A RANGE of events is being organised in Cobh this year to mark the centenary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic , but one of the most tangible links between the town and the historic ship is in danger of being lost.
A 19th century wooden pier in Cobh, formerly Queenstown, where 123 passengers boarded tenders taking them to the Titanic , is in a perilous state and some experts are warning that unless funding is provided the pier is likely to collapse.
Some uncertainty remains over the ownership of the pier, known locally as the Heartbreak or White Star Line pier, which was used by generations of emigrants who left Ireland from Cobh.
While the nearby White Star Line office has been renovated and turned into a visitor attraction, uncertainty remains over the future of the wooden pier.
Maritime historian Vincent McMahon says the pier is hugely significant in historical terms. “In the past, tenders always carried passengers from this pier out to large liners.
“Passengers went through the office, now the Titanic Experience, walked onto the pier and then got on to tenders and were brought out to their ships.” Mr McMahon says Cobh has been slow to preserve such an important aspect of its maritime past.
“I can never understand how this wasn’t top of the agenda for years. In Belfast they are restoring everything they can in relation to the Titanic.
“There has been uncertainty in Cobh over whether or not the pier belonged to the White Star Line building, or to the shipping lanes. Nobody has been able to prove who owns it,” he says.
“I feel it should be retained or restored in some way, bearing in mind that in 1912 the last passenger to board the Titanic walked out over those wooden planks.”
Marc Anderson, project director of Titanic 100 Cobh, which is planning a series of commemorative events, says: “I believe that pier should be protected. I know some persons are looking into it, but as far as I know it is currently at a stalemate.
“It is a very important piece of Titanic history and a very important piece of Cobh history and it shouldn’t just be allowed fall into the water.”
At present, the pier is not on the register of protected structures and Cobh Town Council says it has no funding available to carry out any works to the pier, which could cost upwards of €350,000.
Town clerk Pádraig Lynch says the council is looking at what funding options are available.