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Co Down fisherman's dying wish for Lusitania davit finally fulfilled

April 7th, 2018 7:05 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

The davit which is currently in situ in Annalong park in Co Down.

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A FISHERMAN’S dying wish that a davit (lifeboat crane)  that he trawled up from the ill-fated Lusitania ship in the mid 1960s should be donated back to Kinsale, has been fulfilled. 

Councillors from Newry, Mourne & Down District Council voted earlier this month to grant the wish to return the davit to the Old Head of Kinsale. 

A total of 1,201 passengers lost their lives when the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the Old Head on May 7th 1915.

While fishing on his trawler ‘Croí an Dúin’ off Kinsale in 1965, Co Down native Gerry Doyle snagged the davit in the nets.

He gifted it to his local District Council in the mid 1980s and it was placed at the Annalong Marine Park in Co Down, where it has been since.

‘Gerry unfortunately died just before Christmas, but before he died, he wrote a bequest that the davit be donated back to the planned Lusitania Museum here in the Old Head of Kinsale,’ said Con Hayes, of Lusitania/ Old Head Signal Tower Heritage committee.

‘He was actually coming down last May to attend the opening of our memorial garden, but was too sick to travel. He had offered it to the Council as a loan and councillors recently voted in favour of giving it to Kinsale.’

Made of steel, the davit is a very heavy and large piece of material, which was used in its time on the Lusitania to lower an emergency lifeboat. It will now have to be dug up from its current location at the Marine Park in Annalong and transported down to the Old Head of Kinsale. 

Only last summer, the owner of the Lusitania wreck, Gregg Bemis, visited Gerry Doyle’s family and met with his wife Josie, who it is believed persuaded Gerry, who was somewhat reluctant at the start, to help bring the davit back to Kinsale. 

Con enslisted the help of local heritage group members Peter McCamely, James McArevey and  Gerry Brown, who live in the Newry-Mourne area, together with local councillors.

‘We are absolutely delighted with their determined diplomacy which persuaded the councillors of all three parties of Newry, Mourne & Down District Council to see the merits of gifting the davit to our Lusitania museum at the Old Head, with total unanimity,’ said Con.

The committee has expressed its sincerest thanks to those involved and they hope to organise a formal public acknowledgement sometime later this year.

Con said it was poignant that Gerry Doyle passed away last year after he had written a formal bequest as his last wish that the davit would be gifted back to the Old Head, where the Lusitania Memorial Garden and Signal Tower are now located.

‘The garden is home to the 20m wave sculpture with the names of all the Lusitania passengers and crew, and it is a most fitting place for the Lusitania davit,’ he added.

Work is already underway to complete the third phase of the Signal Tower project, which is the construction of the visitors’ centre and basement Lusitania Museum.

‘In the interim, the restored Signal Tower acts as a temporary Lusitania Museum, where significant artefacts are on display and it will remain open until October.’

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