Excerpt #10 is about Cobh, the harbor town that my parents moved to in 1929 (and would live in for the rest of their lives), and the town that I grew up in.
[EXCERPT # 10]
28. COBH [FORMERLY QUEENSTOWN]; “A
VERY COSMOPOLITAN TOWN”
1929: it is six years later. Annie & Dave get
married. In a photograph she looks lovely; her
smile is radiant. She is a prize. He looks proud.
[“I married him because he was honorable,”
she would say later.]
In 1929, in the depths of the Depression,
Dave was posted to Cobh: Be Manager of
The Dole! Find non-existing jobs for all the
out-of-work, (surviving) heroes!
[My pals & I had a joke in the 50s: “Even the
men who died for Ireland can’t get a job today.”
It took the nation 30 years to be able to make
that joke & laugh at it. And it still wasn’t sure.]
In 1929, Depression Cobh –once prosperous,
as Queenstown– was become a ghost town.
For centuries this island town in Cork Harbor
had harbored the British Navy.Yes, it’s true! In
the “speak” of today, Cobh would be said to
have “enabled” an entire empire! (Churchill
harbored desires for it again in World War II)
In 1860, a man atop Spy Hill counted 300 ships
of sail at anchor in the harbor –among them
the infamous Hulk, a prison-ship collect-point
prior to “Transportation to Australia” for all
those loaf-of-bread criminals that just kept
on popping up at famine time.
To honor a Queen Victoria visit in 1849, the
town was renamed “Queenstown”. It housed its
Anglo Administrator-class in a style reminiscent
of sedate English southcoast towns (Brighton,
Torquay, etc.). It boasted a painted-postcard
palm-tree Promenade, a bandstand,&Crimean
War cannon! It also boasted the world’s oldest
yacht club, the (exclusive)Royal Cork, 1720!
A native “silent-majority” served that class
& lived in crowded tenements “up the hill”,
or “over the hill”, or “on the edge of town”–
all crammed in “cheek-by-jowl”–
(and –no doubt– vice-versa.)
Or they farm-labored on in an agricultural
hinterland. Their “code” speak for Cobh
–“a very cosmopolitan town”– reflected
the wry native disdain for…”Anglo-ness”.
Even a very young lad bicycling in that
hinterland could hardly miss it: whatever
“cosmopolitan” might actually mean, clearly,
here, no endorsement was implied.
29. CORK HARBOR: A GREAT HARBOR
WITH A GREAT MARITIME HISTORY
“A Safe Harbor for Ships” –in Latin, “Statio
bene fide carinis”– is the Cork Harbor motto.
But for all its vaunted safe-ness, the harbor
has long been associated with Spectacularly
Ill-Fated Voyages. Cobh was the last port of
call, in 1912, for theTitanic.[The liner, though
very, very big, was of course not too big to fail.]
It must have been our town’s seductive powers
that induced 12 passengers to disembark there
from the Titanic –just 3 days before its fateful
(& well-publicized) date with a wayward
iceberg & an Early Global Warming Warning.
Also, the Lusitania (d.1915)! Torpedo’d nearby,
many of its dead sleep in a Cobh mass-grave.
Native-son boxer & Hollywood “Gorgeous Gael”,
Jack Doyle rests nearby. Jack’s movie-star wife
Movita may –I contend– have had a thing for
Contenders: after our Jack, Movita moved in on
Marlon Brando(Gorgeous,perhaps –but no Gael!)
In my Dad’s Dole office (where I played) –an
Imperial remnant.The brass lid of his Govt.-issue
ink-bottle –now in my possession– was imprinted
“GV” –God Save King George the Fifth.(And, no
doubt, Save The King’s Ink, too!) The new Free
State’s top priority: Address Pressing Matters
of Epistolary Infrastructure –Paint all GV-red
letterboxes green! [Reputedly, the first paying job
in the new Ireland.]
[End of Excerpt #10. You can read all ten excerpts here in my blog. Please pass the word on. You can also reserve a copy or copies of the book at the pre-publication price of $24 –plus tax & shipping– by emailing me at email@example.com]