An amazing time was had by all on our trip to West Cork

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Last week the Irish Elderly Advice Network took 32 older Irish emigrants on a once in a lifetime trip to West Cork. The trip was aimed at helping these older Irish people access their cultural and historical heritage as part of the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising.

We were very warmly welcomed at Cork airport by Adrian, the airport manager, who plied us all with fresh tea and coffee before we headed of in the coach to Inchydonny beach. Our Coach driver Sean, who works for Galvin’s Coaches of Dunmanway, was fantastic, incredibly knowledgeable and really friendly. Thanks for a great trip Sean!

The weather was gorgeous (before the fog rolled in that is!), we managed to catch a few rays at the beach and enjoy an alfresco lunch on the patio of the Inchydonny beach hotel. What a perfect way to start the trip!

We were staying at the Quality Inn Hotel in Clonakilty, and we’d all like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the staff at the hotel for all of their help and support over our few days there. The rooms were excellent, the food was delicious, the facilities were brilliant, and the staff…well the staff were second to none! Nothing was too much trouble, and everything was done with a smile. Can’t recommend them enough!

The first night of our visit culminated in dinner at O’Donovan’s Hotel and Pub in Clonakilty town – we were even joined by the Mayor of Clonakilty (who it turns out is an excellent singer and partied the night away with us!) and the local Parish Priest. We were very proud to receive a bust of Michael Collins that had been specially engraved to mark our visit to Clonakilty. Our chairperson, Alice Kennedy, accepted this on behalf of the whole organisation. The food at O’Donovan’s was great and the staff were lovely, the whole atmosphere was buzzing with excitement about our next action packed few days. We followed on with some live music in O’Donovan’s Hotel bar, over at De Barra’s pub and then more music back at the Quality hotel. What a way to see in the trip!

The excitement was too much for the youngest member of the group!

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Wednesday was a truly special day as we embarked on a historical Michael Collins tour and show. Our tour leader, Tim Crowley and his wife Delores, were excellent and looked after us incredibly well. Their knowledge in regards to Michael Collins is truly staggering. We began with a more light-hearted presentation that included some witty anecdotes and songs, the baking of a cake on the open fire, and the chance to examine some of the historical artefacts kept at the centre, before enjoying a few minutes to take in the breathtaking scenery around the centre.

We heard stories of Michael Collins’ life, his family, and of course his campaigns and early death. Tim joined us on the coach and completed a tour of Michael Collins’ birthplace and where he was eventually shot. The whole experience was so informative and deeply moving. One of the older Irish women on the trip described it as a pilgrimage not just a historical outing. For many, being able to be present at these places was a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that they will never forget. It was a very personal way for them to connect to their own and their countries history and heritage. We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to Tim and Delores for sharing their wealth of knowledge and for accommodating us so well.

Following on from the Michael Collins Tour was a trip to the local Clonakilty GAA grounds, a tea and coffee reception, and the chance to cheer on an under 12’s training match. The atmosphere was great and everyone made us feel very welcome – including the players. The GAA grounds were very impressive and I know that everyone had great fun cheering on the two teams!

Wednesday evening it was back to the Quality Hotel for dinner and more music in the hotel bar. We were privileged to be joined by former TD and Labour Government Minister Kathleen Lycnh. It was really appreciated by everyone on the trip that Kathleen spared some time to welcome us all to West Cork and to come along to talk to everyone. A big thank you to Kathleen for making us feel so welcome.

It was up and at ’em on Thursday morning for an action packed schedule. Our first port of call took us over the border to Killarney in Co. Kerry, for a visit to Muckross House. We were welcomed to this beautiful stately home, which was once owned by the Guinness family, by the Mayor of Killarney. The house is set in stunning surroundings on the banks of Lake Muckross. We took part in a guided tour of the house and had just enough time to take in the brooding scenery around the gardens and lake, and a quick cup of tea and a slice of cake before heading back to the coach for a spin through the Kerry mountains on our way to Skibbereen.

 

Next up on the agenda was a visit to the Skibbereen Famine Heritage Centre for a talk and a chance to dig deep into the history of this area, and the impact of the famine on the local people. Skibbereen and the surrounding areas were some of the worst affected by the famine and emigration at this time. This was a fascinating hour and it was incredibly humbling to see and hear about the struggles of the people of Skibbereen and West Cork an the lasting effect it has had on the area.

A brief tea and coffee stop in the West Cork Hotel preceded a dinner back at O’Donovan’s Hotel and Pub where we were joined and warmly welcomed by Jim Daly TD. Again the food could not be faulted and the staff were attentive and very helpful. It was then on to Shanley’s bar (owned by Philomena Shanley, Sally Mulready’s cousin) for more live music. We were even able to join in at this session – Our very own Michael Carolan and Maura Duckett each gave us a song, as did Jimmy Harrington – Sally Mulready’s cousin, who had very kindly given up his time during the week to travel with us and help us with lifts and logicstic – Thank You Jimmy! I even braved a little number myself. It was a fantastic day filled with gorgeous scenery, historical insights into Ireland’s rich history, good food and great music. What a way to finish our trip!

We were accompanied on the whole trip by a film crew – Declan and Bex, who have been collecting footage that will be used in a documentary film being made by the Irish Elderly Advice Network focussing on the cultural and historical legacy of 1916. We loved having them along and can’t wait to see the footage.

This trip was a long time in the planning, and we could not be happier with how it has gone. Everyone seems to have had a fantastic time, us included! We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to greet us, a particular thank you to Galvin’s coaches and our lovely driver Sean, and to the Quality Hotel and Sinead for being so helpful and welcoming. Here’s to the next one!

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