More than a century has passed since around 349 men perished in the icy waters at the mouth of Lough Swilly, County Donegal, Ireland with the sinking of the HMS Laurentic on the 25th of January 1917. The impact of this tragedy was felt by families throughout the world. From small coastal communities in Scotland, the Western Isles, The Orkney Islands, Ireland and Wales, from the industrial heartlands of England to the Southern coasts of Cornwall and Devon, from Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Sates. Some of these men had entered service in the Navy many years before the outbreak of war, some had formed part of the Laurentic crew while she served as a luxurious Trans-Atlantic passenger ship in the White Star Line and many had been called up from the Royal Naval Reserves.
For more than 10 years the loss of HMS Laurentic has been remembered in the Republic of Ireland by The Ulster Canada Initiative in ceremonies in the towns of Fahan and Buncrana where more than 70 of the men who died that night are buried. After two years of fundraising The Ulster Canada Initiative unveiled the Laurentic Monument on the 6th of October 2019, to remember the men who lost their lives and also those who survived the ordeal. 32 family members made the journey to Donegal for the unveiling, from Arklow, Cork, Tipperary, Liverpool, Staffordshire, Kent, Sussex, Devon and as far away as Australia.
The monument, designed by Mark Hill and Mandy Blinco of LUXE, sits naturally within the landscape at Dunree. On top of a mast is a boat moving freely with the wind casting its shadow, in moonlight and sunlight, across a compass rose. The boat is a skeletal frame of a rowing boat of a type familiar to the sailors and fishermen of the north Atlantic. From the sculpture there is a clear view across the bay where the Laurentic lies. At the base of the mast is a low circular stone wall and a compass rose made of sandblasted granite divided into 360 degrees, carrying the names of each of the men who lost their lives. In the centre is a ceramic piece, referencing the position of the planets and the stars at the moment the ship went down. The low stone wall and base are built to encourage visitors to sit and reflect while taking in the expansive views. Boats in the air are a peculiar Irish phenomenon mentioned in Joyce’s Ulysses, Heaney’s the Annals and on the Kilnaruane Pillar Stone in Bantry. They reveal of a world of many levels.
Although the monument has now been erected work is still ongoing to develop this website and continue researching the lives of the men. To make a donation towards the costs of site maintenance and development visit our GoFundme site: https://www.gofundme.com/laurentic