Saturday, May 20, 2017

Of Crystal and Cobh

Today's first stop.
Bonnie and I set out today fully rested and ready for a pair of stops sure to be interesting. First up was the House of Waterford Crystal, a location that my Pop and I had visited in 2014 but it's another iconic stop if you come to Ireland so I wanted Bonnie to see it. We once again took a good number of photos which can be seen on my Facebook page here, but you may need to "friend" me in order to access the photo album.

Crystal is made from combining lead, ash, and sand at very high temperatures. As in, only the Sun gets hotter. The lead content in the glass has to be at least 25% to be called crystal, and Waterford Crystal is a remarkable 33% lead, which not only gives the crystal its clarity, but makes it hard enough to withstand the complex and rigorous cuts, grooves, acid washing, and etching. There is a more detailed explanation of the process on my Facebook page, in the "Ireland 2017" photo album, though you may need to "friend" me in order to see it. If you don't know me, send a Private Message as well so I'll know to accept the request.
Lismore Castle, the design of which is the
inspiration for their best-selling pattern.

Waterford has 178 employees and I believe most of the work they do here in Ireland is specialized orders on contract. The bulk of the mainline crystal work (from online orders and catalog sales) is done at their factory in Slovenia.

Remember you can click any photo and see a larger version of it.

After touring the crystal factory and buying a couple gifts and souvenirs, we made our way down to the harbor area by the River Suir and toured Reginald's Castle.
This is supposedly the oldest standing building in Ireland. We were told today that, in fact, only London and Paris are older than the city of Waterford.

The tower started out as a two-story structure and defensible fort for the Viking establishment. Eventually it came under siege and was always the last bastion of defenders ... though not always successfully so. As rule of this location changed hands, different kings would add on to the structure until now it is four stories tall. After being a fort and stronghold, it was eventually turned into a jail. From there it became a mint, where currency and valuable goods were stored. Then it was a jail again, and back to a mint, and eventually a museum.

Right across the street, along the river bank, is a special spot. My father and I had spent a night in Waterford when we came  here back in 2014. There is a bench by the river that is labeled the "Seat of Wisdom" and I snapped a photo of Dad sitting there. It became one of my favorite shots of him. So today I was able to pay homage to the man, and it was a special moment for me. Thanks to my lovely wife, Bonnie, for playing photographer.
2017 on the left, 2014 on the right.
Then it was off to Cobh (pronounced Khob, with a long "o" sound). Cobh was the final stop for the RMS Titanic before leaving on its fateful journey to New York. Besides being a lovely old city, it houses "The Titanic Experience," a museum and audio-visual tour that focuses on the 123 individuals who boarded there at Cobh. But first, a word about some of the eight people who got *off* the Titanic,  having traveled from Southampton in England to Cobh.

One of them, a Mr. E. Nichols, we were told traveled first class and disembarked ... and was never heard of again. Lost to history. Just disappeared. Another passenger was the Reverend Brown. The Bishop in Cobh had paid for his first class ticket from England to Ireland. An American couple on the boat offered to pay the rest of his passage to America. When the Reverend wired his Bishop in Cobh, asking for permission to go, the Bishop wired back: "Get off the boat." And so Reverend Brown's life was saved. And, as a bonus, the 79 photos he had taken on board are some of the documentation we now have of what the Titanic was actually like.

The harbor in Cobh was deep enough to have anchored the ship, but because Captain Smith wanted to set a record in the crossing to America, he anchored out in the channel so it would only take an hour and a half to transfer passengers, luggage, and mail instead of four to five hours to come in and jockey around the harbor. I don't know about you, but this gives me some insight into why Smith refused to stop or slow down despite many messages from other ships about icebergs impeding their progress on that fateful night of April 14.


It rained twice today, but both times we were under cover. Once while we ate lunch after the Crystal Factory tour, and again while we drove to Cobh. But after that the sun came out and while it was cool (high in the upper 40s Fahrenheit) and windy, it was still a lovely Irish day. 

We drove on up to Cork and tomorrow: Blarney Castle!

Finally, I leave you with this one last whimsical image: 


Mark's Musings is published on an occasional basis but that may change without notice. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Click the photos. You'll be glad you did.

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