On the Friday evening after St Patrick’s day, we drove onto Cobh for a night and stayed in the Commodore hotel, this old world hotel overlooks the promenade in Cobh. Our room was spacious and had high ceilings and big sash windows. The hotel reminded me of the TV show Boardwalk Empire. It is situated overlooking the main promenade and the harbour. I thought about how many people might have stayed in this very hotel, before heading off to America and never seeing Ireland again. The next morning at the Queenstown heritage centre, I found out that, survivors from the torpedoed Lusitania ship, were put up in the hotel in 1915 when it was called the Queens hotel.
On Saturday morning, we visited the Queenstown Heritage Centre in Cobh, which is housed in the old Victorian railway station. This was my second favourite place to visit on our Cork trip. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot but it was huge and had lots of displays about Cobh and emigration to America and Australia. They had recreated models of the ships with passengers in steerage and convicts transported to Australia. The heritage centre also looks at the Lusitania, Titanic and other ships which picked up passengers from the port of Cobh.
Later that same morning, we did a walking tour of Cobh with Pat from the Cobh guided walking tours. I love getting walking tours as you take in more than if you were just reading it yourself. We heard about the Lusitania and got a brief history of Cobh, also interesting for us, as we had heard of this person the week before, when we did a tour of Sligo Gaol, was the boxer Jack Doyle, who I learnt was originally from Cobh. In our hotel, they had photos of Doyle as he stayed there often with his movie star wife Movida back in the 1930’s. Movida later went onto marry Marlon Brando.
There is a nice art mural to their famous Cobh son up on the hill near St Coleman’s Cathedral. Jack’s story is one of rags to riches and back to rags again, although he always dressed like a movie star with a red carnation in his lapel. When Jack died in 1978, local people raised funds to bring him home and he is buried in the local cemetery, which we also visited. His life story could be turned into a very interesting movie someday. RTE made a radio documentary on his life a few years ago, called the Gorgeous Gael, which you can listen to here from within Ireland.
After lunch, we decided to go to the Titanic museum, called the Titanic Experience, it is based in the original White Star line ticket office, which is a prominent white building in the centre of Cobh, overlooking the harbour. The Titanic Experience is more like a slick movie presentation than a museum, it felt a bit like going to the cinema. You get a travel ticket on the way in, which has the name of a passenger who originally got on the Titanic at Cobh in 1912 and at the end, you can check if you survived. I had a girl from Longford who survived and Richard had a man from Meath who died in the sinking. We were also brought out to the balcony at the back of the building, which is where the first and second class passengers waited before departure. While the third class passengers waited on the pier below the balcony. Two tender boats called SS America and SS Ireland ferried the passengers out to the Titanic.
I really enjoyed our time in Cobh, it is a beautiful picturesque town, with the harbour and old 19th-century buildings on the main street and the view from above the town from St Coleman’s Cathedral is fantastic. Also, as I’m a fan of street art it was a nice surprise to find the Jack Doyle and Titanic street art murals.