Last year I was wondering what the 2016 annual holidays in Ireland could bring as far as Brontë literary links are concerned. I should not have bothered. In Ireland, the country of literary greats, there is always something to be discovered and literary footsteps to trace.
This year, the annual holidays started in Cork/Crosshaven. This was a great opportunity for me to do some more research on the honeymoon trip of Charlotte Brontë and Arthur Bell Nicholls. For a very long time, I have been wondering where Charlotte and Arthur stayed in Cork at the end of their honeymoon. I had already been checking all possible biographies. A lot of information can be found on the other places in Ireland that they visited, such as Dublin, Banagher, Kilkee, Glengariff, Killarney, mostly from letters that Charlotte wrote to her friends, but on Cork not much is known. I became intrigued and wanted to find out more. So, I contacted the Cork archives and Cork library before I travelled to Ireland, and made an appointment to have a look at some of the newspapers of that period. As my husband was out fishing at sea for a whole day I was free to spend my days as I wished, and doing some research at the Library was one way of spending the day. Probably not what you would expect someone to do on their holidays (and I did get a funny look from the people at the B&B where we were staying), but this was my way of having fun indoors on a “soft day in Ireland” (note: for those who do not understand Irish humour, this means a rainy day)! However, the newspapers of July 1854 did not mention anything on Charlotte, as I could have expected. But I was not disappointed and was not yet ready to give up. I had to look at it from another angle. Back in the B&B, while waiting for my husband to return from his fishing trip, by sheer coincidence, I was browsing through a book on Cork describing all streets in Cork city throughout the ages and also mentioning the businesses that were located in the various streets. I found the names and addresses of some hotels and lodging houses that must have been open for business in 1854, when Charlotte was visiting. I decided to spend another day in Cork trying to discover what was left of the “Victorian Cork” that Charlotte may have seen. I even discovered that Charlotte’s idol, William Makepeace Thackeray, stayed in one of the hotels in Cork when he was writing his “Irish Sketch Book”. Many buildings still survive and what I saw and discovered gave me some more ideas on how to proceed with the research on this particular subject. To be continued!!!!
|Some architectural remnants of Victorian Cork|
Next stop on our journey was Connemara on the west coast of Ireland. No Brontë link this time! Following a book I had read on Oscar Wilde’s family in Connemara and Mayo (“Oscar in the Wilds” by Anthony Dudley), I had decided to try and locate one of his family’s haunts in Connemara: the hunting lodge and holiday home ”Illaunroe”(the Gaelic word for” Red Island”). Over the years, having travelled in the Connemara crisscross in all directions, we have become very familiar with the area. We had more or less an idea where to try and find this location, so, with the book in hand, off we went on our discovery tour. It was not the best of days weather-wise, but that did not bother us. The hunting lodge was built by Oscar’s father Sir William Wilde and is located on an “island” (strictly speaking, it is a peninsula) in Lough Fee (near Little Killary). It became the favourite holiday spot for the Wilde family. I had seen some pictures in the book, but I could imagine that it would not be obvious to see it from the main road. Oscar liked to call it ” the little purple island where we children learned to fish and hunt”. We had not too many problems finding the narrow road winding its way around the lake, but as the book mentioned that the house stood “almost in the middle of