AFTER decades standing in a public park in Co Down, one of the davits (a lifeboat hoist) from the ill-fated Lusitania has been returned to the Old Head of Kinsale, and it will now look out over the waves where the liner sank 103 years ago.
At a ceremony at the Old Head Signal Tower and Lusitania Museum, the davit was formally unveiled by the owner of the salvage right to the Lusitania wreck, Gregg Bemis.
Mr Bemis praised all those who made it possible for the davit to make the journey from Northern Ireland to Kinsale.
The davit was hauled from the wreck site over 50 years ago when Down fisherman Gerry Doyle hooked his nets on the artefact and brought it on board his fishing trawler the ‘Croí an Dúin’.
Gerry wasn’t able to land the davit in Kinsale so he took the piece home to Kilkeel. However, having loaned the davit to his local district council in the mid-1980s, it was always Gerry’s dream to return this piece of the Lusitania to Kinsale.
Sadly, Gerry did not live to see the davit back in Kinsale, but he was represented by his widow Josie and his son and daughter, along with members from all parties representing the Newry, Mourne and Down local district council.
‘This is a very important artefact and I want to thank all those and in particular the members Doyle family and especially Gerry’s widow, Josie and adult children, Maire and Niall,’ Mr Bemis said.
‘This is probably the largest piece of the Lusitania we have and it is wonderful to see it here in this beautiful memorial garden overlooking the very spot where the ship went down,’ he added.
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG), deputising for county mayor Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF), said that it was a not only a tribute to Mr Doyle and his family, but to the cross-party co-operation between the local public representatives.
‘It is wonderful to see the davit here, back in Kinsale once again after all these years,’ Cllr Murphy said. ‘This is an important site for the island of Ireland as a whole and it is great to see the co-operation between the parties both North and South that have made this ceremony possible here this evening. I want to thank and welcome the Doyle family and congratulate the local committee here for all their hard work.’
‘While I am delighted to see the davit here, my dream is to have the Lusitania’s ship’s whistle, which is still attached to the ship, here at the museum, perhaps attached to the signal tower,’ Gregg Bemis said. ‘It would be very proper to have the whistle sound out over the Old Head every year on May 7th at the moment the ship sank taking 1,198 passengers and crew with her.’
Secretary of the Old Head of Kinsale Lusitania Museum Con Hayes said the donation of the davit was highly significant.
‘This is the largest artefact to date recovered from the wreck which lies on the seabed just 18 miles from this very spot,’ Mr Hayes said. ‘And the fact that we have it installed outdoors and it’s not behind glass means that people can touch it and take photographs with it – it’s going to become a landmark exhibit for us at the museum.’