It was time to move on from Dublin. 8 am departure was set. Baby would accompany us from Dublin to Cork via Limerick. Ireland has a large population of Keralites. There are over 2500 families in Dublin itself. Most of them are engaged in the medical field. The St. James Hospital in Dublin has 500 Keralite nurses on their rolls! Similarly Limerick and Cork too have substantial Keralite settlements. The boom in Irish recruitment in the medical profession happened in the early part of 2000. It has considerably slowed down since 2010. Baby had organised meetings with Keralite families in Limerick, Cork and Cobh and also with the priests Manoj and Jose in Dublin. The many that turned up have been huge fans of Lal’s films. The hospitality was overwhelming and straight from the heart. It was truly moving and inspirational. The kids were there in large numbers too. The enthusiastic ones in Cobh presented us with a signed postcard each, which I will cherish as one of the prized effects of the journey.
Before we left in the morning, Manoj, who I met at the reception last evening and the nephew of Mani C Kappen (the sportsman turned entrepreneur turned politician), came to the house with Basil, an excellent artist in who Lal sees a good future. Manoj connected us to Mani, who felt that the journey had not received its fair share of publicity. He has not been alone in voicing such thoughts. The journey was never about publicity. It was about adventure and goodwill. Whatever publicity has been generated has been for the sake of the sponsors who have made this journey happen through their support, financial and otherwise. The journey has not been to satisfy egos either, but to achieve the unique distinction of driving from Cochin to London in a four wheeler. The journey was never meant to be a picnic as someone thought it to be; it was for the tough to experience the tough conditions. The journey was meant to test the best and not please the petty.
The meetings in Limerick left us with little time for sightseeing, though we did drive around to see the Castle and appreciate the River Shannon. The St. John’s cathedral has Ireland’s tallest spire. We dropped in there for a short prayer and appreciate the lovely chapels and the ornate spire complex. Baby’s brother, Shaiju, lives in Nenagh (pronounced, Neena) and works with Johnson & Johnson in Limerick, which is the third most populous City after Dublin and Cork. I learnt from him that J&J have one of their largest factories in Limerick where they manufacture 200,000 pieces of contact lenses per shift of 8 hours! Raw materials are mostly imported for use in the fully automated plant and the finished products are shipped to USA and Europe, besides servicing the local demand. I was told by Lijo that Limerick is also known as ‘Stab City’ for the gang wars that regularly break out in the City between two traditionally feuding families. In fact, a lady who stood witness against one of the Dons has a posse of the Garda – Police – guarding her 24x7.
We had a buffet lunch in Cork in a traditional Irish Pub; the buffet consisted of ham and potatoes of different types, cabbage and apple tart with cream. From Cork we moved to Cobh. This was the place where the Titanic made its last call on 11 April 1912 before it hit an iceberg off the Atlantic coast and sank. The wooden quay from where the tenders sailed from with 123 passengers to board the Titanic at outer anchor and the stormy waters of the sea gave me a good feel of what it would have been like on that fateful day. Cobh also has the hurtful distinction of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine torpedo near her coast on 7th May 1915 in which 1198 passengers lost their lives. The Cobh Heritage tour is a must to appreciate the history of the City and its contribution to the traditions of Ireland. The statue of Annie Moore and her two brothers outside the Heritage Centre receives a lot of attention from visitors. They were the first immigrants to be processed in Ellis Island, USA when it was officially opened on 1st January 1892. I learnt that a similar statue can be seen on Ellis Island too which pays tribute to the many Irish who have embarked on that same journey. The harbour also has the distinction of sending 30,000 men and 9,000 women prisoners on ‘Convict Ships’ from Ireland to Australia between 1791 and 1853. The St Colman’s Cathedral overlooking Cobh harbour is built in the shape of a cross and holds within it 13 centuries of spiritual history. It has the second biggest spire in Ireland, after Limerick, and the largest carillon in all of Ireland. Facing the large Cathedral is a set of houses, painted in bright colours and popularly referred to as the “Deck of Cards”.
En route to Rosslare we passed the ancestral connection of President Barack Obama – Moneygall – and Dunganstowan in Wexford County from where the JFK derived his roots. In squally weather we arrived Rosslare, a one horse town. Save the harbour and a couple of shops the place had very little to offer. The Rosslare Lodge, booked by Mirus, our travel agent, was comfortable. We had dinner at the nearby Harbor View Hotel before turning in for the night.
The day had been eventful, with such spontaneous outpouring of affection and motivation. We had reached the final 48 hours of the journey – have travelled 27 countries in 73 days across 2 Continents and done slightly more than 24,000 kms. In the next two days will travel to reach London on schedule, in 75 days.