The year was 1880 and my great grandfather, Terrence Daniel O’ Sullivan, was leaving the village of Loughfouder, County Kerry Ireland to set sail for America. Family lore tells that all of the O’ Sullivan children departed for the new land from Cobh. Cobh, translates into “cove”; and is pronounced the same way. When my great grandfather set sail it was known as Cobh but had several different names over the years, first being known as Cove in 1750. In 1849 it was changed to Queensland the name remained until it was changed back to Cobh in 1922.
On our recent trip to Ireland it was my intention to retrace his footsteps as best possible. We started with a lovely family reunion and then visited the homestead where he was born in 1865. We then decided to travel to Cobh to see the port from which he emigrated to North America.
Cobh is situated on Great Island, one of three large islands in the Cork Harbor in County Cork, Ireland. Over 6 million people emigrated from Ireland during the years of 1848-1950. 2.5 million sailed from Cobh making it the single most important port of emigration. Sadly Cobh is also famous for being the last port of call for the RMS Titanic on her tragic voyage. 123 passengers boarded the RMS Titanic on April 11, 1912.
Upon arriving the first thing that drew our attention was the view of the harbor. Cobh is hilly and descends towards the water. The clean and narrow streets are lined with brightly colored homes, stores and pubs that face southward towards the waterfront. The people are exceptionally friendly. My daughter and I walked up and down the streets and visited the lovely Kennedy Park. The park was filled with people of all ages and a spectacular display of flowers.
We ran into a woman with an adorable puppy, just a mutt; but adorable just the same. She immediately and without hesitation offered her sweet puppy to my daughter to hold. She happily obliged.
The neo-Gothic cathedral of St. Colman is simply stunning. It is a Roman Catholic cathedral and sits high on a hill overlooking the harbor as if it is protecting the town and the harbor. The Cathedral is in everyday use for worship and prayer. It took 47 years to complete the building.
A trip to Cobh would not be complete without a visit to the museum to experience “The Queenstown Story”; which walks you through your ancestors emigration from the Great Potato Famine to the 1950′s. They also chronicle the tragedies of RMS Titanic and Lusitania with several interactive displays.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Cobh. I could not help but think of Great Grandfather Sullivan and wonder what emotions were running through his head on the day of his journey. Was he sad, excited…both? One will never really know I guess. I spent a lot of time gazing out into the harbor and envisiong him sailing on the ship headed to America. The picture of the harbor is one that I cherish for it is from this port and this harbor that my line of the O’ Sullivan’s began the journey of a lifetime.