Ireland Trip: 4–Cork and Memory, part 2

Drawbridge Street—the birthplace of my Mom. Though she’d been raised in Dublin she’d lived the first three years of her life there, with her birth parents, brothers and sisters. Her oldest brother, Johnnie, who had never really gotten along with his Dad, had served in WW2. After the war he’d returned and found that his father had wanted him to join in his chimney sweeping business. They still could not come to terms, though, and shortly after that he returned to Germany.

For Good.

The oldest daughter, May, instead joined her father and helped him run the business—yes, she swept chimneys too— until he retired. Later, after Johnnie’s mom and dad had died, his sisters and brother had tried to find him. They’d even enlisted the help of the Red Cross, all to no avail. The best response they received was that Johnnie simply did not want to be found.

They’re all gone now, though. The youngest, Annie, died in 1993, my Mom two years earlier, and that was that. The house was rent controlled and the owner really wanted everyone out so that the place could be converted to commercial use. It was, after all, right off busy St. Patrick Street; a prime location.


Drawbridge Street

Drawbridge Street, viewed from St. Patrick Street

I found it right away. At least I knew there way there, if not anywhere else. I was really struggling with the recalled details. Things did not match. The street itself was not too different from what I recalled. Very narrow; not much more than an alley and each numbered property had only a small frontage but want fairly far back. Number 21—that was it. It was now a dress shop. Half of a dress shop, in fact. The shop took up two adjacent spots. It had a lovely glass-front display. Nice items. I figured they were hand made.

It was closed for the evening, though. It was after the supper hour and most of the shops in the area were closed as well. I could not leave, though, and kept walking back and forth in front of it; criss crossing the street and viewing it from every possible angle. It was the place, for sure, but it still did not feel quite right somehow.


Aunt Bridie and Aunt May stuck it out until the end, though. When Aunt May—the last sister who’d lived in the house—died, Aunt Annie made the trek across the ocean to finish up the affairs. There had not been much of an estate other than personal effects and furniture. Two unmarried sisters lived together until the end, the rest of the family dead, missing, or living far away in Canada.


A dress shop! Not a bad outcome. Aunt Bridie had been a seamstress for most of her life. She’d worked as part of a company that made draperies mostly; custom jobs, each individually cut and fitted. There had always been a promise that the shop would eventually be hers and, year after year, she’d worked away, always in hope. It was not to be, though. The promise was never kept and the company was eventually disposed of another way, sold off to some “other rich person.” I can only imaging Aunt Bridie’s disappointment. Still, though, this was not a bad end for the place.


The Dress Shop located at 20 and 21 Drawbridge. Closed, though.

The Dress Shop located at 20 and 21 Drawbridge. It’s the one on the end, by the corner.  Closed, though.

Whatever about the fin, it's not hard to see the Bars! Closed at 5; no way to go inside fro a look.

Whatever about the fin, it’s not hard to see the Bars! Closed at 5; no way to go inside for a look.

St. Fin Barre's cathedral. Funny, I recall it as St. Finbar's.

St. Fin Barre’s cathedral. Funny, I recall it as St. Finbar’s.

We walked around some more and eventually found our way back to the hotel. That evening we scratched another item off the list. Henchy’s Bar was as good as the Taxi Driver had said. We sat down, faced with an array of locally-brewed stuff. Cream Ale—mmmm. My first choice was easy. Josephine was not so sure so the barman poured her up a couple of samples. Seeing my look he laughed and poured up two more which he placed in front of me. “Can’t have you accusing me of showing a preference.”  Mmmm. Nice and Nice. Dessert for the first pint!

Then another; a pint of one of the samples he’s placed before me. “What do you like best?” I asked.

“I prefer ciders. Bulmers is the one I go for the most.” I’d never had it. The only cider easily available back home is not one I like. I made a face. The fog from the first pint-and-a half probably helped.

