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Cork city north and south of the river

— and in-between...


June 2009, Republic of Ireland

I talked with a middle-aged couple in Cork city who were the local version of a "mixed marriage" — he from north of the River Lee, she from the south. She told me that he would not willingly cross over, and he did not correct her.

We were in the "middle parish," an area roughly-defined by the two branches of the River Lee as it flows through town.

Apparently this middle ground — the ancient city founded by Vikings and shaped by Anglo-Normans — is also a figurative, cultural middle ground, a neutral territory.

Cork is a small city, divided into three main parts. It is, specifically, split almost precisely into north, south, and the tiny central zone by the divided river that flows from west to east through town.

The "Middle Parish" is mostly commercial, and historic — and there's a museum and an old hospital — and apparently nobody has a strong proprietary feeling about the area. It's a shared space, and it seems that a visit here is not considered a foray outside of one's realm.

But there are people who do not like to cross this middle parish — and who do not like to be mistaken for somebody from the other side.

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