Ireland’s new President Michael D Higgins has told the families of Titanic victims that their memories will always be cherished.
President Higgins addressed a gathering of 5,000 people at a national commemoration service in Cobh, 100 years after the doomed liner departed Irish waters for America.
Many of those in attendance are related to the impoverished Irish who drowned in the tragedy as they sought a new life in the United States.
The commemoration service was held at the main promenade in Cobh, a hundred years to the day since 123 passengers left in a small boat to board the ill-fated Titanic. Sadly, just 44 of those who embarked at Cobh, then Queenstown, survived.
“We remember with respect all those who died on the Titanic and the thousands more whose lives were devastated by the loss of their loved ones in the Atlantic,” said President Higgins.
“We reflect on what it teaches us about the inherent fragility of human life in the face of nature.
“Time may have dimmed the harrowing grief caused to the bereaved after some 1,500 people were lost to the icy waters 100 years ago. These victims still occupy a place in our hearts.”
The Irish Independent newspaper spoke to some of the relatives of those who drowned.
Middleton Mayor Mary Woods remembered her uncle Jeremiah Burke who was just 19 when he was lost.
“I think of my father all day today and finding his brother was drowned in the Titanic and his cousin. You wonder what they were thinking when it all happened,” said Woods.
“It’s a very sad day. You keep thinking back.”
Burke travelled as a third class passenger along with his cousin Nora Hegarty (18) who also perished.
Hegarty’s grand-niece Helen Murphy told the paper: “It’s a very poignant story and also so tragic. Here they were boarding one of the finest vessels ever built and it came to such a sorry end.”
The national commemoration tribute was followed by an ecumenical service and a recital by the St Coleman’s Cathedral 49-bell carillon.