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Emotional visit by grand-daughter to Lusitania memorial

May 14th, 2022 1:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

Emotional visit by grand-daughter to Lusitania memorial Image
Jackie McDougall Weiner with the money belt worn by her grandmother Alice Middleton McDougall on the Lusitania in 1915. (Photo: John Allen)

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THE grand-daughter of a Lusitania survivor described her visit to Kinsale for the 107th anniversary of the tragedy as ‘more than she could ever have expected.’

Jackie McDougall Weiner  travelled from her home in Oregon, US to West Cork at the weekend to attend the event at the Lusitania Memorial Garden at the Old Head of Kinsale.

The Cunard liner was torpedoed by a German u-boat  11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale on May 7th 1915,  with the loss of 1,201 lives.

On board was Jackie’s grandmother who survived against the odds. Alice Middleton McDougall was dragged down with the suction of the Lusitania, and pulled through a porthole, injuring her neck in the process.

Her unconscious body was rescued and brought to Cobh but, believed to be dead, she was placed in the morgue.

Fortunately, the slight movement of her finger was observed by a doctor and Alice went on to live a long life.

Last year Jackie made the decision to donate an item of clothing worn by her grandmother on that fateful day, her money belt, to the Lusitania Museum, after making contact with the committee online.

At the time she said it was her ‘dream’ to get to the museum to see the money belt in place, and she said the weekend visit was more than she could ever have expected.

‘Coming to Old Head at Kinsale for the 107th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania and telling of my childhood memories listening to my grandma tell me her experience firsthand of that fateful day, was a gift,’ said Jackie.

‘Not only have I always been grateful because I would never have been born had she not survived, I took that gift seriously and have tried to live a life that has made a difference to others.

‘Facts of the tragedy are just that, facts.  What has mattered to me is not whether there were munitions on the ship that exploded or whether it was coal dust that caused the second explosion, or any other theory.

‘It has always been about the humanity.  Whether those souls perished or survived, each one experienced a terror that can only be imagined,’ said Jackie.

‘As a child she shared and I absorbed her memories of being sucked down an open porthole until the pressure stabilised and she returned to the surface, only to witness the screams of humanity,’ she added.

‘She clung to a woman floating next to her as she was giving birth, and she described the dead children as looking like drowned dolls.

‘She put her fingers in her ears trying to stop what she was hearing before she went into a semi-coma and was later picked up and taken to the morgue, presumed dead until someone saw her finger twitch and knew she was still alive.  How could I not know the value of life?

‘Donating her money belt to the new museum on the shore of where this took place isn’t just to remember her, it’s for all of us to remember more than just the facts of the Lusitania tragedy; it’s to remember the souls whose lives were forever changed.’

Members of the Coast Guard also laid a wreath at the memorial on Saturday.

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