Little Island is the home of Cork Golf club and its location is splendid. The golf club was built on an old disused limestone quarry dotted with yellow gorse on the edge of the River Lee.
Last Wednesday was a gorgeous summers evening as we played in our regular Wednesday four ball competition. My long suffering four ball partner was Donie. As the evening sights were clear and crisp, and my golf wasn’t so sharp, I decided that perhaps photography, rather than golf, was the hobby I should be pursuing.
We were playing the 5th hole at Little Island and I took a few photos of the now disused harbour on the right of the hole and again mentioned my concern to John and Liam who we were playing against about the fact that the now unused, but historic, little harbour could soon be washed away by the fast-flowing tide. If you look to the right of the photo below you will see that the quay wall is only inches above the water level of the river.
The second photo shows the quay wall just below the present 5th green.
Most visitors who play Little Island and indeed many of the members don’t realise the historical significance of that little disused harbour and don’t realise that boats used to moor there when the limestone quarrying was a major industry at Little Island. Paddy Twomey, the retired state solicitor as well as local and wonderful historian, did a splendid thesis on Little Island in 2005 and the following information comes directly from Paddy’s thesis.
Little Island limestone became very popular as ballast for ships around 1790. Around that time over 600 sail vessels were in Cork at any time and a large proportion of the sail boats needed ballast which was available at Little Island, virtually on the sea shore. At that time all the large vessels with cargo for Cork discharged at Passage, as the river up to Cork was not navigable for boats over 400/500 tons. The cargo was then taken by road or river on a lighter (smaller) boat, to the quays at Cork City. Passage is located directly across the river from Little Island.
The final photo is taken from the official handbook of Cork Golf Club from the club year 1941/42, given to me by my Dad many years ago. I don’t know when the photo was actually taken. In the foreground of the photo is the 7th green still in the same position as the present one. In the background of the photo can be seen the little harbour with a boat snugly resting by the water’s edge by the present 5th green. This picture is truly historic as it shows one of the boats that used to transport the ballast to the sailing boats. I hope that this little harbour of Little Island will be protected and restored so that future generations of golfers will understand and appreciate its significance.