Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dunbrody, Waterford Crystal, Kilkenny City

All photos click to enlarge

Our last full day trip before we departed from Ireland was by Railtours to the cities of New Ross, County Wexford, Waterford, County Waterford, and Kilkenny City in Kilkenny County.

New Ross is home to the Dunbrody, a replica of a "famine ship" which is moored on the Quay, and allows visitors to experience the sights and smells of life aboard an emigrant ship of the style that transported many of the Irish diasporas to other lands.

The ship was built by a grant from the John F. Kennedy Trust to describe to visitors about the reason why so many people were forced to emigrate on sailing ships like Dunbrody to America and Canada in the mid 19th century. Near New Ross is the ancestral home of President John F. Kennedy in Dunganstown, County Wexford, and his great-grandfather came to America on the original Dunbrody.

Before boarding a ticket was issued as if it were 1849, and this ticket allocates our space and food rations for the voyage ahead.

Onboard actors, playing the role of emigrants, showed their cramped quarters in steerage, and their meager possessions, describing why they were being forced to emigrate. A member of the crew told us the story of other voyages and all about life on board a sailing ship. Whole families were forced to sleep in one wooden berth, with little more than a few pieces of bread and grain for a week. The ship usually carried 176 people, but on one crossing, at the height of the Famine in 1847, she carried 313. Many did not survive the many month-long voyages on other ships but the Dunbrody had a good record due to her good and humane Captain Baldwin.

From the Dunbrody web site:
"Today 40 million people in the US alone proudly acknowledge their Irish heritage.
Now you have the opportunity to access a huge database of emigrants who sailed from Ireland in the nineteenth century. This database has complied in collaboration with the Balch Institute Philadelphia, and the Ellis Island Restoration Commission, and the Battery Conservancy, New York from the original passenger lists of ships, which sailed from Ireland and the UK."

The link to check the database.

Next stop on the bus was the city of Waterford. Waterford was founded in 843 by the Vikings and later extended by the Anglo-Normans.

As we entered the city we passed Reginald's Tower, built by the Normans. Its walls are 10 feet thick, and now contains Waterford's Civic Museum.

Waterford is famous for its glassworks, and The Waterford Crystal Factory. The Waterford Crystal story first begins in 1783 when George and William Penrose founded their crystal manufacturing business in the busy port of Waterford. They seized on the opportunity to produce “plain and cut flint glass, useful and ornamental” in their factory, which was situated in the heart of Waterford city
I took the photo of the factory, below, from the bus window so you can see how excited I was to be able to visit this attraction!
I don't personally own a lot of Waterford crystal, but the few pieces I did own were treasures to me and I don't think any other cut crystal can compare to the weight and beauty and craftsmanship of Waterford's.

We entered the visitors center and browsed at the many beautiful pieces on display while we waited for our factory tour to begin. The photo below was taken by another visitor and is a little blurry, but I was so fascinated by this crystal grandfather clock, and it is one of the few photos of my both my husband and myself together, that I had to include it here.

The young lady who escorted the factory tour described all the sports trophies that Waterford crystal is known for. Do you recognize any in the display cases?

The one below has the US Presidential seal on it and is magnificent in its size and detail.
The guide told us that replicas of each award and special edition gift are made in case the original is unfortunately broken by accident.

We visited on a Saturday so a skeleton crew was in the factory working for the benefit of the tourists coming to view the process.

The photos below show some of the processes of glassblowing.

In order to maintain the impeccable standards built up over two centuries, there are quality control checks throughout the manufacturing process. While on the tour you will see that if at any stage, a flaw is detected or an inaccurate cut is found, the piece is destroyed
Teams of cutters work on each piece, the largest of which will be several days going through the cutting process. The cutters apprentice for this job for many years and are paid by the piece.

The deep, intricate wedge patterns, which appear on pieces such as Lismore stemware, are cut against diamond-tipped wheels following a geometric guide marked onto the crystal.

After being cut the crystal is placed in an acid bath which then gives it it's wonderful crystal shine!

The photo below is of freshly cut crystal waiting for its bath.

There are 200 different stemware patterns, and Lismore is one of the most popular worldwide.

We were not allowed to take photos in the engraving department due to the fine concentration needed to do the work.
"Intaglio" is the name given to the type of engraving they use. It gives the engraving a three-dimensional look and feel. To become a Master Engraver it takes 10 years of study, and the people in Waterford continue to attend classes in art school to refresh and renew their concepts. Engravers are paid by salary due to the intense amount of work they must do for each piece.

Below is an engraved piece on the tour that touched my heart. It was made to commemorate the brave rescue workers in the World Trade Center tragedy in New York City on September 11, 2001.

We learned a lot on the factory tour and I highly recommend it! Unfortunately we also learned from our bus tour guide that Waterford Crystal, in general, has had slow sales in recent years and the company is in financial trouble and that their biggest customer, Americans, have not been buying it as much as usual, probably due to the fact our dollar has been weak and the cost for a piece is so expensive. After seeing the tour and the amount of work that goes into each an every authentic Waterford piece by skilled craftsmen, I can say it is well worth every cent!

