When my mother-in-law came for her first visit, she was mostly pre-occupied with finding documents of her Irish ancestors and accordingly, I obligingly dropped her off for two days at the National Archives on Bishop Street. She is Irish American on both sides of her family and has been able to trace her genealogy back to the names of her ancestors who left Ireland to come to America, but then the trail usually turns cold. Taking up her own father’s genealogy obsession, she has scoured databases in the Southern states for records on long lost relatives, scrambled across overgrown cemeteries to make tombstone rubbings, and compiled a hefty archive of papers and photographs of family members on both sides of her family that she has published into a book.
The idea of coming to Ireland, the land of her ancestors, was exhilarating and she was determined to unearth long lost records on the birth and marriages of ancestors left behind long ago in Ireland. I shared my mother-in-law’s plans with some mom friends at school, and one of the moms, a genealogist, offered to help her out if she hit any road blocks. Well, after my mother-in-law spent two fruitless days at the National Archive scanning microfiche for hours, I did call my genealogy friend, and after a 20-minute chat and a cup of tea, she pulled up record after record on the computer at my kitchen table.
As part of her first visit to Ireland, we had asked the mother-in-law what she would like to see or do and she immediately suggested Cork since it was the place from which her Irish family has originated. So, on a sunny Saturday, we packed up the car and took the motorway out from Dublin to Cork, which is almost a 3 hour drive from Dublin. Arriving shortly after 12noon, we were desperate for a bit of lunch and J, showing his Southern influence, promptly chose Hillbilly’s for some greasy fried chicken.
If you have four children, eating out is always an adventure and finding something on the menu that all the children will eat is nearly impossible. But it was a fried chicken joint which made it more hopeful. So, we shelled out the down payment for a house on chicken goujons, chips, and chicken sandwiches for seven people.
Cork City Gaol Museum
After lunch, we decided to visit the Cork City Gaol Museum which was up the road from HillBilly’s. We passed walked along the waterway for a bit and then hiked up a hill to get to the gaol. It was a long walk that involved stairs a good hike up a fairly steep hill. The kids were champs though and luckily the day was cool and overcast. So, we didn’t have to suffer under a scorching sun.
When we finally made it to the Cork City Gaol, there only seemed to be a handful of other tourist visiting. After we paid for our tickets, we made our way through the museum. Parts of the gaol had not been refurbished. So, portions were blocked off – some with clear plexiglass so that you could see down the decaying corridors. In many of the cells, wax figures stood to represent some of the prisoners that had passed through the gaol gates. Most of them were presented very creepily and made it very interesting for the kids to look around.
At the end of the tour, we watched a short educational film about the prison and it’s prisoners and the impact of the Irish Famine on the population of Cork and the gaol.
After we left the Goal, we wandered back down across the river and into the shopping area of Cork. It was getting late and we weren’t too interested in looking at the shops since they seemed to be the same ones in London…and well, kids plus shopping is hellish. So, we got back into the car and drove over to Cobh, a small seaside harbour village next to Cork. It was often the last point before ships left Ireland during the mass emigrations during the 1800 and 1900s. It was the last port of call for the Titanic and had a Titanic Experience exhibit which was sadly closed by the time we arrived.
We wandered around and took photos of St Colman’s Cathedral, the waterfront, and few statues.
Lulu noticed a lovely window shop display of Easter eggs and I noticed this interesting building that revealed the old building’s foundations and stairs that were just seemingly absorbed into the updated wall. It was interesting to see how much shorter the ceiling heights used to be.
Since it was late in the day, we headed back to our car and had a little dinner since I had packed sandwiches and snacks for everyone before we headed back. We missed seeing the nearby Foto Wildlife Park which several friends had mentioned, but I think we’ll save that for another day.