Today found us on the train to Cobh (pronounced Cove), a small town on the coast. It is only a half hour ride from Cork, but makes for a lovely day trip to the seaside. Cobh, for me, was very reminiscent of St. John's, with the houses closely packed together in rows and some brightly painted, others more muted, but coloured as well. It is developed along the waterfront, with streets that go up from there, much like St. John's. You certainly get a workout exploring this place!
Cobh, which was formerly known as Queenstown, has a connection to two maritime disasters - the Titanic and the Lusitania. Cobh was the last port of call for the Titanic before she set sail across the Atlantic to her doom. There is a memorial to the victims of that fatal voyage, over 100 of whom boarded the ship here, since Cobh was a popular port for people who were emigrating to America. As well, there is a section dedicated to the story in the Cobh Heritage Centre.
The second disaster connected to the town was the sinking of the Lusitania by German torpedoes in 1915. The Lusitania was a passenger ship, still operating as such despite the war going on. It left New York, bound for Liverpool with 1959 people on board. About 16 km off the Head of Kinsale, she was struck by a torpedo from a German submarine, and sank in just 91 m of water. Rescue boats from the nearby coastal towns managed to save some 761 people, but the remainder of the 1198 passengers were never recovered. The survivors were ferried to Queenstown (Cobh) and lodged in local homes. Three days after the sinking, 150 victims were buried in mass graves in Cobh, 80 of them never being identified. There is a very moving sculpture dedicated to all of the lost souls.
Despite the bleak historical connections, Cobh is a lovely town to walk through. One of the most striking features is St. Colman's Cathedral, a most impressive church for such a small place. It is a good example of neo-Gothic architecture, started in 1868 and taking some 47 years to finish. It has a carillon of 42 bells, which we were fortunate enough to hear, being there at 12:00. Unfortunately that coincided with a Mass, so we could not go inside.
Another claim to fame for Cobh is that it is the birthplace of Sonia O'Sullivan, a former track athlete. Sonia won gold at the 1995 Olympics in the 5000m and a silver in the Sydney Olympics. Her 2000m world record, set in 1994, stood until 2017. There is a lifesized statue of her on the waterfront walk,
Siince it was getting near lunchtime, we stopped for a bite at the O'Shea Bar, before heading over to the Cobh Heritage Centre. This is a fairly extensive exhibition of the history of Cobh and its connection to the Titanic and Lusitania. Your entry ticket has the name of an historical character whom you can look for in the exhibition. Mine was Margaret Rice, a mother of 5 sons who was taking the Titanic back to the U.S. Her husband had died and she had gone back to visit relatives and was on her way back to Seattle, where they had settled. Irv's character was Fr. Frank Browne, an Irish Jesuit priest who was also a prolific photographer. A present from his uncle was a place on the first leg of the Titanic's journey from Southampton to Queenstown. He documented life on board this magnificent vessel, but upon orders from the head priest, was told to disembark at Queenstown, an order that ultimately saved his life.
At that point, we had to head back to the train station to catch our ride back to Cork. While waiting for the train, I struck up a conversation with a young woman who was herding a group of young Scouts, along with two other leaders. They had spent the day in Cobh doing a scavenger hunt of all the main sights in Cobh. They were a lively, but well-behaved little bunch. We had a good chat about Scouts and Cubs and Beavers in Ireland. Not a whole lot different than in Canada. Back on the train, Cork bound. Irv headed back to the B&B while I opted to head back to the town centre for another stroll around. Other than purchasing a belt and some new mascara, and some socks for the kids, nothing particularly exciting. Back to the Gabriel to get cleaned up and ready for dinner. Since it was our last night together, Mike had reserved a spot at Market Lane. We all had a great dinner and a fine time visiting. Since the night was still young, some of us (Mike, Sara, Christy, Bill, Mary and us) decided to stop off at Shelbourne's, the whiskey bar where Irv and I had stopped the day before. Then back home to the Gabriel for our last night of the tour's sleep.