Long Good Bye to Ireland
Story and photographs by Corinna Lothar
left in droves for the new worlds, some to North America, others to
Zealand. They were the Irish poor, fleeing from famine-ridden Ireland
where only the English had enough to eat.
From 1848 to 1950, over 6 million adults and children
emigrated from Ireland,
more than a third departing from Cobh (pronounced Cove),
Queenstown under British rule, in County Cork. The story of this exodus
is detailed in Cobh, The Queenstown Story, a multi-media
exhibit presented at the Cobh Heritage Center.
The Center is located in a beautifully restored Victorian
railway station and offers visitors a fascinating introduction to the
history of this charming small town and its harbor on the southern coast
of Irelands County Cork.
The story is told with dramatic detail and panoramas
with sound - of life aboard the ships sailing to a better life.
The ships were crowded, sometimes desperately so for the poorer passengers,
who often spent the passage in squalor below decks.
Panorama of emigrants on shipboard, Cobh Heritage
Not all emigrants left because of the failure of the
potato crop, which resulted in one and a half million emigrants between
1845 and 1851. While the exodus was largely the result of poverty and
crop failure, other causes were the land system and poverty of opportunity.
The exhibit further tells the story of the convicts
deported from Ireland under horrendous conditions akin to those of the
slave ships. The first convict ship to travel directly from Ireland
to Australia sailed in 1791 and carried 159 prisoners. Between 1791
and 1853, 30,000 men and 9,000 women were deported from Ireland for
crimes ranging from petty theft to murder.
The Center has additional exhibits devoted to the Titanic,
which called at the port of Queenstown on its fatal 1912 voyage to America,
and the Lusitania, whose survivors were ferried to Queenstown
after the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915 about 10
miles off the port of Kinsale.
123 passengers embarked the Titanic at Queenstown,
113 in steerage. The 151 dead from the Lusitania were buried in mass
graves in the Old Church cemetery, just north of Cobh.
The Center offers a genealogical search survey for visitors
interested in tracing their Irish ancestry. There are a restaurant and
several shops, including the ubiquitous place to buy gifts and souvenirs.
The Great Famine exhibit in the Skibbereen Heritage
Center in West Cork located in the Old Gasworks building - offers
a fascinating glimpse into the effects of the failure of the potato
crop. In 1841, the population of Ireland was 8.5 million people. Nine
years later, more than 1 million had starved or otherwise died in terrible
conditions. Another million had emigrated.
Part of Great Famine Exhibit, Skibbereen Heritage
Skibbereen was one of the worst affected areas in all
of Ireland. Newspaper accounts, shown in the exhibition, describe the
dreadful conditions of the time. Between eight and ten thousand unidentified
men, women and children are buried in the famine burial graves across
the River Ilen from the Heritage Center. Throughout the exhibit, audio-visual
accounts lend a graphic portrait of the times and the suffering of the
Today, Skibbereen is an attractive small town with a
lively weekly market, some good restaurants and an array of shops on
its high, or main street.
Residents of Kinsale could see the Lusitania
as it sank. Kinsale, once a fishing village, has been transformed into
a tourist destination, a foodie hub where each October a
four-day gourmet festival takes place.
It remains a lovely small town with brightly painted
houses, window boxes bursting with color on hundreds of windows, dozens
of art galleries and craft shops, a regional museum housed in the old
Market House (built in 1600), and a 17th century fort located at the
head of the harbor. The town boasts one of the best restaurants in Ireland:
if you cant get a reservation at Fishy Fishy Café, try
the Blue Haven Inn, which has a fine kitchen, old fashioned atmosphere,
excellent seafood and a first class wine list.
Kinsale has its castle too. Desmond Castle, built around
the year 1500 by the Earl of Desmond, served originally as the Kinsale
Customs House. It was used by the British during the American Revolution
as a prison for captured American sailors, and during the mid-18th century,
it housed French prisoners. During the years of the great famine, the
castle became a workhouse for starving families. Today, its home
to the International Museum of Wine. An exhibition in the museum traces
the story of Irelands wine links to France and the rest of the
wine producing world.
There are castles scattered throughout County Cork,
as elsewhere in Ireland, from those like the restored Dun na Sead castle
in Baltimore now occupied by a family, to the legendary Blarney Castle.
The heart of County Cork is Cork City, the Republic
of Irelands second city and a smaller version of Dublin. Downtown
Cork City offers locals and visitors alike versions of the department
stores found in Dublin. In the center of town is the marvelous English
Market, a gourmet hub selling fresh produce, meats, cheeses - including
hard to find Cashel blue, Ardrahan and Gubbeen - bakery goods, wines
and an assortment of Irish food, such as drisheen (blood pudding), crubeen
(pigs feet) and barmbrack (a fruit and spice bread). Upstairs
in a gallery above the market, a tearoom serves sandwiches, cakes and
light dishes are served. The market dates from James 1st in 1610, although
the present building opened in 1788, restored in the early 1980s.
St. Anne Clock Tower, Cork City
On a hill overlooking Cork Citys center, St. Annes
Church is famous for its chiming bells and red and white color scheme
created by the use of red sandstone and white limestone. Whenever a
member of the McOsterich family, who were responsible for the design
and erection of the bell tower, marries anywhere in the world, the bells
ring out in honor of the wedding. On top of the bell tower is a weather
vane in the form of a salmon representing the fish in the River Lee
that flows through the city.
The tower is adorned with a four-faced clock, known
by Corkonians as the four-faced liar because the time on
each face is slightly different during the hour. Because the numbers
on the faces of the clock are made of gilded wood, some of the pieces
of wood are thicker than others and some hands stick as they go through
the hour. But all come together on the hour.
Corks Butter Museum stands in a small square near
St. Annes Church and tells the story of the Cork butter trade.
Cork was once the largest butter trading market in the world, and the
museums exhibition traces both the historic and current dairy
culture in Ireland. The exhibition includes traditional and modern butter-making
Butter churns, Cork Butter Musseum
On the coast road, about 30 miles from Cork City, is
the picturesque village of Timoleague, which hosts a lively festival
each August. The ten-day festival includes live street music, pig racing,
and competitions for the best costumes.
The village is dominated by the ruins of an ancient
abbey, founded by the Franciscan order in 1240 A.D. The monks were dispersed
by the Reformation, but returned at the beginning of the 17th century
and remained until 1629. The abbey was sacked by British soldiers in
1612, but much of the architecture remains. Its a romantic ruin
perched at the edge of a sea inlet.
Timoleague Abbey ruins
The verdant countryside of County Cork is typical of
southern Ireland: gently rolling pastures of green, green grass, peacefully
grazing cows and sheep, richly wooded hills, old stone walls, ruined
castles and ancient graves, pretty villages with many a pub, startling
views of the sea and remnants of the Celts of yore. Elegant manor houses,
some now transformed into small hotels or restaurants, are scattered
Not far from the village of Rosscarbery, which grew
up around a monastery established in the sixth century, is the Dromberg
stone circle, a ring of 13 standing stones, considered the finest megalithic
stone circle in County Cork. The circle dates from 153 B.C. and is located
on a clearing with a beautiful view down towards the sea. West of the
circle are the remnants of two huts and a cooking place.
Dromberg stone circle
Drive out to dramatic Mizen Head, the southwestern point
of the Irish mainland, where the lands falls into the sea. A new suspension
bridge was opened this past summer to replace the rickety old one leading
across a chasm to the old signal station.
From the top of the cliff, a visitor sees the Atlantic
Ocean break in roiling water and foam over the rocks. Sometimes seals,
whales or dolphins come out to play in the sea. Seabirds cover the rocks
in great profusion.
An Irish cottage by the sea
Theres nothing but the Atlantic between Mizen
Head and America, beckoning from 3,000 miles away. Its not hard
to imagine the sadness in the hearts of those emigrants from Queenstown
as they glanced back at their beautiful green homeland, knowing that,
in all likelihood, they would never see it again.
If You Go
Several airlines serve Dublin from the U.S. Aer Lingus
is the Irish line, but I recommend Delta, which has particularly courteous
and helpful personnel and serves meals across the Atlantic that are
actually good enough to eat.
For information on Ireland, contact the Irish Tourist
Board at www.discoverireland.com.
If you rent a car, request a small car as Irish roads
are not as wide as American roads and country roads, especially unpaved
ones, are very narrow. Also, remember to rent an automatic, as opposed
to a manual, which requires shifting gears with your left hand.
Mystical, Delightful, Enchanting Ireland Part 1/Part
to the Emerald Isle, Faces
of Ireland, Aran
of Smiling Irish Eyes