Formerly known as Queenstown—so dubbed in honor of Queen Victoria’s visit there in 1850—the Cork Harbor town of Cobh (pronounced “cove”) has seen more than its share of drama on the world stage. It is a history that tourists should acquaint themselves with prior to visiting, as it enhances perspective, encapsulating much more than the beauty of palm-tree studded streets, multihued buildings, and a stunning cathedral that towers over the town. The following are some of those highlights: * Cork Harbor was an assembly point for British fleets during the Napoleonic Wars. (1803-1815)
* Cobh is the very port from which 2.5 million Irish emigrated during the Great Famine by way of dangerous “coffin ships” (1844-48), with millions more emigrating later on steamers. (up to 1950)
* It is where Annie Moore—the first ever immigrant to be admitted through Ellis Island—said good-bye to Ireland. (1892)
* It was the last port of call for the Titanic four days before it sank, claiming the lives of 1,503 passengers. (1912)
* It was the receiving dock for survivors after the WWI German attack on Britain’s Lusitania passenger ship—and is now the final resting place for more than 100 of the 1,198 who died. (1915)
* It was regarded as the “Western Gateway to the British Isles and Europe” when America joined WWI. During this time, the harbor’s activity included 35 American destroyers and numerous British battleships—along with American planes swarming the U.S. Naval Air Station built (and later dismantled) on the eastern side of the harbor. (1917)
* In stark contrast, at the start of WWII, Ireland—by then a “Free State”—declared its policy of neutrality, refusing to allow British or any warships into Cork Harbor. This stance had Churchill retaliating by restricting trade to Ireland. (1939)
There is so much more to learn at the Cobh Heritage Center in the old Victorian train station located in the heart of the waterfront, which also includes a referral service for genealogy searches. Once you’ve had your fill of history, venture out into the town to explore St. Colman’s Cathedral (one of the tallest buildings in Ireland), try to locate the colorful row homes known as “the Deck of Cards”, and take awesome photos of the harbor at a prime viewing spot known as “The Bench”.
Cobh, a tiny town in a country no bigger than the size of Indiana, reminds us that even small voices can shift and influence history.