Scaffolding in South Terrace


I’m a West Cork scaffold, I’m on the go now 22 years, and I work all over the county. I even did a job in Tralee once – I was glad to get out of the place to be honest, they’re wicked boastful down there about their footballers.

Right now I’ve a job in Cork City, in South Terrace. I’m outside the old Jewish Synagogue, that’s being renovated. Now so. This is different. This is something different altogether, lads.

You see a strange thing happens to scaffolding when we become attached to a building. We form a bond, a link with the structure – something flows from the building into us through the metal bolts that bind us together.

And in that something – to tell you the truth I don’t know what to call it – the story of the life of the building, or some strange essence of its soul, is transmitted into me.

I can tell you this. A share of quare stories have made their way to me over the years. The goings on in some of the houses around Bandon, Drimoleague, Dunmanway, Clon and Skib – Lord save us and guard us, I couldn’t repeat them, I’ll take them with me to the scrapyard.

Anyway, what happens is that the building – and don’t ask me how, because I don’t know – stores up the emotions of the people inside it. The hopes of a newly married couple coming into their new home, the worry of expectant mothers facing into their first birthgiving, the love of fathers for their sons and daughters, sibling rivalries. Then the fears of old age and diminishing health, the bitterness of disappointments and failings, the reneging and blackguarding of men towards their wives, the guilt over weaknesses and the self-loathing of those who think they’ve wasted their lives in some way. Somehow the building soaks it all up, it’s all there, stored away like energy in a battery, except it never dies out.

Lads, I’ve heard it all.

Or I thought I did, until now. But this is different.

Where to begin? Well the building is telling me that at the beginning there was relief in being safe, pride that the people inside it had their own holy place of worship; there was an outpouring of hopes and dreams; there was sadness too, they were far from home and estranged from families and friends; a lot of faith and reverence towards their God; and worry about the future – these people were poor, they couldn’t speak the language, the locals were strange and had a different religion. But that all diminished and then there was a sense of purpose, of flourishing, of growth.

I only get a sense of things from buildings, it’s hard to put words on it, but for years there’s a very strong feeling of rightness from the community, a resilience, a focus and a kind of tempered optimism that flows for decades.

Then I feel a huge surge of shock and grief, an indescribable anguish and a hollow fear in the hearts and souls of the people in the building. Something unspeakable has happened to their race, far away, and wave after wave of aftershocks hit them hard – it’s as if when one of their people are persecuted and wronged, they all are. They are shattered, terrified and there’s anger too underneath. But it’s mainly grief – the building almost shudders with its raw power.

And that grief lessens over the years but it never goes away. Then the number of people dwindle and diminish, until the building can only sense one man. He is old and sad and then there is one large gathering – fairly recently it seems, with a great deal of emotional flow, and then there is only him. The building can sense him close the door – a well of sorrow flowing out of him – for the very last time.

Now it’s being renovated, it doesn’t know what’s the future will be.

But it will always carry the memory of those people who prayed within it, those brave people who came from far away and settled here, and made 10 South Terrace their own.

Photo source: