Ireland calling: 21-gun salute marks the Gathering

Wed, Jan 2, 2013, 00:00

Cork has welcomed the Gathering with a bang – or, to be precise, with 21 of them when the First Southern Brigade of the Army fired a ceremonial salute on Spike Island in Cork Harbour.

If yesterday’s event was any kind of augury for what awaits those visiting Leeside for the Gathering, then it was a good one. And the elements proved more than benign for the 1pm ceremony on the southern side of Fort Mitchell.

The skies cleared and the sun soared above Crosshaven to cast a glistening sheen northwards across the harbour to Spike Island where the men of the First Brigade Artillery Regiment were ready at their posts to perform the salute.

Visiting warships

Lieut Col Tim Daly of the First Brigade Artillery Regiment explained that the 21-gun salute dates from the tradition of visiting warships firing and emptying their guns prior to entering a port to show they were entering in friendship.

And that note of affinity was echoed by Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney when he said he hoped that many of the descendants of 2½ million Irish who emigrated between 1848 and 1950 would return this year for the Gathering.

Given that many of those people who comprise the diaspora had left from Cobh, there was nowhere more suitable than Spike Island in the middle of the harbour to issue an invitation to their ancestors to visit as part of the Gathering, he said.

Mayor of Co Cork Barbara Murray said the county was more than willing to play its part in the Gathering. Already 220 events had been planned throughout the city and county in preparation for welcoming visitors and expatriates to Leeside.

Poignant exhortation

“Anyone thinking of coming home, this is the year to do it. And Cork is a must, with 220 events already pledged; the largest outside of Dublin, with every community from Allihies in the west to Youghal in the east, busy organising events to attract visitors to their area,” she said.

Soprano Cara O’Sullivan – who opened proceedings with a moving rendition of the European Union anthem Ode to Joy – performed an equally impressive version of Percy French’s Paddy Reilly, with its poignant exhortation to an emigrant to “come home”.

Among those who attended were Lord Mayor of Cork John Buttimer and flag officer of the Naval Service Cmdr Mark Mellett.