I love Cobh. I wrote about the harbor town in County Cork here. Cobh was the last of Ireland seen by millions of Irish leaving home for new lives in North America. For this reason, it was called the saddest town in Ireland.
Today Cobh’s streets are lined with brightly painted buildings and luxury cruise ships dock in the harbor. Housed in the Victorian train depot is the Cobh Heritage Centre which tells the story of the harbor and the people who left Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
As a visitor from America, the exhibit is a powerful reminder of the hardships endured by my ancestors, especially those who left Ireland in the years surrounding the Great Famine. I suspect it is as moving for Irish visitors, as they consider their country’s history, as well as their own personal connections to those who left.
For many Irish Americans, there is no old homestead to return to in Ireland, no family to invite them “home” for a gathering. Too many years have passed, and those who emigrated were forgotten generations ago. But this doesn’t stop us from visiting Ireland and searching for our Irish roots. In keeping the emigrant story alive, Cobh celebrates the connection between Ireland and America.
Cobh will always be there to welcome us back, and that is why it is a special place for me.