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KILDARE MAN WHO WAS ON "LUSITANIA" VIVID MEMORIES OF TERRIBLE SEA DISASTER

Leinster Leader May 17th 1952
 
 
 
 
KILDARE MAN WHO WAS ON “LUSITANIA”
 
VIVID MEMORIES OF TERRIBLE SEA DISASTER
 
Shortly after 2 p.m. on May 7th 1915, the great British liner, the “Lusitania” was sunk about 200 miles off the south coast of Ireland. The ship was loaded with passengers and many lives were lost.
One of the survivors is Mr. Thos. McCormack, Killina, Robertstown, who gave a vivid account of the sinking of the vessel to our Edenderry representative last week.
Mr. McCormack, who is in his 70th year, was returning from the U.S.A., where he had worked for three years. He began life as a boatman on the Grand Canal at 17/6 a week. He was standing on the port side of the ship when she was struck and holed by two torpedoes from a German submarine. A deafening explosion shook the ship from stem to stern and terrified passengers were thrown in all directions. Tom McCormack was knocked off his feet by a surge of people; and when he tried to rise - his ears singing and his mind a blank – he was knocked down again. Lying prone on the deck he watched a boat load of women and children lowered over the side.
The ship lurched and the boat dropped like a stone into the sea. To his ears came the screams of its occupants as they -struggled in the water.
Making his way along the sloping deck he reached the ship’s stern, now rising high above the water from the vessel’s list. He watched the propeller revolving uselessly in the air and the wreckage strewn water 90 feet below – and to this day he does not know whether he jumped or fell off the ship. He struck the water a few feet from another survivor. Swimming madly he got a safe distance from the sinking vessel.
He has never forgotten what he saw when he turned to look back. The liner reared up in the water for her last plunge, and as she went down she left a long “tunnel” behind her.
“It was like a tunnel of green glass, going down into the depths of the ocean. Around its sides I could see bodies and wreckage, all whirling about and going deeper into that horrible void. Then the boilers exploded and a column of water shot high in the air. I was sucked back about forty feet.”
Then began his long ordeal in the water. He swam past women on lifebelts, some of then carrying dead babies strapped to their backs. He came on a young boy and girl who were sobbing with fright, having lost their parents on the ship he stayed with them for two hours comforting them, and swam around until he collected two deck chairs for them to cling to.
Another vivid memory he has is of a crowd of men singing hymns in a strange tongue their hands joined together as they floated around in the sea.
He was picked up by a tug boat and arrived in Cobh Harbour at ten o’clock that night. He had lost everything he possessed except his shirt and trousers.
Looking back on it all he wonders if the boy and girl he helped are still alive. He also wonders if it is true that Dr. Kennedy, who was a passenger, vowed to become a priest if he was saved and that today he is Father Kennedy, S.J., a Missioner in China. He was told this by Very Rev. Father Phelan, P.P., Abbeyleix  (he was then C.C. in Naas); and by Dr. Doran, Robertstown who were students in Clongoweswood with Father Kennedy.
To-day, Thomas McCormack’s greatest wish is to meet a survivor from the “Luistania”
 
The following article appeared in a subsequent edition of the Leinster Leader:
 
Another “Lusitania” survivor located
 
A recent issue of the Leinster Leader contained the story of Thomas McCormack, Killinn, Robertstown, a survivor from the ill-fated “Lusitania”, which was torpedoed on May 7th 1915.
The report mentioned that McCormack had never met another survivor of the disaster, and his dearest wish in life (he is now in his 70th year) was to “swop yarns” with someone who had shared in his terrible experience and lived to tell the story.
Now, through and unusual coincidence, he is likely to have his wish. In far away Rosse’s Point, Co. Sligo, another survivor is alive and well, and how he learned of McCormack’s existence – and his wish – makes strange reading.
The chain of events which led to this happy sequel to our story began in Rathangan with Mr. Patrick McGoldrick, a Bord na Mona official. Mr McGoldrick is a native of Sligo, and when he got a few days leave recently he decided to visit his home. Before he left Rathangan he bought a copy of the Leinster Leader containing the Lusitania story. He put the paper in his pocket and it accompanied him to Sligo. A day or so later Mr. McGoldrick was in Rosse’s Point and while there he called on his friend. Mr. J. McLoughlin, proprietor of the “Tatch Bar”. He was seated in the shop when he pulled the paper out of his pocked and began to read it. After a while he left it beside him and when Mr. McLoughlin joined him the heading on the front page – it contained the word “Lusitania” – attracted his attention.
And thus the two survivors, so far apart in distance but linked by a terrible experience, learned of each other’s existence. Mr. McLouhglin has promised to write to Mr. McCormack and it is possible that they may arrange a meeting.
                                   
 
 
 
 

Some very vivid memories of the sinking of the Lusitania are recalled by Kildare man Thomas McCormack in the Leinster Leader. The Leader also recounts, in a subsequent article, how another survivor of the Lusitania was located in Sligo.


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