A series of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania began in Courtmacsherry, Co Cork last night when Defence Minister Simon Coveney officially opened the centenary memorial weekend.
As visitors watched a flyover by an Irish Coast Guard helicopter, a replica of the RNLI Courtmacsherry lifeboat was put on display, bringing to mind the crew of the Lifeboat Keiza Gwilt who rowed for over three hours from Barry’s Head to beyond the Old Head of Kinsale on May 7, 1915, to search for survivors from the Lusitania.Tomorrow, a team of rowers will replicate the heroic efforts of the 1915 lifeboat crew of 12 rowers, two coxwain and a bowman. The original crew included a father and son, John and Jerry Murphy, as well as Timothy Keohane whose son, Patrick, went to the South Pole with arctic explorer Captain Scott.
The Courtmacsherry commemorations, which run until Monday, will feature a re-enactment on Blind Strand of how the crew were scrambled.
On the actual anniversary on May 7, the RNLI Courtmacsherry Lifeboat, Frederick Storey Cockburn, will journey to the scene to lay a wreath.
The main event will be a pageant at Blind Strand in Courtmacsherry tomorrow at 11am, which will recreate events of May 7, 1915.
Produced and directed locally by Angela Veldman O’Donovan, the pageant will commence with narrations detailing the Lusitania’s passage from Liverpool to New York, the torpedo launched by a German U-boat off the coast of Cork, the terror and chaos of the explosions, and the reactions of locals on the mainland.
Many of those performing are direct descendants of the 1915 Courtmacsherry RNLI Lifeboat crew, including brothers Brian and Micheal O’Donovan who will share the coxswain duties for the row. The O’Donovans are direct descendants of Tim Keohane.
Following the narrations, the newly restored Ryder lifeboat from Polperro, UK, built in 1902, similar to the Kezia Gwilt used in the rescue, will be launched by a group of volunteers who will re-enact the call to service and row out to the wreck site.
Other events taking place over the weekend include Lusitania talks by local historians at Blind Strand and Butlerstown, and a series of short stories that will be performed by locals in traditional costumes in local bars, focusing on the personal stories of those with connections to the Lusitania.
A number of exhibitions will also take place in the RNLI Lifeboat Station, the community hall, and at St John’s Church.
Some 1,201 balloons will also be released from 12 schools, from Rosscarbery to Clonakilty to Ballinadee. and also from Courtmacsherry RNLI Station, Barry’s Point and Butlerstown Community Centre, each one bearing the name of a Lusitania victim.
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