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Firkin Crane

 John Redmond St, Shandon, Cork, T23 Y584

Firkin Crane.jpg

Cork’s northside is defined by hills rising up from the river. A warren of tiny streets surrounds magnificent buildings, leading visitors to wonderful views as they explore the Shandon area. Dominating the streetscape is St Anne’s Church, whose lime and sandstone clocktower can be seen from all over the city. It is known as the “Four Faced Liar”, as each of its faces may tell a different time. It is possible to climb the tower to ring the famous Shandon Bells.

At the foot of the bells is Firkin Crane, next to the intriguing Butter Museum and the site of the original Butter Market, from which butter was sent all over the world. The Firkin Crane building was opened in 1855. “Firkin” is a Danish word meaning quarter barrel, which equalled 9 gallons or 80 lbs of butter. The tarred firkins, or casks, were weighed on a balance known as a “Crane”, hence the building’s unusual name.

After the Butter Market closed in 1924, the building was deserted for many decades. It was put up for sale in 1979, and Joan Denise Moriarty, then Director of Irish National Ballet, successfully applied to the Arts Council to have the building bought and refurbished as a home for the Cork-based professional dance company. However, while work was being carried out, the building was completely destroyed by fire in July 1980.


Under the chairmanship of former Taoiseach Jack Lynch, a trust fund was established to secure financing
for rebuilding work, which was also supported by Cork City Council, the Irish Government, EU, Irish American Fund and private business. On 26 April 1992, this unique building was opened by then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, preserving a building of architectural interest in one of the most historic areas of Cork City.


In 1996, the organisation negotiated for a former family home of Jack Lynch to be converted to use as subsidised artist accommodation. Opened in 2005, the Artists’ House is still managed by Firkin Crane and
available to all artists visiting the city. In 2005 the organisation changed its name to the Institute for Choreography and Dance (ICD). The organisation began to offer residencies of many kinds, professional dance classes and workshops and began commissioning, co-producing and presenting new dance works. Now renamed Dance Cork Firkin Crane, it was Ireland’s first dance house as well as a founding member of the European DanceHouse Network in 2004. 


The Butter Museum

 John Redmond St, Shandon, Cork, T23 Y584

The Butter Museum  is situated right next to the Firkin Crane in Shandon on the site of the original Butter Market. The building dates from 1849. Butter was exported from here all over the world and stored for transportation in Firkin’s. The museum collection includes a one thousand year old container for bog butter. The history of butter making also tells us about the history of women, as butter making was seen as women’s work and a skill passed down from generation to generation. The role of women in butter production and the success of Ireland’s butter market is celebrated in song and also dance/performance. Watch this video to see Kate Kirk sing a song Arrane Ben-Vileaun (song of the milkmaid, a milking song) at the Butter Market.  Im – I am, a performance choreographed and performed by Sara Hernández Páramo at The Butter Museum, is available to watch here.


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