‘Behind the Walls: Collins Barracks Cork’, a one-hour radio documentary funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland under the Sound & Vision scheme, broadcast on Monday 28th October 2019 at 6pm on C103 Radio in Cork.
It is part of a series of five documentaries broadcast on local radio stations across the country that explore the history of Defence Forces barracks situated within the region including those for LMFM Radio in Louth/Meath on Aiken Barracks, KFM Radio in Kildare on The Curragh Camp and Shannonside Radio on Connolly Barracks, Longford and Columb Barracks, Mullingar.
For the majority of locals living and working in the towns across Ireland that have found themselves home to an army barracks, the daily goings-on behind the walls of each barracks are a bit of a mystery. Despite their rich and varied histories – encompassing their buildings, their people, their events, their memorabilia and their artefacts – they remain an unexplored place to most.
This radio documentary series seeks to travel behind the walls of these Defence Forces barracks and camps across Ireland in doing so, offer listeners a chance to aurally explore what lies behind them, with the stories of the history they encompass told by those who know them best.
The documentaries take the form of a guided walking tour around the barracks intercut with interviews with local historians. These interviews and tours, along with music and sound effects, allow the listener to experience the rich and varied history of each barracks and the places of interest behind their walls, along with their historical and social impacts on their localities and the wider local community.
A military barracks has existed on this site in Cork for just over 200 years, with building having commenced in 1801 and completed in 1806, following the assessment of the threat posed to the ruling British Forces at the time by a revolutionary France. Perched on the hilltop of Rath Mór, since its construction, the barracks has played a significant role throughout the major conflicts of the last two centuries including the Napoleonic War, the Crimean War, the Zulu War, the Boer War and World War 1.
Then known as Victoria Barracks, British troops evacuated the site on May 18th 1922, when it was handed over to Commandant Sean Murray of the Cork No. 1 Brigade and not long after, renamed Collins Barracks in honour of Cork-native Michael Collins. During World War 2, the strength of the Local Defence Forces linked to the barracks rose to over 100,000 while in 1963, the eyes of the world’s media were on the barracks when President Kennedy visited.
The barracks also claims the honour of sending the first cohort of Irish Defence Force troops to the Congo on Ireland’s first mission overseas with the United Nations. The museum, opened in 1985, was initially situated in the Clock Tower Block but moved to one of the oldest buildings in the barracks, the Old Guard Room in 2005. Along with a varied collection of artefacts including iconic military uniforms dating from the 1800s to the present day, the museum hosts a collection of artefacts belonging to Michael Collins, donated in 1993 by his nephew of the same name, including his military coat, two revolvers, a medal, rosary beads and his personal diary, found in his possession the day he was killed.
This radio documentary series allows for the stories of these immensely historically important sites in Ireland, with over 400 years of military history within their walls, to be preserved for future generations.