IF YOU live in London, or south of Watford, and wish to go across the sea to Ireland, with your car, your family, and your dog, then I recommend the "United Nations" way from Swansea to Cork by the car ferry, the "Celtic Pride". I have christened it the "United Nations" way to Ireland as the vessel was built in France, is captained and manned by a Polish crew, with a Cork chairman, Denis J Murphy, financed by Cork County Council, Cork Corporation, the Kerry County Council and the West Glamorgan County Council, assisted by the Irish Tourist Board.
The "Celtic Pride" departs Swansea at nine o'clock in the evening and arrives at Ringaskiddy, on the western shore of the vast esturial waters, which flow to make up the entrance to Cork harbour, at around seven o'clock in the morning, in time for breakfast.
Advantage one of this new service is that it is the "motorway" to Ireland, inasmuch as on the M4 it is less than a four hour drive, of 200 miles or so, from London to Swansea. Advantage two, the vessel is kept spotlessly clean, is fully stabilised and is streamlined. The 2, 3 or 4 berth cabins with shower and toilet are small but comfortable and airconditioned. The inevitable duty free shop is well worth a visit because of the high costs of wines and spirits in Ireland. There is a cosy bar, a large restaurant, a modestly priced coffee-shop, and, if you want it, a lounge with music, a sauna, a swimming pool and even a Casino.
Advantage three is that the Ringaskiddy Ferry port, is on the west side of the entry to Cork harbour, which means that you can head off immediately for one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, West Cork and the Kingdom of Kerry. This Deep South of Ireland is a land of the arbutus and of blood-red fuschia hedges, and hedgerows with an abundance of wild flowers.
Wild birds abound in this paradise of hundreds of sheltered harbours and islands. Swans and herons are in every cove along the coastline. The waters of the Atlantic coast are warmed by the Gulf Stream, accounting for the lush vegetation, and the ocean is a majestic blue, wild and spectacular. The next stop beyond Baltimore is America, and the nearest European landfall is the Iberian penninsular.
The Catholic city of Baltimore was so named after the Catholic parish closest to America, by the first Lord Baltimore, George Calvert, its 17th century Colonial Catholic governor. There are Impressionist skies, and the sundials of the Mizen are 20 to 30 minutes slower than the Royal sundials in the Palace of Greenwich on the meridian. Seemingly, there is an extra hour of bright daylight everyday in West Cork.
For those travelling without a car, the Swansea Cork Ferry service offers special return fares for foot passengers, in conjunction with British Rail Inter City High Speed train services from London (Paddington Station) Birmingham, Reading and Sheffield. There are also special arrangements with coach companies.
Your dog travels for a return ticket of £10, much cheaper than putting your canine companion into kennels in Britain for the duration of the holidays.
Details of prices for the new ferry service to Cork can be obtained from your local travel agent, or from Swansea Cork Ferries Ltd. PO Box 340, Poole, Dorset, or from Swansea Cork Ferries Ltd, 55 Grand Parade, Cork, Ireland.
ABOUT five miles from Clonakilty, on the main road to Cork City, in County Cork, is the village of Ballinascarthy. It is a crossroads with two pubs, a Young Farmer's Hall and, an excellent second hand book shop in "Railway Cottage" run by Terry Delaney, a reader of the Catholic Herald.
The claim to fame of this village is that it was the birthplace of Henry Ford. He trudged to Queenstown to take the emigrant ship to America, where he founded the Ford Motor Company.
The Ford family were of Protestant stock. In America they called themselves Episcopalians. Henry Ford, famous for his saying "History is bunk", never set foot in Ireland again, after he emigrated, and all that is left in Ballinascarthy, in his memory, is the field in which the family thatched cottage once stood. In 1930 the hearth-stone of his home was taken to America by one of the family from their one-time cabbage patch.
Henry Ford II, who has just died at the age of 70, became a Catholic to marry Anne McDonnell, daughter of a very Catholic Irish-American multimillionaire family in New York. It was the American social event of the year, in the 1940's. No less a famous personality than Mgr Fulton Sheen handled the conversion of Henry Ford II in a much publicised series of instructions lasting hundreds of hours. Edsel Ford, Henry Ford Il's father, gave the bride and groom a present of a super luxury model Ford, complete with chauffeur.
The first Henry was a tyrant of a father to Edsel, and had the morals of old man Kennedy, the founder of the John F Kennedy clan. Henry Ford II in due course, divorced Anne McDonnell in 1964 and went on to marry Cristina Austin. He divorced her in 1976 to marry a blonde model, Kathleen DuRoss, more than 25 years his junior.
