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Published: June 17th 2016
Touring in Ireland
Tuesday 14th June
The 2.45 am ferry from Pembroke to Rosslare was peopled with bodies comatose on bench seats. I had a cup of tea before getting three hours sleep and at 5.45 we were turfed out to the chilly Irish morning.
My first port of call was Brosca, west of Waterford, where an old friend, Rod, pointed out the spare room, and went off to work leaving me to sleep. I spent a pleasant day there: he showed me the local Mahon Falls, and I relaxed on a wicker settee with a cute little rust-coloured terrier on my lap and looked over the Comeragh Mountains until a grey blanket of cloud settled onto the foothills. I knew Rod years ago in Leytonstone, and know his brother well, and we know quite a few people in common. I was trying to work out when he left east London but all he could remember was that I had slung him and three others ignominiously from a party I was holding. I remember it well and was embarrassed that I had foisted myself onto him for the night. The next morning we had coffee in the sun in the garden, an unexpected treat before I set off.
Wednesday 15th June
I drove west to Cobh, (pronounced Cove) east of Cork to see Mike and Mary from the yacht club. They have recently moved here (back home) after 35 years in London, and both enjoyed playing tourist with me. Michael took me for a drive, explaining the history of the town, and over the next two days Mary and I saw the sights.
Cobh has two important pieces of seafaring history: it was the last port of call for the Titanic, before she crossed the Atlantic, and it was just off the coast here that the Lusitania was sunk. The town was known as Queenstown then, in honour of Queen Victoria who had visited in 1848, and remained so until Home Rule in 1922.
It is a delightful town set against, and up the cliffs. There are some Georgian terraces and a fine cathedral high on the cliff dominating the town, but dwarfed by the cruise liners that dock here every few days in the summer. When they are here, all the tourist attractions are wheeled out, and people come to look at the liners. They only stay for a night or two, then the town settles back into Irish relaxation mode.
We went to a small heritage museum in an old church. It celebrated Irish military history of the town, Irish dancing, and pride of place was a case with a biscuit in it. It was the only surviving biscuit from one of the lifeboats in the Titanic, found by a Canadian, sent home to his mother with an explanatory note written on it (yes, on it) and his grand-daughter sent it to the Cobh museum. The case was padded out with a photo of the biscuit, a list of the provisions provided in life rafts, and a sketch of the cupboard that housed the biscuit. I love these little folk museums, with the little patchwork pieces that make up the grand pictures of history.
We then went and saw some of the grand picture at the Titanic Experience housed in what was the White Star Line offices, where the last 126 passengers embarked.
Friday was a walking tour, and a boat trip and tour of Spike Island, which had been a fort in the Napoleonic wars, a British garrison, a prison, then an Irish garrison. The harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world, (Sydney being the largest), and apart from cruise liners, container ships, tugs, pilot boats and fishing vessels, there are dinghy sailors and small sailing boats. You can't see the open sea, there are too many islands in the way, but Mary described how one storm wrecked a boat anchored in the harbour and showed me the railings it had buckled.
Tomorrow there is a vintage car rally to which I have been personally invited.
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