Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Centenary of Lusitania Sinking

Remains of the Cunard Pier where Lusitania victims came ashore
   This year is the Centenary of the sinking of the luxurious, Cunard passenger liner, the Lusitania, on 7th May 1915.  She was torpedoed by a German U-boat, off the Old Head of Kinsale on the south coast of Ireland.  She sank within twenty minutes with the loss of 1,198 passengers and crew - 1,201 people in all, if you count the 3 stowaways (thought to be German) who were locked away in the cells.

   Survivors and the dead were brought ashore in Queenstown (now Cobh) in Co. Cork, although Kinsale would have been closer to the site of the tragedy.  169 of the victims were buried in the Old Church Cemetery in Cobh, most of them in three mass graves.  Some of the bodies were never identified.

   My grandfather, Jerome B. Murphy, was Area Manager for the Cunard Line in Queenstown in 1915.  It was to his office that the survivors and dead were brought ashore and the Cunard shed was used as a temporary morgue to store the bodies, row on row.

   Jerome had responsibility for the bereaved relatives and the dead.  Later, he was awarded an MBE from King George V for his Service to Humanity.  His medal is on display in the museum in Cobh.

   Since I was a child, I have been fascinated with his story and with the tragic Lusitania.  I have been avidly reading books about it all my life.  In the countdown to the centenary of the sinking, I will share some of my insights in this blog.