Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cobh (Queenstown)

Early the next morning, (our 3rd day in Ireland), we ate a little breakfast then drove south to County Cork.  On the way we drove through the town of Macroom where we stopped to look at the castle and buy some treats for later on.  The aromas of fresh-from-the-oven bread that drew us through the red-painted door resulted in two bags of pastries and yummies -- a few with still-hot apple filling and others covered in confectioner's sugar -- and lattes for myself and LeRoy.

We only spent a short few minutes at the Macroom Castle because it is more or less ruins now than a whole complete castle.  Yet, we found the history interesting as it was the home of Admiral Sir William Penn, the father of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania!  It is said that William Penn spent much of his boyhood days in the castle. 

We drove through the city of Cork and arrived in Cobh, (pronounced Cove, also known as Queenstown), just in time for the 11 o'clock Trail of the Titanic Tour only to find that the famed Michael Martin was in the States doing a series of talks about the history of the Titanic.  Somewhat disappointed, we sat down to discuss our options when a hotel receptionist stepped out to tell us that Mr. Martin's associate was on his way and would we be willing to wait five minutes.  Of course, we thought this was "grand" and it gave us a few minutes to meet the other couple on the tour with us.  They were from Israel, on a holiday "just the two of them" while children were at home with grandparents. 

The tour began with our guide asking us where we were from.  After hearing our answer and the other couple's, he said, "Huh.  So no one is from England.  Very well.  We'll have a good tour then!" 

We had never heard of the Lusitania -- a ship that was sunk by a torpedo shot from a German submarine.  The ship sunk in only 18 minutes resulting in the deaths of 1198 people.  The Lusitania Peace Memorial "commemorates those lost and pays tribute to those people locally who made repeated journeys out and back to the site of the sinking ship in an effort to save as many as possible.  Over 700 people were rescued."  The two men standing on the front of the statue depicts the weariness and sorrow of the rescuers.  Our tour guide told us that this incident, May 7, 1915, was one of the events that led up to the United States getting involved in WWI.  

We learned there is a whole maritime culture in which there is great honor and esteem.  One of the memorials we visited was from the tragedy on December 12, 1942 during which five seamen died.  One crew member was saved by swimming to a buoy lantern in Cobh Harbor -- the 100-year old lantern erected at the memorial along with a plaque that reads in Gaelic, "...to give without counting the cost."

We stood in front of the White Star Line, listening to our tour guide and looking out at the original pier where thousands of hope-filled passengers boarded ferries that took them to the waiting ship out in the harbor.  Not just the Titanic, but so many more before and since.  But it gave us a new reverence to stand where so many hopeful immigrants stood while listening to the stories that make history tangible.

The Titanic Memorial in Pearse Square commemorates the victims of the RMS Titanic that sunk on April 14, 1912.  It was erected in July 1998 with Millvina Dean, the youngest passenger on board the ship, present for the ceremony.  But the part that caused us to raise our eyebrows -- the moment my children actually stopped wiggling, elbowing one another, hopping on and off the nearby curb -- was when our guide told us about the picture of the woman and her children on the plaque.

The woman is Margaret Rice, surrounded by her five sons.  They were the single largest Irish family to be lost on the Titanic -- and they were returning to their home they had immigrated to earlier in Spokane, Washington.  With my children's curiosity piqued, they asked more questions and we got to hear the "whole story of the Rice Family" and the Titanic's connection with our hometown.

The Titanic set sail from Southampton, England to Cherbourg, France and then on to Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland to pick up more passengers.  She pulled up her anchor for the last time in this harbor on April 11, 1912.
All the way back to our cottage later that day Israel talked about diving to the ocean's bottom and bringing the Titanic to the surface.  The story captivated her, intrigued her.  She wants to know more about it now.  I believe, it is this that makes a "historical walking tour" a success.

Spike Island used to be "Ireland's Alcatraz."  It's history holds stories of strategic military installations as well as a prison and a place to hold prisoners until they could be transported to Australia.  Our guide informed us that it is now considered an honor to be an Australian as a descent of an Irish prisoner.

We continued our walk past the "Preaching House Steps" which led up to the house where Rev. John Wesley originally led his ministry in the 1760's.

Our guide led us up the hill, sharing the history of the enormous cathedral on our right, charming us with story after story of the people of Cobh, and finally telling us about the legendary boxer, Jack Doyle.  Our tour then concluded at Jack Doyle's where our guide bought a glass of Beamish, (the famous local beer), for the adults and Irish lemonade (not like any lemonade we've ever tasted anywhere!) for the children.

We thanked our tour guide, received a signed copy of Michael Martin's Titanic Trail book, and exchanged e-mail addresses with our new friends who told us, "When you come to Israel, please look us up!  We would be glad to show you around our city!"

?? Saw this sign on the way back to our car.  Hm.  Got me wondering...

Although it was a bit of a detour, we drove the 30 minutes south to the tiny harbor village of Kinsale where we arrived too late in the evening to really see the sights or take a long walk, but did arrive in time for dinner.  We strolled through narrow, winding, cobblestone streets and along the waterfront where the tide was so low that boats sat embedded in the ground.

Upon finding a pub with a fireplace, we settled in for dinner and relaxation and conversation about the day's events.

After dinner we walked in the dark for a bit, shopped at the nearby market for groceries, then found another cozy establishment to warm ourselves on the outside by the fireplace, on the inside with Irish Coffee, cappuccino, and hot chocolate.

By the time we walked back to our car, the tide had come all the way in so that every boat bobbed up and down to the light splish-splish against the rocky embankment.  We drove home with our hearts at full tide, too.

O my God, teach me to be generous:
to serve you as you deserve to be served;
to give without counting the cost;
to fight without fear of being wounded;
to work without seeking rest;
and to spend myself without expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you love to bless your husband. Loving to see the world through your eyes!