For all their Irish heritage the Ford family did nothing for Ireland. Their factory in Cork is now closed. It is a rare sight to see a Ford car on the roads of Ireland today, and their factory in Belfast, because of the present Irish America concern with the "MacBride Principles", which call for positive discrimination in employing Catholics in the Six Counties, is bad news for American investors.
Some things never change and in Clonakilty the memory of the illustrious journalist, Patrick O'Donovan, who took over "Charterhouse Chronicle" in the Catholic Herald in 1976, remains ever green.
In a glass cabinet in the hallway of O'Donovan's Hotel, in the main street, among other memorabilia is a clipping of a tribute which Patrick paid to the hotel in 1964. Clonakilty is the town of his forefathers. His father, the leading Catholic layman and the greatest orator in Britain of his time, Harley Street surgeon and Member of Parliament, was born there.
Of O'Donovan's Hotel (no relation) Patrick wrote: "It is a hotel which any professional holiday maker would keep secret . . . it is unexpected, easy going, highly personal, endlessly obliging, an unconventional decent place".
It is all that and more today. As I stood reading this tribute, in the hallway, one of the ever courteous staff asked if she could be of help. I explained that I did not require help, having just had a superb snack of newly baked brown soda bread, with local creamery butter, topped by freshly caught and cooked cold salmon, in the bar. I referred to Patrick, and the young lady remarked "Poor fellow, you know he is no longer with us, God rest him." And I said "Amen" to that.
Clonakilty is today a town of eminently courteous and kindly people. Do please walk their main street and see for yourself all the beautifully restored shop names and signs in their original scripts and colours. Would that all towns in Ireland took a leaf out of Clonakilty's golden book.
Major Patrick O'Donovan of the Irish Guards was not the first distinguished member of the Allied Forces to visit O'Donovan's Hotel. On March 4, 1943, a US Air Force Flying Fortress the "Taint a bird" flying from Casablanca to London, made a forced landing with engine trouble.
The captain of the 12 man crew asked a small boy in the boggy field, "Where are we"?.
"You are in White's Marsh" was the answer. The USAF crew had a riotous time in O'Donovan's Hotel. A few weeks later the repaired plane was flown on to London.
There was a time when the London Times expressed the hope that the native Irish in Ireland would become as rare as the Red Indians on the banks of
the Delaware River. The leader writers of those days did not live to see a Clonakilty where the Post Office is a one-time Presbyterian Church of 1861 "converted" in 1924, and the Old Methodist School of 1887 is now the West Cork Regional Museum.
They used to say "Clonakilty, God help us," but not anymore. Despite the famines of the 1840's, (worse than the famines in Ethiopia in our time) the indomitable people of Clonakilty, in defiant gesture, built themselves, in 1880, an extravagant Gothic church dedicated to the glory of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. This was a magnificent declaration of faith.
The town can also boast one of the most efficiently run tourist information offices in Ireland. The other is in Skibbereen. Both are run by Michael Manning who is tourist "supremo" of West Cork Tourism. He is a Kinsman of Cardinal Manning, the retired Archbishop of Los Angeles, who is still a frequent visitor to his native West Cork.
Anyone considering a holiday. in West Cork would do well to consult Michael Manning, Tourism Officer (West Cork) at his main office, The Town Hall, Skibbereen, County Cork.
I had to visit Ballinspittle of moving statue fame, It is about 4 miles from the Old Head of Kinsale. Its name in Irish, Beal Atha an Spicreil means "The Ford-mouth of the Hospital". The well kept wayside shrine, with its statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette at the grotto, is similar to hundreds throughout Ireland.
It is at a road junction just outside the neat and tidy little village. There are always cars parked there, and people praying. There are no longer vast crowds of believers and unbelievers who saw the statue move in 1987. The lovely grotto to Our Lady was set up by the local people in 1954 as an act of piety "To Jesus through Mary".
It was vandalised in 1985. Maybe Our Lady took it into her head to remind people to return to their senses, and to the rosary, and to the lovely devotion to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
I knelt and said my "Hail Mary's" for my intentions, and watched the brown butterflies in the gorse and heather, and the bees drifting from wild flower to wild flower. It was an idyllic setting. A few miles away, in 1601, the haughty Spanish Grandee, Dom Juan d'Aguila, held the town of Kinsale "For Christ and the King of Spain".
In the battle of Kinsale, my Lord Deputy of Ireland, Mountjoy and Carew, Thomond and Clanrickarde, defeated the Spaniards and the Irish under O'Donnell, Tyrone, O'Neill and O'Sullivan Beare, and thus began the Flight of the Earls and the demise of Gaelic Ireland.
In May 1915, the "Lusitania" was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off the Old Head of Kinsale, and the first of more than 1,500 bodies began drifting ashore.