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A Potter's Moll: The World's Largest Cruise Ship

… Our visit to Cobh, near Cork was interesting for the wrong reasons. We were trying to get to the museum of emigration housed in an old railway station there, but the town was clogged with traffic because the largest cruise ship in the world, the Spirit of Independence, had docked there in its deep harbour as part of its maiden voyage from Southampton. It is huge – people buy apartments on it and live there, I believe. It is also very ugly…

The exuberant Liz Robison enjoys what she sees on a visit to Ireland – excepting that which floats.

Do visit the Web site of Liz’s internationally famous potter husband Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

We have just come back from a thoroughly enjoyable five days in Ireland with the MG Owners’ Club, based in the fine harbour town of Kinsale, near Cork. We and our two friends drove modern MGFs but the company boasted many older models: one was actually fifty years old. Sadly the organiser’s car blew a head gasket as he was about to board the ferry, so he ignominiously had to cadge a ride.

Our hotel was new and very ostentatious – glass and marble and pretentiously luxurious drapery. (There seem to be a lot of words with –ious in them in the last two sentences. Enough, already.) The hotel was comfortable enough and the food and service were fine, but it is an example of a phenomenon that we have seen develop gradually over the more than thirty years that we have been visiting the country. Ireland is a modern European country now, not a quaint rural backwater. There are remote, quiet and beautiful places, but they exist alongside the accoutrements of modern European life – development, clogging traffic, immigration and industry.

The tourist industry is still too bound up with the quaint leprechaun/ shillelagh/ colleen/ thatched cottage kind of images, and previous rural poverty and famine and the necessity of emigration now almost seem to have acquired a veneer of glamour.

Places we visited which gave pleasure include Mizzen Head, Ireland’s most south westerly point, the towns of Fermoy and Arklow with their broad rivers and fine bridges, County Wexford as a whole, which was new territory for us, and Lismore Castle in County Waterford.

I am a huge fan of Joseph Paxton who was head gardener to the Bachelor Duke of Devonshire on his estate at Chatsworth in the mid-nineteenth century. He went on to design the Crystal palace in London, and municipal parks as well as to invest in railways and become an MP. Now I discover that he also found time to design the rebuilding of the Duke’s Irish seat at Lismore Castle and design and execute beautiful gardens there, which were at their very finest when we were there. The sight and smell of a carpet of bluebells is always a heady experience.

Wild flowers were in abundance on the banks at the side of quieter roads and Clematis Rubens Montana seemed almost wild – scrambling up poles and trellises and over fences and walls. Everything in County Wexford was much further on than at home in West Yorkshire. However, there had been sunshine in the week we were gone because things were much further on than when we left.

Our visit to Cobh, near Cork was interesting for the wrong reasons. We were trying to get to the museum of emigration housed in an old railway station there, but the town was clogged with traffic because the largest cruise ship in the world, the Spirit of Independence, had docked there in its deep harbour as part of its maiden voyage from Southampton. It is huge – people buy apartments on it and live there, I believe. It is also very ugly. And we could not believe that so many thousands of people would turn out just to look at it. Though I have a theory that Cobh, (at one time called Queenstown), was such a port for emigration for thousands from famine-struck Ireland, that there is perhaps a folk-memory there which prompts people to turn up to see traffic in the harbour. The Titanic called at Cobh on her ill-fated maiden voyage.

Next weekend sees the first ‘Potters’ event in the calendar: a fair called ClayArt at Denbigh in North Wales. Two hundred potters display and sell their work and there are demonstrations and kiln firings too. It is also good to catch up with friends and colleagues on the social side. The setting in the beautiful Vale of Clwyd makes one have fingers crossed for good weather.

The weather will not affect this weekend’s main event – the annual Gymanfa Ganu (hymn singing festival) of Yorkshire Welsh societies, held this year in Harrogate. They always choose a chapel with a balcony as the venue, so the singing is stereophonic. A real treat.

More from me in a fortnight.

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