Tag Archives: Cobh

Lusitania remembered in Cobh

At about 2 pm on Friday May 7th 1915, the Cunard Ocean liner, RMS Lusitania, was torpedoed by a German U-Boat as she approached Cork Harbour on a voyage from New York to Liverpool. She sank in just 18 minutes off the Old Head of Kinsale, with the loss of 1,198 lives. 764 people were saved and many of these were landed at Cobh, together with many of the dead. 289 bodies were recovered, 189 of whom rest in the graveyard just outside the town.

Part of the impressive monument on Cobh

The monument is also dedicated to those who assisted the survivors and buried the dead.

In the nearby President John F Kennedy Memorial Park is this wall of tiles in memory of survivors and victims who came ashore on that fateful day.

Tiles in memory of the people who landed in Cobh.

At the Old Church Cemetery, are the mass graves – one containing 23 bodies, one holds 52 bodies and the third has 69 bodies. Clear perspex panels are placed on each of the three sites, erected on the centenary of the sinking.

Canadian flags at one of the mass graves.

And some of the 20 individual graves

The Pity of War.

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Postcards from Cobh Co. Cork

Just about a 15 minute drive away is the fascinating town of Cobh, County Cork. It was known in earlier times as Queenstown, then as Cove. The spelling was then changed to the Irish Cobh (‘bh’ in Irish sounds like ‘V’), so pronunciation remained unchanged. This seaport on the southern coast of Ireland features large in the history of our nation. Sitting on what is one of the world’s finest natural harbours, Cobh has witnessed the emigration of millions of Irish whether by transportation to penal colonies, or in search of a better life in the New World. It is a poignant place, where so many of our people last stood on their home soil. My uncle was one of these who left for America from here and the sight of Cobh as they pulled out to sea stayed with him as a sad and tearful memory for decades.

Stark figures indeed!

Stark figures indeed!

Cobh has also figured large in maritime history. Nearby is Haulbowline the base for the Irish Navy and Spike Island with its 18th century star-shaped fort and a former prison.

The beautiful cathedral church of the Diocese of Cloyne stands over the town.

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Designed by Pugin and opened in 1879, St Colman’s is on the site of the old Bridwell. This beautiful building dominates everything around. The spire was added to the structure later and completed in 1915. The largest Carillon  in Ireland and Britain comprising 49 bells is here and following restoration it is now considered one of the best in the world. Cast in Loughborough, England and weighing some 25 tons, the bronze bells were transported from Liverpool to Cobh by courtesy of the British Navy, as no civilian vessels could make such a delivery during World War 1. The bells are not rung with ropes but are played with a keyboard with pedals that move the clappers. I was here at 4 pm which is one of the times when the hour chimes are followed by a tune. It was quite an experience to hear them ring out over the harbour!

Cobh has very steep little lanes leading down to the water’s edge,with colourful houses and quite a nice assortment of buildings.

Way below the imposing spire at the water’s edge is a delightful park, known locally as The Prom. Restored and upgraded several times, it was constructed in 1805 and  renamed Kennedy Memorial Park in the 1980s. I am not sure what connection JFK had with the town.

Cobh famously was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic on her maiden voyage. The old White Star Line offices now house the Titanic Experience Exhibition. It was from here that the 3rd Class passengers embarked, while the 1st and 2nd class passengers embarked from the jetty at the old railway station.  Sadly the historic 3rd class pier has fallen into disrepair. (I have written posts on the TITANIC in the past, links to these are at the end of the post)

But Cobh is associated with another major maritime tragedy. On 7 May 1915, 101 years ago tomorrow, the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania sailing from New York to Liverpool was torpedoed by a German U Boat, off the County Cork coast with the loss of 1,198 lives. Although she sank within 18 minutes of being hit, 761 passengers survived. This incident is considered to be the catalyst for the entry of the USA into the war. In Cobh there is a fine monument commemorating the tragedy where many of the survivors and the dead came ashore.  The monument in the main street is directly in front of the building which was used as a morgue for the dead in 1915.

In the Kennedy Memorial Park there is a wall in remembrance of the survivors of the disaster.

194 of the Lusitania victims rest in three mass graves and 24 individual plots at the local cemetery. The mass graves contain 23 bodies, 52 bodies and 69 bodies respectively, with names of those buried there carved on 3 glass memorials.

These sad memorials are in the very historic graveyard that bears witness to a number of tragedies at sea, with many sailors resting here. It is worthy of a visit to experience some of the history and to marvel at some of the stonemasons craft.

