Another 8am breakfast began our day and it was nice to see all the fresh faces ready for another outing, this time down to the Mizen Head Light Station and the famous town of Skibbereen, from the Famine Great Hunger of the 1840’s. Interesting to mention breakfast and famine in the same sentence, but it so happens that the food at the Maritime Hotel in Bantry, where we are staying, is excellent and our emotions were torn when I showed the group the burial ground just outside Skibbereen where over 10,000 people are buried in a space not much bigger than three tennis courts.
My first cousin Stephen O’Sullivan is the manager at the Mizen Heritage Center and indeed worked on the light station for quite some time during his 19 year tenure at the Irish Lights. The Mizen, as it is known, is the most south westerly point of Ireland and is quite a daunting trek from the visitor center down to the light station. The crashing waves against the rocks are an experience with nature not to be missed. My sister Brenda is along on the trip this time, she has joined me in the past and been a valuable asset to our tour with her former teacher’s knowledge of the history and geography of Ireland. We also met Stephen’s twin sister Anne and her husband Chris, so it turned into a lovely family reunion.
We left the Mizen about 1pm and drove to Skibbereen, a good sized market town whereupon it is said, it may have been the epicenter of the Great Hunger Famine of the 1840’s. A market town in West Cork, virtually unchanged over the last several hundred years, its narrow winding streets a bit of a challenge for our coach, but in the capable hands of our driver Paul, no problem. We all went our separate ways for lunch and on our way back to Bantry, we stopped at the famine burial ground just on the outskirts. A sign spoke of the haunting sounds of the spades digging, the hinges of the coffin trapdoors snapping as another victim was dropped into the mass grave. Yes, recyclable coffins used over and over, if you were blessed enough to even have that bit of decency….many more tossed in off the carts carrying the dead. Another sign read, “Never was bread so dear and flesh so cheap”.
I take my fellow travelers to this spot as often as I can and it never decreases the sense of terrible loss and cruelty by the English Government, they had such contempt for others.
In about an hour from there we were back in Bantry, a nice long three hour break before dinner and tonight a well deserved sleep for all before we leave West Cork and head for Galway City tomorrow evening. A couple of stops on this traveling day and I will catch you all up tomorrow night..