Friday, June 27th, 2008
Cobh is part of the Cork City Port and was one of the major immigrant departure points for North America. Millions of Irish sailed from Cobh for parts west. The first family to walk through Ellis Island in New York stepped foot onto a launch to board a ship in Cobh close to where the Picton Castle is berthed. The Titanic boarded her last 2nd and 3rd class passengers form just astern of where the ship is berthed as well. The wreck of the RMS Lusitania, torpedoed in the First World War (and credited with drawing the United States into that conflict), is just offshore by a few miles. Here they brought survivors and victims, and it remains an important story.
Cobh seems to be a small city of rows of contiguous, nicely painted 18th and 19th century buildings wrapped around a large hill along the edge of the harbour. And the town is crowned by a very impressive and towering Gothic cathedral. It is odd to see palm trees backed by a large European cathedral.
Everywhere you walk you are reminded of tragedy and life carrying on in spite of such tragedies. The famine ships sailed for America from here taking something like a million Irish, most never to return. In the early 20th century another 4 million left to improve their lot somewhere else, somehow. There is a monument to the loss of the RMS Lusitania sunk in 1915 by a German U-boat. Controversy remains regarding whether she was carrying war material. The Titanic sailed from here on her fateful voyage. And the lovely seaside park, full of flowers, ornate iron work and a little playground is named in memory of US President John F. Kennedy. We have seen a few sweet little playgrounds for children. Seems like a nice world for children, Ireland.
What to do here? The duty watch looks after the ship as usual; a little painting, keeping an eye on hawsers and chafe gear with the 10 foot tidal range. We opened the ship to public and the crew made some friends with folks who visited onboard. Ashore some went off to Blarney Castle which is not too far, some have gone to kiss the Blarney Stone. It was Queen Elizabeth I, who couldn’t get a straight story out her Lord Blarney, who came up with the term and its present meaning. Jameson’s Distillery has a big museum of their old stone and copper whiskey fabrication plant. Cork City has drawn a few of us. The grain wharves that took the wheat from the likes of the 4-masted bark Moshulu are still in full operation. Astern of us are moored a couple state-of-the-art tugs with Voigth drives. We went aboard and were amazed by how star-ship like they are. The waterfront itself is a long east-west stretch with ancient little boat basins carved into what is otherwise a long stone bulkhead. There are many charming dark wood-panelled waterfront pubs named for ships along the way, often full of homemade music with all participating. There are any number of small shops selling this and that. A laundry and an Indian restaurant completed the waterfront tour for many of us.