Lusitania remembered in Courtmacsherry, Co Cork

Locals re-enact community response to sinking of the British ocean liner

Members of the Cobh re-enactment group at the Pageant on Blind Strand, west Cork, before the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat crewmembers re-enacted the trip from Barry Point to the sunken Lusitania 100 years ago. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Members of the Cobh re-enactment group at the Pageant on Blind Strand, west Cork, before the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat crewmembers re-enacted the trip from Barry Point to the sunken Lusitania 100 years ago. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

“Torpedo coming on the starboard side!” – the warning on board the ill-fated RMS Lusitania echoed down the decades yesterday as the response of one Cork community to the tragedy was re-enacted.

The sinking of the Lusitania, which claimed the lives of 1,198, was recalled by the people of Courtmacsherry in a period costume pageant on the beach where the local lifeboat set off on May 7th, 1915.

The crew of the RNLI lifeboat Kweiza Gwilt rowed for more than three hours to make it to the scene of the sinking, 18km of the Old Head of Kinsale, only to find bodies rather than survivors in the water.

A dramatisation of that day, written by local resident Angele Veldman O’Donovan, was acted out by descendants of the original Courtmacsherry lifeboat crew 100 years ago.

Ms Veldman O’Donovan said she wrote the pageant to provide a context for a re-enactment of the journey, when members of RNLI Courtmacsherry will row to the scene on Thursday to lay a wreath.

Original crew

Hundreds gathered at Blind Strand, three miles from Courtmacsherry, and braved squally rain to watch the re-enactment of the Kweiza Gwilt launch when word of the sinking came.

Helen White, whose grandfather, Patsy Flynn, and uncle, Mike Flynn, were among the original crew, played the part of Ciss Crowley, a local woman who recalled how the alarm was raised at 2pm.

“We heard a huge explosion and went outside – it sounded like thunder. Then I saw the ship on the horizon with smoke pouring out,” said Ms White, recalling the words of the local eyewitness.

For Gerard O’Flynn, another grandchild of Patsy Flynn, narrated the parts of U-boat captain Walther Schweiger and his crew. Mr O’Flynn said the pageant was an important moment for Courtmacsherry.

Lifeboat involvement

Lusitania

“When you think of the effort those men made 100 years ago, rowing out for over three hours, only to discover bodies – it would be forgotten about but for events like today, and it’s very moving.”

Mr O’Flynn’s comments were echoed by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who holidays in the area. He pointed out how a small community in rural Ireland had played its part in a global event.

“The whole weekend of commemorative events here show the community spirit is alive and well in Courtmac, and it’s great to see the continuity of tradition involving descendants of the original crew,” Mr Martin said.

“It’s great to see a rural community playing its part by remembering its link to an international global event, which was a key turning point in World War I and changed the course of world history.”