Tag Archives: American Civil war

Tait’s Clothing Factory: Flowers in the rubble.

In June last there was an ‘Open House’ event in Limerick City, showcasing the historically important Tait’s Clothing Factory, ahead of the redevelopment of the site, to provide much needed housing in this part of the city.

The site today

The site today

It was a great honour to stroll through this significant industrial heritage site of international importance. Opened in 1853, the clothing factory became the biggest clothing manufacturer in the world, supplying military uniforms to the British Army,the Canadian Volunteer Militia and to the Confederates in the American Civil War. Many hundreds of Limerick men and women were employed here, up to the time it closed in 1975.

Sir Peter Tait was born in Lerwick Scotland in the early 19th Century and arrived in Limerick to join his sister in 1838. He was an astute and successful business person who became Mayor of Limerick in  three successive years from 1866 to 1868. During his thirty years in the city Peter Tait provided employment to hundreds of people who serviced contracts for military uniforms.

On the day of my visit,at first sight, it appeared to be a desolate site, but on closer inspection I was pleased to see an abundance of wildflowers amid the rubble. I was struck by the similarities with the poppy fields of the world war battlefields, and could not help but think of these beautiful wildflowers as a testament to the men and women who sewed and stitched the uniforms that went to the Crimea and to the United States, many of which became shrouds for their unfortunate wearers.

These are a few of my snaps in memory of all of them. Tomorrow in Limerick, as part of Heritage Week, there will be a day long seminar on Tait’s Clothing Factory,past and future, entitled  ‘A Testament to Time’. These wildflowers are a testament to all those whose lives were affected by the work carried out here.

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Filed under American Civil War, Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish at War, Irish Diaspora, Social History Ireland

Flying Boats and River Boats at Foynes

Flying Boat. Full scale replica of Boeing 314

Flying Boat. Full scale replica of Boeing 314

On a beautiful sunny day, too hot to sit out, I headed 10 miles north to the cooling waters of the River Shannon and pulled in to the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum. What a serendipitous decision that was, with the Museum  about to celebrate 75 years of commercial transatlantic flight. Imagine!  ONLY  75 years since those flights began, and haven’t they come a long way as we now criss-cross the Atlantic without giving it a second thought!

imageAt Foynes, just 15 minutes  off the Wild Atlantic Way from Tarbert, Co Kerry,the only Flying Boat Museum in the world is in the original terminal building right on the main street on the N69 Tralee to Limerick road.

Rineanna had been selected as the location for an airport as the wide River Shannon estuary on Ireland’s west coast  made identification easy for pilots who had crossed the 2,000+ miles  of Atlantic Ocean. While the new airport at Rineanna – now Shannon Airport – was being built, it was decided that Foynes, further down the estuary,would be a good interim location for the European Terminal.  After some test flights in either direction, on 9 July 1939 the first commercial flight, the Yankee Clipper arrived.

The Museum is full of treasures for aviation enthusiasts as well for the non-expert like me. It is a techy-kids paradise as there are several interactive pieces of equipment on which they can have fun.

The Museum is in three main sections. The Aviation section  is devoted to the history of trans Atlantic flight, the focal point of which is a full-scale replica of the Yankee Clipper. This can be explored at leisure. Upstairs is the very spacious flight deck, relatively devoid of any high-tech banks of dials and gauges.

The B.314 could carry thirty-five passengers in relative luxury. The dining room could seat fourteen at a time for a seven-course meal, freshly prepared by cabin crew. The seats converted to bunk beds for sleeping. and there was even a honeymoon suite on board! There certainly were no leg-room issues here!

With tickets costing up to $600, only the very wealthy could afford to travel on these early flights. Posters advertising exotic destinations adorn the walls of the recreated waiting room

There is a good display of old radio and morse code equipment as well as flight simulators that can be tried out!

There were security issues back in those days too as can be on this notice.

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The new trans Atlantic service attracted a number of wealthy and high profile travellers.

imageAmong the high flyers on these first flights from  New York to Foynes, were Ernest Hemingway, Anthony Eden, John F. Kennedy, Lord Mountbatten, Yehudi Menuhin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Hope, Gracie Fields, Douglas Fairbanks Snr and Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe.

