This is one of the most unusual and visually striking Irish building restorations that LBS have supplied. The Old Head of Kinsale Signal House on the Cork coast has, in 2015, been reborn as a Museum and Memorial to the sinking of the Lusitania liner in 1915 – a mere 10 miles away. The dilapidated signal tower has been faithfully restored, using selected Cwt-Y-Bugail Dark Blue/Grey 50×30 slates to clad the exterior walls. The result is impressive, and returns the building to how it would have looked two centuries ago.
A total of 81 signal houses were erected around the coast of Ireland, following an attempted French invasion in 1796. The Kinsale Signal Tower was one of 16 in Cork – a blunt looking, square building, approximately 6m x 6m and 2 storeys high. Its exterior walls clad with natural slate to offer protection from its exposed Atlantic location.
The towers themselves were mostly abandoned only a decade after they were completed. More than 200 years later the main structure of the Kinsale Tower was still largely intact, but only a few of the original cladding slates remained around the upper windows of the building. Although not a building of huge significance in itself, Kinsale Signal Tower bore witness to one of Ireland’s most notorious maritime tragedies, one which has been the centre of many conspiracy theories, and has never been fully resolved more than a century later – the sinking of the Lusitania.
The Sinking of the Lusitania (Cork 1915)
On the 7th May 1915 a German U-boat operating of the coast of Cork torpedoed the civilian vessel Lusitania on its return voyage from New York to Liverpool. In what must have been a horrific 18 minutes the vessel listed steeply and sank without trace. Of 1962 passengers, 1201 perished in the cold Atlantic waters. Lifeboats were unable to launch successfully, and many more were trapped as emergency bulkheads closed below deck. It is worth bearing in mind that although not as large as Titanic the Lusitania was of similar size.
The Aftermath of the Lusitania
The repercussions of this event drew America further into World War I, and turned the tide of public opinion against Germany. However, there are many questions remaining about that fateful day. Evidence suggests that the British establishment attempted to cover up instructions given to the ship’s Captain on his journey up the Cork coast, and although vehemently denied, it is thought that the ship may have been transporting munitions. It is also somewhat of a mystery why the same U-boat that sank The ‘Earl of Lathom’ only a few days previous, had allowed the Lathom’s crew to abandon ship before firing on the vessel, yet chose to sink the Lusitania without warning.
An ominous notice published by the German embassy in 1915 in many newspapers including the New York Times, prior to the sinking of the Lusitania. This led to speculation that the attack was premeditated.
TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.
IMPERIAL GERMAN EMBASSY
Washington, D.C. 22 April 1915”