Ireland Revisited, Part 7

On the Famine Trail in Search of Ancestral Roots

June 11 - 26, 1997

 

By Lewis and Betty Nolan

 

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Part 1: Memphis to Dublin

Part 7:  Cork, Kinsale

Part 2: Carlow, Site of Nolan Homelands

Part 8:  Dingle Golf Links

Part 3: Kilkenny, Waterford, Crystal Plant

Part 9:  Dingle's Famine Cemetery

Part 4: Youghal, Dingle Town

Part 10: Ballinasloe, County Galway

Part 5: Dingle Peninsula

Part 11: Strokestown Famine Museum

Part 6: Great Blasket Island

Part 12: Donegal

Photo Album Index

Part 13: Drive in Northern Ireland

 

Wednesday, June 18, 1997 - To Cork and Kinsale, Lewis -

            We started the day with our usual breakfast at Dingle's Wine Rock Guest House. It
Betty (right) and Noreen
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
was nicely served by a very pleasant young woman named Noreen, who was studying tourism at a local college. She had by now learned our preferences and didn't even offer to serve us the complimentary blood sausage.

Today's itinerary called for a drive across most of southern Ireland to Cork, the country's second largest city (pop. 145,000). Told it would take us 2 hours, the drive took us 3 1/2 hours over mostly narrow and bad road. In America, we take our smooth, four-lane highways for granted. Here, the surface is bumpy beyond belief and the roadways on all but a few main corridors are without a shoulder. This means that when a tour bus or truck, called a lorry, comes your way, sometimes you have to drive so far over that the car's left mirror scrapes the bushes.

            Like the English, the Irish drive on the left side of the road. The driver's seat is on the right side of the car. It takes a bit of getting used to, but after a few days I found I was naturally driving on the left even though shifting the manual transmission with my left hand still felt odd. I think the danger to American drivers is that in an emergency, instinct might take over and reflexes cause them to swerve to the right and into traffic. However, having the freedom of one's own car is essential if one wants to see all the sights and do all the poking around that we enjoy.

            Broken rear-view mirrors on the exterior of Irish cars (all imports since there is no auto production in the country) are commonplace. A vacationing English couple from Ballinasloe, Dermot and Pat Richardson, told us the only straight roads in Ireland were supposedly built by the British Army long ago. The Irish' natural bent of doing things in a way that we Americans consider to be inefficient (part of their maddening charm) results in roadways looping around with seemingly useless twists and turns. The only possible good that comes from such haphazard road design would be for the property owners who want their abodes to be on the road so they are spared the expense of driveways.

Indeed, a hair-raising number of Irish homes in the country - and sometimes in the city - are right smack on the edge of the pavement. We Americans would never tolerate it. Through our government's power of eminent domain, the common need for speedy and safe travel would overpower individual preferences for quick access to the road. Certainly there are exceptions to every stereotype. But I think this points to a fundamental difference in the national characters of the Irish and the Americans, regardless of the vast number of Americans of Irish extraction. As lovable as they are, organization and efficiency are not qualities that take precedence in the native Irish culture.

            It seems that every cash register is surrounded by an assortment of jars and boxes collecting money for various charities, most having names that suggest connection to the Roman Catholic Church. By contrast, we centralize much of our
Betty at Inch's wide strand
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charitable giving in the U.S. through the United Way and its system of payroll deductions in the work place. We were told by a waitress that the Irish are stingy tippers; they have one of  the lowest per-capita incomes in Europe, with much unemployment, so I don't know how effective the appeal of the United Way would be in Ireland.

            We drove via Inch and its long and wide strand of golden sand, blown by a stiff wind that tossed whitecaps against the shoreline, and then on to Killarney (pop. 7,200), a tourist mecca surrounded by the surreally beautiful Macgillycuddy's Reeks and crystal lakes. We made a quick stop at the famous Killarney Fishing and Golf Club, where Casey and I played a memorable round six years ago that was highlighted by my birdie on the over-the-water 18th hole on the Mahoney's Point course.

            Once we finally arrived in Cork, an important port and Ireland's second largest city with streets laid out in medieval times, we had a tough time finding Sullivan's Quay. That is the location of the River's Edge Fitness Center, a health club owned by a niece of my pal Kathy Jones. Kathy, a longtime Schering-Plough co-worker who lives and works in New Jersey, had arranged what turned out to be a wonderful visit by us to her sister, Mary Foley, in Cork on our last trip to Ireland. Mary has since died, but one of her daughters, Maria O'Sullivan, owns and manages the fitness center with her husband, Jim O'Sullivan. Kathy also arranged this visit and Maria and Jim welcomed us with open arms. We toured their business and while Jim minded the store, we were driven by Maria to the nearby port of Kinsale for a seafood lunch with Maria and their daughter, Lisa, 6.

            It was a shame that we were so pressed for time, as we would have liked to explore Kinsale, said by Michelin to be the "gourmet capital of Ireland." The seaside resort is very picturesque with its tidy harbor, tree-lined lanes and ancient buildings. The town declared for Cromwell in 1641 and so was spared much damage. Until the end of the 18th Century, the severe English rule of the time forbade any native Irish from living within the town walls. Twelve miles out from Kinsale and on the seabed lies the wreckage of the Lusitania, the ocean liner torpedoed in 1915 by a German submarine; the loss of 1,500 lives helped draw the U.S. into World War I.

            Leaving Cork, it was a hard drive back across Ireland through misty rain. I pushed it all the way to Dingle, where we had a late supper at a quaint restaurant, the Chart House overlooking a pier and small marina. 

 

Wednesday, June 18, 1997, Betty:

            Today we plan to go to Cork to find Kathy Jones' niece, Maria O'Sullivan, who owns a fitness center there at Sullivan Quay (pronounced Kee). The drive from Dingle
Lewis & Betty at Kinsale, south of Cork
Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo
to Killarney was beautiful. We went through Annascaul and Inch on the southern coast of the Dingle Pennisula and enjoyed some spectacular views of the ocean, beaches and cliffs. But what a long drive. We stopped at the Killarney Golf Club, which is still as beautiful as it was six years ago. When we got to Cork, we found it to be as confusing a place to drive in as we had on the last trip. There are so many rivers, quays and one-way streets and all of them look the same. We got directions several times from other motorists and pedestrians, but finally had to stop and walk to a Tourism Office. Their directions weren't much better, but we finally managed to find Maria's business - only to have some jerk several floors up in a government building throw water off the balcony, spraying me. He laughed and went back inside. It is true there are rude people all over the world. But at this point I don't think I want to spend any time in Cork.

            Maria, accompanied by her 6-year-old daughter, Lisa, drove us to lunch in nearby Kinsale, where I had some lovely, tasty Atlantic mussels. We then went back to Cork, where Maria collected their 1-1/2-year-old child from the "babyminder," Helen. We took some photos of the O'Sullivan family and their River's Edge Fitness Centre and departed for the long drive back. We arrived in Dingle at 9 p.m. and stopped at the Chart House Restaurant, a new, clean and airy establishment that is run by two very clean-cut, refreshing young Irishmen. We had salads and wine and enjoyed being back "home" after the long trip to Cork. We learned a lesson: When a local tells you a drive will take 2 1/2 hours, figure on 3 1/2 or 4.

            Photographs taken today included shots at Killarney and Cork, including Maria O'Sullivan's Fitness Centre.

 

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