Somerset Street over the Rideau Canal
Written by Bytown Museum
During the construction of the Rideau Canal, a number of Irish families took up residence in shanties cut into the slopes of the Canal just south of the Ottawa Locks site. Named Corktown for the residents' home of County Cork, Ireland, it was one of Bytown’s first settlements.
In the village, the locals frequented Mother McGuinty’s tavern. Armed with a winning smile and backed by an arm that she was reputed to swing with potent might, Mother McGuinty ensured that the poteen – moonshine whiskey – flowed freely. She kept track of her patrons’ tallies on a chalkboard with scratch marks, marking an eagle’s talon for a gallon!
When work on the Canal was completed in 1832, the government began to crack down on squatters; by 1840, Corktown was a memory.
In 2006, the Bytown Museum proposed the name “Corktown Footbridge” to the City of Ottawa as the name for the new pedestrian bridge at Somerset Street, in order to commemorate this early community.