This May four coastal communities in County Cork are coming together to host a series of commemorative events, entitled Lusitania100 Cork, to mark the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German U-boat off the coast of Cork, during World War I. The Lusitania was en route to Liverpool from New York when it sank killing 1,201 people.
Kinsale, The Old Head, Cobh, and Courtmacsherry in County Cork, in association with Cork County Council, will pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in the 1915 catastrophe and remember the gallant efforts of their ancestors who responded with great courage and compassion to rescue survivors and recover the dead in ordinary fishing boats and lifeboats. These communities witnessed first-hand the trauma and heartbreak of the disaster.
The Old Head of Kinsale is the point from which the Lusitania took her final bearing, on May 7, 1915, and is the most prominent accessible point of land to the ship’s final resting place, which is just over 11 miles due south of the Old Head Lighthouse.
The old British Royal Navy Watch Tower of the Seven Heads peninsula in Courtmacsherry Bay is the closest point of land to the Lusitania wreck and is also home to the oldest RNLI Lifeboat Station in Ireland, which was instrumental in the aftermath of the disaster.
The mass grave at the Old Church Graveyard on the Great Island of Cobh became the final resting place of the dead. There are remains that to this day still have never been named or claimed.
The commemorations for Lusitania100 Cork are vast and will include wreath-laying ceremonies with President Michael D. Higgins in Cobh, and Minister Simon Coveney at the Lusitania Monument on the Old Head, both at 2.10 pm on May 7th, the time the German torpedo struck the ship's hull.
A number of re-enactments of the tragedy will also take place. Courtmacsherry will recreate the call to service of the RNLI lifeboat, while Cobh will remember their rescue efforts with a twilight flotilla of work boats, fishing boats and pleasure craft, each illuminated with white lights. Cobh will also re-enact the mass funeral procession, and Kinsale town is recreating the aftermath inquest with descendants of the 1915 Jury.
The Old Head Signal Tower (and the associated flag-and-ball signalling system) is being restored and transformed into a Lusitania Museum, with plans to exhibit artifacts recovered from the wreck. This will be officially opened on May 7. Eventually the museum will also host an iconic piece of sculpture with the names of all who were on board the Lusitania on May 7, 1915. A new Lusitania Exhibition will also open at the Queenstown Story, at Cobh Heritage Centre from March 25.
In addition, all four communities will host Lusitania-related lectures, talks, photographic exhibitions, memorabilia, street fairs, and centenary commemoration dinners. A free open air tribute concert encompassing music from Cork’s Harbour will also take place on Cobh’s Promenade on May 7, a perfect vantage point to view the twilight flotilla.
Kinsale History Society and Port of Cork have both launched schools initiatives, encouraging primary, and secondary students to study Lusitania and submit Lusitania projects, essays, and art for display at the Temperence Hall, in Kinsale town center and Cobh Maritime Building over the commemoration week.For more information on Lusitania100 Cork see the schedule below or visit www.visitcorkcounty.com/Lusitania100Cork, @LusitaniaCork on Twitter, or @Lusitania100Cork on Facebook.
Here’s a 2013 BBC documentary on the sinking: