Trevor Quinn and Edwin McGreal
For many years the Addergoole Fourteen were only remembered in hushed tones among relatives but as the countdown closes on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic this Sunday, the village of Lahardane now hosts a magnificent and evocative memorial park to their memory and, tellingly, to the memory of all emigrants.
With the formidable presence of Nephin like a sentinel looking down on Lahardane’s Titanic Memorial Park, the elements of the park itself are very poignant and thoughtful.
Sculptor Mark Rhodes has done a wonderful job with the Titanic bow and the two bronze statues signifying emigrants. In another corner of the park is a traditional cottage gable wall with a light in the gable window for all those who have emigrated from Ireland which connects with former President Mary Robinson’s ‘light in the window’ inauguration address.
Most evocative in the park is the ‘Addergoole Hearth’ which is made from stone from each of the houses the Addergoole Fourteen departed. The symbolism of the hearth draws on a charming tradition from times past that when a family emigrates, leaving behind a vacant homestead, a neighbour or relative would take an ember from the last fire that burnt in that homestead on the last night that the family slept within its walls.
That ember would be added to the neighbour’s or relative’s fire so that when the migrant family or a member of the family returned their fire would have never gone out. It is in line with the theme of the park as a memorial to all Irish emigrants.
“The Titanic Memorial Park is dedicated to all Irish emigrants. None of the Addergoole fourteen would have been on the Titanic were it not for the culture of emigration at the time. And that has come full circle some 100 years later,” said Dr Paul Nolan, Chairperson of the Addergoole Titanic Society.
“We will put on one of the best ceremonies in the West of Ireland or all of Ireland commemorating the Titanic, its sinking while never forgetting everyone who emigrated from this isle.
“It was the only ship in 100 years excluding World War 1 and World War 2 which didn’t get across. No plane ever went down in that 100 years bringing across emigrants. The Addergoole Fourteen are now a focus of those who left but the problem was and still is that the amount of people who left the West of Ireland was extraordinary.”
He said that the focus of the Titanic Memorial Garden was to bring back all the relatives of the men and women who were forced in to leaving Ireland. He said the Society wanted to ‘bring them back to Ireland again and give them the focus of an emigration garden’.
Last Sunday former President and local resident, Mary Robinson officially opened the Mayo Titanic Cultural Week in Lahardane where 14 locals re-enacted the departure by horse and sidecar and travelled the two-hour journey to Castlebar Railway station where a specially commissioned plaque in memory of the ‘Addergoole Fourteen’ was unveiled.
Dr Nolan expressed sincere gratitude to Dr John Fleming, Bishop of Killala for donating a site where the Titanic Memorial Park could be constructed in the centre of Lahardane.
Speaking at the launch of Titanic Cultural Week, Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony congratulated the Addergoole Titanic Society on their dedicated work throughout the last ten years.
“It’s a triumph for people working together and a community working together and it’s a triumph for loyalty that you are remembering your forefathers who had to leave these shores and were tragically drowned on the most famous ship that was ever put to sea.”
Expanding on the ‘light in the window’ concept, Dr Nolan expressed the hope that the park will be a focus for returned emigrants.
“Mary Robinson spoke in her inauguration speech as President about the light in the window for emigrants and we’re leaving a light on all the time in the window of this house. We think it will be very evocative. We think that together with the wonderful Famine Monument in Murrisk this park can be a focus for returned emigrants.”