Museum to host maritime archive series

The bell being fitted on the White Star Liner the Laurentic during construction in 1908.
The bell being fitted on the White Star Liner the Laurentic during construction in 1908.

The first in a fascinating series of nautical themed talks trawling the depths of the Council archives is set to take place at the end of the month in the Tower Museum.

Casting the spotlight on the array of artefacts found on the famous White Star ship the Laurentic, the first talk in the ‘What’s in the Archives?’ series will be held on Tuesday January 26 at 12.30pm, kicking off the series of maritime focused events.

Des and Ray Cossum pictured with the Laurentic bell during a salvage operation on the Allerton in 1979.

Des and Ray Cossum pictured with the Laurentic bell during a salvage operation on the Allerton in 1979.

Archivists Ronan McConnell and Kirsty Osborn will be talking about the story of the Laurentic which sank at the mouth of Lough Swilly during World War I. The talk will focus on the collection of documents loaned to the museum by the wreck owner Ray Cossum, and will also feature a collection of German U-boat photographs recently acquired by Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Museums Service.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Elisha McCallion, said the series would offer local history lovers a better insight into some of the council’s most interesting collections. “I am delighted that the Museum is offering people the chance to find out more about the fascinating records we have in the archive collection. The Foyle was once a busy waterway and strategic military base so the city and surrounding region has a rich maritime history.

“We should really celebrate that history and endeavour to preserve our maritime heritage for future generations.”

Archivist with the Museum Ronan O’Connell said: “This series hopes to delve deeper into some of the collections which we have here in the museum and explain a bit more about their origins.

“The story of the Laurentic really is particularly fascinating due to the tragedy surrounding the sinking of the ship in 1917 after the vessel struck two mines. The ship sank rapidly and sadly 354 passengers and crew were killed as a result. The Laurentic had also been carrying 43 tonnes of gold ingots at the time so there was great interest in recovering its cargo. The resulting aid provided by the people of Derry for the survivors is also particularly interesting.

“Myself and Kirsty will be looking at some of the special collections we have here in the museum and answering any questions people might have on the day.”

The talk is one of three taking place over the coming months, with the second exploring the city’s wider maritime heritage and in particular the documents of the Londonderry Port and Harbour Commission. The talk will take place on February 23 and trace the history from the first local settlers to the present day.

Finally on March 29 the William Mitchell archives will be the focus of a talk called Ship Shapes. This talk will also focus on a unique collection of photographs of the ships who have docked in Londonderry from the 1930s to the 1980s.

All of the talks are free and all are welcome to attend. Anyone interested is asked to RSVP to the Tower Museum at tower.reception@derrystrabane.com For more information on the talks contact Tel: 028 7137 2411.