Snow in Cobh in 2018

One of the most frequently asked questions by visitors to Cobh is, ‘do you ever get any snow here?’. The most frequent response is ‘not very often and not very much of it’. The Palm trees that line the main street along the town surprise visitors and in the sunshine can certainly impart a hint of the tropics. This year however several generations of Cobh residents were to witness one of the heaviest snowfalls in the general memory of the town. The confluence of biting cold Easterly Arctic winds bringing incredibly heavy deposits of snow and the raging gales of storm Emma coming from the South, combined to deliver blizzard like conditions usually associated with much colder polar climates. Public Transport and a lot of business’s were impeded, roads were blocked with snow drifts leading later to black ice and thousands of tons of melting slush. All had to be overcome to deliver essential services. Despite the challenges many of the small local stores remained open in loyalty to their daily customers.

The most interesting effect by far during those Arctic days in early March was that the spirit of the townspeople seems to have been universally lifted. As it was impossible to drive cars in the conditions, everybody was out walking. Walking gingerly across the newly blanketed white expanse, walking and talking to each other, walking and sharing stories of burst pipes, discussing the possibility of outages of power, offering assistance and advice on how to survive the snow and much more. There was an uplifting of community bonding, a sense of shared adversity, a collective joy at the fun and amazement being experienced by children playing in snow for the first time in their young lives. For adults who had never had to shovel snow from their drives, a whole suite of necessary chores were created. All said it was wonderful. The added bonus was that our spectacularly photogenic town was enhanced even more. The shapes and contours of architecturally preserved buildings were even more amazing draped in brilliant white. The marked detail of vegetation and tree limbs delineated by fresh snowfall engaged the eye and supplanted the mundane. After a couple of days, the novelty of having ‘snow days’ in front of the fire wore off and reality had to be faced again. But for a brief period in March, the sentiment certainly was….let it snow, let it snow, let in snow !!!

(C) Michael Martin 2018

Photos: (C) Geraldine Martin

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A twenty year journey through the mists of time

 

Picture1The Origin of the Titanic Trail Guided Walking Tour of Cobh

 

Like all new ideas, the development of a guided walking tour in Cobh to be called the Titanic Trail was not universally welcomed when first mooted by me. Perhaps it was the fact that there was no other daily Titanic attraction in Ireland (or anywhere else) in 1998. Perhaps it was the notion among some local residents in Cobh that nobody would be interested in such a thing. Maybe it was the fact that up until then Cobh’s economy had been centred on industry other than tourism. Or worse still, maybe the prospect of an outsider from Dublin regaling visitors with the history of the locality when he wasn’t even born here was a stretch too far. After all, Cork Harbour boasted an oil refinery, a shipbuilding yard, a Naval Base, a steel mill, an electrical power generating station, a fertilizer plant and numerous global pharmaceutical giants all of whom provided gainful employment that nurtured a local economy. Who needed tourism?

 

Thankfully not everybody was dubious about tourism. In the early 1990s the Cobh and Harbour Chamber of Commerce initiated a consultant report that had suggested tourism may be a viable industry for the future. As a result of recommendations made, the Queenstown Story Heritage Centre was conceived and although it struggled initially, it eventually became an iconic attraction to those interested in the heritage of the area. However there was one small issue about its location. Despite the fact that the building was housed in an attractive Victorian railway station, the access and egress routes of coach tours to and from the museum did not expose visitors to the town’s magnificent built heritage and harbour views.

 

Although I had never worked in the tourism sector before 1997, (I served 23 in the Navy) the fact that thousands of potential visitors were missing the greatest assets that Cobh and the Harbour had to offer, seemed painfully obvious to me. However there were two incidents that really inspired me to create a walking tour in Cobh neither of which occurred in Cobh itself. If fact both locations were over 2,000 miles from the town and in opposite directions!

 

In the late 1980s I was in the United States as part of a Naval delegation were participating in the St Patrick’s Day celebrations and Parade for Boston. On a quiet afternoon when the heady celebrations had died down I happened on the ‘Boston Freedom Trail’. I found myself fascinated by the idea that I was standing beside the actual buildings in which history was made. Hearing the stories in the specific location of occurrence resonated with me deeply. I then thought of my home town of Cobh where ships headed off from its piers to unknown oceans, where millions of emigrants made their way at times in desperation of finding a better life elsewhere and where soldiers and sailors departed and arrived from distant wars. What a great diversity of international heritage!

I realized there and then that people would be fascinated to hear those stories in the same way that I had been engaged in places like Boston, Philadelphia, Mesa Verde Colorado and so many more. Any doubts I had about the ability to create something in an environment where some people thought it would result in failure was laid to rest in another place in a very different part of the world.

 

Two continents away on 1994 I was serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The region had a long tradition of volatility and suffered military, religious and ethnic conflict on a scale that was incomprehensible to those of us who were lucky enough to have been born and reared in peaceful western democracies. In what was a routine mission, myself and a small number of comrades, had been assigned to attend a conference in the conflict-ravaged city of Tyre. We went through our usual routine of collecting and checking our side arms, donning our flak jackets, notifying operations that we would be travelling to the gathering at a specific time and in a specific vehicle. The journey from our camp through the war torn area of operations was uneventful other than the occasional sound of nearby artillery fire. We arrived safely at the location and deposited our arms in a designated UN safe area before continuing into the conference room where the only place to put our distinctive blue helmets and bullet proof vests was under our chairs. After a few minutes a Lebanese gentleman arrived to greet us and began to advocate with great pride and amazing enthusiasm all the joys and benefits of considering a vacation in his beautiful country. My abiding impression of that day was that even in the face of the most extraordinary challenges, the right mix of determination, creativity and single-mindedness can generate success when many see failure.

 

So in 1997 I decided I would create the Titanic Trail guided Walking tour of Cobh. I set about researching the historical backdrop of area and so began a fascinating meandering through the mists of time. Join me in coming blogs on my journey of discovery and amazement.

New Titanic Trail Blog

On the Titanic Trail Guided Walking Tour with Dr Michael Martin

Greetings again to the world from my new Blog. I did attempt to create one eight years ago but didn’t have the time or technical expertise to continue it. So I’m back !!!

Much has happened in the last 8 years. The centenary events to commemorate both RMS Lusitania and RMS Titanic have come and gone. The world has rotated thousands of times, wars have started and finished, typical political profiles and configurations have altered profoundly. There has been famine, global alterations in weather systems, mind-blowing advances in shipbuilding and the continued theme of migration of people from and to many parts of our planet.

The world lost Milvena Deane, who all her life, was Titanic’s youngest survivor. She survived at just 9 weeks old and lived until the age of 97 years, passing away in May of 2009. She was our last living link with the ship.

In forthcoming blogs I will be looking at the narratives, historical perspectives and stories from the past and in the present. those that surround Cork Harbour, RMS Titanic, emigration from Ireland and much much more……

As always the Titanic Trail Guided Walking tour of Cobh, my books, publications and new tour offerings will be highlighted on http://www.titanic.ie

Talk Soon !

Dr Michael Martin

Author and Creator Titanic Trail