A trip back in time for commemoration

A historic pharmacy that served passengers on board the great ocean liners which called to Cobh in Co Cork at the turn of the 20th century has stepped back in time to commemorate the sinking of Titanic.

A historic pharmacy that served passengers on board the great ocean liners which called to Cobh in Co Cork at the turn of the 20th century has stepped back in time to commemorate the sinking of Titanic.

Dispensing bottles and jars from the early 1900s have been dusted down, and strange potions, powders, and ointments from yesteryear have been put on display on the shelves of Wilson’s Pharmacy as part of the town’s week-long Titanic 2012 centenary commemorative events.

President Michael D Higgins will today attend a national tribute to mark exactly 100 years since the doomed liner sailed from Cobh.

Final arrangements were being made last night to accommodate the thousands expected in the town.

Cobh was bustling with visitors yesterday, and Wilson’s Pharmacy staff, dressed in period costume, were swamped with curious visitors.

“A lot of younger people have never seen some of the items before and a lot of the older people would remember them,” said pharmacy owner Therese Wilson.

She is the third generation to run the family business. Her grandfather John Wilson from Cobh, began his apprenticeship in Lester’s Pharmacy in St Patrick’s Street. After qualifying, he worked in Belfast and Dublin, where he met Christina Jesop.

She had trained at Furlong’s Chemist and qualified as a pharmacist in 1900 — the first female pharmacist to qualify in the south of Ireland. She worked in the apothecary for the South Dublin Union — now St James’s Hospital.

The couple married and returned to Cobh where they founded Wilson’s Pharmacy on West Beach St in 1907, specialising in “family medicines, toilet articles and select perfumery”.

Three of their children, Jasper, John, and Maura, became pharmacists. Their granddaughter, Therese Wilson Downey, runs the shop today.

Among the items on display this week are ledgers from 1910 to 1918 showing customer orders for passengers travelling on White Star and Cunard Company ships which called on Cobh.

The orders were forwarded by telegram to Wilson’s, who prepared the items, such as tooth brushes, soap and combs, for delivery to the ships once they dropped anchor in Cork Harbour.

Other items on display include:

* Jars of iodine and zinc ointment;

* Gentian anti-septic;

* Hippo wine;

* Clearsight solution;

* Compound liquor; powder;

* Epsom salts.

Annette Finucane, who has worked in the pharmacy for almost 20 years, spent most of yesterday posing for photographs with visitors.

“People were doing up their shop windows for the week so we said we’d go that little bit further,” she said.

“People do take a second look when they arrive in to the shop. We’re just trying to get in to the spirit of things.”

There were long queues outside the Titanic Experience visitor centre again yesterday as people flocked to visit.

Meanwhile, the President is due to inspect a naval guard of honour at 2pm today, before an ecumenical service at St Colman’s Cathedral concludes with a recital of the cathedral’s 49-bell carillon.

Bonfires will blaze on headlands and islands along the south-west coast this evening to coincide with the actual time the Titanic passed them this day 100 years ago.

The last fire will be lit at 6.12pm on Dursey Island — the last land Titanic passengers would have seen before the disaster.



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