Tag Archives: Spike Island

Postcards from Cobh Co. Cork

Just about a 15 minute drive away is the fascinating town of Cobh, County Cork. It was known in earlier times as Queenstown, then as Cove. The spelling was then changed to the Irish Cobh (‘bh’ in Irish sounds like ‘V’), so pronunciation remained unchanged. This seaport on the southern coast of Ireland features large in the history of our nation. Sitting on what is one of the world’s finest natural harbours, Cobh has witnessed the emigration of millions of Irish whether by transportation to penal colonies, or in search of a better life in the New World. It is a poignant place, where so many of our people last stood on their home soil. My uncle was one of these who left for America from here and the sight of Cobh as they pulled out to sea stayed with him as a sad and tearful memory for decades.

Stark figures indeed!

Stark figures indeed!

Cobh has also figured large in maritime history. Nearby is Haulbowline the base for the Irish Navy and Spike Island with its 18th century star-shaped fort and a former prison.

The beautiful cathedral church of the Diocese of Cloyne stands over the town.

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Designed by Pugin and opened in 1879, St Colman’s is on the site of the old Bridwell. This beautiful building dominates everything around. The spire was added to the structure later and completed in 1915. The largest Carillon  in Ireland and Britain comprising 49 bells is here and following restoration it is now considered one of the best in the world. Cast in Loughborough, England and weighing some 25 tons, the bronze bells were transported from Liverpool to Cobh by courtesy of the British Navy, as no civilian vessels could make such a delivery during World War 1. The bells are not rung with ropes but are played with a keyboard with pedals that move the clappers. I was here at 4 pm which is one of the times when the hour chimes are followed by a tune. It was quite an experience to hear them ring out over the harbour!

Cobh has very steep little lanes leading down to the water’s edge,with colourful houses and quite a nice assortment of buildings.

Way below the imposing spire at the water’s edge is a delightful park, known locally as The Prom. Restored and upgraded several times, it was constructed in 1805 and  renamed Kennedy Memorial Park in the 1980s. I am not sure what connection JFK had with the town.

Cobh famously was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic on her maiden voyage. The old White Star Line offices now house the Titanic Experience Exhibition. It was from here that the 3rd Class passengers embarked, while the 1st and 2nd class passengers embarked from the jetty at the old railway station.  Sadly the historic 3rd class pier has fallen into disrepair. (I have written posts on the TITANIC in the past, links to these are at the end of the post)

But Cobh is associated with another major maritime tragedy. On 7 May 1915, 101 years ago tomorrow, the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania sailing from New York to Liverpool was torpedoed by a German U Boat, off the County Cork coast with the loss of 1,198 lives. Although she sank within 18 minutes of being hit, 761 passengers survived. This incident is considered to be the catalyst for the entry of the USA into the war. In Cobh there is a fine monument commemorating the tragedy where many of the survivors and the dead came ashore.  The monument in the main street is directly in front of the building which was used as a morgue for the dead in 1915.

In the Kennedy Memorial Park there is a wall in remembrance of the survivors of the disaster.

194 of the Lusitania victims rest in three mass graves and 24 individual plots at the local cemetery. The mass graves contain 23 bodies, 52 bodies and 69 bodies respectively, with names of those buried there carved on 3 glass memorials.

These sad memorials are in the very historic graveyard that bears witness to a number of tragedies at sea, with many sailors resting here. It is worthy of a visit to experience some of the history and to marvel at some of the stonemasons craft.

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The Republican Plot

Back in the town, one of the most famous sculptures is dedicated to Annie Moore and her brothers who sailed from Cobh to join their parents in New York. Annie was the first person to pass through Ellis Island.

Cobh is a town that has so much to offer that it would take a number of visits to cover it all. I am fortunate that it is almost in my backyard, so I will be there on a regular basis, to explore its beauty and other aspects of the fascinating history of the place.

Previous posts on the Titanic

A Mayo village devastated by the Titanic disaster.

April 11 1912. Titanic sails from Queenstown.

April 13 1912 Titanic sails in calm waters

April 14 1912. Iceberg Ahead! Goodbye all!

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Mayo Emigrants, My Travels, Titanic

Ireland Calling: The Gathering 2013

In the closing days of 2012 we read that our young people are leaving this country at the rate of 200 a day, a level of emigration not experienced since the great famine. They head off to Britain, Canada, United States of America, New Zealand, many parts of Europe or as in the case of my family, to far off Australia. Although 46,500 Irish-born  left us  in the year to April 2012, these new emigrants have opportunities to stay in contact with brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends through social media and the irreplaceable Skype.  Long ago – and indeed not so long ago – when our family members departed these shores, it was often a challenge to stay in contact; people did not have telephones, for those who did, phoning was expensive;  people either could not write or were not good at writing letters.

Today New Year’s Day, marks the beginning of The Gathering 2013, a year-long series of events celebrating our heritage, our musical and literary traditions and our sense of fun all arranged to tempt our departed kinsfolk to visit the land of their fathers.  We Irish have a natural instinct to gather, rooted perhaps in the old rural tradition of the ‘meitheal’ where neighbours came together as a team  to help with the harvest or some other major event and where firm friendships were shaped.

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Spike Island (Cork County Council)

This afternoon, a 21 gun salute resounded out over the splendid Cork Harbour,from where countless thousands left here by choice or necessity down the ages. The 21 gun salute was heard here for the first time in almost 30 years. Spike Island in the Harbour is the site of  one of only two fixed national saluting stations in Ireland, the second being on the end of the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire, appropriately enough also at the point of departure of tens of thousands of Irish seeking better lives abroad.

The sounding of the 21 gun salute is a tribute to all the people who have left Ireland, and while it  also symbolizes a ‘caoin’ from the heart of those of us who are left behind, it is a mighty symbolic call  to Ireland’s emigrants to come home, a symbolic call that has been sent out across the oceans, across continents to all parts of the world where Irish have settled to remind them of their heritage and to come back and share in some of it .

Mouth of Cork Harbour photographed from Cobh

Mouth of Cork Harbour photographed from Cobh, from where thousands of Irish left to take up new lives.

2013 is set to be a spectacular year-long celebration.

Taragaí linn. Beidh failte roimh gach duine  in the wonderful year that is planned!

References:

Central Statistics Office 

History of the 21 Gun Salute

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January 1, 2013 · 10:25 pm

Titanic 100:Cobh 2012

The Titanic.

The Titanic centenary commemorations were launched today in Cobh, County Cork. Cobh, or Queenstown as it was then known,was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic. 

Today, the LE Emer of the Irish Naval Service, was alongside and exchanged a gun salute with nearby Spike Island. There then followed the release of 123 flares from Spike Island, one for each of the passengers who boarded at Queenstown in April 1912. A poignant remembrance of those who last stood on Irish soil 100 years ago and left family and friends in search of a better future.

Throughout 2012, Cobh will lead the  Irish tribute to those who lost their lives on the Titanic as well as those who survived. Many events to remember the Irish ship and her passengers will take place during the year-long  commemoration- exhibitions, lectures,concerts,visiting cruise liners, markets,church services and naval displays. The impressive exhibition centre will be a central attraction to all visitors to the area.

There will be frequent posts on this site throughout the year on the Titanic 100 commemorations at Cobh and in Belfast as well as in The Titanic Village – Addergoole, Co Mayo.

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Filed under Irish American, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Mayo Emigrants