Irish President Michael D. Higgins will be in Cobh, Cork this Thursday, May 7th to mark the centenary of the sinking of RMS Lusitania off the coast of Cork on May 7th 1915.
The Lusitania was only 11 miles off the coast of Ireland when a torpedo fired from a German U-boat made a direct hit. The ship sunk in 15 minutes. Almost 1,200 died.
President Higgins will be joined by British ambassador Dominick Chilcott, American ambassador Kevin O’Malley, Germany’s ambassador Matthias Hopfner and Irish Defense Minister Simon Coveney for the solemn occasion.
The Cunard Queen Victoria ‘Lusitania Remembered’ themed cruise, which is arriving in Cobh at 7am that morning with 2,300 passengers many of which are descendants of Lusitania victims, will sound a whistle at 2.10pm to mark the moment the Lusitania was hit by a torpedo.
The ceremony will also include a minute silence, blessings and hymns, and a wreath laying ceremony by President Higgins and the British, German and US ambassadors at the Lusitania Monument in Town Square. This monument epitomises the efforts made by people to rescue survivors, recover bodies and comfort the bereaved.
Earlier that morning at 10am, a special commemorative mass will be held in St Colman’s Cathedral Cobh for relatives of those who died in the tragedy, those involved in the rescue efforts and relatives of survivors. This will be followed by an informal gathering in Cobh Parish Centre to sign a special book of remembrance.
A graveyard ceremony will take place at 11.45am, where there will be a wreath laying ceremony and unveiling of new glass headstones at the graves of Lusitania victims.
At 9.15pm, a Flotilla of work boats, fishing boats and pleasure craft sail from Roche’s Point towards Cobh, re-enacting the rescue efforts and symbolising the return to Cobh on 7th May 1915 of boats filled with victims and survivors. Searchlights and white lights will provide a poignant and memorable spectacle from many varied vantage points, visible to local communities along the Cork coastline.
As part of this Procession of Light ceremony, a boat carrying the Cunard Flag will come ashore & the Lusitania Monument in the town square will be lit. Minister Simon Coveney TD will also attend an official ceremony with County Mayor Cllr Alan Coleman the same day from 1.30-4pm in the Old Head. The commemoration will include an ecumenical prayer service followed by a wreath laying ceremony with County Mayor Cllr Alan Coleman, Minister Simon Coveney TD, Michael Dow, the grandson of Lusitania Captain Dow, Alfred Vanderbilt III, on behalf of the crew and passengers of the Lusitania, and key organisers. A plaque will also be presented by a group of 100 descendants from the US.
Minister Coveney will then officially open the restored Old head signal tower and the associated flag and ball signal mast, as a Lusitania Museum.
At 5pm the Minister will meet the descendants of the 1915 jury of the Lusitania inquest, which will be re-enacted by the Kinsale College Drama Students at the Kinsale Museum. The public can view this re-enactment at a commemoration ceremony in Saint Multose Church the following evening May 8th.
Cobh, Kinsale, the Old Head and Courtmacsherry are the four coastal communities in Co. Cork that are commemorating the Lusitania centenary, entitled Lusitania100 Cork, in association with Cork County Council. The events are supported by Cork County Council, the Dept. of Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Arts, and Port of Cork.