An essay on Spike Island written by St. Aloysius College student Laura Delaney has taken the top prize in a competition organised by Cobh Tourism. The winning entry was superbly written, well illustrated and referenced and took examples from the London Dungeons, Cork City Gaol and Bunratty to outline a vision for Spike Island. Laura was presented with a Panasonic Lumix camera by members of Cobh Tourism just before Christmas.
During the autumn school term, Cobh Tourism chairman, Hendrick Verwey gave a thirty minute presentation on Tourism to the Transition year students in Cobh Community College, Colaiste Muire and St. Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill.
The presentation outlined a brief history of Cobh and the town’s former employers, explained what tourism is, how important it is to the Irish economy and the reasons why tourists visit Ireland, Cork and Cobh. The slide show presentation was colourful and entertaining and got the students thinking about Tourism as a career choice and how tourism can be further developed in Cobh and the surrounding areas.
Each student was asked to write an essay on one of a range of topics that challenged them to think about developing new facilities and attractions in both East Cork and Cobh in particular. The topics ranged from creating a New Festival, Event or Sporting activity to the building of a new Hotel in Cobh. Other topics included the unlocking of the Tourism potential of existing places or buildings, the future development of Spike Island, the unearthing of alternative tourism uses for agricultural land and the creation of themed weekends in Cobh’s Hotels.
The essays submitted had many ideas that included a new equestrian event, new festivals, a new hostel for the former Methodist church in Cobh, a Titanic Hotel, a fabulously themed weekend centred on Fota House and multiple entries on the development of Spike Island as a Tourist attraction.
Presenting the prize, Mr. Verwey commended the students on their ideas, literary skills and presentation and hoped that the Tourism presentation and competition will become an integral part of the TYO programme each year.
Laura’s essay is below.
I have chosen to look at Spike island as a potential tourist attraction. It’s located in the centre of Cobh harbour. It is steeped in history and already has many facilities on the island. The Cork Harbour island houses a former prison and has a historical legacy stretching back to the 7th century. I think with a bit of hard work we can really make this pull in boatloads of tourists. My idea in a nutshell is to combine the prison with the disused houses on the island and use them to form a place that one could walk through and learn about the history of, while seeing reconstructions.
My idea is similar to that seen in the London dungeons where live actors, shows, rides and interactive special effects ensure everyone who visits has an amazing experience. The London dungeon experience portrays the stories of Jack the Ripper, the Great Fire of London, torture and the plague. It also has two scary rides which people can get on and travel through the dungeons while getting a thrill at the same time. In London the Dungeons are a huge tourist attraction and I feel if we create something similar on Spike island we can also have a great attraction.
My idea is also similar to the Cork city jail experience but on a bigger scale. The exhibition on Spike could not only portray what life was like in the jail but also included could be a portrayal of life in the town. In the Cork city gaol the cells are furnished with life-size figures and realistic sound effects. There are also fascinating exhibitions and a spectacular sound and image presentation which all tell the social history and contrasting lifestyles of 19th Century Cork and why some people turned to crime.
I also think that we could have boat rides out on the shallow waters of Spike in old-fashioned boats that people could choose to go on at the end of the tour. We could also have a souvenir shop and restaurant situated at the end of the tour to entice people to spend more money. There would have to be a small admission fee (roughly twenty euro per adult) but as it would be a year-round attraction it should make good money. We could also have ghost tours of a basement or of certain parts of the prison. Visitor participation is a must for any good attraction. They may be called upon for help in a live show or there could be rides for children and maybe electronic quizzes at the end for adults with a small prize for anyone who gets all the questions right. There must also be a lot of opportunities for photographs as there’s nothing some tourists like better then to take photographs.
My idea is that people get a boat to the island from Cobh where they immediately enter a building and receive an audio tour or tour guide on payment of the admission fee. They then leave through the opposite side, where they first walk through the town (a particular path will be made) which will contain statues and models of events that happened on the island and the way of life of people living on the island in the past. Then they will be lead to the prison where there will be models of prisoners. After this they will go to a hall where pictures, films and information will be on show to the visitors. Also during certain times there should be a live show, like what happens in Bunratty castle, that runs through the history of Spike island. Finally visitors will leave through the souvenir shop and the restaurant back to where they started to get a boat back to Cobh. All of this entertainment and shops can be contained in the fort that is currently there.
Accommodation should still be available in the prison as this is another money-making attraction. There should be quite a lot of people working on Spike to show people around. It shouldn’t be hard to find people to employ due to the recession. The restaurant needn’t be a restaurant it could just be a cafe depending on how much money there is to spend. Some of the town houses shouldn’t be renovated so people can see what they actually looked like before the attraction arrived.
Spike island has so much history with religion, the prison, the military and being used as a treaty port that I think this attraction would bring in huge numbers of people, even from local towns such as Cobh and Midleton, as most people don’t know anything about it’s history. When big cruise liners come in a lot of people don’t want to go too far from Cobh but at the same time they want to go on a day trip and I think a trip to Spike island would be just what a lot of people would be looking for.
To conclude I feel that Spike island is the best place to put a tourist attraction in Cobh and if it’s done correctly there is a market for it. I think holding onto all the history of Spike is very important and so an attraction like the one explained above would be perfect.
History of Spike island available at www.passagewestmonkstown.ie/spike-island.asp
Information on the London dungeons available on www.thedungeons.com
Information on Cork city gaol available on http://www.corkcitygaol.com