Erin go bragh

March 17, 2011 at 8:26 am (a day in the life, people, places, research, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )


…Éirinn go brách… Ireland forever!

The following words are those of Margaret Fountaine (published in Love Among the Butterflies):

“…then we were off, speeding across Holyhead Harbour out into the open sea…. We amused ourselves… by rampaging all over the boat, A strong breeze was blowing so we left our hats in the cabin for safety. The sky was almost cloudless, blue in the sky above, blue in the rolling water below. Close to the side of the boat, with my hair in long shreds streaming in the wind, I leaned forward straining my eyes to catch the first glimpse of the Irish coast.”

Margaret, in 1890, was 28 years old. When I first travelled to Ireland, along that same route — Holyhead to Dún Laoghaire, arriving as dawn (and an autumn mist) rose over the intensely-blue waters — I was about 23 years old.

Mary Gosling travelled to Ireland in 1821, when she was 21 years old; it was the culminating landing of a trip that brought the Gosling family (“Papa, Mamma, my Sister and myself”) from Roehampton, through Shrewsbury, to Chirk and North Wales, then a boat ride across to Ireland. On September 9th, they “arrived at Howth eight miles from Dublin at three o’clock, after rather a rough passage of seven hours. We went to Dublin in the Mail coach and arrived at Morrison’s hotel in Dawson Street at five o’clock.” Mary reports “we were all very ill” during the sea journey. Emma, who received a letter from her dear friend, passed similar news on to Aunt [Mrs Judith Smith, of Stratford] in a letter dated 28 September: “We have heard again from the Goslings they have been in Ireland, but suffered so much from sea sickness both in coming & going that it has in a great degree spoilt their enjoyment, they say that those who cross the water as they did in steam boats suffer more from sickness than in any other way.”

This Irish part of the trip was most curious when I first read it. (This 1821 diary was the very first piece of this research! and I had NO idea who Mary was, never mind what her ‘Papa’ did for a living). Mary accompanies Papa “to see the Bank, the exterior of which is very handsome forming a very fine object almost in the centre of the City with Trinity College…. We saw the whole process of making bank notes, which is all done by steam engines and is very curious.” She then goes on to describe the process: what is done with and to the paper; the printing of notes; the finishing and “signing” — “which must be done by hand”. Knowing the identity of William Gosling — a banker, with his own ‘family’ firm — it all makes such perfect sense; for who, but a banker, could gain such immediate access to the making of currency!

They toured a little of the island, then headed back to Dublin — where they again see the process of “making money” on September 17th. They prepared for a return to England the following day, going to Holyhead: “We got up at half past four…we had a very favorable passage of seven hours and a half though very ill all the time”. Their return was leisurely: they arrived at Roehampton on October 6th, “well pleased with our six weeks Tour. We travelled all together 845 miles.”

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