Pauline Murphy recalls the many attempts to topple the British monarch from his perch on Cork’s Grand Parade – a feat that was successful on the night of March 3, 1862.
In 1760, Cork Corporation, headed by Mayor Thomas Newenham, thought it was a good idea to erect a statue of the British King George II in the centre of the rebel city. They commissioned Dutch sculptor John van Nost to carry out the work and the statue was executed in a foundry in Kifts Lane off South Main Street.
Two years later on July 17th 1762 the statue of the British King on his horse was unveiled on Grand Parade near where today’s Berwick Fountain stands. 100 years later the statue ended up at the bottom of the River Lee!
The statue depicted the king on top of his horse on a granite plinth which was inscribed with the following: “The citizens of Cork erected this statue to the memory of King George the second in gratitude for the many blessings they enjoyed during his auspicious reign MDCCLXII.” But, not all citizens of Cork thought so highly of the British monarch!
By 1781 the statue of King George on his horse was beginning to turn a shade of green so it was painted a golden colour. This led to the typical Corkonian tradition of being bestowed a nickname. The statue became known locally as ‘Yella Horse’ but another nickname for it was ‘George-a-Horseback’.
In 1798 George-a-Horseback was moved up Grand Parade to an area where the National Monument stands today. Whenever you find yourself on Grand Parade, at the junction with South Mall, look up at the street name plaque and you will notice the Irish derivative of Grand Parade as ‘Sráid an Chapaill Bhuí’ – street of the yellow horse!