The music! It was coming from what seemed to be a room to my left. Henchy’s has rooms here and there. Besides the bar area and the outside spot there are nooks and crannies where you can go if you’re feeling less social. That room seemed a bit out of the way, situated right next to the end of the bar. You’d almost miss it if not for the music and songs drifting through.

“That’s a group that comes by here every week or so. They called one time a few years back looking for just a place to play so we offered them that room.” The sound was pretty good. Not exactly professional quality but still unmistakeably well practiced, and played with that mixture of love and passion that artists strive for. Traditional tunes mostly—though mostly Irish, still quite recognizable to anyone who’d grown up in rural Newfoundland Labrador. They weren’t drinking a whole lot. Cleary for them this place was somewhere to get together and share some music over a few pints.

Speaking of which several more samples had just appeared. “The Bulmers is the one to the left.”

Nice. Down it went followed by the second, which I had another full pint of.

We’d been noticing the others at the bar. A few loners here and there quietly nursing their beer—Budweiser mostly.

Budweiser? Lord save us! The bar had better! Oh, and this was Cork, Ireland.  Whatever…

Groups were talking all around but the music and the fog from the beer was making it hard to follow anything in particular, just get snippets of themes: Hurley, city politics, stuff…



“One more. I like the first one I had best.” I pointed. I could not even recall the name.

We chatted a bit more between the three of us. Though he knew we were tourists—you generally can—he hadn’t figured us for Canadians. The accent—it’s not what non-Canadians expect. He’d judged us to be fellow country folk but, perhaps, from off the main drag. I mentioned that I’d not been here for 37 years and how things seemed the same but still oddly different. I noted in particular how, unlike back in Dublin, I was having difficulty matching what I saw with how I recalled it.

“Some things have changed, especially back in the nineties when the economy was strong. These days, though, with things slower it’s more like it was.”

At Henchy's in Cork. Best Bartender!

At Henchy’s in Cork. Best Bartender!

Closing time was earlier than I’d expected. Eleven thirty and people were quickly drifting back to their homes. Back home, bars are always open very late but a part of me was grateful. As a morning person, most of me starts shutting down right about that time. It was doing that and no doubt the beer was helping.

Josephine and I made the short walk back to the hotel. All the way back I was quiet—strange for me under the circumstances—and thinking about Drawbridge. Too bad the dress shop had been closed. Closure—yes that was it.

The hotel was on a hill overlooking the city. I walked to the other side and stood on the balcony overlooking Cork. It was a little busy. A wedding? On a weeknight? I found St. Fin Barre’s; a landmark, even at night, then found St. Patrick’s street. It was still lit a little brighter than the nearby streets.

Overlooking the city of cork from the balcony outside our hotel room.

Overlooking the city of cork from the balcony outside our hotel room.

Was it always that bright? I recalled the shops. Lots of them. They were there, too, in my memory. There were just more than I’d recalled. But Drawbridge Street, the dimly lit, narrow little thing running parallel to the Lee one street back? I could not be exactly sure of where it was right now, overshadowed as it was by the bright lights nearby. Worse, though, I was bothered by how it did not mesh with my memory. I wish that shop had not been closed.

It could have been the beer though.


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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19 Responses to Ireland Trip: 4–Cork and Memory, part 2

  1. Enjoyable read … like the others in this series. Please tell me that the next installment tells of your visit, the following morning, to the dress shop? Also, did you have any sunny weather? All your photos seem to show grey, cloudy, conditions? And did you visit the boats down by the sea … even just to remind you of home? Enjoyed the photo of Henchy’s … looks like quite a place which produced lots of smiles. D

    • Yes, the conclusion is next. Interesting point about the sunny weather. The whole time we were there the weather was that “iffy” type. Never too bad but always threatening worse. We did get to the sea–Galway. That will come next week.

