Day one in Cobh (pronounced Cove) was glorious. First and foremost, I forgot to set any alarm and didn’t wake up until late morning! But there was plenty of time to explore a bit of Cobh. And the weather, though cloudy, was reserving its rain for later in the evening.
So, a bit of breakfast and it was out the front door. A left turn and we were headed for the port that saw thousands of poor and starving leave their homes for America. That same port was the last port of call for the Titanic. One group poor. One group not so poor.
On the edge of the water stands the Cobh Heritage Center. A museum dedicated to telling the stories of all the people who journeyed from the Irish shores and those who made it necessary or possible for them to leave.
The Center is in a building that has stood there for centuries. The concrete and stone wall still carry the scratched in names of those who sailed away. Some added dates. Some said goodbye to Ireland. You can run your fingers over those names and almost feel the fear that compelled them to leave their legacy there on the edge of home.
Walking in you find yourself in a warm, large room full of posters and small exhibits. A small coffee shop and gift shop sit to the sides. The museum is not large but the amount of information and the detailed exhibits make it seem much larger than it is. It is here that I learned that the first female pirate was an Irish woman; that this harbor was the last port of call for the Titanic and that political prisoners left from Cobh for the State of Virginia. The dioramas depicting life on board the immigration ships were stunning. The information that they contained made my heart ache.
I left the Heritage Center with a greater appreciation for Irish history and of the country of Ireland that now exists.
The next day was:
By train. The Cobh/Rushmore train station is an old Victorian brick building. And the train that ran to Cork was, as usual, on time.
Across the estuaries and rivers that partition this part of Ireland. Curlews and Ducks and all sorts of wildlife entertained me. Even a few seals snoozing on the mud banks.
And Jim, in full Zegrahm’s mode, educated me on what I saw and what I might see. History was a major part of the day. Jim talked about the war of Independence, the Troubles, the Famine, the Diaspora to American, the Vikings, the decline of the Catholic Church and many other topics.
By the way, Jim is VERY GOOD at what he does. His sense of the city and what I might like to see was uncanny.
We walked Cork. First stop was an art museum where I learned about Harry Clarke and his incredible stained glass creations. He was part of the Irish arts and crafts movement and some of his work was installed in the Honan Chapel on the University College of Cork (UCC). So during our stroll of the city, we made it to the UCC campus.
On the way there was a Guinness bar (closed of course), a gazillion statues, painted walls, and interesting shops and people. I stood in front of the courthouse, found a political party named after me (well, maybe not…) and a market where tea and scones were served overlooking the market entrance.
Here is a glimpse of what I saw that day on the way to the Honan Chapel.
The UCC (not to be confused with the Uniform Commercial Code) campus is beautiful. It’s common square looked like it came out of a Harry Potter novel.
The highlight was the Honan Chapel.
Technically, the chapel in NOT on the UCC campus. There is a fence around it which gives the impression that it is a separate entity. This is because, in its earlier days, Catholics were not allowed to attend the UCC and all religious displays were to be interdenominational.
As a legal entity, it is separate. As a practical matter, it is closer that just being next door.
It was constructed, by design, with all Irish materials and labor. It’s interior design was to reflect its Irish heritage.
And someone took that seriously.
When was the last time that you saw the signs of the Zodiac in the floor of ANY church?
I found mine.
The central aisle is called the River of Life It has fish in it!
Then there were the Harry Clarke windows
The light was not perfect, I had left the ‘good’ camera at home so the details were not as visible in the photos. If you would like to see them in a better light, just google Harry Clarks- stain glass. You could get lost in the research.
With tired feet and hungry bodies we headed for the train station and Cobh. An amazing, fun and wondrous day.
I can’t thank Jim and Ann enough for their hospitality and their knowledge of Irish history. I am eternally grateful.