Lifeboat davit from Lusitania wreck leaves County Down

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Illustration of the sinking of the LusitaniaImage source, Mansell / Getty Images
Image caption,
Illustration of the sinking of the Lusitania

A davit that held lifeboats in place on the ill-fated Lusitania and which for the past 30 years has stood in a County Down park is to be transferred to a dedicated museum in County Cork.

The ocean liner was travelling from New York to Liverpool in 1915 when it was hit by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat.

It sank off the southern coast of Ireland, killing approximately 1,200 people.

A davit is a small steel crane that suspends or lowers lifeboats. This one was loaned to the old Newry and Mourne District Council by the late fisherman Gerry Doyle.

Along with his crew, he pulled the artefact on to the Croidte an Dúin fishing boat from the ship's wreckage near Kinsale in 1965.

Image caption,
A cutting from the Cork Examiner in 1965 showing Gerry Doyle, Michael O'Hare and Seamus O'Neill with the davit

The davit had destroyed the boat's nets and as there was no equipment at the harbour in Kinsale to remove from the vessel, the crew had little choice but to return home to Kilkeel with their unlikely catch.

In the 1980s Gerry Doyle loaned the davit to the council who put it on display, albeit without any interpretive information, beside the public toilets in Annalong Marine Park.

There it has stood ever since.

Media caption,

Reliving the final moments of the Lusitania

But with the development of a new Lusitania museum Newry, Mourne and Down District council agreed to gift the Lusitania davit to the Lusitania Museum in Kinsale, with the "cost of removal and transport being attributed to the Visitor Centre and Museum in Kinsale."

For Michael O'Hare, who was a teenage fisherman on board the Croidte an Dúin that day, this is a positive development.

"The historic significance of it didn't have much impact upon me at that time," he said.

Image caption,
Michael O'Hare was a teenage fisherman on board the Croidte an Dúin that day

"So it was only as the years went on that I wondered where it had went to and I started to make enquiries and found out that it was in the park and Gerry had given it on loan to the council.

"But you always knew that if an opportunity presented itself that Gerry felt it should go back to Kinsale."

More on the sinking of the Lusitania

Image source, TopFoto

'No relevance to South Down'

He was contacted by a man called Greg Bemis who is the owner of the wreck.

He had heard about the lifeboat davit and asked if Gerry would donate it for the visitors' centre.

"It really has no relevance with South Down at all.

There is no plaque on it, there is nothing to alert people as to what it is and I would say the majority of people in Annalong have absolutely no idea.

It is just a piece of scrap metal, stuck in the park there.

Image caption,
The davit currently stands in Annalong Marine Park but will be moved to the Lusitania museum in Kinsale

"It was lying on the seabed for 50 years when we picked it up and it is nice to know that 52 years later it is going back to Kinsale.

"In a way it is the closing of a circle. Gerry unfortunately hasn't lived to see his wishes coming true but his wife and family will be happy to see this and so am I."

The Lusitania was operated by Cunard and was one of the largest vessels on the sea in the early 1900s.

German forces believed the Lusitania was also carrying munitions.

The ship's wreckage lies 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse.