Attractions are real labour of love
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.