Cork Harbour is a natural harbour and river estuary at the mouth of the River Lee in County Cork, Ireland. It is one of several which lay claim to the title of "second largest natural harbour in the world by navigational area" (after Port Jackson, Sydney). Other contenders include Halifax Harbour in Canada, Trincomalee Harbour in Sri Lanka and Poole Harbour in England.
The harbour has been a working port and a strategic defensive hub for centuries, and it has been one of Ireland's major employment hubs since the early 1900s. Traditional heavy industries have waned since the late 20th century, with the likes of the closure of Irish Steel in Haulbowline and shipbuilding at Verolme. It still has strategic significance in energy generation, shipping, refining and pharmaceuticals development.
Cork city is located slightly upstream on the River Lee on the northwest corner of Cork Harbour. Several of the city's suburbs, including Blackrock, Mahon, Douglas, Passage West and Rochestown lie on Lough Mahon or the Douglas Estuary, both of which are parts of Upper Cork Harbour.
The Lower Harbour has a number of towns around its shores. Passage West, Monkstown, Ringaskiddy and the smaller village of Raffeen are found on the western shore. On the southwestern shore is Crosshaven. Great Island, which forms the northern shore of the lower harbour, houses the town of Cobh. As of 2011, Cobh had a population of about 12,500. The eastern shore is less densely populated, but has two villages Whitegate and Aghada, both home to power plants.
The village of Ballinacurra is on the northeastern spur of the harbour, known as the Ballynacorra River. Due to the recent expansion of the town of Midleton, Ballinacurra has effectively become a suburb of Midleton, so it could also be said that Midleton lies on Cork Harbour.
In the mid 1960s the family lived in Whitegate and Aghada and owned a large boat and got to explore much of Cork Harbour and we frequently visited Passage West. However, the family moved back to Dublin and I did not get the opportunity to revisit until August 2021 and I visited again a week ago [May 2022].
Passage West (locally known as "Passage") is a port town in County Cork, Ireland, situated on the west bank of Cork Harbour, some 10 km south-east of Cork city. The town has many services, amenities and social outlets. Passage West was designated a conservation area in the 2003 Cork County Development Plan.
Though seeing a relatively high unemployment rate for much of the late 1980s and early 1990s, in the 20 years between the 1991 and 2011 census, the population of the Passage West area grew by 60% (from 3,606 as of the 1991 census, to 5,790 by the 2011 census). According to the 2016 census returns, approximately 50% of the private housing in the area was built in this period.
In 2006, property development company Howard Holdings acquired the former Royal Victoria Dockyard site from Haulbowline Industries, a stevedoring business owned and managed by the Hill family. In December 2007, they held a public display of plans for the redevelopment of the site. However the project was subsequently cancelled due to collapse of Ireland's property boom.
The buildings in the town centre are mainly late 18th and early 19th century, while the architecture of nearby Glenbrook and Monkstown is mainly from the later Victorian period. In 1690, at the time of the landing of the Duke of Marlborough with his army to lay siege to Cork, Passage was described as an insignificant fishing village.
Its development from an obscure hamlet to a town may be principally attributed to its deep safe anchorage. The advancement of Cork's commercial trade was an important benefit to Passage. Owing to the shallowness of the channel above the town, vessels of over 150 tons were unable to proceed to Cork and were compelled to discharge their cargoes here. These were either unloaded onto lighters and brought up the river to Cork or put ashore and taken to the city in carts or on horseback. The only road to Cork then was via Church Hill through the site of the present Capuchin Monastery at Rochestown and then through what is now the entrance to the farmyard at Oldcourt, and on to Douglas and Cork.
In 1836, a new quay was built where the vessels could berth and land their passengers and freight. Sir John Arnott was chiefly responsible for the building of the granaries, intended for the storing of the freight from the vessels. The freight from one ship only was received there before the channel was dredged. The town then possessed three hotels and two dozen public houses. The dredging of the channel largely ended the importance of Passage as a port.
The largest of Passage's industries were the two dockyards. Hennessy's yard was situated in what is now Fr O'Flynn Park. In 1815 this yard was involved in launching the City of Cork, the first steamship built in Ireland. The other and bigger dockyard was the Royal Victoria Dockyard, which was laid down in 1832 and cost £150,000 to build and equip. It received its name from Queen Victoria on her first visit to Cork in 1849. The yard changed ownership several times, and during World War I was employing over 1,000 people. By 1925, most of the workers were paid off owing to a slump in the shipbuilding trade, and it completely closed down in 1931. The Rushbrooke Dockyard was re-opened in 1940 and gave employment to many men who previously worked in the Royal Victoria Yard.
The first steamship to cross the Atlantic to America was under the command of Lt. Richard Roberts, R.N., a native of Passage West. The paddle shaft of The Sirius can be seen today and forms part of a memorial to Captain Roberts and his achievement. It is erected near the site of the now-demolished baths on the road to Monkstown just beyond the Cross River Ferry.