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  Titanic Day Commemorations on Cape Clear Island deemed a great success by all concerned.

The Titanic Day Commemorations held on Cape Clear Island on the 11 April, the day the ship sailed from Cobh on her fateful first and last voyage were deemed a great success by all concerned. Around 3.30 pm a beacon was lit on the Southern Cliffs to welcome the LE Aisling which was recreating the last voyage along the West Cork Coast. This was one of many beacons along the coast and was attended by flag waving, hand waving and hooting from vessel to shore. At the same time other hard working volunteers were busy transforming the Club to resemble a country kitchen of the period for the evenings ‘American Wake’. The theme of the evening was born some years ago during a memorable scoraíocht with the late Concubar Ó Drisceoil, long standing Master of the Naomh Ciarán 11. Concubar recalled as Gaeilge the name every rock between Cape Clear and Baltimore showing that he not only knew where they were but he also knew quit literally who they were. He also recalled finding an old letter from America in an Aunt’s house, written by a young lady from the Island who had recently emigrated. In it she thanked her mother for the generous gift of £5 towards the journey, recalled the compulsory baths which all emigrants were required to take before being permitted to board at Cobh and recalled the poignancy of seeing a fire lit on the Island in her honour as the Liner sailed by. This was customary on Cape Clear at the time and the writer described the feeling of sadness knowing that her family and friends were around the fire as her Island home receded into the darkness. And so the connection was made between the beacons lit along the coast for Titanic Day and the many beacons which were lit on Cape Clear in years gone by to bid a final farewell to emigrants beginning their voyage to a new life and so the theme, American Wake recalls not only the passenger on the Titanic but all those emigrants who passed by on their way to the New World. Thanks to the Trojan effort, generosity and imagination the Club was truly transformed for the occasion. Out with the old, the place was stripped of pictures and items to be replaced by the older still, settles and chairs, an old dresser, lamps, black pots and pans from another era. An old lamp, last lit half a century ago was found with its wick miraculously intact and was soon burning again. The triangle above the bar when Dinny Séamus normally resides was transformed by a slide show of the Titanic provided by a projector hidden high in the beams. Festooned with night lights the Club was a very different place indeed. As were the clientele, thanks to the splendid efforts of so many to dress in costume for the occasion which was both spectacular and revealing. Some of the ladies creations show that the old sense of style, sustained by fine needlework and flair remains strong. Others showed outstanding imagination, particular some of those visitors who managed to rustle up outfits from the contents of their back packs. From the elegance of first class to third class, crew and even stokers all walks were represented. The combined efforts of so many to beg, borrow, buy and create suitable attire for the evening fostered a great atmosphere for the evening. The musicians, singers and dancers all did their share to play mostly tunes and songs that would have been familiar to our emigrants on the Titanic, many of whom would have certainly experienced the same songs and tunes at their own American Wakes. At a suitable moment there was a short reflexion on the loss of the Titanic and others lost at sea followed by a rendition of ‘Nearer My God to Thee’. Amongst those present, Mags Phelan recalled her own relation, lost on the Titanic and felt that the evening was a most appropriate commemoration for her and those others lost at the same time. For those of us privileged to be there the evening reminded us all of the great community spirit of Cape Clear, of the bonds that bring us together, regular visitors, residents and native born islanders together with one purpose, to commemorate the sad story of one great ship intertwined with our history of emigration, loss and sea faring traditions. Those who created this memorable occasion are too many to thank individually but go raibh mile maith agaibh go léir. Séamus Ó Drisceoil Oileán Chléire.

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