Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Cork, Ireland

Cork, Ireland is on the Southern coast of Ireland, and the harbor of Cobh (pronounced Cove) is one of the deepest harbors in the world. For some years, this port was the "jumping off" port for ships bound for America, but now, with more advanced ships, most ships leave from Southampton or Dover. Cobh has the distinction of being the last port for the Titanic, and the place where the Lusitania was sunk by U-boats during World War II. The little port town of Cobh is beautiful, with its cathedral and its row of colored buildings (see photo).

Cork is the second largest city in Ireland, with a population of about 400,000 (of a total population in Ireland of about 4 million). The bus ride was through countryside so green that it is truly the emerald island. It was very beautiful -- as beautiful as photos show it. Cork is a busy town, with a very pretty downtown area of narrow shop-lined streets. The bus did not stop in the downtown area, but continued on to the Blarney Castle. (BlarneyCastle) Although the weather was rainy, and a rain shower fell, I stood in line to walk up the narrow circular stair to the top of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone, where I was promised "eloquence", or "blarney" more accurately. It was cheesy but fun.

Later, I visited the souvenier shops of Blarney Woollen Mills, just outside the castle. Blarney Woollen Mills (BlarneyMills) has an interesting history. A man named Kelleher was very, very poor, and worked as a laborer. Later, he saved enough money to buy a taxi. Then he saved enough money to buy a small souvenier stand outside Blarney Castle. When the woollen mills went bankrupt and was put up for sale, he took out a life insurance policy on himself, his wife, and each of his seven children, and then borrowed all the money he could against those policies. He was able to buy a half interest in the mills. Later he was able to buy out his partner. He did not use the mills, but used the building to sell souveniers. He began to upgrade the souveniers that he sold to higher priced, higher profit items, and he began to make money. Later he also opened a hotel on the site. Now the shop sells very expensive goods along with some cheap souveniers. Blarney Woollen Mills is still owned and operated by the Kelleher family.

Back in the town of Cobh, I took a walk and then the ship sailed at 5:00 p.m., beginning the four-day crossing of the North Atlantic.

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