My warmest thanks to everyone who came along to Cobh Library in County Cork on Friday night for my Culture Night talk about Hello from the Gillespies. It was so lovely to meet you all and chat about books, reading and writing. Special thanks to librarians Danielle Crowley and Paula Courtney, Joe Higgins of Cork County Library and also Anna Collins at Kanturk Library.
It was my first time back in Cobh since 2013 when I was there researching scenes for Hello from the Gillespies. It’s always a great feeling to re-visit the setting for a novel after having spent many hours there in my imagination. No spoilers, I promise – but I got to walk along the same waterfront and up the same steep hills that Nick Gillespie does in the novel. I also stayed in the same hotel Nick stays in, the Commodore, with the same view of Cork Harbour. To my surprise and delight, there was even an Australian flag just outside my hotel window.
For any of you planning a trip to Ireland, I’d thoroughly recommend visiting Cobh. It’s a fascinating town, with a long maritime and emigration history. It was the last port of call for the Titanic on its ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912. It was also the closest port for the survivors of the tragic Lusitania sinking in 1915. If you’re tracing your Irish family tree, there’s a wealth of information in the town’s museums (my own McInerney ancestors sailed from Cobh on their way to Australia in the 1840s.) It’s also a very beautiful town, with its striking cathedral and rows of colourful buildings built around the harbour, which is still a working port.
My visit coincided with the unveiling this weekend of a statue in honour of Cobh-native and Sydney Olympics silver medallist, athlete Sonia O’Sullivan, who now lives in Melbourne. She is guest of honour at the gala ceremony today. Alas, I won’t be there for the event, but I did get to see the statue being put into position, still wrapped in plastic, and even met the sculptor James McLoughlin as he did his final polishing.