In celebration of St Patrick’s Day (since one set of grandparents were of Irish descent), I thought I’d share this post I wrote some years ago on my other blog. We had a great visit to Cobh and hadn’t known of its interesting history.
A pretty fishing and harbour town, the most impressive sight on the approach to Cobh is the 19th century Gothic St Colman’s Cathedral which sits on the hill overlooking the harbour. Situated on the Great Island near Cork, the harbour town of Cobh has links with many famous ships, including the ill-fated Titanic.
Developed during the eighteenth century, when the natural harbour was used to assemble the fleets during the Napoleonic wars, Cobh (pronounced ‘Cove’) became a health resort during Victorian times. In honour of Queen Victoria’s visit to the town in 1849, Cobh was renamed Queenstown and thus it remained until it reverted to its Irish name in 1920.
Cobh was in an ideal position for Irish emigrants who wanted to escape their poverty and sail to the new world across the Atlantic, in hope of a better life in America. The terrible potato famines between 1845 and the 1851 left many unable to survive and during this period, over 1,500,000 Irish people emigrated to America. It was also one of the great ports for transatlantic liners at the turn of the 20th century.
One hundred and twenty three people boarded the Titanic at Cobh (Queenstown) on 11th April 1912. The story is told of a young priest, Father Frank Browne, who had sailed on the ship from Southampton. On reaching Cobh, his Bishop told him he was now to leave the ship. Just three days later, as it sailed in the Atlantic, the Titanic struck an iceberg shortly before midnight. Two hours later, the ship had sunk with the terrible loss of 1500 lives.
Housed in the restored Victorian railway station, the Cobh Heritage Centre tells the Queenstown Story, an excellent multi-media depiction of the history of Cobh, the Irish emigration from the town, and the Titanic. There is now a genealogy service available, which offers an online facility.
Happy St Patrick's Day!