Tuesday 20 March 2018

North Cork artist Lavery remembers the Lusitania

A North Cork artist has spoken about how pleased he and his wife were to be selected to created a memorial sculpture at the Old Head of Kinsale to remember all those who perished and survived the sinking of the Lusitania over 100 years ago.

Sculptors Liam Lavery from Dromina near Charleville and his wife, Eithne Ring from Knockadoon in East Cork, won a competition for a commission to create a work of art that would commemorate all those who sailed on the ill-fated Cunard liner that sank off the Old Head of Kinsale.

Some 1,191 passengers and crew perished and a further 771 were rescued when the Lusitania sank some 18kms off the Old Head of Kinsale when she was torpedoed by German submarine U20 at exactly 2.10pm on Friday, May 7, 1915.

Last Sunday, Liam and Eithne were present at the Old Head of Kinsale for the unveiling of their 20 metre long bronze piece of work which bears the names of all those aboard the Lusitania when she departed New York on May 1, 1915 bound for Liverpool.

"The commission required us to list all the names, including those of survivors - one of the things about having everyone listed is that it acknowledges the impact that the tragedy had on the survivors because very often they are forgotten about," said Liam.

"We work with a foundry in France who are able to cast big long panels and they have done a lot of commemorative pieces for the D-Day landings. They usually only list the people who died and they thought it was really good to list survivors as well because it sort of tells the fuller story."

The names of almost 2,000 passengers and crew are listed on the piece which undulates around the side of the memorial garden like a wave.

"The idea of the wave it came very quickly and it's not a very dramatic wave because the day that the Lusitania sank was quite calm," explained Liam. "We knew we wanted to do a horizontal piece and we wanted the names to go up and down as if they were carried along in the fluidity of the water."

Lusitania Museum and Old Head Signal Tower Heritage Chairman, JJ Hayes said that over 30 nationalities were represented on the memorial by Liam and Eithne which is located in a memorial garden in front of the Signal Tower on the Old Head of Kinsale.

"The centrepiece of this garden must surely be the 20 metres long memorial sculpture, the brainchild of Liam and Eithne - surely a masterpiece of design and execution," said Mr Hayes. "Depicting a wave in the ocean, it captures the story of the Lusitania."

Mr Hayes said he was pleased that relatives of more than 30 of the 1,962 people aboard the Lusitania when she was torpedoed had seen fit to travel for the memorial unveiling.

"We know that this is a special and emotional time for you and I hope that this new garden and sculpture is a fitting memorial to your ancestors," said Mr Hayes.