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The Republican Plot

Back in the town, one of the most famous sculptures is dedicated to Annie Moore and her brothers who sailed from Cobh to join their parents in New York. Annie was the first person to pass through Ellis Island.

Cobh is a town that has so much to offer that it would take a number of visits to cover it all. I am fortunate that it is almost in my backyard, so I will be there on a regular basis, to explore its beauty and other aspects of the fascinating history of the place.

Previous posts on the Titanic

A Mayo village devastated by the Titanic disaster.

April 11 1912. Titanic sails from Queenstown.

April 13 1912 Titanic sails in calm waters

April 14 1912. Iceberg Ahead! Goodbye all!

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland, Irish Diaspora, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Mayo Emigrants, My Travels, Titanic

Mapping the Irish Lost in the Titanic Disaster

New research on the Iirish on The Titanic from Know Thy Place

Mapping the Irish Lost in the Titanic Disaster.

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Titanic 100: Doctor’s last letter returned to Belfast

In an earlier post I wrote about the efforts of the family of  a ship’s officer to get possession of the letter from their ancestor who perished on the Titanic.

Now a good news story …from the delighted family of Dr John Simpson , a medical officer who also perished on the Titanic. His last letter written to his mother just days before he was lost, has been returned to his family. Bought by a generous and mysterious benefactor, this is indeed a good news story!

RTE News report :

A mystery benefactor has stepped in to ensure a valuable letter written by an officer days before he died on the Titanic will return to his home town.

There were fears that the note Dr John Simpson penned to his mother onboard the doomed liner would be bought by a private collector when it was put up for auction in New York with a $34,000 reserve price.

But after hearing about a campaign by relatives of the ship’s assistant surgeon to bring the letter back to his native Belfast a mystery donor stepped in and bought it for the city just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

According to witnesses who survived the 1912 sinking, 37-year-old Dr Simpson stood with fellow officers on the deck of the stricken vessel as it went down.

His great-nephew Dr John Martin said he was happy the letter was coming back to where it belonged.

He said: “I’ve never actually seen the original letter itself as it was last in Belfast in the 1940s before Dr Simpson’s son moved away.

”So for it to be on its way back is just amazing and so appropriate now just ahead of the 100th anniversary of his death. We are so thankful to the benefactor.”

He said the letter had been passed down through several generations until Dr Simpson’s 81-year-old daughter-in-law gave it to a Titanic enthusiast in The Netherlands 15 years ago in the hope it would go on display.

However, what happened to the letter after that remained a mystery to the family and Dr Martin said relatives had always regretted its loss.

They thought it was gone for good until they heard it was to be sold at Philip Weiss Auctions in New York.

But the item failed to reach its reserve price at the sale earlier this month, enabling the benefactor to step in and purchase it for an undisclosed sum.

The letter, dated 11 April 1912 and written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic, was brought ashore at Cobh, Co Cork (then called Queenstown) before the ship set sail for the US.

It was dispatched to his mother Elizabeth who was living in Belfast’s Dublin Road.

In it, the married father-of-one, who was then based in Liverpool, said he was tired but settling into his cabin well.

He had worked on the Titanic’s White Star Line sister ship the Olympic for a year previously and observed to his mother that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger.

Dr Simpson also complained he had found one of his trunks unlocked and $5 or $6 had been stolen from his pocket book.

The surgeon, who treated second and third-class passengers, signed off: “With fondest love, John.”

It is intended that the letter will go on display in Belfast.

RTE news Item can be seen here.- Some nice scenes!

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Titanic 100:Cobh 2012

The Titanic.

The Titanic centenary commemorations were launched today in Cobh, County Cork. Cobh, or Queenstown as it was then known,was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic. 

Today, the LE Emer of the Irish Naval Service, was alongside and exchanged a gun salute with nearby Spike Island. There then followed the release of 123 flares from Spike Island, one for each of the passengers who boarded at Queenstown in April 1912. A poignant remembrance of those who last stood on Irish soil 100 years ago and left family and friends in search of a better future.

Throughout 2012, Cobh will lead the  Irish tribute to those who lost their lives on the Titanic as well as those who survived. Many events to remember the Irish ship and her passengers will take place during the year-long  commemoration- exhibitions, lectures,concerts,visiting cruise liners, markets,church services and naval displays. The impressive exhibition centre will be a central attraction to all visitors to the area.

There will be frequent posts on this site throughout the year on the Titanic 100 commemorations at Cobh and in Belfast as well as in The Titanic Village – Addergoole, Co Mayo.

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