Posts Tagged ‘cork’

The Tragedy of the Sinking of the Lusitania

May 5, 2015

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This week marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great Cunard ocean liner, the RMS Lusitania at Queenstown (now Cobh) off the coast of east Cork. On the 7th May 1915 this once glamorous and famous ship was torpedoed by a German submarine with the loss of 1200 lives. This week the children, grandchildren, great grandchildren (and indeed great-great grandchildren) of the town will remember how their ancestors helped the injured and shocked survivors who somehow made it to the shores of their town. I recently listened to old voice recordings on the radio of people who had remembered this terrible tragedy, one of many during the First World War.

I was also fascinated to hear of the work of a modern day diver who explores such old maritime wrecks beneath the ocean. He was emotional when describing how he had seen some of the personal effects of those who had drowned, many of whose bodies had never been found. However, diving and exploring old wrecks is dangerous and intricate work, even though the explorers find it so fascinating.

I have an interesting (ex-library) book in my possession: “The Discovery of the Titanic” by Dr. Robert D. Ballard, who also dived to the Lusitania; this book shows many personal effects and furnishings which were discovered during exploration years later. Poignantly, one of the photographs shows a doll’s head lying on the ocean floor. I wonder did the little girl to whom it belonged survive? Reaching this legendary ship, the author (and diver) says became something of an obsession for him – and I can see why.

Many fascinating artefacts rest upon the ocean floor, some surviving the rigours of time and the elements but the human skeleton will naturally disintegrate. While I reflected on the tragedy of the Lusitania itself, I also thought on the diversity of its passengers.

The last survivor of the Lusitania died in January 2011 at the age of 96. Her name was Audrey Warren Lawson-Johnston (née Pearl) who was only 3 months old when she boarded the Lusitania with her parents and siblings. Unfortunately two of her sisters, Amy and Susan, just 3 years and 14 months respectively were lost. She had a little brother (Stuart: 5) who survived.

Apart from the tragedy of the children, I was intrigued by the many prominent people in public life who were lost in this terrible tragedy: the president of a company, a mining entrepreneur, an actress, a composer and conductor, a well-known assembly man, economist and engineer, the director of a steamship company, a British art dealer, an American writer, the president of a ship-building company, a playwright, Sir Hugh Lane, the renowned art collector, a fashion designer, an American pianist, politicians… the list goes on. People in all walks of life, many of them well-known, lost forever in the depths of the ocean.

Today the wreckage of the Lusitania still lies on the seafloor, some artefacts still being visible. However, of those passengers who lost their lives, many were never recovered and of the 150 victims who were buried in mass graves in the Old Church cemetery north of Cobh, 80 were never identified.

Reflecting upon this tragedy, somehow the words of Revelation 20 verses 12-15 came to mind: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

These are serious words of truth – and warning. Surely: “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom 14v12)

Just as the Lusitania maintained her Atlantic crossings, despite a war situation, leaving civilians open to terrifying danger, many people today, although they have been made aware of the eternal danger, continue to live outside of God’s grace to mankind. Eternity lies ahead of this short life. May those who read be prepared by repenting of their sins and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ to save them and may those who know Him “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1Peter 3v15)

Lovely Laois – and some Spiritual Analogies

June 19, 2012

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Laois, that truly beautiful little county in Ireland’s midlands. However, even Laois was looking decidedly miserable under a sullen grey sky and icy cutting wind on Saturday! After a meal in the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel, my husband and I drove on to Durrow, for the opening of the new Faith Mission centre there in the townland of Knockagrally. Crowds of people gathered into the tent which had been erected for the purpose of this opening and dedication service; the centre has not been entirely completed, as a conference meeting room is yet to be built.

Somehow the final hymn of the service spoke to me… “How Great Thou Art!” Especially those words… “Thy power throughout the universe displayed…” The Irish weather has certainly never been dependable, but these days I find it strangely cold for summer. God sends rain, wind, sun and the more extreme versions of all three phenomenons and others as He sees fit. I believe that adverse weather conditions can be God’s judgement upon a nation, including those who profess to know Him.

We stayed overnight at the hotel and on Sunday morning that elusive sun was shining. I looked out of the window to see crowded coaches leaving the hotel. Someone waved to me, as I stared down at them and waved back… those people, I instinctively knew, were making their way to the final meeting of the Eucharistic Congress  in Croke Park. Hurriedly I made my way down to the car park and was relieved to see one remaining coach. As these Cork people made their way onto it, each one accepted a priest’s testimony tract. I thanked the Lord for their response and even for one lady who gave the tract a knowing look and said: “You’re here to create peace, are you?” I was a little taken aback at this, but answered to the affirmative. Yes, I thought… the “peace that passeth all understanding”… but only my Lord can create lasting peace in hearts.

Surely only He can enable us to be content under all circumstances? Certainly, I came away from my tract distribution with the satisfaction of knowing that His Word “would not return unto Him void.”

Sunday proved to be dry with sunny spells and I was pleased to see some lovely scenes as we made our way slowly home… simple things like fluffy clouds reflected in a little window of the old sexton’s house in Abbeyleix, reminding me of that verse: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11v4)

The tent was gone from the conference centre, reminding me of the transience of life and that nothing ever remains the same on this earth… nevertheless, though people may change, circumstances may change – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day and for ever.” (Hebrews 13v8)

I saw a plaque commemorating the battle of Barnaglitty in 1599, in which Owny MacRory O’More with his small band of followers defeated the great army of the Earl of Essex, reminding me that “the battle is the Lord’s” (1Samuel 17v47)

The old stone arch railway bridge at the hotel reminded me that there is only one Bridge between God and man – the Risen Saviour; the round tower of Timahoe reminded me that He is my strength and “strong tower from the enemy” (Psalm 61v3); the ancient graveyard in Abbeyleix reminded me that I must work… “for the night cometh when no man can work;” (John 9v4); a sparkling river flowing between green banks reminded me that the “Lord is my Shepherd;” a ruined three storey period house reminded me that this life’s possessions are but for a season and the little stone table and seats that are so common in this part of Laois reminded me that “there remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)

My prayer is that the nature of this ‘rest’ would once again be expounded from the pulpits of Ireland… by souls who have truly experienced it in their own hearts.