Titanic tribute of fire and water

Symbolic fires blazed on headlands and islands along the Cork coast last night marking a timeline of the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage across the Atlantic a century ago.

It followed a solemn national ceremony earlier in Cobh — the doomed liner’s last port of call — during which President Michael D Higgins honoured the memory of the 1,514 victims of the 1912 tragedy.

Hundreds of people took part in the lighting of ceremonial fires and solemn remembrance ceremonies at Old Head, Seven Heads, Galley Head, Toe Head, Cape Clear, Crookhaven, Mizen Head, Sheep’s Head, Bere Island, Garranes, and Crow Head.

The Lehanmore Community Co-Op Society lit the final fire on Dursey Island at 6.12pm to mark the Titanic’s last sight of land — the most southwesterly point in Ireland.

At a quayside ceremony in Cobh earlier, close to where more than 100 Irish passengers boarded ferries to Titanic 100 years ago yesterday, President Higgins said the story of the tragedy reaches across the generations.

“Time may have dimmed the harrowing grief caused to the bereaved. But, 100 years on, those victims still occupy a special place in our hearts,” he said.

“We best honour their memory by telling the story of the Titanic as truthfully as we can, respecting its historical complexity, acknowledging that it captures the full spectrum of human experience and human fallibility, and making a reflection of what it tells us — of the power of the sea; of the price of hubris; of the human cost of the class system; and of the universal right to safety.”

Titanic arrived in Cork Harbour at 11.30am on Thursday, Apr 11, 1912, and dropped anchor off Queenstown.

Tenders ferried passengers from the now derelict White Star pier out to the massive ship anchored near Roche’s Point. It set sail at 1.30pm and struck an iceberg just before midnight on Apr 14.

Of the 2,200 on board, 1,514 people perished. It remains one of the world’s worst peacetime maritime disasters.

Thousands lined the streets of Cobh for the national tribute. Following an ecumenical prayer service, the bells of St Colman’s Cathedral pealed across Cork Harbour.

The President boarded the LÉ Eithne for a national fleet review of the LÉ Aisling, LÉ Niamh, LÉ Aoife, and the HMS Mersey, which were anchored just off shore.

The LÉ Roisin also laid a wreath and discharged flares off the Fastnet Rock later, in a joint ceremony with the Commission of Irish Lights.

Then last night, the Titanic Centenary Concert: An Irish Connection, premiered in John F Kennedy Park in Wexford.

The outdoor gala concert tells through music, narration, dance and song the story of emigration and the Titanic’s connection with Ireland, and runs nightly until the weekend.

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