The acting education officer at the Tower Museum, Ronan McConnell, is urging members of the public to come along and view its fascinating Laurentic Exhibition before it closes at the end of June.
The free admission exhibition is being held to mark the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant events in local maritime history when the White Star Line SS Laurentic sank off the coast of Donegal on January 25, 2017.
More than 350 sailors perished when the Laurentic was destroyed by a mine on its way to Nova Scotia just an hour after it had stopped off at Buncrana due to a number of cases of illness on board.
In the days following the disaster, survivors were brought to Derry where they were welcomed and cared for by local people before they could be transported home.
The exhibition has attracted thousands of visitors since it opened in Januaryy.
Mr. McConnell urged anyone who hasn’t yet visited to do so in the coming weeks.
“The story of the sinking of the Laurentic, and the subsequent recovery of some of the artefacts from it, is one that has captured the public’s imagination and renewed interest in the city’s maritime story,” he said.
“We have been delighted to welcome visitors from around the world in large numbers to view the exhibition in the Tower Museum. It includes artefacts held privately for years that have been loaned to the museum which help give a unique insight into the story. The fact that the ship was secretly transporting around £300m of gold bullion on board and some of that gold remains unaccounted for has added to the mystique for people.
“I would encourage anyone who hasn’t visited the exhibition yet to do so before it closes at the end of June.”
Despite the ongoing efforts of local divers to salvage the last of the Laurentic gold, it’s thought that 22 gold bars still lie on the seabed to this day.
Local diver Ray Cossum secured the rights to the wreck in 1968 and has dived the site several times in a bid to recover items.
Artefacts recovered during dives over the years include the ship’s bell, dented by sailors in their desperate efforts to raise the alarm as the ship sank.
“The exhibition includes several sources collected by Ray Cossum over the years, including audio recordings from actual survivors, has left us with a fantastic foundation for this exhibition. The generosity of divers and collectors around Northern Ireland and Donegal in loaning and donating these incredible artefacts can be seen in the various displays around the exhibition.”
More details on all the exhibitions at the Tower Museum are available at www.derrystrabane.com/towermuseum.