The Mayo Titanic Memorial Park in Lahardane is, above all, a site which tells the story of community.
That was the view of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he performed the official opening of the park on Sunday afternoon at the end of the Mayo Titanic Cultural Week.
Fourteen people from the parish of Addergoole travelled on the Titanic and eleven of them lost their lives when the ship sunk 100 years ago last Sunday. The last week’s events have seen descendants of the Addergoole Fourteen and locals in Lahardane and the parish of Addergoole pay tribute to their memory.
Speaking at the opening, Mr Kenny congratulated those who had told the story of the Addergoole Fourteen, the greatest proportionate loss from one area on the doomed ship.
“It [the park] tells the story, unique to Western Europe, of the devastating impact the sinking of the Titanic had on a small isolated rural community. You - the people of Lahardane, of Mayo and the descendents of the dead, remember: this park may be dedicated to the memory to those who died from this locality on the Titanic but it tells a universal story insofar as it is the story of emigration. It is the story of hope and expectation. It is the story of tragedy and loss. It is the story of remembrance. Above all it is the story of Community,” he said.
Secretary of the Addergoole Titanic Society, Mary Rowland, admitted that the week went better than they thought it could.
“Things went beyond our expectations. The crowds in Lahardane all week have been unreal. People came from far and wide,” she told The Mayo News. “We had a huge turnout from America from descendants of Pat Canavan, Annie McGowan and Delia McDermott. Descendants of Annie McGowan travelled from Chicago including her daughter, Mary Kabolnek, aged 83, who is the closest living relative of the Addergoole Fourteen.”
Last Friday night saw the Titanic Ball in Pontoon Bridge Hotel with over 400 people sitting. Pride of place on the night went to a magnificent 85 foot model of the Titanic which moved into place at the back of the hotel, on the shores of Lough Conn. Volunteers had been working on it since January and it was unveiled as a surprise to guests. It is currently harboured in Addergoole Bay, close to Lahardane village.
Saturday night and into Sunday morning saw the annual staging of the bell-ringing ceremony at St Patrick’s Church in Lahardane to mark the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic at 2.20am on Sunday, April 15. Large crowds turned out for that event and there was an even greater turnout on Sunday at the opening of the park. The hope is that many more will visit the superbly appointed park, under the shadow of Nephin.
“Even before the opening of the park, so many people visited in the last few weeks. We expect that people will continue to come for a good while yet. There’s a great community spirit that we’ve seen here in recent weeks and months. It wasn’t easy at times, it was hard work but it was great to see it all in fruition,” admitted Mary Rowland.
And after a very stressful few weeks for the hardworking Addergoole Titanic Society, there comes some peace.
“We’re having a Lahardane Bank Holiday today!,” she joked, yesterday.
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