Thursday, 23 February 2017

11 Morrison's Quay

I walked along Morrison's Quay in Cork today as I made my way from one of my favourite cafes in the city - The Bookshelf on South Mall - to another of my favourites, Cafe Velo on George's Quay. The weather was lovely - the early spring sun twinkled on the dark surface of the Lee and cumulus clouds scuttled across a blue sky:

The Lee looking north-east from Trinity Footbridge, with Morrison's Quay on the left and Union Quay on the right.


As I crossed the Quay I noticed this beautiful wall-mounted 'GR' postbox:



And a little closer:




I was struck by this box for a number of reasons. First, it is in a relatively quiet spot - a stretch of the quays rather out of the way of the businesses and shops of the city centre, right on the edge of the quieter part of the island that forms the heart of the city. Second, it is painted in that dull, dark-greyish green that contrasts with the brighter, yellower green of more recent boxes (and some older but recently repainted boxes). Third, it is especially beautiful, perhaps due to the elegance and simplicity of the 'GR' cipher and the uncluttered setting. And finally, it struck me that 'GR' boxes seem to be the rarest of pre-independence Irish postboxes. This makes sense: Victoria was Queen from 1837-1901, Edward VII from 1901-1910, and George V from 1910-1936. But the Irish Free State was established in 1922, only 12 years into George V's reign - making his 'Irish postboxes' reign only three years longer than Edward VII's - and it is very likely that fewer postboxes were installed in Ireland between 1910 and 1922, as the Great War raged and Irish independence drew closer. There is something very special about Irish 'GR' boxes.

The box is set into the wall of 11 Morrison's Quay, a terraced four-bay three-storey building built in c.1845. The building has retained its original use: it is the meeting hall of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic fraternity established in New York in 1836. Given the nature of this organisation, it is probably not the case that they are keen to have a British Royal Cipher attached to the front of their building. But clearly they allowed the box to be installed - or perhaps they had no choice!. Here is a wider shot of the box in the building:




This is a beautiful little box in a quiet spot in Cork. If you happen to be in the city, write a letter to a friend, take a stroll along Morrison's Quay, and take the opportunity to use it to post a letter. It might be that it has been staring at the Lee for nearly 100 years, through two world wars, a war of independence and a civil war. But don't take it for granted.

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