Titanic's final port remembers lost Irish passengers

Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:20pm EDT
 
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By Lorraine Turner

COBH, Ireland (Reuters) - Relatives of poor Irish passengers who drowned when the Titanic sank 100 years ago gathered on Wednesday at the liner's last port of call, while local officials sought to use the anniversary to boost the flagging local economy.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins led a commemorative ceremony in Cobh, pronounced cove, where the Titanic's final 123 passengers, mostly poor Irish emigrants, boarded 100 years ago to the day. Only 44 survived.

"It's a very poignant story and also so tragic. Here they were boarding one of the finest vessels ever built and it came to such a sorry end," said Helen Murphy, grand-niece of 18-year old Nora Hegarty, who left Cobh on the Titanic to emigrate to the United States with her first cousin.

Neither of the pair, both third-class passengers, survived the disaster.

Approximately 1,500 people watched the ceremony, held on a stage overlooking the sea, with some residents gathering on the rooftop of the Commodore Hotel, the last port of call for some of the wealthier Irish passengers.

The picturesque coastal town and naval base, which has seen jobs decimated in recent decades by the closure of a steelworks, is latching on to the Titanic story in a bid to bring much-needed investment to the area.

Of the 6 million people who emigrated from Ireland between 1848 and 1950, 2.5 million left from Cobh, known as Queenstown until 1922, according to the local heritage centre.

HISTORY REPEATING   Continued...

 
Ruth Stevely (L) poses with her first cousin Dan Marvin, who lost his life on the Titanic, in an undated family photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of Rick Noble/Handout