Commemoration event held in Cork to mark 81st anniversary of maritime tragedy

The SS Ardmore left her berth at Penrose Quay for Wales on November 11, 1940, but never reached its destination. 
Commemoration event held in Cork to mark 81st anniversary of maritime tragedy

Lord Mayor Cllr Colm Kelleher with 9-year-old Alicia Raymond, her granddad Robert Raymond, and Joseph and Hannah Raymond at the remembrance ceremony. Family and friends remember those who died on SS Ardmore.Pic: Larry Cummins

RELATIVES of those who lost their lives in a maritime tragedy 81 years ago gathered on Penrose Quay yesterday as a lone bagpiper opened the proceedings of a commemorative event on the anniversary of the disaster.

Noel Raymond at the ceremony on Penrose Quay. Pic: Larry Cummins
Noel Raymond at the ceremony on Penrose Quay. Pic: Larry Cummins

The SS Ardmore left her berth at Penrose Quay with a cargo of livestock bound for Fishguard in Wales on November 11, 1940, but was never seen again. Twenty-four men, including 16 from Cork, were on board.

In the days after, air and sea searches of her route came to nothing but over the following weeks, some wreckage and livestock were washed ashore both on the Welsh Pembrokeshire coast and on the Saltee Islands, off Wexford. 

In December, the bodies of the captain and two crew members were found.

What caused the demise of SS Ardmore was not confirmed for nearly 60 years but it was feared she might have struck a mine.

This theory was proved correct in February 1998 when The Echo reported that the wreck of SS Ardmore had been located by divers three miles from the Saltee Islands in 183 feet of water.

The hull bore evidence of a massive explosion near the engine room.

 Sister and brother Angela Maguire (nee Forde) and John Forde, whose grandfather was on the ship. Pic: Larry Cummins
Sister and brother Angela Maguire (nee Forde) and John Forde, whose grandfather was on the ship. Pic: Larry Cummins

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher was in attendance at yesterday’s commemoration ceremony held at Michael Collins Bridge where there is a plaque remembering those who died in the disaster.

Speaking to The Echo, he said it was a poignant occasion to mark the 81st anniversary of the sinking of the SS Ardmore.

“Unfortunately it was the victim of an international conflict and it was a complete unintentional loss of life,” he said.

“It’s great to see so many people here to remember those people who sadly lost their lives.

“I’m delighted, although it’s in the miserable rain, to be here today to commemorate the lives lost.” 

 Family and friends remember those who died on SS Ardmore. Pic: Larry Cummins
Family and friends remember those who died on SS Ardmore. Pic: Larry Cummins

The commemoration event was organised by Noel Raymond from Dillons Cross, whose granduncle Michael was on board the ill-fated ship.

Ahead of the anniversary, Noel had appealed to people to join him in marking the occasion and had organised for a priest to say prayers at the plaque.

He said the response to the appeal, published in The Echo and on EchoLive.ie, was “overwhelming”.

“People contacted me from as far as South Australia and Canada.” 

Timothy O'Flynn whose grandfather Patrick O'Flynn (in picture) was a cattleman who died on SS Ardmore.
Timothy O'Flynn whose grandfather Patrick O'Flynn (in picture) was a cattleman who died on SS Ardmore.

Among the relatives in attendance was Timothy O’Flynn from Fairhill whose grandfather was on board the SS Ardmore that night.

“My father never spoke about his father. He was only 15 when died.” 

Janet Murphy, whose great-grandfather John Cronin lost his life on the ship was also in attendance.

“My great grandmother was pregnant on my father at the time when the ship went down,” she said.

“My son is with me here today. It’s great to attend and to hear the different stories.” 

Yesterday’s event was also live-streamed for those who were not able to attend, on a new Facebook page Noel has created entitled 'SS Ardmore vessel Cork city’.

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