’t remember any negative reaction to him being in the British Army after he came back. He worked as a labourer in timber yard.

0.38.13 - 0.42.29

TB and Cork. Elizabeth talks about TB not affecting her family as they had cleared it in Cork but it did kill her two aunts on her mother side. They were young women. She relates that she know a number of people, male and female, who worked in the shoe factory in Hanover Street that died of TB. They used to say it was due to the river by the factory. They were young people. They used to go down to Sarsfield Court and Mount Desert. She believes most people died from it because they had no drugs. Discussion about conditions for TB and Elizabeth recounts her tenement house on Wolfe Tone Street having only one toilet with children on every floor but it was kept spotless due to the caretaker couple who made sure everyone cleaned their own part. Jimmy’s parents used to live in a tenement on Peter Street where they had only one toilet as well but no running water. You would have to go out on the street to a water pump and fill your container and bring it back up to the top floor where they lived.

0.42.30 - 0.46.11

Arrival of Electricity and the near death of her brothers. She talks about the change-over to new energy sources from gas to electricity. There was only gas in the house in Gurranabraher but then they put in electricity and light would come on with a switch. She recalls how her two brothers were nearly killed by a leakage from the gas piping after they removed the gas fittings in the house as they slept in their bedroom. They were saved by their aunt who lived with them as well as she heard them groaning. She couldn’t get help as they taught it was a hoax when she rang for help as that night was a bad night weather wise and a lot of hoaxes were being rang in. Her aunt ran in her bare feet to the Garda Station at the end of Rock Steps on the North Mall just beyond O’Connor’s funeral home to get help. They both survived.

0.46.12 - 0.48.54

Arrival in new home. She talks about moving into her new house in Kent Road. She was delighted to have her own house, her own front door and key. She had one child, Stephen, when she moved in. Denis was born in the house. She had six children in total and then mentions that she had seven as one child died. She then talks about the family company she has in the house and how she liked that after her husband died. She loves her house.

0.48.55 - 0.54.43

Family outings around Ballyphehane. She says that she doesn’t miss anything from the old times in Ballyphehane but then recounts how she used to take the children out the Tramore Road, out to Celia’s pub was and there was a stream there and you think you were in Youghal by the stream. Her husband would go in for a pint and if he had the money he would get a bottle of lemonade for the children. The children would paddle in the stream and it was very pleasant. Jackie then adds that she remembers walking down Tramore Road on a Sunday with her father in front on them carrying a stick going onto Hangdog Road, where Kelleher’s Electrical is and there was a farm there. They would stop by the gate to look at the chickens and hens but as you were walking down the road the rats would run across. That is why her father had the stick. Elizabeth says that where Musgraves is now was also a farm. It was country. Jackie talks about going for a walk up Airport Hill into the Airport bar. Also going over St. Finbarr’s Club house. Her aunt and her family socialised with them a lot as her husband died young. Elizabeth loved the walk going down to Blackrock. There was no bus or car and they would walk down the marina. Her husband never had a car so the family used to walk everywhere. She couldn’t afford the bus for all the children and the buses weren’t plentiful.

0.54.43 - 0.56. 27

The Bandon Train. She recalls the train that you could see on top of the hill running along. She believes it only went once a day. She remembers being asked to meet her brother’s girlfriend from Dunmanway who arrived by train at the station for Bandon. Discussion arises over where was the Bandon line ran through close to the home.

0.56.28 - 0.59.13

Activities and social events like Bonfire Night. Jackie recalls the boys used to go out to Lane’s Wood, at the back of Vermont. Jackie then mentions bonfire night and they having it at the green close to the home and a lady who used to set up a table for refreshments for the children for free. Elizabeth recalls a man who played the melodeon. He was called Mr Mac, for McCarthy. He would play when the Tory Top was closed or the ‘Little Man’s’ and there would a great sing song with a sofa still there and that would be the last into the fire. There would be dancing as well. The Little Man was the Horseshoe Inn. Very little entertainment around here. Bonfire night was a big night and John Millis used to collect a pennies from children and he would get the diluted orange and he would give them a few sweets.

0.59.13 – 1.05.04

Her Social life and Dancing. She didn’t socialise much. She didn’t drink or smoke. She loved to dance though. She went to the Arcadia and City Hall before she got married. She thought the Arcadia brilliant. She went to any big dance that came which could cost as much as five shillings. It would be on from nine to two every Saturday night for a half a crown but if a big band came it would be five shillings. She met her husband Jimmy in the City Hall at a dance. She relates how the ‘boys’ would be on one side and the ‘girls’ would be on the other and the male would come across to ask for a dance. She didn’t have much preparation for the dances – the clothes weren’t as glamourous as today or as much make-up. She said she wasn’t into make-up generally. Her husband however liked to look good – always careful to mind his clothes.

1.05.05 – 1.09.26

Sense of community and helping in Ballyphehane. She experienced a great sense of community in Ballyphehane. She is over sixty years here and hasn’t a bad word for the place. Her son Denis was born upstairs, the first after she moved to Kent Road. He was helped in delivery by Mrs. Willis next door. She was a great neighbour as you could call her. Her husband loved sweet things and she remembers when he was sick he had a ‘catch’ of sweets down the wardrobe and his bottle as well. She thinks that he used to get up to get a sweet but there would be a little bit of alcohol with it. She was the opposite and always hated alcohol. If she needed help when he was ill she would rap on the wall and the neighbour would call in, but mostly Linda who developed a good relationship with him during his ill times. Recounts a story about Linda getting hit accidently.

1.09.27 – 1.14.14

Ballyphehane as child friendly and welcoming. It was a great place to bring up children. She experienced no problem. Jackie speaks about how everybody hadn’t much so there wasn’t much competition and they all played together. Elizabeth then relates how a new neighbour moved in close by and her advice to her about renovating her house with the start point being the bedroom and then the kitchen and you have the rest of your life to do the rest. Nowadays, she thinks, young ones want it done straight away. Both Elizabeth and Jackie talk about how over the years new families have moved in and integrated very well. Jackie remembers how they used to play soccer using a neighbours gate and their own gate as goalposts. Never any trouble with the neighbours. Elizabeth speaks about a new neighbour who is ‘dark skinned’ and says she doesn’t bother anyone but doesn’t get involved either. They are very quite.

1.14.15 – 1.23.11

Musgrave Park and its impact on their life. Elizabeth talks about the rugby pitch which is next to her house and remembers the local opposition to the flood lights and people coming to her door to sign a petition against them, fearing they would be doing concerts. There was also a collection for to employ a solicitor but when the lights were installed, she states, they interfered with nobody. Jackie urges Lizzie to talk about the time the All Blacks came and the place being full of camper vans but Lizzie talks about another time a visiting couple asked her could they leave their bags there with her for them to go for a walk and they went for a walk around the lough. She fed them when they came back. They intended to ‘thump’ back to Limerick after the match. Lizzie wouldn’t allow them to do that as it would be dark after the match and she persuaded to stay the night and go in the morning. Jackie again goes back to the All Black match and the visitors had camper vans and all the gear for making their own food but still the front door was left open and they used to come in to use the bathroom. The only problem she mentions would be traffic sometimes but the Guards are very good. James talks about the concerts there and one in particular, El Divo, and how Uncle Arthur expected to arrive in the house and be able to hear the concert but that turned out to be not the case. General talk amongst those present of how nice it is to live in Ballyphehane. Jamie Fury then reads the legal document regarding the recording of Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ O’Sullivan.


Interview Format