Irish Coffee to warm up the frozen passengers

Irish Coffee to warm up the frozen passengers

Irish coffee was invented by chef Joe Sheridan at Foynes in 1943. A Hologram presentation tells the story of the first glass served in the B O’Regan Bar to cold and wet passengers!

On a more sober note, here too is part of the wreck of a BOAC Sunderland that was travelling from Lisbon to Foynes  and crashed into Mount Brandon in Kerry in foggy conditions. 10 crew and passengers, mostly military personnel, lost their lives on July 28 1943

More details of this tragedy can be seen here

Foynes was the centre of European Aviation for a brief time only and ended in 1945 when Shannon Airport opened. Passenger flights ceased at the onset of WW 2 in September 1939, although military traffic continued to use the facility throughout the war. In the 1940s style cinema the story of the ‘Atlantic Conquest’ is fascinating and will be enjoyed by all!

The recently extended Museum now includes a Maritime Section. The River Shannon on which Foynes is located has an impressive history, from Limerick City to Loop Head right at the end of the Estuary.

US Civil War  Confederate uniforms manufactured in Limerick at the Tait factory, were shipped from Foynes, breaking the Union Blockade.

Tate Confederate Uniforms shipped to USA during  Civil war

Tait Confederate Uniforms shipped to USA during Civil war

Not only goods, but people too were exported from the Shannon region. Many emigrants’ had their last glimpses of Ireland here. I was particularly taken with this poster from 1842 advertising passage to USA.

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A poster from 1842 – no fewer than 5 ships would be sailing to American within a few days of one another

Here at the Museum the hand-made weather charts drawn up at Shannon have been preserved in the Archives (miraculously saved from a skip!) Their Archive includes letters, diaries, postcards newspapers relating to Foynes as an air hub and about 200 years of records relating to Foynes as an important harbour, including bills of lading and correspondence between ship owners and others. In addition they hold an extensive collection of papers on Local History as there were a number of prominent and influential families living in this area.

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D-day Weather Chart

The original Control Tower has recently opened and provides great views across the river and is truly the pinnacle of the tour around this wonderful place. Foynes Harbour is Ireland’s premier deepwater bulk carrier port. On the day of my visit, there was no merchant shipping berthed, but the gantries used to load and unload the giant ships up to 250,000 tonnes, can be seen here.

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Sadly the rail station closed in the 1960s, but hopefully some project may be found to utilize this beautiful cut stone building

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Foynes railway station- now closed with Alumina plant in the background

The Celtic Cross peeping out from the trees on the hill was used as a marker by pilots flying into Foynes. This is a memorial to Edmund Spring Rice, a local landlord  and politician who was held in high esteem in the area

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The Spring Rice Cross from the Control Tower

Some nice original feautures have been retained in the old terminal building

There is so much to see at this excellent little museum – surely one of the mid -west’s best kept secrets! It is so well worth a visit and has something for everyone.  It also boasts a coffee shop and restaurant serving up some delicious food and homemade cakes.

To celebrate the 75th Birthday, there will be a spectacular air display tomorrow, out over the wide River Shannon –  it should be a wonderful sight!  Happy Birthday to them!

My thanks to Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum for permission to take photographs  and for the guided tour of their extensive archive during Heritage week in 2013. The archive is accessible to researchers – see website for details.

Further reading:

Foynes Flying Boat Museum

Sunderland G-AGES Crash

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Heritage, Living in Ireland, Transportation

Heritage Week: Dear Father and Mother

There are so many aspects of Heritage to celebrate in Ireland during this Heritage Week August 17th to 25th. So, where to begin? We are surrounded by heritage in the form of ancient  buildings, historic sites, splendid gardens, magnificent scenery, an extraordinary literary and musical tradition, fascinating museums and monuments that commemorate major events in our history. All of these can be experienced, commemorated, celebrated  here in hundreds of locations throughout the country.

