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Updated: Feb 17

Figure 1: The Pietà, Cork, by Terry McCarthy

With travel restrictions due to Covid-19, foreign holidays are unlikely this year. If viewing Michelangelo’s Pietà in 2020 was on your itinerary, there is an alternative. It may not be the fifteenth century version, but, take a stroll through the gates of St. Finbarr’s Cemetery, Cork, amble down the main path, pass the two Mortuary Chapels, and on your right you will come across the beautiful stonework which adorns the gravestone of sculptor Terence (Terry) McCarthy.

Figure 2: Terry McCarthy's grave, Saint Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork.

Terence McCarthy was born at 37 Friar’s Walk, Cork on 10 April 1910 to Thomas and Anne (nee Furlong).[1] Stone was in his Terry’s DNA, both his father and grandfather were stonecutters.[2]

Figure 3: Marriage certificate of Terry's father, Thomas McCarthy.

Apprentice stonecutters started at a young age, usually fourteen, and it took approximately ‘seven years to learn everthing you need to know.’ Namesake, Terry McCarthy, stonecutter and member of ‘the Dixies’, recalled in his early days training, ‘I used to go home at night with my knuckles bleeding from missing the chisel because the first thing I was handed was a hammer and chisel to punch stone.’ [3]

Terry McCarthy, senior, was obviously very talented at his trade. In the sixties he submitted a design for the Kilmichael memorial in West Cork and was successful against strong competition, with over forty other entries. The prize for the ‘managing director of Thomas McCarthy and Sons Ltd., Copley Street’ was ‘100 guineas’.[4] The Kilmichael memorial a ‘freestanding carved limestone memorial, comprising cross with carved interlacing strap work flanked by screen walls with inscribed plaques, flanked by inscribed panels with crossed rifles and flaming sword in relief’ was unveiled on the 11 July 1966. [5]

Figure 4: Inspecting the Crossbarry memorial, courtesy of the Evening Echo.

The memorial commemorates the ambush of members of the Royal Irish Constabulary’s Auxiliary Division on 28 November 1920 by the Irish Volunteers led by General Tom Barry. On the 49th anniversary of the ambush Tom Barry and other members of the battalion recalled the attack at Kilmichael which is available via RTE Archives.[6]

Another Cork memorial at Crossbarry was unveiled in 1966, four months after the Kilmichael dedication and this was also based on Terry’s design. The Crossbarry Ambush took place on 19 March 1921 and was one of the largest engagements of the Irish War of Independence. The Irish Military Archives have comprehensive information and documents detailing the events.[7]

Figure 5: Crossbarry Memorial.

Six years after the unveilings, the ‘active and popular’ Terry McCarthy died suddenly in Clonakilty, Co. Cork.[8] ‘The imprint of the mason can be seen in vivid clarity throughout the cities and rural hinterlands of Ireland’ and none more so than Terry McCarthy.[9] If you are in doubt as to the talent of the man, have a look at his masterpiece, Cork’s Pietà.

Figure 6: Family Tradition


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