Our Story - From Carriage to Car

As one of Cork’s oldest companies - Johnson & Perrott - has announced its decision to donate its historical archive to the city. The material dates back to 1861, when the company was taken over by James Johnson, from whom the current owners are direct descendants. As well as the archive, Johnson & Perrott  is loaning two significant pieces to the Cork City Museum, namely a fully restored James Johnson carriage dating back to the middle of the 19th century, and an original sign from the original carriage works on what was then called ‘Nelson Place Carriage Works’.

The written archive consists of documents, advertisements and agreements that cover a hugely significant period in the history of Cork. Amongst the items to be donated are;

  • The handwritten diaries written of William Perrott, which detail his experiences of Cork during the War for Independence and the Civil War.
  • The accounts, minute books and other material from the period following the incorporation of the company in 1907.
  • Documents relating to the ownership of Rushbrooke Dockyard (now Verolme dockyard), and its sequestration during World War One.
  • Documents relating to the introduction of motorised vehicles to Cork for the first time in the early 1900s, with the first second hand car sold in 1903
  • A vast array of advertisements in local and national newspapers
  • An original copy of one of the first franchise agreements in Ireland to sell Vauxhall cars and Bedford trucks from 1933 
  • A large collection of photographs, including plates and negatives, capturing Cork from the turn of the last century onwards

Mark Whitaker, CEO of JPMG, says the decision to donate the archive stems from the fact that it was nearly lost to history. “Much of what we are donating was recovered when a solicitor on the Mall was clearing out an old strong room and I am hugely sensitive to protecting our archive for the benefit of future generations who might like to research it.  With the company having been established in 1810, and in our family’s ownership since 1861, Johnson & Perrott has evolved and grown with its native city. Personally, I found it fascinating to read through my great-great grandfather’s diaries where he spoke of the practical difficulties of life during the War of Independence and the Civil War including brief references to the burning of Cork and the death of Michael Collins. I hope that this donation will help future historians to paint an accurate picture of what life was like in our city, and the people who helped build it.”

The archive was donated to Cork City Archives at a special ceremony on March 10th next, being attended by Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde, and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin.

The Tánaiste said, “This archive shows a remarkable insight into how life in Cork changed so dramatically with the introduction of the motor car, and how that same period coincided with such upheaval in the city. I was particularly taken by the fact that the Nelson Place headquarters of Johnson and Perrott were commandeered by the Free State Army during the Civil War, and the corresponding entries in William Perrott’s diaries outlining life in the city at that dark time. Donations such as this greatly help tell the story of Cork, and I am very grateful to Mark Whitaker and his family for their efforts to ensure their availability for future generations.” William Perrott was an avid amateur photographer, and his personal collection of photographs show his love for sailing, and outdoor pursuits. The record contains never-before-seen images from around Cork, including Oysterhaven, Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) and point-to-point races taken in the period 1921 onwards.

Daniel Breen, curator of Cork City Museum, says, “It is fantastic for a museum such as ours to receive these items which give an insight into the history of Cork and what was happening in the country at that time.  We are very grateful to the member of the public who first brought the sign to our attention and indeed to Johnson and Perrott for the subsequent donations of the second sign, the carriage and the documents which are being presented to the City Archives.  We are keen to emphasise that there is huge scope for collaborations like this between public bodies and private companies with a long history like that of Johnson and Perrott.  We look forward to displaying the carriage, signage and storyboards telling this important history in the weeks ahead.”