Where history starts at the end.

Yesterday was another eventful day of castle-touring, this time around County Cork. It was a big day for me as my maternal grandfather’s family came from County Cork by ship to Ellis Island in New York. They didn’t just sail from Queenstown (Cobh), they resided in County Cork. Actually, we aren’t sure they did sail from Queenstown, but as it was a main port of exit in Ireland, logically they would have left from there, having lived in the county.

We don’t know many specifics about my family history, but we have a lot of the general story. We don’t know the year they left, which is what sent Jon and me to the Cobh Heritage Center and the Cobh Museum in search of knowledge. I didn’t find anything about my family in the limited ships’ passenger logs in the Museum, but I didn’t really expect to.

You see, passengers were often recorded or registered when they got to their destination. I am told that my ancestors’ names can be found at Ellis Island, but probably not in Ireland. I guess between 1892 and 1905 (my best guess for when they immigrated), history starts at the end of the journey.

Even though we didn’t have luck, the heritage center had a great museum in it that chronicled Irish immigration for the last few hundred years! I had always envisioned my family coming over on what I now know are called Coffin Ships, but in actuality they crossed at a time when ships’ accommodations were vastly improving. I don’t know if they were second or third class, but either way, the passage looked like fun! It was a pre-Titanic time, but it was the beginning of that class of ship. Side note: the Titanic’s last port it visited before it failed to cross the Atlantic was Cobh (Queenstown).

After my foray into my own history,we visited two more castles around Cork and then took the rest of the evening to chill (you know, getting in at 7:30 as opposed to 10). The first castle was Barryscourt Castle. Lonely Planet Ireland took us there with promises of magnificence and low tourist numbers. Thank you Lonely Planet!

The entire tower castle has been reconstructed and is incredibly archaeologically accurate. It is a gem! I fell in love with the place right away. They even have gardens and orchards planted in the fashion of the castle’s era (to the best of their knowledge). They didn’t just include the garden styles, but plant and flower species that are mentioned in ancient records. They have charts that tell you which is which, they have mock beehives based on drawing records, they reconstructed the roof and created a new set of stairs (not originally in the castle, but necessary for tourists) using the popular wood types and techniques of the time. It is phenomenal!

And we didn’t have to pay to get in on top of a private tour by a guide with excellent knowledge. Sadly, the roof had leaked during a storm the day before so they were cleaning up the main bedroom, hence the free entry.

Our last stop was at Blarney Castle. It was fun for the complete opposite reasons: it was a maze of passages and ruins that had been stabilized and made accessible, but not really reconstructed. Still, you can climb the narrow staircases to the very top. Many do!… to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. Of course Jon and I had our first Blarney kiss. My extended family back in the USA told me to kiss it for them.

You are welcome guys!


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