image courtesy of Chris McClafferty
One hundred years after one of Ireland’s greatest marine tragedies…people from Ireland, the UK and Canada are joining hands to remember a forgotten WW1 shipwreck.
On before it even got out of Lough Swilly. Sadly 354 men died that January night, men from Ireland, the January 25th, 1917, the HMS Laurentic set sail on its fateful journey from Co Donegal to Canada; it never arrived at its destination. The journey ended abruptly as it was sunk by two German mines United Kingdom, and Newfoundland, Canada.
Since 2005, the Laurentic has been the spark for a cross-community, cross-cultural gathering in the Northwest of Ireland. What started as a single Newfoundland ex-pat wanting a connection to his homeland has turned into a yearly commemoration drawing people from both sides of the border and from Canada. This year, 2017 marked its centenary and over 30 family members of Laurentic victims travelled to Buncrana to discover the stories of their lost relatives. The weekend promised to be alive with stories and memories and as predicted it brought likeminded people together and bridged gaps in historical content that linked the group to build relationships both near and far for a long time to come.
Inishowen Tourism collaborated with Don McNeill, local organiser of the event to create an itinerary and welcome packs for the visitors to see the significant attractions both in terms of the historical content associated with the Laurentic; fantastic scenery, local crafts and cuisine as they journeyed around the Inishowen Peninsula. Highlights included a trip to Dunree Military Museum and guided walk, pitstop at the Glendowen Craft Shop to enjoy a cuppa and browse around the local wares. Travelling onwards through the spectacular Mamore Gap, and on up via Knockameny Bens to Malin Head, opportunity was taken to share stories from the families and how they come to be here.
One really interesting story shared was that of finding the Laurentic bell on display in the Tower Museum that week. By pure co incidence on a holiday in the Isle of Wight it was right there for a relative to see and subsequently made its way back to The Tower Museum to sit with all the other artifacts discovered on the deep sea wreck.
On a wild windy day a welcome break for lunch at the Seaview Tavern was followed by a group photo to mark this memorable day of discovery. It was a pleasure to host our visitors and receive great feedback on this special occasion. One of the participants, Tim sent an email to Don and stated “I write to send my huge thanks for your wonderful work in organising all the Laurentic Centenary events and for giving us family members such an excellent time. The efforts you and everyone else made for us were quite overwhelming, memorable and beyond all my expectations; the Inishowen tour with Heidi and the Samuel Beckett trip were outstanding”. As Development Officer here at Inishowen Tourism it is imperative to build lasting relationships that both conserve our history in Inishowen and promote the people and place in collaboration with events and tourism trade members providing a lasting visitor experience and literature to take back to share with others in their respective homes.