So, I was looking through some notes in preparation to write this article, and I found this:
“coldest night yet; glass 34 midnight 8 to 12 South; schooner came ashore at the Gurnett and went to pieces in 20 minutes; all hands lost; oiled my jacket.”
The quote is taken from Irish Mossers and Scituate Harbour Village. I purchased this book at the Scituate Maritime & Irish Mossing Museum. Located at 301 Driftway, this place is a local treasure.
Want to get lost in time? Then make a visit.
My first encounter was an area dedicated to local lifesaving history. It documented the heroics of a volunteer group committed to saving lives. I copied a saying from the wall that read, “You have to go out; you don’t have to come back.” That is the lifesaving motto. Grim, when you think about it.
Many Scituate dwellers are aware of the importance of forebear Daniel Ward and the history of mossing. Moss that resembled the stuff found in Ireland was gathered from the boulders and outcroppings here in Scituate. The moss was laid out and dried in batches. Much of it was placed on the beaches of Sandhills. The extraction from the dried material is called carrageenan. The substance is a vital ingredient in such items as toothpaste, ice cream, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
Extracting carrageenan quickly became a linchpin of industry in Scituate. It was controlled by the Irish. Clearly, this early business model is one of the reasons that Scituate owns the title of the “Most Irish Town in America!”
Another local spot for Irish remembrance is located on Cole Parkway by the bandstand. You can view the impressive stone slab. It is quite imposing! It is a monument to the Easter Uprising. It reads: POBLACHT NA H EIREANN. It is eerie, and I have absolutely no idea what it means.
O.K., I looked it up. Wikipedia says, “The Irish Republic was an unrecognized revolutionary state that declared its independence from the United Kingdom in January, 1919.”
As I stood in front of this tablet and read the further and lengthy inscription, from “The Provisional Government of the Irish Republic to the People of Ireland”, I felt a chill. And it wasn’t from the icy wind off the harbor. This fight was real. These people were real. Their cause was real. And their losses were real.
I have been hearing some murmurings around town about an Irish Heritage Trail, that will highlight memorials or Irish points of interest in several towns. I heard that both the Mossing Museum and the Harbor Monument will be the star features for the Town of Scituate. But what is it?
To find out, I needed a source. Naturally, I turned to the person I lovingly think of as “The Font of all Things Irish.” Otherwise known as my wonderful brother, Vincent Quealy. Turns out, Vinny not only knows about the trail, he is a committee member!
He began with the statement that “All roads lead back to Brenda.” This includes anything to do with the South Shore Historical Irish Trail, as the project is known. He is talking about Brenda O’Connor, a proud Scituate resident. (Brenda, if you are reading this, I hope to meet you soon to explore your background, your ideas, and your views). Ms. O’Connor had a vision, and she wouldn’t let go. She saw a motor trail, snaking through nine towns, highlighting a place of Irish historical importance in each setting.
The Trail will be based on “The Wild Atlantic Way”, a successful tourist attraction in Ireland.
Backed emotionally and financially by the Scituate West Cork Sister City Committee with the support of: ( the following taken directly from their website) The Scituate Board of Selectman. The Scituate Chamber of Commerce. The Scituate Historical Society. The Scituate Economic Development Commission. Phew!!! This is the real deal, and it has legs.
Nine South Shore towns comprised of Weymouth, Hingham, Hull, Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth. The towns have received funding from the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Program.
Each town has a designated committee member charged with identifying a point (or points) of interest, to be included in the trail. Vincent’s town is Weymouth. We will see what he has in store for us.
The trail can be accessed at any point. You can follow it from its origin in Weymouth or even reverse the route and begin in Plymouth. Located as it is between Boston and Cape Cod makes the trail an ideal beginning or ending to a Cape Cod vacation.
Or, just take the kids and drive it for a fun day trip. Maps and brochures are in the works. The website will be finalized soon.
Stopping to grab lunch or dinner in any of the towns would be fun. Discovering new stores and attractions you might normally never see will be a plus.
My intrepid Surfman (the formal title of the guy I talked about in the beginning) is still nagging at my imagination. Who was he? How old was he? Was he as taciturn in real life and as cavalier as he was about his journal entry. What was he thinking while on patrol that frigid, lonely night, while patrolling the beach on his lonely watch?
I like to picture him returning home to his cozy cottage. He hangs his recently oiled jacket on a peg. He refreshes the dying fire. He lights his pipe contentedly. Then he takes a long draught of mellow whiskey. For medicinal purposes.
Sighing, he moves slowly to bed, his bones weary. He gives his wife a loving cwtch (a hug in Welsh. I just think this sounds more rugged). He then falls into a dreamless sleep.
Just another remarkable day for a Scituate Surfman.
Suzie Quealy Ward is a Scituate resident who writes a bimonthly column in celebration of the people places, and things that make Scituate special on behalf of the Scituate Visitors Center. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Henry Ward