The 200-year-old Signal Tower at the Old Head is currently being restored to its former glory and will officially open to the public as a Lusitania Museum on May 7, on the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.
The Museum will exhibit artefacts recovered from the wreckage of the ship on the top floor, and its parapet walk way will boast beautiful panoramic views of one of the country’s most scenic peninsulas, which is expected to be a highlight for visitors.
The bottom floor of the narrow tower will host an exhibition on the history of the tower itself. “The Towers were originally used to help protect the Irish coast during the Napoleonic wars by communicating signals as far as Dublin, like an internet of its day,” said Con Hayes, one of the people responsible for the project, which has been in the making for a number of years.
In the next year, the area around the Signal Tower will be transformed into a Lusitania Memorial Garden, displaying an iconic piece of commissioned sculpture detailing the names of all who sailed on Lusitania on May 7, 1915.
The Old Head Signal Tower is expected to become an important stop on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Minister Simon Coveney TD will officially open the restored signal tower and the associated flag and ball signal mast to the public at 3pm on May 7, after the official Lusitania commemoration ceremony, which commences at 2pm.
This ceremony will include an ecumenical prayer service followed by a wreath laying ceremony with County Mayor Cllr Alan Coleman, Minister Simon Coveney TD, Michael Dow, the grandson of Lusitania Captain Dow, Alfred Vanderbilt III, on behalf of the crew and passengers of the Lusitania, and key organisers.
The remembrance will also include a lament especially composed by Linda and Irene Buckley, and a commemorative plaque will be unveiled, donated by Jon Kiger, a relative of Lusitania victims, who is bringing a group of 100 Americans to Cork for the centenary.
A ‘Ryder’ lifeboat from Polperro and coastguard helicopter will also be available for the public to view on the day.
The Old Head of Kinsale is the point from which the Lusitania took her final bearing on May 7, 1915 and is the most prominent accessible point of land to the ship’s final resting place, which is just over eleven miles due south of the Old Head Lighthouse.
The Old Head is one of four coastal communities in Co. Cork that are commemorating the Lusitania centenary with a number of events, entitled Lusitania100 Cork, in association with Cork County Council.