We finished the tour by entering the retail gallery, which hosts the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world. In addition, it had Wedgwood Ceramics, Rosenthal ceramics, Waterford Writing Instruments, Seahorse Clothing and an extensive Craft and Jewellery collection.
Needless to say, I didn't stop to take photos as I wanted to shop! I did purchase a few pieces, which my sweet husband bought for me as upcoming birthday presents, which we had shipped home, and when I receive them I'll display them here ...... I can't wait!

* Edited on 1-27/10 to add:

"The world-famous visitors’ center of Waterford Crystal shut down today, as 15 remaining workers lost their jobs.

Crowds of people came to bid goodbye to the center, which had hosted 330,000 visitors annually for 25 years. Waterford Crystal once employed almost 3,000 people in factories at Kilbarry and Dungarvan, according to the Irish Times.

The firm had enjoyed success in the 1980s and 1990s. Americans accounted for more than half of its sales, and this market has been diminishing since 2002 when the US dollar’s value dropped chronically compared with the euro. The firm has struggled with crippling debt and went into bankruptcy last year.

The center was for decades one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions, as visitors took tours of the factory and purchased the hand-made cut glass items, which the firm had produced since 1948. The mayor of Waterford, John Halligan, said its closure marked “a sad day for Waterford,” the Times reported."

The next and last stop on our Southeast Ireland tour was the charming inland city of Kilkenny.
It is located on the Nore River, and most of the buildings are made of black limestone so it is also known as the Marble City.
Kilkenny is dominated by its castle - one of the most famous of Ireland. Built in the year 1190 it was occupied by the Butler family for over 500 hundred years up until 1935, but because of the exorbitant upkeep, the family descendants donated it to the nation in 1967.

Part of the National Art Gallery is on display in the castle. There are ornamental gardens on the city side of the castle, and extensive land and gardens to the front. It has become one of the most visited tourist sites in Ireland.

It is really hard to describe how enormous this castle was and photos don't even begin to show
how beautiful it was!

Below is a view of the castle from the River Nore.

This medieval city is characterized by many beautifully restored buildings and winding slipways

Below is "Butter Slip" so named for the butter stalls that once lined this small alley.

A view looking down John Street Lower in Kilkenny. Many interesting shops, restaurants, and pubs along the way.

A view, below, through a slip at St. Canice's Cathedral. The ancient city of Kilkenny was named after a 6th-century monk St Canice.

The next day we flew back to Kennedy Airport New York -- home sweet home! Here is a view of Long Island from my window seat. That long thin strip of land is part of Fire Island off the south coast of Long Island. We'll be landing soon!

I was sad to leave Ireland but happy to have had another chance to visit the land of my paternal ancestors. I brought back some wonderful memories of this beautiful country, it's friendly welcoming people and all the wonderful times we had there.
Thank you for coming along with me on my blog as I reminisced about my experiences. I truly appreciate all your comments! I hope my blog has encouraged you to think about taking a trip to Ireland someday, and in fact, I know it has, as so many of you have told me you would love to visit it!
Here are some websites that were helpful to us as we planned our visit:

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Mrs. B said...

Hi Pat! Another excellent and informative post, as usual! We learned about JFK's visit to Ireland during his presidency and his family history on our vacation to the east coast last summer (must have been in the JFK library), so your story of the Dunbrody was especially interesting. The Waterford tour looks like it was amazing. That clock is amazing! And Kilkenny looks like a neat place to visit. Someday I hope that I'll get to see those things for myself! Thanks!

Tess Kincaid said...

Fun to see the Waterford Crystal factory, Pat! Fascinating! I have really enjoyed your tour of Ireland.

Rhondi said...

Hi Pat
Thanks for taking us along on your tour of Kilkenny. It looks like a fascinating city and beautiful too. I would love to visit there in person.

Tara said...

Hi Pat

I tried to comment on your post yesterday but Blogger would not let me--it was great!

The Waterford factory was so interesting...my Mom has Tramore as her pattern and I have Alana...my grandparents (my grandfather was from Cork) had a Waterford chandelier hanging in their diningroom (and I can rememebr my grandmother cleaning it and muttering under her breath! hee-hee!) This was such a neat post, if I never get to the other side, I have certainly been on your shoulder-thanks!
P>S> Did you wave at my house when you flew over Fire Island? Ha-ha!

kari and kijsa said...

What an incredible trip...what a voyage for the immigrants who first came to this country!

Have a blessed and wonderful day!

smiles, kari & kijsa

Edie Marie's Attic said...

Oh Pat, how I love that photo of the castle from the River Nore! It is so beautiful. Your Irish music made me feel I was there with you taking in its beauty!
And the Waterford crystal! I don't own any, I can only afford dept store crystal which I love, but it's so magnificent. I've been on home tours in Detroit, Mi of the Ford, Edsel, Chrysler etc families and some of them have had Waterford crystal chandeliers. Unbelievably beautiful!
Thank you Pat for all the work that you put into your posts of your trips for us. I have learned more from you than I can begin to tell you.
Happy Birthday Pat!
Big birthday hugs, Sherry

Gina said...

