Dún Laoghaire is the Irish terminal of the ferry service from Holyhead in North Wales and has a long maritime tradition. The National Maritime Museum of Ireland opened in 1978 in the Church of Ireland (Protestant) Mariners’ Church, built in 1837 which remained open until 1971. It is one of the few purpose-built seafarers’ churches remaining anywhere in Europe. The collection originated with the Maritime Institute of Ireland, established in 1941 by Colonel Anthony Lawlor (1898-1989), Commander of the Irish Marine Coast Watching Service during the Second World War. The museum was located at St Michael’s Wharf, Dún Laoghaire from 1959 until it moved to the Mariners’ Church.
The collection is skilfully displayed within and around the arches of a Gothic building. It includes the imposing optic from the Baily lighthouse on Howth Head, used between 1902 and 1972 which is part of a display called Irish Lights. There are sections devoted to the Titanic and to Brunel’s Great Eastern, as well as displays of marine engines, navigation equipment, diving apparatus and sailors’ knots. A particularly important section consists of artefacts from RMS Leinster of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Co which was sunk with the loss of 500 lives off Dún Laoghaire on 10 October 1918.