Going back in time to remember Lusitania

Members of the Cobh Animation Team and members of the Coal Quay Shawlies, Cork, boarding the train at Kent Station, Cork, enroute to Belfast to attend a launch of the Lusitania Centenary Commemoration. Picture: Denis Minihane

Rail commuters standing on platforms at Kent Station, Cork, could have been forgiven for thinking they’d gone back in time yesterday as several people milled around in period dress.

They included members of the Cobh Animation Team, a group which specialises in giving visitors to their town a sense of what it was like to be present when the ill-fated Titanic’s made its last port of call in 1912. Their dress had been slightly modernised, up to 1915, as they were off to Belfast to launch year-long commemorations to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania by a German U-boat.

The journey was paid for by Iarnród Éireann with their ‘Journey’s on us’ initiative. They were accompanied by troubadour Jimmy Crowley, the Coal Quay Shawlies, and Cork County mayor Alan Coleman.

“The Lusitania centenary commemorations in May of 2015 in Cork Harbour will be an international event, with thousands of visitors already booked to be in Cobh on that day to pay their respect, including President Higgins,” said Cobh Animation Team leader Claire Cullinane. “Thousands of others will join us through radio and TV coverage from the UK and USA.

“The Cobh Lusitania Commemoration Committee are working on unique experiences for those who wish to share this moment in history with us. The people of Cobh were the heroes of the day risking life and limb to save and salvage what they could from the sinking ship.

“They will be remembered in an evening ceremony. It is so important to bring about an awareness of this event and the effect it had in bringing America into World War One.”

The liner, en route from New York to Liverpool, was torpedoed on Friday, May 7, 1915, around 18km off the Old Head of Kinsale.

In total, 1,198 passengers and crew died in the disaster and a number of them are buried in Cobh.

Links between Belfast and Cobh tourist groups have been strengthened since the Titanic centenary commemoration three years ago and the Cork group are hoping many people living north of the border will travel down for their events.

They were greeted in Belfast City Hall by its lord mayor Nichola Mallon. The Cobh Animation Team will also participate at Holiday World at the RDS today and tomorrow to encourage even more visitors to the harbour for the May 7 events.

On that day, the Cunard Line will send the Queen Victoria to Cobh on a special voyage to commemorate the Lusitania sinking.

While May 7 is penciled in as the biggest day for commemorations in the town, events will actually get underway on February 1.

Events will start with the ringing of the bells at St Colman’s Cathedral at 5pm, followed an hour later by a recital on the promenade and local children will read out the names of 198 passengers buried in a nearby cemetery.


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