Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Builder, of Cork.   According to the 1911 census, John Sisk, whose father, Patrick, is believed to have been a plasterer, was born in Co. Cork in on 30 September 1837.  At the age of eleven he was apprenticed to a Quaker plasterer named Robert Martin.   Shortly before his first marriage in 1859, he set up in business as a builder in Cork.(1)   He was to become one of the leading contractors in the south of Ireland and as such was associated with some of the major architects working in Ireland in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Much of his work was ecclesiastical.

John Sisk died on 21 October 1921 at the age of eighty-four. A lifelong teetotaller, he had been vice-president of the Cork Catholic Young Men's Society for many years and was involved in other Catholic charitable work.    He was married twice, first, in 1859, to Catherine (née Burke) and second, in 1890 or 1891, to Ellen.(2)    Of his six sons of his first marriage, four were involved in the building trades: Nicholas (b. 1860), a plasterer and tiler, who became his father's foreman; Richard (b. 1865), a plasterer, who later also became a foreman;  John Valentine (1868-1957), who trained as a carpenter and set up his own building business in 1900, and  William (b. 1869), a carpenter and wood-carver, who worked in his father's company. In 1906, when John Sisk was unwell and his business declining, John Valentine became his partner.   The firm of John Sisk & Son, later carried on by John Valentine's sons Raymond and John Gerard,(2) who opened a branch in Dublin in 1937, has continued until the present day (2009).

Address: 1 Cove Street, Cork, <1888(3) until death.


Information in this entry not otherwise attributed is from John Sisk's descendant Hal Sisk, of Dublin, from the notice of Sisk's death in IB 63, 22 Oct 1921, 699, from the obituary in IB 63, 5 Nov 1921, 729, and from Building a Business: 150 Years of the Sisk Group, ed. by Madeleine Lyons (Dublin:  Associated Editions, 2009), which has a portrait of on p. 7. (The 150th anniversary of the founding of the company was also the subject of a special report, 'Sisk Group celebrating 150 years', in the; Irish Times , 13 Mar 2009.)

(1)   He does not make an appearance in the Cork directories until the 1880s, however.
(2)   For an interesting account of John G. Sisk's character and achievements, see the appreciation by his son Hal B. Sisk in The Clongownian (?) 47-54 (copy in IAA, Acc. 2014/96).
(3)   Guy's Cork Almanac and Directory (1888).