After leaving Spanish Point for the last time we drove up north to the old town of Kells, famous for the Book of Kells, which is a beautifully illustrated manuscript of the Gospels. The original has been housed in Trinity College, Dublin, for hundreds of years, so we tried to view a copy while in Kells. It was advertised as being on display at the local Council offices, but when we asked where it was we were informed it was no longer there, but there was a copy in the church. So off we went again, but alas, the church was locked. No Book of Kells viewing for us this time!
A residential street in the centre of Kells
The GP let us stay in her house for the week, which was nice, as we could cook and eat some healthy food again. Although the TV didn’t work, and the bedroom was rather musty, we did see wonderful sunrises from the bedroom window.
The surgery is right next to a mediaeval monastic church and commune, around which the town developed. There are remains of several old Celtic crosses and a round tower used for defence.
The best preserved South Cross next to the round tower
A second big cross in the graveyard
The Market Cross down in the town
Detail of the Market Cross
On the way down to Newcastle West, we overnighted in the Caredoc facility at Nenagh, as David had a red-eye shift. We stopped briefly in the quaint village of Adare on the road to Newcastle West. Sandi found a stick-on glittery green shamrock to decorate the van window, in honour of St Patrick's Day.
Newcastle West is a small, unremarkable village south of Limerick. We stayed in the local hotel which was crummy. One of the home visits during the night was to a known rapist in the community, living in comfort on Social Security benefits in a Council house. Although he is now beyond much physical exertion, the driver regaled David en route with many tales of his unsavoury antics over many years in the community. Female doctors are not allowed to visit this chap without a male chaperone - even now! On Sunday the village held its Paddy’s Day parade, which consisted largely of tractors, lorries and local farm implements, as well as the ambulance and fire engine.
Then it was down to Co Cork, where David had two red-eye shifts at Midleton. Sandi secured accommodation at the old Commodore Hotel on the seafront in nearby Cobh, which proved to be a real treat. Cobh [pronounced Cove] has a long maritime history, as it overlooks one of the finest natural harbours in the world.
We arrived just after dark and decided to take an exploratory walk to enjoy the perfectly windless evening and lights twinkling on the bay. Quite enchanting!
When Queen Victoria visited, the name was changed from Cove to Queenstown, but with Irish independence it became Cobh. The architecture is in the style of English coastal towns, such as Brighton, with a bandstand and seafront promenade. Sandi immediately felt drawn to the town, and said she could live here, since the atmosphere and pretty curved terraces reminded her of Bath.
This crescent was modelled on the famous one in Bath, UK
This steep row of houses was built to house seamen, and is called the Pack of Cards
The Commodore Hotel is 150 years old and still decorated in its gracious, original style.
St Colman’s Cathedral commands a position above the town, and is quite the most magnificent we have yet seen. Completed in 1916, it took 45 years to build in Neo French Gothic style. It is built of Dalkey granite with dressings of Mallow limestone, which are carved most intricately, and cover every inch of wall and arch and roof. Its bell-tower boasts a carillon of 49 bells, which play melodies on special days.
At the SouthDoc treatment centre David met Michael Norton, an ex-Zimbabwean and CT medical graduate, now living and working in Ireland. He invited us to supper at his home, where we enjoyed a wonderful evening with him, his lovely wife Caroline, their charming 2 sons, and another fellow guest, an Afrikaans doctor, Kasper, who spends several months a year working in Ireland.
On St Patrick’s Day we signed up for a Titanic walking tour of the town. Our witty guide, Pat, regaled us with many historical insights [and personal opinions], as the three of us walked around the town in the icy wind.
The memorial to the locals who helped rescue the survivors of the Lusitania which was torpedoed in 1916
The jetty from where the passengers embarked onto the Titanic on its last voyage
The tour ended in Jack Doyle’s bar [the famous boxer from Cobh] at the top of the town, where we stopped for a glass of Beamish stout with Pat. David had a couple of hours much needed sleep in the van in the hotel car-park, as the hotel refused to allow us to stay beyond check-out time, while Sandi sat working in the warm hotel lounge. Then it was time for the Paddy’s Day parade, which was marginally more glamorous than the one in Newcastle West 2 days earlier.
The Mayoral grandstand on an open trailer
The parade gets going with a pipe band
Sandi decided to stay put at her lounge window vantage point, out of the biting wind, where we both celebrated with an Irish coffee after the parade was over - along with scores of others who had by now packed the place out!
The hotel had other festivities planned, but we could not stay too long. We did however manage to get upstairs to watch some Irish dancing, dominated by the cutest little sprite, Eva, who apparently won everything there was to win at a recent talent show.
Groups of girls treated us to a display of Irish dance
We then headed back to Newcastle West for the night shift. We stopped in at the local Chinese restaurant for a quick supper, which David promptly threw up at midnight. He was feeling pretty grim with fever, but fortunately managed to get a couple of hours sleep on duty, which together with some Disprin, helped control the pyrexial shakes sufficiently for him to do a couple of home visits and complete his shift. Some more Disprin and he felt ready to face the 4-hour drive to Wexford, where he collapsed in the hotel room and slept like a log. Not sure whether this was due to a virus or an accumulated lack of sleep, but he was very pelele-poo-poo for a few days and needed lots of TLC!
The next 3 days were spent working in Wexford. The hotel deal included a 3-course dinner, which was very good, and free use of the gym, sauna and pool. David insisted on giving Sandi a Paddy's Day treat and bought a special-offer voucher for a back, head and foot massage. The back massage was reasonable, but she felt that her students gave a better hand and foot massage after their first day at aroma school!
We visited the Irish National Heritage Park, which was supposed to be an award-winning display of life in Ireland from 9000 years ago up till the Middle Ages. It was boggy and wet and thoroughly underwhelming, and the camera battery died halfway through our walk around the park.
A Dolmen, or burial stones over a grave
School children have added their contributions to the exhibit
A message stone engraved in ancient Ogham script
The following week David worked in a GP surgery in New Ross. The 4-storey town house was built towards the end of the 18th century, and has had several generations of doctors living and working there.
The stable at the end of the garden housed 2 horses on which the GP used to make home visits, way back when. The kitchen, larder and pantry are in the basement, with a callbox of bells from the parlour and rooms “upstairs”. The wood-panelling, stairs and banisters are all as they were 200 years ago.
The town used to be an important river port, as it is on the wide Barrow river, and many emigrants departed from here during the Great Famine.
The Dunbrody, a replica of emigrant ships used during the great famine, anchored at New Ross
At last the weather starting warming up and we started to see crocuses appearing along with the first daffodils in gardens and along the roads.
Bushes full of bright yellow gorse blossoms are clumped together throughout the countryside.
The weekend was spent working at the CareDoc in Cashel and we found ourselves back at Sister Fidelma’s B&B.
Ancient laws adorn the walls