The Grand Tour Part I – Ireland

If you were an American going on the grand tour at the beginning of the twentieth century whether you were going from Wyoming, Wichita or Waxahachie your point of departure from the United States was the Port of New York. You may have gotten there by train in which case it may have been a slow progress since you were required to stop everyplace along the way where you had family and visit for a minimum of several days – until the ladies constitutions were adequately restored to continue without fatigue. Once in New York – if you came from an English-speaking family – you would embark on an east bound Cunarder headed for Liverpool. If you were of Irish descent you might disembark at Queenstown for a sentimental journey. With maternal grandparents from County Louth and Roscommon and a father from County Wexford this stop for members of the Young family was de rigueur.


The MAURETANIA was built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne  in 1906 for the Cunard Line. She was a 31,938 gross ton ship, overall length 790 feet with a beam of 88 feet, four funnels, two masts, four screws and a service speed of 25 knots. There was accommodation for 563 – 1st, 464 – 2nd and 1,138 – 3rd class passengers. Launched on the 20th of September 1906, she left Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Queenstown  and New York on the 16th of November 1907. Between 1907 and 1924 she broke several transatlantic records, her shortest crossing being 4 days, 10 hours, 51 minute’s from Queenstown to Ambrose Light in September 1909 at a speed of 26.06 knots.

Queenstown [actually Cobh] was situated within the Port of Cork which was one of the largest ports within the British Isles and was the last stop on the westbound leg of the Liverpool to New York run in order to both pick up third class passengers – mostly poor Irish immigrants – and top of coal bunkers, fresh water and provisions. It owed it passing name of Queenstown to a visit by Victoria in 1849 but located on the south side of the great island it was the site of the liner docks. Of the two hotels located there the Queen’s was the preferred establishment and the starting point for the Irish pilgrimage.


Not too far away is a locale legendary among the loquacious Irish – Blarney Castle in County Cork. Built in the 15th century by the Countess of Desmond it consists of a massive donjon tower some 120 feet tall and the ruins of the lower portions left over after a siege by Cromwell. The stone that has long been credited with conferring on all who kiss it a sweet persuasive eloquence that is almost irresistible is reputed at one time to have borne the inscription CORMAC MAC CARTHY FORTIS, MI FIERI FECIT is about eight feet from the top of the tower and requires the true believer to be lowered by their ankles in order to kiss it. Sometime in the late nineteenth century a lower, more easily accessible, stone was substituted for the tourists which may explain a good many things including the lack of eloquence in most wanna be Irishmen – you are either born with the gift of the gab or no number of rocks kissed will ever confer it!


Continuing north from Cork we come to Killarney which the guidebook of 1900 credited as consisting of boatmen, guides, workers in arbutus wood and beggars. An old mining town that had become little more than a tourist attraction was at least blessed with three lakes nearby where would be anglers could either invest in tackle or rent it by the hour and be directed to  by their guides to inlets that the fish did not know. Growing tired of wasting bait by the time they reached Lough Leane [the lower lake] their trip could be redeemed with a trip to Ross Castle, an ivy covered ruin with a convenient landing and an easy climb to the top to enjoy the view of the lakes. It may have been a ruin but admission was by application to the occupant of the cottage close by and a small gratuity was expected.


Most touring in Ireland could be done by walking or cycling for those interested in adventurism [ long before that abominable term was invented] , by train between the larger towns and then riding a jaunting car to the ruins, fishing or whatever. For those who planned on cycling the guidebook contained multiple itineraries including:

  • Dublin to Cork   210 miles through the Garden of Ireland
  • Cork to Galway 231 miles culminating in the summit of the Pass of Keimaneigh
  • Galway to Sligo 182 miles the coast road tour
  • Sligo to Londonderry 82 miles the shorter route to the highlands – uphill in both directions
  • Londonderry to Belfast 129 miles to see the Giant’s Causeway
  • Belfast to Dublin 103 miles downhill for all except the first 4 offering the chance of recovery

Having descended from the Young’s I would stick to the train and the jaunting car – although now it is most likely tour bus all the way.


The terminus for most of the Irish from America was Dublin whence the continued on the River Liffey to Calafort Átha Cliath and boarded a ferry for the short ride across the Irish Sea to Liverpool and from there on to London and the beginning of the tour proper. The Zoological Garden is the only post card we have from Dublin. As for the guide-book it only notes that there is such a place, that admission is one shilling; Saturday sixpence; Sunday twopence, children half price. Having recently spent over $30.00 to take Margaret Edythe Young’s great grand-daughter to the Houston Zoo we must assume it was a bargain in its day and from the following description it seems not to have been without its charms.


One of the newer attractions that the Young’s would have seen was Haughton House at the zoo’s centre was built in 1898 in memory of Samuel Haughton, Royal Zoological Society of Ireland secretary, a Trinity College professor, and noted science writer; it contained 10 wild animal ‘dens’, tea rooms and a lecture room.  Its verandah and  balcony offer views over the Kaziranga Forest Trail. The first Zoo open day in 1838 – attended by 20,000 people – to celebrate Queen Victoria’s coronation.  The first giraffe arrived in 1844 and the first pair of lions – Natal and Natalie – arrived in 1855, producing their first cubs two years later.  Reptiles got their own house in 1876. Although it came too late for the Young’s to see  a lion called Cairbre was born at the Zoo. Named after Cú Chullain’s charioteer he was seen the world over for many years when he became the mascot for the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s