Bishop Lucey Park was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Cork Alderman Dan Wallace, TD, on 6 December 1985. The park, which is bounded by the Grand Parade, Tuckey Street, the South Main Street and Christ Church Lane, was named in honour of Bishop Cornelius Lucey who was the Roman Catholic bishop of Cork for over 30 years. The opening of the park was one of the events marking Cork 800, a celebration of 800 years of Cork's status as a chartered city with powers of local government since the granting of the charter by John, Lord of Ireland, in approximately 1185.
Among the interesting features of the park is the entrance archway, which was originally the entrance of the former corn market in Anglesea Street, before the archway was disassembled and later reassembled at the park entrance. Just inside the entrance a section of the old wall of Cork is visible. There are two notable sculptures in the park. The 'Onion Seller', a bronze sculpture commemorating the street traders on Cornmarket Street by Seamus Murphy, and a bronze fountain with eight swans by John Behan symbolizing Cork's 800 years as a chartered city.
A plaque between the arches of the old Corn Market at Bishop Lucey Park
Bishop Lucey Park is one of the few green areas in the centre of Cork city and is popular with locals and visitors.
A section of the old walls of Cork in Bishop Lucey Park
Bishop Lucey Park lies within the area of the historic medieval core of Cork city. Parts of the site were almost certainly occupied by the Hiberno-Norse inhabitants of the city. In 1997, an archaeological excavation of a site just outside the present-day park found evidence of a timber fence built from oak. The archaeologists, using a technique which analyses the growth pattern of tree rings known as dendrochronology, estimated that the oak tree used in building the fence was cut down sometime between 1115 and 1122.
During development work on the park in 1984 a stone structure was uncovered along the line of the old city wall. Archaeologists observing the work felt that the structure may have been the remains of Hopewell Castle, one of the defensive towers along the city walls. They based their opinion on evidence from old maps of Cork city. The tower was, however, demolished before it could be properly excavated.
Later in 1984 the section of the old wall visible just inside the main gates of Bishop Lucey Park was excavated. Shards of pottery from Normandy, from the Saintonge region of France, from England, and from other parts of Ireland were also found during the excavation of the wall. These shards and some other finds are now housed in Cork Public Museum. The portion of the wall visible in Bishop Lucey Park dates from the 17th century. The Cork City Walls Management Plan describes the section of the wall in the park as 'the largest single source of awareness of the existence of the city wall.'
On the north side of Bishop Lucey Park, just south of Christ Church Lane and directly opposite Christ Church, there stood a chantry college called Holy Trinity College or Christ Church College. Chantry colleges were chapels where priests said masses for the souls of the dead. The chantry college was founded by Philip Goold in 1482 for eight priests and survived until 1578. In that year the college and the associated church of St Laurence, which stood further to the south-west on the South Main Street, became the property of one George Moore. It was in a ruinous condition by the 1670s. A school, Christ Church National School, was later built on the site. Remains of the college were found when the site was excavated in 1975. This was a rectangular stone building made of cut limestone blocks and it measured 20 metres by 8 metres. The foundations of the college rested on wooden posts driven vertically into the river bed. A mantelpiece from Christ Church College survives in the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery.
T. Lyons & Co. Ltd, South Main Street, from Stratten's Dublin, Cork and the South of Ireland: a literary, commercial and social review (1892)
The city walls were allowed to fall into disrepair after the siege of Cork in 1690. Following the culverting of the river channel in the late eighteenth century, the Grand Parade began to develop as a commercial centre. Shops and stores were opened along what is now the eastern section of Bishop Lucey Park. Pigot's Directory of 1824 lists gunsmiths, haberdashers, tailors, druggists and watch- and clock-makers along that part of the Grand Parade between Tuckey Street and Christ Church Lane. In more recent times the better-known premises along this stretch of the Grand Parade included: Jennings furniture shop, destroyed by fire in 1970; the toy shop of Percy Diamond who was cantor (a singer of liturgical music) at the Jewish synagogue; and the Fountain Café over which the famous hurler Christy Ring had a flat for a time.
