By Nia Brown and Naomi Garrett
Day three and the jet lag had hit hard. After a night out on the town as a class, it was time to make our way to the Michael Collins Centre. We said goodbye to Cork and our first hotel in Ireland, the Imperial Hotel. After a bit of driving we picked up our guide for the day, Tim Crowley. He was waiting for us in Ballinascarthy, a town in West Cork that is famous for being where Henry Ford’s ancestors were from.
The town is very proud of this and even has a statue of a Ford Model T on a pedestal. While telling us about Ballinascarthy, Tim showed our bus driver/ real MVP Philip how to get to our true destination: the Michael Collins Centre.
Meet Tim Crowley: Tim has traced his ancestry back to Michael Collins. He is related through Michael Collins’ mother’s side. Tim owns a dairy farm as well as runs the Michael Collins Centre where he is able to share his passion about the history of his family and their involvement in the Irish Revolution. Tim’s passions showed through as he shared with the class different artifacts and photographs from the time of Michael Collins.
Argideen River Valley Landscape: Upon arriving at the Michael Collins Centre, Tim took us to a small clearing in the back that overlooked the Argideen River Valley. Since the Centre is one of the highest points in all of Clonakilty, saying the view was incredible would be a disservice. When overlooking the hillside we could see a large hill near the Argideen River that was mythologically significant. Tim explained that local legend has it, that long ago a giant would sit on the hill and wash his feet in the river. There was another boulder that was close by but we didn’t see that also had to do with the giant. It was said that a woman was stealing milk from the giant’s cow and in a rage he picked up a giant boulder and crushed her and the cow. These stories were nice because Ireland has a rich mythology and for the first two days we only touched on the more “concrete” history of Ireland. While these might not be factual, they do give us an insight into how a much older generation of Irish people explain the landscape they called home.
Michael Collins Centre- Once we got inside, Tim proceeded to give a presentation on Michael Collins. It was interesting because instead of just starting with either when Michael Collins was born or first joined IRA, Tim started with the Battle of the Big Cross. The Battle of the Big Cross was fought on June 19, 1798 in Munster between the United Irishmen and British troops. Following Tim’s presentation on Michael Collins, we looked at the different artifacts and documents on display. These artifacts included items such as Michael Collins’ briefcase and authentic documents with people’s signatures from this time period. After perusing the artifacts at the Centre, Adriana Avila said, “I thought it was cool that they had many original signatures from people like the past president of Ireland, Eamon de Valera.” Much like Adriana, the class was very intrigued with the different artifacts.
The Michael Collins Memorial: The Michael Collins Memorial was placed relatively close to where Collins was shot. Here Tim discussed and pointed out where the shooting took place and how it was all about timing. If Michael Collins was to have come down the road at any other time the events could have played out completely differently. He helped us to understand where each person present at the event was at the time of the shooting.
As Shanna Nollette reflected back on our visit to the memorial, she expressed, “the weather changed as the day went on and it seemed to fit with what we were talking about. When we arrived at the ambush site both the gloomy weather and the mournful place made the mood of the moment feel somber.” The serendipitous nature of the weather was like the perfect movie score, subtly adding a new layer to what we were experience while also having a major emotional impact.
Goodbye Tim; Hello Castletownbere: After visiting the Michael Collins Memorial, Tim departed from the group. The class began their trip to the next hotel, the Beara Coast Hotel in Castletownbere. Due to unforeseen road closures, the journey to our hotel took longer than expected. Once we arrived at the hotel, we had a little bit of down time before we had a class dinner at the hotel.
At dinner we had a three course meal with the tastiest of deserts. Since Castletownbere is a coastal town, known primarily for its white fish, our dinner options mainly consisted of seafood. Another subtle way you could tell that we were very close to the water were the many brightly colored boats that lined the marina right outside the hotel.