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Major New Lusitania Museum Planned for Old Head of Kinsale

5th March 2021
The Old Head of Kinsale Napoleonic Tower and Memorial Garden in the foreground
New museum site - The Old Head of Kinsale Napoleonic Tower and Memorial Garden in the foreground

The community group at the renowned South Coast landmark, the Old Head of Kinsale, plans to build a major, new Lusitania Museum to replace the present small museum at the site, where they have also constructed a memorial garden.

The memorial committee is also the owners of the Lusitania wreck. Still, their concentration is on creating a new museum, "to mark fully a huge part of Irish maritime history is," the Secretary of the committee told Afloat. "Every sailor who passes on the South Coast knows the Old Head very well."

They have begun a campaign to raise €150,000 to prepare an application for Planning and intend to seek Irish government and European Commission support funding.

Lusitania Memorial Garden at The Old Head of Kinsale. A davit from the Lusitania points to the wreck siteLusitania Memorial Garden at The Old Head of Kinsale. A davit from the Lusitania points to the wreck site

The Old Head is a place I know and remember well, particularly through a classic boat, the Mab. This grand old 27-foot classic couldn't match the power of every wave that hit her at the Old Head, sometimes shoving her bowsprit straight through. But she got lifted as big ones swept beneath the hull, the bowsprit then pointing skywards. She'd been through too many seas in her years to bother lifting herself to everyone, so my Skipper said.

The MAB at the Glandore Classics 1996. Owner and Skipper the late Guy Perrem sitting at the mast. Ron Holland in the cockpit helming, Tom MacSweeney on the sternThe MAB at the Glandore Classics 1996. Owner and Skipper the late Guy Perrem sitting at the mast. Ron Holland in the cockpit helming, Tom MacSweeney on the stern

Above us, the black-and-white banded lighthouse looked down. We were on our homeward voyage to Monkstown Bay Sailing Club from a Glandore Classic Boats Regatta, where the Mab was a regular and winning performer. Skipper and owner, the late Guy Perrem, did not doubt her ability to get past the Old Head where we had arrived with unfortunate timing. "Bit lumpy, but we'll get through," said he as he sought extra push from the inboard engine to support sail power. A bit wet, we did.

This stretch of water, where the coastline of County Cork thrusts out to meet the Atlantic, is well-known to legions of Irish sailors and foreign visitors. It can provide plenty of challenges at varying tidal moments!

That battle with the Old Head came to mind this week when the community group which developed the memorial garden and mini-museum there to the Lusitania, sunk 12 miles to the south by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, during World War One, told me of their decision to build an extensive, new museum. They also own the wreck, given to them by former owner American multi-millionaire Greg Bemis. 1,198 were killed in the sinking.

Con Hayes, Secretary of the Memorial Committee, joins me on this week's Podcast to outline their plans which will interest every sailor who has ever passed by the Old Head.

Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the radio programme Maritime Ireland on radio stations around Ireland.

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