‘Lusitania’ victims to be remembered at Co Cork ceremony

Names of all crew and passengers included on bronze sculpture at Old Head of Kinsale

Almost 2,000 passengers and crew who travelled on the ill-fated RMS Lusitania which was sunk off the Co Cork coast in the first World War will be remembered this weekend when a sculpture bearing their names will be unveiled at a memorial garden overlooking the scene of the tragedy.

The idea for the memorial began in 2010 when the Lusitania Museum and Old Head Signal Tower Heritage group was founded by a number of locals at the Old Head of Kinsale overlooking the spot where the Lusitania was torpedoed by German submarine U-20 on May 7th, 1915.

And now, seven years on, the group is about to see its plan come to fruition with the unveiling of the specially commissioned piece of sculpture by Cork artists Liam Lavery and Eithne Ring, who have faithfully recorded all 1,962 names of all those who sailed on the Lusitania on its final voyage.

The heritage group’s chairman, JJ Hayes, said the 20m-long memorial symbolises a wave and was cast in bronze with the names of both survivors and victims listed alphabetically as it twists and turns around a special sunken memorial garden.

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Plaques

"The names are standing proud on the plaques and are easily read – crew and passengers are listed separately and after each name there is either a cross if they perished or a lifebuoy if they survived and there are also panels telling the full story of the Lusitania tragedy," said Mr Hayes.

The monument will be formally unveiled by Minister for Housing Simon Coveney at 2.10pm on Sunday – the exact time and date 102 years ago that the first torpedo hit the Lusitania with the loss of 1,198 lives from among the 1,962 on board, he said.

About 30 descendants of survivors and victims are travelling from the United States for the event and among them is Jonathan Kiger from Atlanta in Georgia, whose great-grandfather Albert Jackson Byington was among the 764 survivors rescued from the waters off the Old Head of Kinsale.

Speaking from Atlanta, Mr Kiger said: "The sinking of the Lusitania has been linked to the communities of Kinsale and Cobh since that awful day in 1915 but until this memorial there was no central place that identified who was on board Lusitania.

“It means a great deal to me to know my great-grandfather’s name and the names of the others on board Lusitania will be remembered by name from this point forward. Having their names in such a reflective place means whoever visits the area will be able to experience this connection more deeply.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times