A big G'day in Cobh as it hosts ‘Australia Day’ and 1,500 sail in on world cruise

A big G'day in Cobh as it hosts ‘Australia Day’ and 1,500 sail in on world cruise

The cruise ship Sea Princess docks in Cobh.

UP to 1,500 Australians arrived in Cobh yesterday aboard the cruise ship Sea Princess.

The stop was part of a 107-day around-the-world cruise from Sydney.

Cobh is the only Irish port on a voyage that will visit 36 ports, transit both the Suez and Panama canals, and travel an incredible 59,000km.

Australian Ambassador to Ireland Richard Andrews with Jeffery Low, Patrick Stidolph, Marie Stidolph and Stephanie Low.
Australian Ambassador to Ireland Richard Andrews with Jeffery Low, Patrick Stidolph, Marie Stidolph and Stephanie Low.

As has been the case since 2009, Cobh Tourism rolled out the red carpet for what has become known as ‘Australia Day in Cobh’.

There was a festival atmosphere, despite some heavy showers, that included free entertainment on the town’s waterfront promenade, traditional music and Irish dancing, market stalls, and a performance from Trad Band Gaelic Brew.

Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews visited Cobh to greet the passengers.

He received a guided tour of St Colman’s Cathedral, which celebrates the centenary of its dedication in August this year.

The Cathedral boasts the largest carillon in Britain and Ireland and the ambassador and passengers were treated to a special recital of Australian airs by the carillonneur Adrian Gebruers.

Visitors could also trace their ancestors at Cobh Heritage Centre, or take the ferry to Spike Island, and explore the history of the Titanic at the Titanic Experience.

The visit to Spike Island is particularly poignant for Australians as many convicts were held captive before being transported to Australia.

The ‘Blessing of the Bonnets’ ceremony in Cobh Heritage Centre honoured all convict women and children transported to Australia, while ‘Roses from the Heart’ is a unique memorial to the 25,566 convict women transported to Australia from Ireland and Britain from 1788 to 1853.

Lynne and Keith Windross from Australia in Cobh.
Lynne and Keith Windross from Australia in Cobh.

It was conceived by Tasmanian conceptual artist Christina Henri and a bonnet has been made to remember almost all of these women and children.

“These women and children were forgotten for decades,” said Christina.

“Their lives and their circumstances today seem unimaginable. It’s hard to believe the fortitude, resilience and courage that saw so many of these women survive and contribute to the Australian nation enjoyed by so many today. They deserve to be remembered with gratitude,” she continued.

The bonnet installation remembers the women and children aboard the Neva that sailed from Cork on January 8, 1835, destined for the prisons of Botany Bay.

There were 240 people on board, most of them either female convicts or the wives of already deported convicts and their children. On 13 May 1835, the ship hit a reef just north of King’s Island in Australia and sank with the loss of 224 lives — one of the worst shipwrecks in maritime history.

Last night, the 81st anniversary of the handover by Britain to Ireland of Spike Island as part of the Treaty Ports handover was commemorated on the promenade in Cobh. The Tricolour was ceremonially raised simultaneously in Cobh and on Spike Island.

Of the 1,950 passengers on board the Sea Princess yesterday, 79% were Australians and 17% were New Zealanders.

Belinda Shaw, Ray Duffy, Ursula Duffy and Jim O’Rourke from Cobh Tourism at ‘Australia Day’ in Cobh. Pictures: Gerard McCarthy

Belinda Shaw, Ray Duffy, Ursula Duffy and Jim O’Rourke from Cobh Tourism at ‘Australia Day’ in Cobh. Pictures: Gerard McCarthy
Belinda Shaw, Ray Duffy, Ursula Duffy and Jim O’Rourke from Cobh Tourism at ‘Australia Day’ in Cobh. Pictures: Gerard McCarthy

Their average age is 71 and 1,300 of the passengers are doing the full round the world voyage.

Next year’s round the world voyage is already on sale with prices for the entire trip starting at €16,000 all inclusive.

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