  2. Mary says:

    Enjoyed this also – nice especially to see Lesley observing the streets/ places of our childhood. I Do also remember Drawbridge St as being very very dark ..perhaps a combination of the narrow streets and weather? Buildings so close together – no room for light to circulate..? It is actually nice to see the cheerful bright shops. Re Uncle Johnny/ Johnnie Hayes – I think his returning to Germany was one of the many speculations about his disappearance. I have always held out hope that perhaps someday we would connect with him – either himself or if he had passed away through those that knew and loved him in his chosen life – wherever/ whatever that might be.
    I look forward to the next installment.

    • Me too. I always wondered what was the real story. So many questions and all we can do is try and imagine what the answers might have been. I suppose it’s far too late now, though. In all likelihood Johnnie is dead and we have no way of locating those who would have been dear to him at the end. So sad…

  3. Josephine Barry says:

    Our trip to Ireland will certainly hold not only many happy memories but also some emotional ones.I always had my beautiful mother in-law, never far from my mind visiting all the places she talked about with me. When I’d hear the Irish music playing I couldn’t help but fill with emotion thinking of how my brother Brendan loved it so. I’d wipe the tears away secretly or at least I thought I did and then I would smile thinking how Mrs. Barry would say in her never changing Irish accent about the music sure that’s just a bunch of “come all ye’s.” I can’t put to paper my thoughts as eloquent as you Maurice. You have a way of captivating the reader from beginning to end and leaving them wanting a little more ❤ I can't wait for our return trip someday with all the Barrys.

  4. I like the buildings in Drawbridge Street, they’ve still got the sash windows in ‘your’ block.

    • A little dreary owing to the narrow streets. In its day it was a very modest neighborhood; something I find hard to imagine given its location between the merchants’ Quay and St. Patrick Street. No wonder, I suppose, the landlord wanted everyone out.

  5. Pingback: Ireland Trip: 4--Cork and Memory, part 2

  6. The pubs are so cosy and I have many memories of drinking guinness and listening to traditional irish music. Thanks again for sharing a gorgeous part of the world Maurice.

    • Quite a nice combination, all in all 🙂
      Speaking of the traditional Irish music, you might be interested to know that a lot of music from your country is sung here in Newfoundland the bars–all the time. The songs of Eric Bogle (who I suppose is a Scot, technically) are quite popular here, for example, but there are quite a few others too.

  7. elkement says:

    This is a great series – you are quite a writer, Maurice!!

    The closed shop is a powerful symbol indeed. I have no eloborate theory but I agree: I would not want to find any place I have lived or worked at or I have some other emotional relationship with abandoned. Strictly speaking, it is not logical as these are not my houses, companies, whatever. But still – it seems we long for continuity …

    • You and I are accustomed to looking at the world and interpreting it mainly from the scientific way of knowing. Not only is it likely that we were born with a predisposition for that way but also, throughout our entire lives we have continuously educated ourselves through it. It so happens, though, that science is not the only way of knowing and, while, science nearly always serves us well, there are times when the other ways make themselves known. For my part I have learned to kind of “roll with it,” and judge, at the time, whether I wanted to jump out of one head space and into another for a while. Sometimes I do, as you can see, and often I do not 🙂

  8. Tiny says:

    Enjoyed the trip again very much! Somehow we’d like to see continuity…even being away for years, and we look for things to match our memories. Henchy’s bar seemed to be a great gathering place. When I was younger and still playing music, it would’ve been great to have a place to play and have a few pints 😀

    • Thank you, but I am curious about the “still playing music” part. Why do you not play music now? It seems like something that would merge so perfectly with the “you” that exists now.

      • Tiny says:

        Sorry, forgot to respond (it was in the back of my mind). I love to play with others…which I did until about 20 years ago. Now I don’t have anyone to play with so it’s only when someone who can play my other guitar comes to visit that I play nowadays…in addition to the very few occasions when a party atmosphere (read a few glasses of red) and public demand makes me to play and sing “solo” 🙂

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