Lusitania First World War sinking to be marked

THE centenary of the sinking of Clyde-built ocean liner Lusitania during World War One is to be marked by a music and poetry event this week.

The Lusitania which was sunk off the Irish coast by a German U-boat in 1915. Picture: Getty Images
The Lusitania which was sunk off the Irish coast by a German U-boat in 1915. Picture: Getty Images

The Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat on 7 May, 1915 off the south coast of Ireland with the loss of 1,195 lives, indluing 128 Americans.

The ensuing international outcry was a key factor in the United States entering the Great War. Among the American passengers who drowned was Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, then the richest man in the US.

The 31,550-tonne luxury liner, built and launched by John Brown & Co in Clydebank, sailed from New York on 1 May, 1915 bound for Liverpool.

Prior to its departure, the Imperial German Embassy put advertisements in 50 newspapers warning passengers “a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies” and “passengers were sailing at their own risk”.

The commemorative event, at the Tall Ship at the Riverside, Glasgow on 8 May, has been organised by military charity Glen Art in association with a University of Edinburgh-led project, Scotland’s War, and is backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Yvonne McEwan, historian and director of Scotland’s War, said: “Not only was the Lusitania built by Scottish men, it was staffed with Scottish men.

“A lot of the passengers were also Scottish or had Scottish ­connections.”

The programme includes songs by composers killed in the First World War, which will be performed by McOpera – formed by members of the Scottish Opera orchestra – led by conductor Tobias Ringborg.

Lament by Frank Bridge, written for a nine-year-old victim called Katherine, will also be performed.

Scottish actor Scott Ryan will recite a poem by American poet Alan Seeger, who was killed at the Battle of the Somme.

There will also be an exhibition about some of the passengers on board, including Albert Bestic, a junior officer who ­survived the sinking.

Fiona MacDonald, director of Glen Art, said: “We are delighted with the support from Heritage Lottery Fund, which has enabled us to commemorate this internationally significant event.

“It has also been fantastic to work with Scotland’s War, which has proved to be an invaluable resource and a relationship we hope to continue in the future. We look forward to sharing stories from the Lusitania and feel it is a fitting tribute to those that lost their lives.”

Consular representatives from Germany, France, the US, and Ireland, as well as European Commission staff and veterans are due to attend.

• An Evening of Words and Music, 8 May, 7:30pm, Tall Ship, Glasgow. Tickets free, but booking is essential. Contact [email protected]; 07980 631 110.