Irish Studies 2010

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Cobh Heritage Centre (Queenstown)

June 3rd, 2010 · No Comments · Cobh Heritage Center

We woke up at 7 am in Waterford, ate breakfast and then got on the bus to the Cobh Heritage Center. When we arrived, we quickly got off the bus and entered the heritage museum. The museum has many exhibits that highlight the Irish emigration experience, mainly from the port of Cobh, to countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.

The first exhibit had a model and diorama scenes of a coffin ship, which was used in the earlier years of immigration. These ships were very small and uncomfortable, and as a result disease spread rapidly among the passengers. These ships were called coffin ships because many of the passengers never made it to their destination alive. In this exhibit, there was also a plaque that talked about “American Wakes,” which were going-away parties for people emigrating to America. They were called wakes because it was seen as the end of their life in Ireland, their home country to which they would never return.

While in the earlier years the Cobh was used as a port for emigration for coffin ships, this started to change around the later 1850s as a result of the invention of steam ships. These steams ships brought about tighter regulation for the traveling conditions of the passengers and a shift to higher-end travel out of the port. These ships had different seating areas so the rich could travel in style. While there were still lower-class seating areas, the restrictions prevented conditions from being as poor as the coffin ships.

As we exited the museum, we saw a giant cruise ship and it reminded us of the shift that the port of Cobh has made over the years. It changed from being a port for poor passengers seeking a better life in America, to the last stop of steam ships headed to America, and currently a stop for cruise liners.

The port was also famous for the Titanic and the Lusitania. This port was the last stop for the Titanic before it sank. The Lusitania was torpedoed 25 miles off the coast of Cobh. The survivors and bodies were brought to Cobh and treated at a nearby hotel.

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