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Tue 7 Apr - Cork

Prior to this trip, my experience of Ireland south of a line from Sligo to, say, the Mourne Mountains was limited to maybe half a dozen brief visits to Dublin, and one short trip to Cork when I was a member of the Queen's University Singers, and we performed (non-competitively) at the Cork International Choral Festival. I couldn't remember the exact year, but thanks to modern technology it is even possible to access a digital copy of the programme - click here , then select the Souvenir Programme image and scroll down to page 13.

Friday, 6 May, 1966, to be precise. Quel horreur!!! I couldn't have told you that we sang a couple of items by Monteverdi and Gesualdo, but I shall never forget the little nod of satisfaction and the gentle smile which came over Philip Cranmer's (our conductor's) face when we finished Debussy's 'Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orléans'. It was one of the highlights, if not THE pinnacle, of my long choral career. But I remember nothing of Cork the city, except that there was a restaurant called Thompsons which the natives pronounced with a Th as in Thursday.

The Titanic memorial, Cobh

Cork is steeped in history - it was particularly prominent in the Irish War of Independence (1918 - 1921), most notably when the British burnt down much of the city centre on the night of 11/12 December 1920. But for a change, I left the history aside, as I had other plans for the day. So if you want to learn some more, you'll need to click here.

By the way, even more damage was done in Cork in November 2009, when the River Lee, which runs through the centre of the city, flooded. Massive quantities of water were released from a couple of old hydro dams upstream, supposedly to mitigate but arguably to exacerbate the situation in the city centre. And as if to give credence to allegations that the Irish are slow learners, there were further floods in February 2014. Finally they seem to have got their act together, with remedial works due to start next year.

You'll see from the map that Cork is one of those cities which has its port a short distance away, in this case Cobh (pronounced 'cove'). So at brother David's suggestion, that's where I headed today. David wanted to know whether anything other than the RMS Titanic got a mention, to which the answer is hardly anything.

The Titanic link is that Cobh was the liner's last port of call, on 11 April 1912, before its infamous loss. (Back then, in British controlled times, Cobh was known as Queenstown.) But it was more than a refuelling stop - 123 new passengers boarded, of whom 79 were lost at sea. All 123 are named on what I thought was a rather elegant, simple memorial, this glass or perspex panel with the names and a drawing of the ship etched on it.

  • St Colman's Cathedral

The Titanic isn't the only disaster with which Cobh has been associated, On 7 May 1915, Cunard's RMS Lusitania, en route from New York to Liverpool, was torpedoed by a German u-boat off Kinsale Head, a little to the west of Queenstown. 1,198 perished, 761 survived. Queenstown bore the brunt of the rescue attempts and the aftermath, including the burial of 148 bodies in the Old Church cemetery.

Un-deterred by history, Cobh is in currently process of investing zillions to ensure that it has the facilities to cater for the largest of today's cruise liners.

The former railway station has been converted into a rather tacky Heritage centre, and there are other memorials - the arrival of the USS Jamestown laden with food in 1847 (the height of the Great Famine); Annie Moore, the first Irish emigrant to be processed in Ellis Island, New York, Jan 1892; the loss of 5 lives in the Cork Harbour Tragedy, Dec 1942; Bruce Ismay gets one to himself - he was the boss of the White Star Line, owners of the Titanic, and he was one of the casualties; and so on.

There was a fascinating variety of housing in and around Cobh, including (the photo on the extreme right) the ugliest I've seen since Paulstown.

But to finish today on a more pleasant note, as well as redressing the balance after my complaints about cold, wet and windy Dublin, just look at the weather in today's header photo ... water like a mill-pond, not a cloud in the sky.

Sorry, I have to report, that even taking a different route back to my hotel, the traffic system still got the better of me. It's awful. But I finally got back late afternoon, able to spend some time trying to catch up on this journal. You'll have gathered I've fallen way behind, too busy doing it to write about it, I'm afraid.


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