Standing here at the quayside in Cobh, on a cold yet clear evening it is not hard to let one’s imagination start to wander. This pier was not always in such a regrettable state of repair; once it stood strong and proud, as feet, countless numbers of shuffling feet trod its boards. From piers such as this, passengers waited for the ferry to take them out to the deeper water to embark on to the giant liners; SS America, the Celtic and of course the Titanic and dozens more.
What must the emotions have been like for those huddled in the cold as they waited? Sorrow at leaving behind loved ones, fear of the voyage and what lay on the other side, yet excitement too at the possibility of a new beginning and the dream of a life free to make one’s own choices and decisions. In 1931 James Truslow Adams wrote a definition of the ‘American Dream’, that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
Of course we have a new context with which to see all this. History (as is often its want) is repeating itself. Many, far too many of our young people are emigrating, not from cold quaysides but from shiny, air-conditioned terminals, not across the sea but through the air. I’m sure though, that for many the emotions are just the same as those of their fellow countrymen in bygone generations. God be with them.