The Port of Cork
Cork's Maritime Tradition

Tall ships race in CorkCork has one of the largest harbours in Europe and has a long history of international trade. Excavations of ringforts in the county have revealed objects from the eastern mediterranean, eg. the amphorae at Garranes ring fort. Certainly the area was visited by the vikings and with them came improved shipbuilding techniques. By the 13th and 14th century a great deal of imported pottery was in use within the walls of Cork city. This pottery points to trade links with south western France as well as with England. In particular the port of Bristol was much frequented by ships from Cork. Wine from Bordeaux was a popular import at this time. Both sea and river fishingTall Ships Race in Cork were well established. In the 18th and 19th centuries the main exports were meat and butter. According to an account of 1688, 10,000 cattle were being slaughtered each year and then exported to other European ports and to the West Indies. By 1750 this figure had risen to 1000,000 cattle. In 1633 a method to barrel butter so that it could travel successfully was developed. The butter market was established on the north side of the city. By 1770 this market was exporting approximately 109,367 barrels annually. The tradition of shipbuilding was also strong in the Cork area. Small fishing vessels were often built at the small harbours from which they worked. Larger yards were established at Cork, Youghal and Kinsale. The largest yards came to be concentrated around Cork harbour. The most important of these was establised at Rushbrooke. The British Admiralty established a victualling base on Haulbowline Island in Cork harbour. A large dry dock was added to this base in 1887. Today this island is the main base of the Irish navy. Kinsale and Bantry Bay also served as British naval bases. The 1800's saw the growth of emigration, particularly during the famine years. For many of these emigrants their last sight of Ireland was the town of Queenstown, now Cobh. In particular the last passengers to board "Titanic" on her tragic maiden voyage were brought by tender from Queenstown to Roches Point where the great ship had laid anchor. Many of the victims of the "Lusitania" were brought ashore at Queenstown where they were buried in the old church graveyard. Most of the remaining victims were brought to Kinsale, where the first inquest on the sinking was held by the coroner, John Horgan. In 1821 the St. George Steam Packet Company was established. It began trading on the Cork to Bristol run but soon added new routes. The company offices can still be seen on Penrose Quay in the city. This company owned the "Sirius" which became the first steamboat to cross the atlantic beating Brunel's "Great Western" by less than 24 hours. The "Sirius"departed from London on 28th March 1838 with a crew of 38 and 40 passengers. She made a brief stopover at Passage West to take on additional supplies of coal and arrived into New York on 22nd April 1838. The ships captain, Richard Roberts, who was born in Passage West in 1803 was made a freeman of Cork city on his return from the triumFire tug in Cork Harbourphant voyage. In January 1847 the "Sirius" was heading into Cork in thick fog when she ran against high cliffs, her crew tried to bring her on to Cork but she foundered on a reef of rock jutting out from the cliffs of Ballycotton. The ships main shaft can now be seen in Passage West. The Clyde Shipping Company also operated out of Cork. Their ships travelled from Cork to Glasgow, from 1859 to 1962, with stops at Waterford and Dublin. More recent developments in Cork harbour include the Tivoli Industrial Estate, which was completed in 1976 on reclaimed land and has roll-on roll-off and container facilities, the creation of Irelands first Free port at Ringaskiddy in 1984 and the deep water berth at Ringaskiddy opened in 1990. The Queen Elizabeth II visited Ringaskiddy in 1988 in order to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the "Sirius" voyage and the Cutty Sark tall ships race visited Cork in 1991. 
Titanic at Queenstown


Irish Mercantile Marine