The Corke Journal is the oldest Cork newspaper to survive in any quantity. It was printed by Eugene Swiney, with the first issue appearing on 7 December 1753. At the Paul Street location and later at premises near the Exchange on North Main Street, Swiney published The Corke Journal for the next twenty years, with the paper generally appearing on Mondays and Thursdays. Like most provincial newspapers in Ireland in the 18th century, the content was generally a summation of news from London and the continent, a small portion of local news, and a substantial number of advertisements - the main source of revenue. The quality of the newspapers varied considerably, but Swiney was a notably inventive printer, often using stylish illustrations to accompany advertisements.
Special Collections holds a bound volume of The Corke Journal, with issues running from 5 January 1769 to 13 January 1772. Of these, there are 37 issues present for 1769, starting with 5 January; 33 issues for 1770, 36 issues for 1771 and 2 January and 13 January for 1772.
Further issues of the paper are held by Cork City Libraries, ranging from the first issue (7 December 1753) to December 1768.
A fuller list of the issues of The Corke Journal held in Special Collections is available here:
Swiney, born Owen Sweeney, probably in Limerick about 1730, was apprenticed to Andrew Welsh, a printer and bookseller who had taken over his father’s printing business in Castle Street, Cork, but had moved to Limerick before 1739. By 1753, Swiney had set up shop in Paul Street, at the heart of the rapidly-expanding commercial centre of Cork city.
As well as the newspaper, Swiney produced numerous local imprints of theological, political and literary works - including the first provincial printing of Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield in 1766, and a Focaloir Gaodhilge-Sax-Bhearla in 1770. He also produced editions of plays to cater for the audiences of Cork's Theatre Royal, among them Arthur Murphy's All in the Wrong (1762) and Hume's Douglas (1762). Additionally, Swiney worked as printer to Cork Corporation from 1755, though the Council book notes that on 26th May 1762, £7 17s. 11d. was to be paid “to Eugene Swiney for printing work from 1758 to 1761, and that said Swiney be no farther employed by this board.”
Swiney’s first wife died in July 1765, and the following April he married Isabella Callanan, the daughter of a local apothecary. He himself died on 12 November 1777, with the Dublin Saunders’s News-Letter remarking that “however unsuccessful in the pursuit of fortune, he was universally allowed to possess an honest heart and most unsullied reputation both in public and private character.”
The business was carried on by his son John M. Swiney, who in 1781 published a collection of verse entitled The Juvenile Muse. Appropriately, this included “A New Poem on the Art of Printing”. Unfortunately, the son does not appear to have inherited the father’s business abilities, and after this he disappears from view.
Six years before his death, and newly located to Fishamble Lane (the present-day Liberty Street), Swiney evidently acquired a set of music type. As far as can be ascertained, this is the only instance of such music printing in any 18th century Irish newspaper. As UCC only holds an incomplete run of The Corke Journal for 1771, it is likely than several more pieces were printed, and Swiney certainly advertised other pieces for sale separately.
The music shown in this display is taken from several issues of The Corke Journal for 1771 and is indicative of the fashions of the later 18th century, with several pieces of dance music, some with indications of the steps. Such music was produced in vast quantities throughout Ireland and Britain, and would have been used at the many assemblies and balls held in Cork - in the Music Rooms on Tuckey Street, or the Assembly Rooms on George’s Street (the modern Oliver Plunkett Street).
There are also three songs, two taken from the kind of music dramas that were characteristic of the era, and which formed a major part of the repertoire at the Theatre Royal on George’s Street (the site is now occupied by the GPO). Plays in the 18th century were frequently interspersed with songs and dances of various kinds, and the division between drama and opera was fluid. Similarly, actors were expected to possess at least a rudimentary voice, and singers to be able to acquit themselves on the stage in a variety of roles. Songs were also used for domestic music-making and the increasingly prosperous middle class of Cork would have been a ready market for these.
A version of Care Flies from the Lad that is Merry .