Your tours of Dunbrody and Waterford would have been so interesting! Is one of the trophies on display from Wimbledon?
Oh..and was it your birthday yesterday? If so, love and best wishes!! Hope it was a special day :) Gx

Anonymous said...

Pat, I don't know how to thank you enough for sharing your journey with us. Seeing Ireland through your eyes showed us your appreciation of this beautiful country.

The Dunbrody and the stories that go with these journeys made by our ancestors certainly give a heightened appreciation for their quest for a new life.

Now, about the slow down in sales of Waterford. We just can't have them in jeopardy. I say it is time for us to shop.

Nana Trish is Living the Dream said...

Pat, What a beautiful blog! I would love to go to Ireland someday. I was fortunate to go to London, but I long to visit Ireland. I have heard nothing, but good things from others that have gone. Your husband is so sweet to go with you and be so involved. My poor hubby won't travel and stay overnight anymore. I guess I'll have to go with girlfriends. Also, your music is so pure and sweet.

Unknown said...

Great photo essay. I especially enjoyed the part about Waterford Crystal! My daughter has a beautiful Waterford bowl that a family member bought in Ireland! She treasures it. I'm going to tell her about your post.

Unknown said...

Great photo essay. I especially enjoyed the part about Waterford Crystal! My daughter has a beautiful Waterford bowl that a family member bought in Ireland! She treasures it. I'm going to tell her about your post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am a new-bee. It's really fun meeting all kinds of folks from all kinds of places.

I too am an RN; I work in a related health field.

Your pictures and narration of your visit are awesome; not too soon to be forgotten. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I may never get to travel to Ireland, but I have, in a sense, seen it through your documentation.

Please visit me again soon and I shall do the same.

Marg said...

I sure hope you brought back some crystal for yourself.
Very interesting. It must of been hard in some ways to come back, but there will always be another time.
Continue to dream and start planning your next trip.

Pat said...

Hi Pat, Thanks for visiting my blog and yours is really cool too. Another thing we have in common besides the same first name is our love of cats I see. I haven't been to Ireland yet, maybe someday.

Vee said...

Just fascinating! I loved reading about the Waterford Crystal. My niece studied glass blowing in art school and for some time thought that she'd go in that direction. She just loved it. I'm going to point her to this post.

Also, thank you for the link to the data base. I found 247 of my family's surname and have sent the information on to my mother who knows the first names. Perhaps there'll be a lead and, if there is, I'll be sure to let you know.

steviewren said...

Pat, you are an excellent tour guide. You remember all of the details that make your pictures come alive. I have enjoyed your vacation recap immensely. Where do you plan to take all of us back seat travelers next? My bags are packed...let's go!

Kathy said...

Hi Pat, I have really enjoyed all of your lovely photo's and information on Ireland, we only saw a fraction of what you did, but we intend to return and will certainly check out some of these lovely places. best wishes, Kathy.

Lavinia said...

What a feast for the eyes this post is. A castle straight out of a fairytale...and Waterford Crystal to dazzle the eyes...I would love to tour the Waterford Works...

The first pics, a nautical wonderland to satisfy the sea-thirst in me too...

Ireland is splendid....I have heard it is very expensive but I simply *must* see it once in my life....

Thank you so much for this pictorial with fascinating snippets of information.

Vee said...

Yes! We had a hit! My mother is so thrilled and is pretty sure that it is the correct ancestor...Pierce Delahunt 1850 to Boston. Thanks again so much!

Louise said...

Will come back to this post! On this occasion I have just read about Dunbrody. You can only imagine what those ships must have been like to full capacity, I suppose we have had the opportunity to see movies depicting these sorts of voyages. What good fun for you to get your rations for the day, I hope you didn't go too hungry? A great tourist attraction and very educational at the same time. Lovely photos. x

Lisa's RetroStyle said...

Well, as usual I've fallen behind on the tour. I can't imagine experiencing the "smells" on the emigrant ship. I would really enjoy that tour. In checking the link you provided to the Dunbrody database I find surnames and common family first names from both sides of my family. I don't know a lot of my family geneology, we asimilated fast (I always say we are true American heinz 57 mutts) but I have been told I have ancestors from England, Ireland and Scotland. It is facinating to me to imagine the harsh experiences those who came before have gone thru. It makes me appreciate the comforts of my life even more and makes the hard times mere bumps in the road. Thanks Pat!

Louise said...

Glassmaking is such an amazing skill to have, Waterford can only employ the best. I was very touched by the commemoration piece for 9/11. I am always very tense when watching a presentation of a priceless award, I am always so afraid that the recipient is going to drop it! x

Rue said...

I really enjoyed the whole tour and in fact I wanted to come back home just so I could finish it :) I almost feel like I was a stowaway.

Thank you for sharing this.


~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I found you..in Ireland of all places! You are a very pretty lady and have a handsome hubby! It's nice to 'see' you, my friend! Lovely photos! ♥