Queenstown or Cobh

Cobh in the 1890s

Cobh, or Queenstown as it was known until 1920, is where Francis O’Neill left Ireland as a teenager destined to travel around the world. The picture above dates from about 25 years later. The young men in the foreground are likely royal infantry marines. Francis, in desperation at having no work after leaving home, unsuccessfully tried to get a teaching position aboard the naval ship Hawk and Hastings. You can imagine sailors like those in the photograph jeering at his youthful naivety.

He eventually secured a position on the barque Anne and left Ireland from here. Many left Cobh to take their chances in the wider world from the nineteenth century onwards. The most famous departure is, of course, RMS Titanic. I did not see the equally famous movie of the same name but I do like this scene of immigrants in steerage dancing to some tunes Francis O’Neill would have known well, The Lark in the Morning and John Ryan’s Polka:

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