Friday, 22 April 2011

S is for the Skibbereen Heritage Centre

When I was in Ireland in 2008, my West Cork cousins were kind enough to take me to into Skibbereen town to visit the Skibbereen Heritage Centre

The Centre has a Great Famine Commemoration Exhibition.  As you probably know, the Irish famine in the 1840s, known as the Great Hunger, hit West Cork particularly hard.  To quote the Centre's website:
From newspaper accounts of the time, Skibbereen was depicted as being symbolic of the destitution and hardship caused by the failure of the potato crop. Between 8,000 and 10,000 unidentified souls are buried in the Famine graveyard at Abbeystrewery near Skibbereen.
In addition to helping to teach people how our West Cork ancestors lived and died, the Centre provides assistance with genealogical studies.  When I visited, a lovely lady found and copied the Griffith's Valuation and 1901 Irish Census forms for my Moynihan and Leahy ancestors.  Today we're lucky to be able to access them free online.  The Centre also holds parish registers for a number of West Cork Roman Catholic parishes, alas not Schull, and will do lookups.

The Skibbereen Heritage Centre website provides a variety of information, including the following searchable databases:  Loan Fund Database, Graveyard Database, and Townland Database.  There are also links to resources, genealogical or not.

I would encourage you to visit the Heritage Centre if you're in West Cork.  If you're not, and have West Cork heritage, check out the Centre's website.

Before I go, let me share with you what made me do a double-take on leaving the Skibbereen Heritage Centre.

OK, I realise that seeing a blue Honda Civic isn't surprising, even one this old.  Look at the sticker on the hatch, above the lights on the left:
Barrie Honda.  Now Barry is a common Irish name.  Barry's Tea is very popular.  But "Barrie" isn't in Ireland.  It is in Ontario.  I recognised the sticker, because I'd seen it on Hondas owned by my family members, in Ontario, not West Cork.  I still wasn't sure that this car was from Barrie, Ontario till I looked more closely at the steering wheel.  Look.  Left hand drive as opposed to the cars on either side.

Why on earth there was a car from Barrie Honda in the parking lot of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre in West Cork!  Any guesses?

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