US sailors lend a hand at Spike Island

Plans to turn Spike Island into an Alcatraz-style attraction would certainly prove a magnet for Irish-Americans, according to US sailors who visited the historic site yesterday.

US sailors lend a hand at Spike Island

Around 25 personnel from the Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf volunteered to carry out work on the island to help the initiative by Cork County Council and local tourism groups.

Ensign John Stevens, an electrical officer on the warship, said he was very impressed with Spike Island’s potential.

The officer, whose mother’s family have Limerick roots, comes from Charlestown, South Carolina, which has a similar type of fort which is a huge tourist attraction.

“Fort Sumter is where the first shots were fired in the American Civil War (April 12, 1861) and it is of very similar design to the fort on Spike Island,” he said. “When our ship was pulling into Cobh last Saturday I read about the place (Spike Island) and its history and it was intriguing.”

He believes plans to turn it into a tourist attraction would prove a hit with Irish-Americans.

“From a tourist perspective it will be a very interesting site and I’m sure it will garner a lot of popularity.”

The men undertook some painting and landscaping work on the island.

“We like to give something back to ports we visit to express our thanks for their hospitality,” he said.

The ship, which has 30 officers and 300 enlisted men, hosted a party onboard last weekend for government officials, Irish military personnel and US embassy staff.

“Our sailors are enjoying some well-deserved R&R as we’ve been at sea for quite some time. They’ve gone on tours to the Jameson distillery in Midleton, to Waterford Crystal as well as to Dublin and Limerick. We’re having a really nice time and the people are very hospitable,” the officer said.

The USS Leyte Gulf is scheduled to leave Cobh on Friday.

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