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McCarthy's Monument, Cork City


McCarthy's Monument is an unlabeled obelisk in Cork City Ireland for which there are several origin stories*

The obelisk, on the sidelot of an industrial building in an old residential neighborhood at the top of a small cliff above the alluvial plain of the old industrial Marina just downstream from the old Viking/Norman city center, was built in the 1870's. Besides that (which may or may not be true,) there is no concensus about its provenance.

"McCarthy's Folly," as the owner of the property in 2009 called it, stands about 25 feet tall. Constructed of local limestone blocks, it's decorated with porcelain tiles and copper medalions and a lot of small gargoyles that don't spout water. There were also four bronze plaques — according to the property owner Ian — which somebody took long ago.

In 1982, just after Ian bought the property for his industrial refractory-services business, somebody slipped a sheet of paper underneath his showroom/office door. The author of the document, handwritten on one side, identified him-or-herself only as "CJF."

Ian said that the text in this document is all that he knows about the structure — although he did mention some details that were not in the document (which he photocopied for me.)

I spoke with an elderly man who said he had lived in the neighborhood for 52 years. He told me a few more possible origin-stories about the McCarthy Monument.

Between the two of them, I heard six hypotheses. I can only remember five:

• Commemoration of a dog, which some had proposed was buried within. Ian said that vandals had long earlier broken into the monument and that there had at that time been no dog found.

The obelisk form is reminiscent of the Irish round tower — an ancient structural form associated with monastic settlements.

• Commemoration of the victims of a disaster at the "amethyst mine" [which was really the nearby limestone quarry that contained some amethyst, — a mine for which the area was known as "Diamond Hill."]

• In honor of the erector Alexander McCarthy's brother, the Lord Mayor of the Ballintemple district (where the monument stands.)

• Commemoration of William Penn, (of Pennsylvania fame,) who spent some time in Cork.

• Commemoration of (again) a dog, but in this case by a number of families. Strange, but true — true, that is, that so much of the verbal history ascribes the origin of the monument to the memory of a dog.


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* According to one source:

"McCarthy's Monument [was] Erected by Daniel McCarthy to honour his brother Alexander McCarthy in 1871, who was the M.P. [member of Parliament] for Cork in 1846 and became High Sheriff of the County in 1856. He died on 2 January 1868. The structure was designed by William B. Atkins and the sculptor was Samuel Murphy. Bronze plaques showing scenes from the history of the McCarthy clan have been lost from the monument over the years. It is 25 feet high and is made from limestone.

"Today, the monument is on private land which is being used to store building material but is clearly visible from the public highway."

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