Emergency stabilisation works have just been completed on the historic structure at the White Star Line building in Cobh, Co Cork.
Known locally as Heartbreak Pier, the iconic landmark was the last point of land contact for passengers who boarded Titanic, from the port then known as Queenstown. However, the pier’s historic importance runs far deeper. Originally constructed in the mid-19th century, it has been estimated that in excess of one million people used the pier as their departure point to emigration ships.
It is believed the pier will be 150 years old next year.
In recent years, the structure fell into significant disrepair. During recent storms, many pieces of the pier broke away and a structural engineering report stated it was “in danger of imminent collapse”.
Fortunately, the project team was able to retrieve a number of the pieces and use them to bolster up the structure.
Ownership of the pier was unclear for a number of years. However, after a lengthy process the title owner was identified and it was finally purchased in 2014 by Titanic Experience Cobh Limited.
A joint venture between Port of Cork, Cork County Council, and Titanic Experience was initiated to stabilise the structure and prevent its demise.
Gillen Joyce, MD of Titanic Experience, said he was “delighted with the commitment of the local people to save the pier,” and thanked Denis Healy of the Port of Cork and County Council chief executive Tim Lucey CEO for their efforts to preserve it for future generations.
The design of the stabilisation works was the brainchild of marine engineering expert Paul Collins of Malachy Walsh and Partners Consulting Engineers.
Mr Gillen said the pier was in such a fragile state the stabilisation works alone could have caused its collapse.
The design incorporates new steel piles that have been placed alongside the existing old piles that had collapsed. They are visually unobtrusive and do not detract from the overall look of the pier.
New hidden angle connections have been installed to the joints, and new bolts to match existing connections as far as is possible have also been provided. None of the existing connections or bolts has been removed as part of the process.
Mr Gillen said the restructuring works themselves were carried out by a team from L & M Keating Ltd who skillfully tackled it during atrocious weather last month.
“The project was managed by Henry Kingston of Port of Cork and by John Forde of Cork County Council. This project was also supported by all of the local councillors, TD David Stanton and Minister Simon Coveney.
“We in the Titanic Experience are very grateful to all who helped with phase one of the project, to retain its history and provide a starting point for its preservation for future generations to enjoy.
“It will act as a focal point for the emigration story from Cork and Ireland, and will be available to future generations of the diaspora who wish to retrace their family history,” Mr Gillen said.
He revealed that plans are being drawn up for the second phase of the project which will transform it into a significant harbour landmark.
It is proposed to go for planning permission in the next few months for a new interactive viewing platform over the existing structure.