This Saturday will be a special one in Cork City when a fleet of boats sails up the River Lee from Cobh to moor at the uppermost navigable point of the river which yachts can reach. Cruisers and dinghies will race the traditional Cobh-to-Blackrock Race from the Promenade on the riverfront at Cobh to the Port of Cork’s marina in the city centre. This is an annual tradition. Once it marked the end of the sailing season, but as that has extended into much later in the year, the race has become also a social gathering when motorboats and non-racers join the fleet and families are on the water for the day out, organised by Cove Sailing Club.
It is, as Aidan McAleavy of the Cove club said, “a truly spectacular sight to see a large fleet race to the city.”
It made me wonder why Cork, my native city, hasn’t done more to develop the maritime location with which it has been favoured. The River Lee is renowned in the city’s anthem - The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee and the river endows Cork with a network of waterways as it breaks into different channels to negotiate the city centre. However, in all the development of Cork, I do not see that a lot has been done to bring the riverscape to the forefront of city planning, nor do all citizens appreciate the beauty of the river, it seems, to judge by debris still dumped into it. With its bridges and river channels Cork should be a city where the riverscape is its dominant aspect. As shipping and the port is moved downriver there is talk, a lot of it, about development, but not a lot about the city’s maritime foundation, which could be further forgotten when shipping is moved away from the city centre.
Other Irish cities still have shipping visible to the citizenry – Dublin in particular but that city’s Council hasn’t done a lot either to focus public facilities on the riverfront which the Liffey has provided them .. Waterford has put in some effort with a marina and quayside public facilities, as well as a memorial to the Conningbeg and Formby, both vessels sunk during World War One, with 68 passengers and crew lost from Waterford and the South East…. However, the movement of shipping out of the city has left derelict sites… Limerick has turned part of its face to the river…. Galway has done a bit, but the culture of the Claddagh could be more focussed upon.
All Irish cities could take lessons from European municipalities like Barcelona and Hamburg where the riverfronts are central to city life……. Wouldn’t it be an advance in maritime appreciation of City Councils held meetings to discuss waterfront enhancement?
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