In planning for the cruise, I began to look at things to do in the various ports of call. This included Cobh in Ireland. Cobh was the final stop the Titanic made to pick up 130 additional passengers before leaving for New York. In Cobh, there is an obvious connection to both the Titanic, but also the Lustitania. Rescuers brought both survivors and bodies to Cobh after the sinking.
As I researched Cobh, I found a number of places to visit. Cobh is built on a fairly steep hill. The port areas have been carved out along the coastline, while the rest of the town grew up the hills. I was struck by the “Roaring Donkey” pub a fair bit up the steep hill and the St. Colman’s Cathedral. We found the pub, but it didn’t open until later, so we only got a chance to take a pic.
I emailed the cathedral office and explained that I am an architect and would greatly appreciate a tour of the cathedral if it was possible. They responded very quickly, saying that a tour was possible and that our contact was Mr. Peter Daly. I corresponded with Peter and we set a date and time to meet. At 10:45am, just after Mass ended, we met Peter on the front steps of the cathedral.
Peter retired from his position as the Chief Emergency Management Officer for the Health Service Executive Ireland and is volunteering as the project manager for the cleaning and renovation of the cathedral. He is a very personable and knowledgeable man. We spent 20 minutes in the mausoleum section of the building, talking about his project, its challenges and the history of the building.
Interestingly, his challenges and struggles managing the cleaning and restoration of portions of the cathedral ran parallel to those of managing the Eugene Public Library project. Many of the same issues…..architects that won’t listen, contractors that don’t do what they are supposed to do, budgets, schedules and demands coming from all sides. Very different projects, in different parts of the world, but the same issues. It was nice to have common ground to base our tour on.
The cathedral is being cleaned for the second time in its history. It involves scaffolding, vacuuming, use of cleaning agents, etc……all while trying to conduct normal business in the cathedral. It’s a big challenge for sure.
Peter had a remarkable handle on the history of the church, its construction and much of the symbolism displayed throughout. It brought the scale of the original undertaking into perspective. We toured the main floor before entering one of the towers to ascend to the organ loft and balcony lining the sides of the cathedral. We were provided unique views of the cathedral not observed by most visitors. We also got beautiful views over the town from a nice vantage point.
While on the balcony, Peter pointed out that the roof of the cathedral was constructed out of California redwood. It looked like 8” wide tongue and groove clear redwood…..I’d guess 4” thick. The beams were all redwood, sanded and sealed very smoothing. It was only being close up could one see the quality of the wood that was used. It all came from California by ship, coming around the horn to Ireland, since the Panama Canal hadn’t been built by then.
While in the organ loft, we met Mr. Adrian Gebruers, the Organist and carillonneur in the cathedral. The organ was removed and is in Italy being completely rebuilt. We were fortunate to have heard him playing the carillon as we walked up the hill to the cathedral. If you would like to see him playing the carillon go to: https://m.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=c9ywkLGU. He said he has played in Washington state and in California, but never Oregon.
We again entered the tower and ascended the stairs to the level where the clock mechanism was housed. We exited a small door onto an exterior balcony where we could see the roof. Peter indicated that the roof slate all came from Oregon when the building was last reroofed. We all got a laugh at the connection between Oregon and California materials in an Irish cathedral.
One thing that Peter focused on during his comments is his appreciation for the care and craftsmanship that was used in building and maintaining the cathedral throughout its history. He greatly admired the original “Clerk of the Works” who spent 40 years of his life ensuring that the cathedral was built properly and to high standards. He talked about how the apprentice stone masons learned how hard to hit the carving tools by using bottles for hammers. If they used too much force, the bottle would break but not damage the stone.
After 90 minutes, our tour ended. Peter had to run off for his wife’s birthday. He had come in to do the tour for the two us despite it being a special occasion for him and his wife. We were so impressed with the project, and so appreciative of the tour that we received from Peter, that on our way out, we donated 250 euro to have an organ pipe named after us, as a donation to the rehab project.
Epilogue from Sue: I am sitting on the balcony at 10PM, as our ship pulls away from the doc. It is an overcast night, so we can’t see the lunar eclipse, but it is beautiful anyway. People all along the town have come out, some with lights, to wave and to shout good wishes to us as we leave … “Have a good trip!” … “Enjoy your ship!” We have occasionally gotten an “official” goodbye when we have left a port, but never as warm a send off that felt like the whole town was just glad we had been there and was truly wishing us well on our journey. Goodbye Cobh! We have loved visiting you.