We are proud to announce that we have expanded and extended our headline exhibition, “A City By The Sea” at St. Peter’s Cork with new “Cork 1918” video content and exhibition panels.
Combining video and exhibition panels, ‘Cork 1918’ offers an insight into the events of 100 years ago when Cork City and its harbour played a pivotal role in winning the First World War for the Allied powers. The heavily fortified harbour had been a cornerstone of British defence in the Northern Atlantic for over 300 years. However, German U-boats had wrought mayhem on ships sailing in and out of the harbour since the start of the war. The torpedo attack on the Lusitania in 1915 killed 1200 people but it was by no means an isolated attack. In 1918, five cargo ships belonging to the City of Cork Steampacket Company were lost to torpedoes, along with nearly 100 men.
Shortly after the US declared war on Germany, a squadron of American naval destroyers arrived in Cork Harbour. By 1918, there were 7,000 American personnel in the neighbourhood, serving under the command of a British admiral. While loud voices bemoaned these American ‘vultures … preying upon the purity of our daughters,’ the US presence did much to help the war effort. Cork Harbour became a central assembly point for vessels sailing under the new Convoy System, by which merchant ships and troop ships sailed together, providing mutual protection against the enemy.
Meanwhile, thousands of men and women from Cork were serving on the battlefronts of Europe and the Middle East as the war with Germany and its allies slowly ground to a halt. Many of the 4000-plus Cork people who died in the war were killed during the Spring Offensive of 1918.
A misguided attempt by the British government to implement military conscription in Ireland led to a powerful alliance of nationalists, trade unions, suffragists and, most notably, the Roman Catholic clergy, who organised a pledge against conscription signed by nearly two million people. The dubious arrest of 150 leading Irish nationalists further played into Sinn Féin’s hand on the eve of a General Election in which the party won 73 of the 105 seats available, including all seven seats in Cork.
As the people of Cork simultaneously wrestled with the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic, Cork republicans like Terence MacSwiney and Michael Collins braced themselves for a war of independence in which Cork City was destined to burn but the fierce spirit of Irish liberty would ultimately triumph.
This exhibition along with all exhibitions at St. Peter’s Cork is free for all to come and enjoy. While on site why not relax with a coffee and cake from our in-house café or enjoy some serenity in our secret garden.