Lusitania anniversary to be marked by lifeboat re-enactment

Local rowers to replicate rescue efforts to commemorate 100th anniversary of tragedy

The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania off Co Cork is to be commemorated next month when a team of rowers replicate the efforts of a lifeboat crew to save survivors.

The crew of the RNLI Courtmacsherry Lifeboat Keiza Gwilt rowed for over three hours from Barry’s Head to beyond the Old Head of Kinsale on May 7th 1915 to search for survivors from the Lusitania.

But with the Cunard liner sinking within just 18 minutes, some of 1,198 of the 1,959 passengers and crew perished and the lifeboat’s mission became one of recovering bodies from the sea.

Now the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat Lusitania Commemoration Committee is preparing to re-enact the trip and a crew has been in training for several months to row a similar type lifeboat to the Keiza Gwilt.


Jim Crowley of the committee explained the lifeboat is due from Cornwall on Wednesday to be crewed a team of 15 local rowers.

“We are going to replicate the original crew - 12 rowers, two cox and a bowman - the original Kwiza Gwilt was coxed by Timothy Keohane whose son, Patrick went to the South Pole with Capt Scott.”

Mr Crowley revealed that the original crew contained a father and son, John and Jerry Murphy and on Sunday on RTÉ Radio 1, John Bowman played a fascinating archive interview with Jerry Murphy.

“We came to the place where we thought she went down ... there were ashes on top of the water and then there were corpses all around - they had no lifebelts on them, a lot of them.

“It was after two o’clock when we left here (Barry’s Point) and it was between four and five when we got there, we were stopped on there, we were the first there and we started picking up the corpses.

“There two drifters there, small steamboats with nets, and we stayed there until they would take no more (bodies),” said the late Mr Murphy in an interview with Donnacha O Dulaing over 20 years ago.

Mr Crowley explained that the Courtmacsherry commemorations which run from May 1st until May 4th will feature a pageant re-enactment on Blind Strand of how the crew were scrambled.

Then on the actual anniversary on May7th, the RNLI Courtmacsherry Lifeboat, Frederick Storey Cockburn, will journey to the scene to lay a wreath in memory of all those who perished.

The Courtmacsherry event is just one of several commemorations being held in Cork to remember the Lusitania tragedy. Further information can be found here.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times