Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cobh: Titanic Connections and Ireland's First Female Pharmacist

Interior of Wilson's Pharmacy
A trip to Cobh in search of Titanic history uncovers a unique piece of Ireland's scientific heritage.

On this day 100 years ago, 123 passengers left Cobh (then Queenstown) in Co. Cork, Ireland to join the Titanic which was moored in Cork Harbour. So began the final journey across the Atlantic which was to end in disaster.

That tragedy has been marked across the globe this week as we approach the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking.

Earlier in the week, Communicate Science took a visit to Cobh to mark the anniversary. We visited the new Titanic Experience housed in the former White Star Line offices - the very building the Titanic passengers would have walked through and viewed the original White Star pier - badly in need of repair.

If you visit Cobh, Titanic Experience is worth a visit. It is just that; a real experience of life on board and the tragedy that occurred. If you're into the more detailed nitty-gritty of the tragedy, a visit to the nearby Cobh Heritage Centre is highly recommended.

White Star Pier, Cobh
However, while in Cobh, my interest was peaked by a distinctly scientific part of the town's heritage.

Just along the seafront from the Titanic memorial is Wilson's Pharmacy, which has been serving the people of Queenstown, Cobh and the visiting ships for over 100 years.

Opened in 1908 by John and Christina Wilson, it is remarkable that Christina Wilson was the first female pharmacist in Ireland.

Christina (nee Jessop) was born in Dublin in 1879, trained in Furlong's Chemist and was the first female pharmacist to qualify in Ireland in 1900. She went on to work in the South Dublin Union (now Saint James' Hospital) and it was there she met a young pharmacist from Cork who she married.

The couple returned to John's native Cobh and set up the family pharmacy at 18 West Beach. Three of their children, Jasper, John and Maura became pharmacists.

The pharmacy is now owned by Therese Wilson, granddaughter of the original owners.

The shop supplied ships of the White Star Line and, most likely, passengers aboard the Titanic. Much of the original shop fittings are still in place. As a piece of scientific heritage, it's a real find. Its connection with Ireland's first female pharmacist makes it even more impressive.


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