At­trac­tions are real labour of love

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - KINSALE - Quin­lan 19

Áilín The un­veil­ing of a new me­mo­rial gar­den to honour the vic­tims of the Lusi­ta­nia, and the re­cent launch of the newly- ren­o­vated Sig­nal Tower on the Old Head of Kin­sale in 2015, are the re­sult of years of plan­ning, hard work, fund-rais­ing — and real labour of love on be­half of a ded­i­cated group of lo­cal peo­ple.

The un­veil­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den com­plete with its eye-catch­ing 20- me­tre long bronze sculp­ture hon­our­ing the vic­tims of one of the worst mar­itime dis­as­ters off the Ir­ish coast, brings to com­ple­tion the sec­ond phase of a three-phase pro­gramme by thea parish-based group.

The Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den is the sec­ond phase of a project to com­mem­o­rate the lives lost in this tragic in­ci­dent — the first was the suc­cess­ful restora­tion of the Sig­nal Tower and the tow­ers flag and ball sig­nalling sys­tem, un­veiled in 2015.

Both ini­tia­tives are part of a lo­cal project spear­headed by a sub-com­mit­tee of Courcey’s Ru­ral Devel­op­ment, a parish-based ru­ral devel­op­ment group.

The sub- com­mit­tee, the Lusi­ta­nia Mu­seum/ Old Head Sig­nal Tower took the de­ci­sion some eight years ago, to be­gin the work of re- stor­ing the Sig­nal Tower, which dated from 1804 — it was one of 81 built along the coast south­wards from Dublin to Malin Head, dur­ing the Napoleonic Wars.

“The Tower was built in re­sponse to the at­tempted French in­va­sion of Bantry Bay in 1796, which was un­suc­cess­ful,” said Padraig Be­g­ley, vice- chair­man of the Lusi­ta­nia Mu­seum/Old Head Sig­nal Tower com­mit­tee, the group be­hind the ini­tia­tive.

Orig­i­nally built to safe­guard the English Crown from a po­ten­tially cat­a­clysmic in­va­sion of Eng­land by Napoleon through Ire­land, the tower, which could only be ac­cessed by a lad­der through an open­ing on the first floor, was in a very ad­vanced state of dis­re­pair by the time help ar­rived in the form of the com­mit­tee.

“We de­cided to take it on as a project about eight years ago. We felt the sig­nal tower would be phase one of the project, the me­mo­rial gar­den would be phase two and a Lusi­ta­nia Mu­seum and Her­itage Cen­tre would be phase three,” said Be­g­ley.

Fol­low­ing the re­quired ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sur­vey and a com­pre­hen­sive fea­si­bil­ity study, the €300,000 con­struc­tion project — funded 90% by Fáilte Ire­land, 10% lo­cal fund-rais­ing — in­volved the re- roof­ing, re- slat­ing the roof and re- floor­ing the tower and the re-con­struc­tion of the corner tur­rets or bar­ti­zans and the ad­di­tion of an in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal stair­case.

The wooden Flag and Ball sig­nalling mast has also been re­placed; the project was of­fi­cially un­veiled on the cen­te­nary of the sink­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia on May 7, 2015, since when i t has proved to be a very pop­u­lar at­trac­tion ac­cord­ing to Mr Be­g­ley, who said that in the first year the sig­nal tower was vis­ited by peo­ple from 47 dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

The eye- catch­ing Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den was opened on May 7 last by Min­ster Si­mon Coveney. The 20- me­tre long bronze sculp­ture en­ti­tled ‘ The Wave’, by artists Liam Lav­ery and Eithne Ring, ex­plains the tragic story of the great liner on its fi­nal jour­ney from New York to Ire­land where it was tor­pe­doed just hours from the safety of Cork har­bour.

The Old Head of Kin­sale Sig­nal Tower and Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den. Pic­tures: Dan Line­han

Uni­formed mem­bers of the Irish Coast Guard at the open­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den, which took place in May.

Amy McCarthy points to her great great grand­mother Mae Bar­rett’s name in the Lusi­ta­nia Me­mo­rial Gar­den, Kin­sale.

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