The parish of Addergoole, on the isolated shores of Lough Conn, between Pontoon and Crossmolina, had seen some economic recovery in the late 19th century, but by the turn of the century changes in weather and market conditions brought hard times to many families and faced with dire poverty, many resorted to the traditional route and boarded ships for the United States or United Kingdom.
So it was that 14 bright young Addergoole residents left in search of their fortunes in America. Embarking on their journey from the port at Queenstown, they were among the lucky ones to travel the maiden voyage of the world’s largest ship, bound for New York. The fate of the RMS Titanic is well known, but the fates of the individuals aboard are less known. Of the ‘Addergoole 14’, as they came to be known, only 3 survived, giving the parish the sad distinction of having suffered the highest per capita loss of any single place in the tragedy.
The parish reeled at the news of the tragedy and the shockwaves are still felt today, as the small community continues to honour their lost citizens every year on April 15 at 2.25am. Relatives of the victims lead a solemn, poignant candle-lit procession in the dark of night to the local church and a bell is rung for every victim.
To mark the centenary, a memorial park was erected in Lahardane in the parish of Addergoole. It is an impeccably conceived park where the human dimension of the loss is adroitly dramatised. At the entrance sculpted figures of a group of plucky and hopeful young emigrants bid farewell to their homes and families. With suitcases in hand, they set off for the doomed ship whose sculpted brow is the centrepiece, cast in more human scale but set against the backdrop of a black, shadowy mountain where mist rolls in from Lough Conn and shrouds the park. The stone cottage replica brings home the reality of time and circumstance, as well as illustrating the sad ritual which neighbours performed when families succumbed to the lure of emigration. Embers from still-burning fires would be carried to neighbouring houses to keep the memories alive of people who, once departed, rarely ever returned.
The park is the result of a dedicated group--one of many such groups with which Mayo abounds-- the Addergoole Historical Society. Though off the beaten track a little, the Addergoole Titanic Memorial Park offers a glimpse of the lives of people whose stories were never told and whose dreams were dashed as their lives were cut short in freezing waters so far from the warm embers of their home fires.