There is another part of our legacy, less obvious, less visible,  and most certainly less well-known than it deserves to be, and which may well be overlooked during this week of celebration of  the richness and diversity of our culture and inheritance. It is because the greatest memory and the main monuments are not in our country at all,but  thousands of miles offshore, and far removed from our consciousness. Emigration has been a fact of  Irish life  in one form or another  through the ages. Of the millions who have left these shores – many in tragic circumstances, many not – most have gone on to live relatively ordinary lives in their new countries. There is a substantial number however, who went on to lead extraordinary lives  by being significant participants in both sides of the conflict that shaped the ‘greatest nation on earth’ – America. During the American Civil War  170,000 of our  Irish-born  emigrants played a major role in this conflict – they suffered and they died in their tens of thousands. Their sacrifice goes largely unrecognised  in the country of their birth, and they certainly do not spring to mind in Heritage Week.

Clogheen, Co Tipperary. It was from countryside near here that William left home  for a new life in America. Image Wikimedia Commons

Clogheen, Co Tipperary. It was from countryside near here that William left home for a new life in America. Image Wikimedia Commons

This week when thinking about Heritage Week and how to mark it, I read an amazing story of an ordinary young  boy who left family and Ireland for America at 16 years of age.  Ed O’Riordan, a Tipperary Historian and Damian Shiels, author of Irish in the American Civil War have collaborated to bring the story of  a young emigrant William Hickey, to a wider audience, through a series of very moving letters that William wrote to his parents in Tipperary.  Imagine the feelings of the parents on seeing an envelope from America! William Hickey’s short life  in a foreign land  is very much a part of our legacy and this is an appropriate week  to acknowledge his life and the sacrifice of so many men, women and children who were born here and who changed the shape of the world often at a shocking  cost to themselves and their families. They surely are our ‘hidden heritage’.

A number of enthusiasts have set up a group to further the cause of  having a permanent memorial to these Irish emigrant. They hope too to develop  a tourist trail in Ireland of interest especially to overseas visitors, most especially those from USA who know more about these Irishmen that we do at home. To quote from their site, as President John F Kennedy said   ‘A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honours, the men it remembers’. In this Heritage Week, we remember them.

The full text of the very moving story of  William Hickey, who at age 16 emigrated to America from his Tipperary home, can be seen here. The post includes a number of  letters from William to his parents. A few short years after he emigrated he lay dead in a field at Shiloh in Tennessee.

More information on the Irish American Civil War Trail can be seen here.

With thanks to The Irish in the American Civil War blog which can be accessed here.

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Filed under American Civil War, Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Genealogy, Ireland, Irish American, Irish Culture, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish History

Stamp Your Mark on Irish Commemoration of the American Civil War

As events commemorating the  150th Anniversary of the American Civil War continue  into 2015, there is still an opportunity for Ireland to recognize the enormous contribution of tens of thousands of Irishmen who gave their lives, limbs  hearts and minds in this conflict. A commemorative stamp would be a fitting tribute and as An Post are looking for suggestions for a commemorative issue, would you like to make this suggestion by filling in their form here ? It will only take a few minutes!

Read more on this in the repressed item from Irish in the  American Civil War blog

Stamp Your Mark on Irish Commemoration of the American Civil War.

 

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January 27, 2013 · 9:35 pm

The Famine Diaspora. What became of them? Many who went to the United States of America fought on both sides of the American Civil War. Many suffered terrible wounds. Many died. In the USA Civil War veterans are remembered with pride and all things Civil War have enormous tourist potential. Isn’t it time that we Irish acknowledge the contribution our starving ancestors made to the formation of America? Isn’t it time that we Irish acknowledge the tourism potential in having memorials to this part of our very proud history? For an academic ‘take’ on it, read Damian’s recent blog post above.

Irish in the American Civil War

The Great Famine is an event seared into Irish national memory. Although the victims of the Great Hunger are rightfully remembered and commemorated, as is the physical fact that vast numbers of people were forced to leave, Ireland today largely leaves the memory of these emigrants at the dock, as they boarded ships to a new life far from home. Preserving the memory and experiences of emigrants once they arrived in their new countries has for the most part been left to their own descendants, despite the broader pride that Ireland takes in her global diaspora.

Perhaps the most stark example of this is the way Ireland views the American Civil War. At the commencement of that conflict 1.6 million Irish-born people lived in the United States, the vast majority having arrived as a direct consequence of the Famine. In New York City, which in 1860 had a population of 793,186, a…

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Filed under American Civil War, Celebrations in Ireland, Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Ireland, Irish American, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish_American