In the 1790s, Thomas Lyons opened a woolen draper's shop in Tuckey Street. The shop moved to the South Main Street in the 1800s. By 1892 the firm had become a major commercial enterprise. Its frontage was on the western part of the site of the present-day park. Stratten's Dublin, Cork and the South of Ireland directory of 1892 describes the firm: "This great commercial and industrial institution, which exceeds in the extent and magnitude of its operations the proportions of any undertaking of a similar character in the South of Ireland, was founded nearly 100 years ago by the late T. Lyons, Esq., by whom it was successfully continued for a very lengthened period. About twenty years ago the business was converted into a Limited Liability Company. . . . The headquarters of the Company in South Main Street comprise an extensive and conveniently arranged block of buildings, which include the immense warehouse (having a total floorage area of 200,000 square feet) and the large manufactories, the whole presenting a width of about 200 feet to the street and extending a depth of about 300 feet to the rear." The goods on sale in the store included shoes, muslins, silks, woolens, ribbons, fancy dresses, and a variety of other textiles. The premises included the Cork Clothing Factory where a wide range of clothes were manufactured. Lyons & Co. Ltd remained in business until the late 1960s.
Seamus Murphy's sculpture, 'The Onion Seller'
A school was built on the site of the ruined chantry college in 1742. A woman named Mary Shearman left thirteen pounds, sixteen shillings and eleven pence in her will, dated 6 August 1728, 'For a charity-school in the Parish of Christchurch, for instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic and, if possible, in rudiments of Latin, when required.' The charity school was succeeded by a national school named Christ Church National School in 1871. When Christ Church National School was under construction a pit was discovered containing the bones of humans and animals. The pit may have been a mass grave for those who died during the siege of Cork in 1690. The national school lasted until the early 1970s. Among its pupils was the eminent solicitor, literary scholar, and Lord Mayor of Cork Gerald Goldberg. In 1977 Gerald Goldberg became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Cork.
Bishop Lucey Park
Plaque in honour of boxer Jack McAuliffe, in Bishop Lucey Park
The former lightweight boxing world champion Jack McAuliffe was born in 1866. His parents were Cornelius McAuliffe, a cooper and Fenian, and Jane Bailey. Some sources claim that he was born in Christ Church Lane in Cork city, while other sources claim Newmarket, County Cork, as his birthplace. Jack McAuliffe's family emigrated to the USA in 1871 and he became a famous boxer. He was lightweight champion of the world from 1886 to 1896 and retired undefeated, one of the few boxers to do so. In later years he performed in vaudeville theatre in the USA. He died in 1937. Nat Fleischer, one of the greatest historians of boxing, wrote McAuliffe's biography entitled Napoleon of the ring. The plaque in honour of Jack McAuliffe was unveiled in 1997 by members of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association.
Bishop Lucey Park is a popular venue for events during festivals that take place in Cork city. During World Book Fest it hosts events for children jointly arranged by Cork City Libraries and Triskel Arts Centre
In 2008, Cork City Council built two coffee pods or kiosks as part of the redevelopment of the Grand Parade. One of the pods is situated just outside the gates of Bishop Lucey Park; the other is outside Cork City Library. Traders in the Grand Parade, in Washington Street, and in the English Market objected to the pod outside the gates of the park. They felt that the coffee pod was not an attractive structure and that it blocked the view of the gates. Cork City Council defended the siting of the pod on the grounds that the site was chosen by Beth Galí, the architect who drew up the plans for the refurbishment of the Grand Parade, and that it was an added amenity in the area.
As Christmas 2008 approached, the Grand Parade hosted a street market with stalls selling locally produced food and craftwork. Peter Kelly, the wedding designer also known as Franc, designed the illuminations which lit up Bishop Lucey Park for the Christmas season.
On 24 April 2009, Lord Mayor of Cork Brian Bermingham unveiled a plaque in Bishop Lucey Park to the famous Cork boxer Mick Leahy. Leahy was British middleweight champion in 1963 and outpointed the great Sugar Ray Robinson in 1964.