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Commemoration events to mark centenary of Connemara-Retriever shipping disaster on Carlingford Lough

A SERIES of commemoration events is taking place this weekend in Greenore to mark the centenary of the worst shipping disaster on Carlingford Lough.

The SS Connemara, a passenger cargo vessel owned by the London & North Western Railway company, was en-route from Greenore to Holyhead on the night of Friday November 3 1916 when it was in collision with the incoming coal collier the SS Retriever.

The 270-foot long 1,106-ton vessel had a complement of 55 passengers and 31 Welsh crew members on board, and all perished.

The collision happened at the entrance to Carlingford Lough in an area known to mariners as 'The Cut', where the turbulent tidal patterns rush to meet the open sea.

The Connemara, a twin-screw steamship, had been constructed in 1897 by Denny Brothers of Dunbarton and was purchased by the L&NWR company to serve passenger and cargo traffic between Greenore and Holyhead, described as “the most direct and comfortable route between Ireland and Great Britain”.

The 168-foot long three masted steamer Retriever was a 483-ton coal collier owned by the Clanrye Shipping Company, and had been built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company in 1899.

The Connemara had left Greenore Port at 8pm on that fateful Friday evening bound for Holyhead on her regular run with cargo and passengers while the inward bound Retriever was en-route from Garston for the Port of Newry with a cargo of coal (it had nine crew members on board).

Disaster struck in mountainous seas when neither vessel could take evasive action and the Connemara's port side was sliced open by the Retriever's bows, sinking within several minutes with all on board.

The Retriever sank some minutes later with only one survivor, 21-year-old Warrenpoint man James Boyle.

The death toll could have been higher if it were not for the war time restrictions limiting the passengers to third class only.

The weekend's centennial commemorations begin on Friday evening with presentation by the Greenore Drama Group of “A Time to Remember”, a specially-written story of the Connemara and Retriever disaster, written and directed by Michael Ferguson. It takes place in the Assembly Rooms in Greenore at 8.30pm and admission is €10.

Events continue through until Sunday as part of the Greenore Maritime Festival and include a special ecumenical prayer service and blessing of wreaths on the promenade, when musical accompaniment will be provided by Holyhead & Bangor Male Voice Choirs, Ceol Chairlinn and local combined choirs.

The centennial commemoration event has been funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs under the Reconciliation Programme.

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