CORK, county borough and seaport of Co. Cork, Ireland, at the head of the inlet of Cork Harbour, on the river Lee, 1651 m. S.W. of Dublin by the Great Southern Railway. Pop. (1926) 78,468. Until the middle of the i9th century it ranked second only to Dublin, but is now surpassed by Belfast in commercial importance. It is an important centre of the Great Southern Railway system. There are regular steamer routes to British ports.
The nucleus of the city occupies an island formed by the North and South Channels, two arms of the river Lee, and in former times no doubt merited its name, which signifies a swamp.
The original site of Cork seems to have been in the vicinity of the Protestant cathedral; St. Finbar's ecclesiastical foundation attracting many students and votaries. In the 9th century the town was frequently pillaged by the Northmen. According to the Annals of the Four Masters a fleet burned Cork in 821; in 846 the Danes appear to have been in possession of the town, for a force was collected to demolish their fortress; and in 1012 Cork again fell in flames. The Danes then appear to have founded a trading centre on the banks of the Lee. It was anciently sur rounded with a wall, an order for the reparation of which is found as late as 1748 in the city council books (which date from 161o). The town submitted to Henry II. in 1172, and was subse quently held by the English for a long period. Cork showed favour to Perkin Warbeck in 1492. In 1649 it surrendered to Cromwell and in 1689 to the earl of Marlborough. It was a borough by prescription, and successive charters were granted to it from the reign of Henry II. onward. By a charter of Edward IV. the lord mayor of Cork was created admiral of the port. The island still includes many of the principal thoroughfares.
Bridges across the North and South Channels connect it with later extensions of the city. Public grounds are few, but on the outskirts are a park and race-course. The Mardyke walk, on the west of the island, was the site of the international exhibition held in 19o2. Both branches of the Lee are lined with quays.
The Protestant cathedral, founded in 1865, is built in the Early French (pointed) style, with an eastern apse and a striking west front. Dedicated to St. Fin Barre or Finbar, who founded the original cathedral in the 7th century, it is situated in the south-west part of the city, and replaces a structure erected in 1735 on the site of the ancient cathedral, which suffered during the siege of Cork in Sept. 1689. The Roman Catholic cathedral, also dedicated to St. Finbar, is conspicuous on the north side of the city ; it dates from 1808, but has been since restored. The court house in Great George's street has a Corinthian portico. The custom-house com mands the river at the lower junction of the branches. The com mercial and public buildings are mainly on the island. The most notable educational establishment is the University college. Founded as Queen's college under an Act of 1845, it became a constituent college of the National University of Ireland in 1908. Built in Tudor style, it stands near the river in the west of the city, where Gill abbey, of the 7th century, formerly stood. The Cork library (founded 179o) contains a valuable collection of books. The Royal Cork Institution (1807), in addition to a library and a rare collection of oriental mss., possesses a valu able collection of minerals, and collections of casts from the antique.
The harbour, sheltered by many islands, is considered one of the finest natural harbours in the kingdom. Military depots oc cupy several of the smaller islets, and batteries guard the entry. This is about 1 m. wide, but within the width increases to 3 m. while the length is about 1 o m. The Atlantic port of Queens town (q.v.) is on Great island at the head of the outer harbour. Tivoli (the residence of Sir Walter Raleigh), Fort William, Lota Park and Blackrock castle are notable features on the shore; and Passage, Blackrock, Glenbrook and Monkstown are waterside re sorts. Trade is mainly with Bristol and the ports of South Wales. The imports include wheat and maize, while the exports are chiefly of cattle, provisions, butter and fish. The Cork Butter Exchange was important in the early part of the 17th century, and the present market was founded in 1769. There are distilleries, breweries, tanneries and iron foundries, and manufactures of woollen and leather goods, tweeds, friezes, gloves and chemical manure. Nearly six-sevenths of the population are Roman Cath olics. During the troubles of 1919-20 there were riots in and near the city, and the city hall and Carnegie library were burnt during reprisals. The powers and duties of the corporation have been temporarily transferred to commissioners and the problem of the future government of the city is at present receiving con sideration. The county borough of Cork and the county electoral area of Ballincollig together return five members to Dail Eireann.