We arrived in Galway, Ireland on 20th May 2013 and settled in quite quickly. We enjoyed a few days rest and then got busy with our exploring. As our host works for the Post Office we got to meet some staff who were too shy to appear on camera. We saw how to prepare the payroll for such a large organisation but we can’t pass on any details as it is all confidential… It was exciting to see how it is done, though! During this first week we also saw some lovely green postboxes and some postal vehicles.
We were excited to learn that our host had planned a few trips for us! She first took us to County Roscommon with a lovely group known as TARA (or the Tirellan Active Retired Association). We travelled on a bus and visited the Strokestown House & Famine Museum, and then travelled on to the Dr. Douglas Hyde Interpretative Centre.
Strokestown House was both lovely and sad. It told the story of The Great Irish famine of the 1840′s which is now regarded as the single greatest social disaster of 19th century Europe. Between 1845 and 1850, when blight devastated the potato crop, in excess of two million people – almost one-quarter of the entire population – either died or emigrated.
Dr Douglas Hyde was the very first President of the Irish Republic!
Our next adventure was to visit Dublin to attend a Postcrossing Meet-Up and what a wonderful time we had. There were many postcards to be signed (and bought!!). One of the first things we did was visit the Postal History Museum in the General Post Office (GPO). Did you know that the GPO in Dublin played a significent role during the 1916 Rising which led to Irish independence? You can learn more at www.anpost.ie/heritage.
Our host said that while she always enjoys visiting the museum she is a little upset that a lot of the items in the museum are things she actually used during her earlier working life – makes her feel old. We saw a lot of the stamps issued by the Post Office down through the years, mail bags, sorting frames, telephone exchanges and many other interesting items.
At the meeting we met chrissybaby, fisherman, icspi and jr11577. We had a great day out in Dublin but were exhausted after it.
“Could this trip get any better?” we thought… and it did! Even though we were preparing for our onward trip we found two things we just had to stay put for. The first was a Post Office function… now, how could we resist that?
We discovered that one of our hosts colleagues, Marie, intends to drive a Post Office articulated truck in convoy with other Irish and British CWU members as part of the CWU (Communication Worker’s Union) Humanitarian Aid. Each year, members of the CWU both in Ireland and the UK fill trucks full of necessary items and drive the aid to exactly where it needs to go – a personal delivery with a difference. The trucks are filled with donations from many local businesses together with goods purchased with money gathered at fund-raising events. This year the trucks will head to Moldova. Marie is the first Irish female to drive one of the trucks. She held a table-quiz and raised a substantial amount of money. We had such fun but we didn’t win (truth be told, our quiz team-mates weren’t great but don’t say we said that!).
Here we are with Marie. Also in the pic are Jarlath, Geraldine, Brian and Damien.
Last (but definitely not) least, we found our way to the Titanic Centre in Belfast. What a truly awesome experience!! One definitely not to be missed if you ever get the chance. We first visited the Nomadic, which was the tender ship to the Titanic in Cherbourg. The harbour in Cherbourg was too shallow for the Titanic to berth at the docks so passengers were ferried out to her via the Nomadic. First and Second Class was opulent but Third Class (steerage)… not so opulent.
Here we are standing on the helm of the Nomadic with the Titanic Centre in the background.
And this is how the Nomadic looked like!
We then visited the magificent Titanic Centre. Here we learned the full story of the RMS Titanic from the day she was first thought of up to and including her discovery at the bottom of the sea, and also about the personal stories behind it.
Did you know that the Titanic was a Royal Mail Ship (hence the abbreviation RMS)? Her mail room had the capacity to carry 3,423 sacks of mail each containing up to 2,000 items of mail. Queenstown in County Cork in Ireland was Titanic’s last port of call before she set sail for America. It was called the saddest place as it was the main port of emigration from Ireland in south of the country. Most people who left Ireland in those days were never expected to return home again. It was never more true than on this occasion!
But it wasn’t until we visited Titanic’s Dock & Pump-House that we got a true measure of the size of the Titanic. We were able to descend right down to the bottom of the drydock.
We saw the keel blocks on which she sat while in the drydock being fitted out for her maiden voyage. We can but imagine what it was like for the workers who built the Titanic. This is an experience that will never leave us.
We travelled back to Galway on Tuesday and took Wednesday as our day of rest before our onward journey to our next big adventure. What an amazing world we live in!