The Carrigrohane Straight

The Carrigrohane Straight

The Carrigrohane Straight is a straight road segment that stretches for 2 ¾ miles west from the edge of Cork City to Carrigrohane. It is just over 140 years old and in its varied history it has caught the imagination of many.


The Carrigrohane Straight was built around the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. Earlier maps such as Taylor and Skinners ‘’Maps of the Roads of Ireland’’ (1776) or a map of Corks Parliamentary Borough in 1832 do not show any track or path in this area. However the first edition of the Ordnance Survey Map (1841-42) shows that work was in progress on the new road linking the city with Carrigrohane and Leemount Cross.

Before the building of the Straight a few houses were to be seen in this area. An osiary lay at the city side and this consisted of a swamp where willow trees grew. An expanse of green could be seen as fields stretched for miles around. The tradition that the road was a ‘’Famine Road’’ may be partly true. Even though he straight itself was built by 1842 the section as far as LeeMount Cross (including Leemount Bridge) may not have been completed until during the famine (1845-50)

The building of the straight and its extension on to Leemount Cross, which necessitated the building of two bridges – one over the tail race of Carrigrohane Flour Mills, the second over the lee – changed the traffic pattern to the west of the city. Before the straight in Leemount Bridge were built , the Model Farm Road took traffic to Ballincollig and Macroom while the Lee Road led to Blarney, Coachford and Iniscarra. After the construction of the Straight and Leemount Bridge, a straight and flatter route reduced the importance of these roads and the Coachford or Iniscarra traffic could now merge with the Macroom traffic by crossing Leemount Bridge.


In the 1880’s the building of the Muskerry light railway (‘’Tram’’) increased the importance of the Straight and added noise and excitement as the coaches trundled along six times a day.

The city terminus was on the present site of Jurys Hotel while the line ended at Blarney, Donoughmore and Coachford. Along its route there were twenty one stations – one of these was at Carrigrohane just at the western end of the Straight Road and a second one at Leemount Cross.

Many people have found memories of Muskerry Tram or the ‘Hook and Eye’ , as it was sometimes called. It used to be said that you could pick blackberries from the Carraiges as the train was rolling along, such was its speed. The operation of the ticket collector was always exciting. The tickets had to be checked in one carriage and then while the train was still moving the ticket collector had to move to the next carriage along the outside. This procedure was very dangerous because of the rocking and swaying of the carriages.

One of the most unusual incidents of the history of the Muskerry Tram was the crash with the steamroller in 1927. The steamroller was involved in the resurfacing of the Carrigrohane Straight when both tram and steamroller collided. The tram was de-railed, a few people fainted and a few dozen eggs were broken but nobody was hurt. The Muskerry Tram was eventually closed down in December 1934.


One of the hazards of travelling on the Straight Road was the flooding. The Straight is very flat and subject to both tidal and river flooding. It occurred regularly during the winter when the swollen riverbanks burst due to the heavy rains, and was also affected by the spring tides. A contributory factor is the junction at the of the two rivers with the Lee at Carrigrohane. The Shournagh joins the Lee at Crubeen Bridge on the Lee Road. A smaller river, known as the Carrig, joins the Lee at the junction under the Carrigrohane Castle and is forded by what was known as Cromwell’s Bridge.

The most dramatic floods occurred in the years 1870, 1916 and 1962. The flood of 1916 was the largest, reaching Inhigaggin Lane and having height of 28feet O.D (sea level). The flood, which occurred in 1962, was a Cork tidal flood, which flooded the city centre and the Courthouse. The city was covered in water – its height was 19feet O.D.

The worst affected area of the Straight is the centre (near Inichigaggin Lane) so, that residential and commercial development has been refined to the eastern and western ends of the straight. But the building of the Carrigdrohid and Iniscarra Dams has enabled some control to be put on the flooding so it is now not as severe.

The Cork Exhibition (1932)

The Straight became the site of the Cork Industrial and Agricultural Fair in 1932. After considerable local controversy agreement was reached to hold the Exhibition at the eastern end of the Straight. Tim Corcoran, chairman of the County Council at this time, supervised the erection of the necessary buildings.

The building commenced on Monday, 10th August 1931. The initial operations consisted of the erection of the advertising posters on the front of the site along the Straight. These posters created a colourful and artistic effect along the road. The fair was opened on Wednesday, 11th may, 1932, and continued until Sunday, 2nd October.

There were 13 acres of amusements, a car park which held 3,000 vehicles, flower beds and shrubberies and a bandstand in the centre, demonstration plots for agricultural and horticultural sections and a miniature railway running around the grounds.


The original surface of Carrigrohane Straight is Limestone. In 1927, the Count Council and Corporation, who both controlled sections of the Straight, laid reinforced concrete. The Straight was one of the first concrete road surfaces in Ireland or even Great Britain. In the early days concrete surfaces were laid in slabs but expansion joints of bitumen to take up expansion and contractions as the temperature affected them. The reinforced concrete consisted of a layer of mesh steel covered with concrete in sections of 20-30 feet (approx), and inches of thickness. Concrete was used because it was thought to be suitable for boggy roads. In the late 20’s early 30’s a number of concrete roads were constructed in Northern Ireland in Co. Antrim over bog are e.g. Ballymena to Ballymoney, and in Co. Tyrone and Co. Antrim. Also the Kinsale Road was concreted and sections roads in Kildare. The South of Ireland Asphalt Company (S.I.A.C) was engaged in the surfacing of the Straight and the concrete was hand laid. After the closure if the Muskerry Tram, the tracks were removed in 1935, and the area they occupied was then concreted – thus adding about 10 feet to the width of the road. In recent years, Cork Corporation has covered this section with tar macadam but the section in the county still has the original concrete, and the extra width of concrete laid after the tram tracks were removed. This can be seen on the south side of the road.


Due to the flat surfaces of the Straight, it proved suitable for speed trials. Also the Straight Road, together with the Model Farm Road, joined a circle, which proved very suitable for racing.The 1920’s and the 1930’s saw the beginning of great excitement for the racing world. Both motorbikes such as the Yamaha 750c.c and cars such as the Ingersoll-Rand Formula One Shadow featured prominently in the speed trials and racing competitions. Drivers In these competitions came from England, Northern Ireland and other various places in Europe. Crowds flocked from places all over Cork and Munster to see these fine spectacles of racing. In more recent years the Straight has been used for only speed trials – land speed records for motorbikes and cars are eagerly contested.


The Carrigrohane Straight still holds the imagination of many people. It featured prominently in Corks 800 festivities, with the culmination of the Great Race and Steeple Jack. Other uses of the Straight include the new rugby fields, and nature walks. Hopefully a continuous riverside walk from the Carrigrohane Straight and the Lee Fields to Ballincollig will shortly open up this area even more to the public.


*Taylor and Skinner ‘ Maps of the Roads of Ireland’ (1776)
*Map of County of the City of Cork, Henry Martin, London (1832)
*Southampton: Ordnance Survey Map, First Edition, six inches to one mile (1842)
*Cork Examiner, 23 November, 1934; 26 January, 1935
*McGrath, W., Blarney Annual, 1952
*Evening Echo, 29 December, 1984
*Newham, A.J, The Cork and Muskerry Light Railway Tram, (Oakwood Press)
*Interview Liam Wall (Model Farm Road)
*Evening Echo, 1 September, 6 Sept. 1976.
*Evening Echo, 4 July 1980. Correspondence, T.M Riddle (Scotland) Interview Liam Wall.
*Cork Examiner 16 May, 18 May. Cork Holly Bough December 1985.

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