Journey’s End

Moyrus graveyard in Galway (photographed last Saturday)

One hundred years ago this week, the last leg of a sailor’s long voyage ended in Moyrus graveyard. Laurie Curtis was the 4th engineer on a Cunard ship that was torpedoed on May 30th by a German submarine about 300 miles from the Irish west coast. Curtis and a couple of other men managed to escape to a boat, but the respite was brief.

Curtis’ body was found on the shore at Letterard (near Carna) on the longest evening of the year (June 21st) by two local lads (named Conneelly and Kelly). In an ocean of water, he had died of thirst, and notes found in a bottle attached to his lifejacket described his grim predicament during his last week alive.
Inside the bottle was a postcard, dated “At Sea, June 8, 1918” with the following message :-
My Dear Wife, The ___ was torpedoed last Thursday evening at 5pm over 300 miles from Ireland. The escort had left two days before, and I managed to get away in a boat, but there was no navigator only a compass and a couple of seamen. Our water (drinking) is now getting very low, also our spirits seem dead, and the thirst is damnable, so I am writing the last good-bye in the hope that Iit might be picked up and sent to you. Much love to you and my pets, also my mother. From your poor, broken-hearted LAURIE XXX.
Will the finder of this card kindly forward to the address on the other side ?
The card was addressed to Mrs Curtis, 8 Thornfield Road, Orrell Park, Liverpool, England. On an envelope was another note :-
If this falls into the hands of any kindly person, please send it to wife at 8 Thornfield Road, Walton, Liverpool, England. Dear Edie, The ____ was sunk by a submarine on May 30, 300 or 400 miles from Ireland.I got away safely in the small boats, but unfortunately we got lost , and have been drifting for seven days, and cannot find the land, so in case you don’t see me again, this is my last goodbye, dear, to you, and my children.-Your loving husband, Laurie.

There were a few other messages found in the bottle. One read:-

Goodbye mother dear, pets and all, God is love

Another, dated June 7th, read :-

First man died

The final message, dated June 8th, read :-

Last drop of fresh water gone; all hands dying with thirst. – Laurie XXX.

At the inquest, it was surmised that a storm on June 16th might have swamped the boat, and cast the occupants – dead or alive – into the water. Since a crucifix and other Catholic items were found on his body, his funeral took place in Moyrus graveyard, where he was buried on June 22nd . The local parish priest, Fr. M McHugh, celebrated the Mass and a large number of locals attended.
The Connacht Tribune reported the inquest and the funeral one hundred years ago this week.

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