Friday, January 25, 2013
"Fate Saves Colleen From Watery Grave of Titanic"
Tracking the Irish Women in Steerage to the Lifeboats
Thirty-three Irish women travelling as steerage passengers on the Titanic survived the disaster. Many of their stories have been preserved in newspaper interviews or as family stories passed through the generations.These accounts have provided a confusing pile of pictures of how Irish female passengers struggled to save their lives.
But a single newspaper story, focused on a teenaged boy's experience on the Titanic, lets us weave many of those individual stories into a single narrative--- turning the individual snapshots into one moving picture.
The Jersey Journal published an interview with nineteen-year-old Thomas McCormack on April 23, 1912.
McCormack was returning home after spending eight months in Ireland. He was sharing a cabin with his cousins Phillip Kiernan, 25, and John Kiernan, 22.
"When the Titanic first struck the iceberg I was in my stateroom preparing to retire. I heard the crash as the ship struck the ice and at once hurriedly dressed and ran on deck, followed by my cousin, Philip Kieran, of Jersey City." (1)
"It was brotherly love that cost 'Phil' his life. As he was hurrying toward the deck his brother John called to him to go on, that he would be there in a minute. As we reached the stairs Philip looked around, and not seeing his brother, started to return to look for him. I kept on and did not see either of them again."
"When I reached the deck there were many excited persons there. I saw my cousin, Ernest McCoy of Union Hill."
Only, 'Ernest' was actually Bernard--- Bernard McCoy, 24, who was on deck with his sisters Agnes McCoy, 29, and Alice McCoy, 26.
The New York correspondent for a newspaper called the Morning Leader picks up the story. (2)
"Three steerage survivors who were at St. Vincent's Hospital were Agnes, Alice and Bernard McCoy. They said that when the first shock came to the Titanic they were asleep. They dressed and hurriedly went on deck." (3)
The newspaper said the trio followed the instructions of stewards and donned lifebelts. Then they headed to the boat deck.
"They saw a boat half-filled with members of the crew and about to be lowered away. An officer came up pointing his revolver at the men and told them to get out or he would shoot. The men climbed out slowly. "(4)
The Morning Leader, again:
"Then the officer turned to the two young women and their brother and told them to get back downstairs as there was no immediate danger. Miss Agnes said they started down but turned back when they saw water rushing into the steerage quarters."
The McCoys and Thomas McCormack seem to have moved in a "sweet spot." In none of their press interviews do they mention any obstruction of their movements by gates, barricades or Titanic crewmen.
Other Irish survivors, on the other hand, were very vocal about being prevented from going up stairs to the lifeboats.
The Irish women in steerage had their sleeping quarters at the back of the ship. For all practical purposes, there was only one way for them to reach the boat deck and a chance at survival---a stairway called "the forward second class main stairway". This stairway extended from F Deck up to the second class promenade on the Boat Deck. It bypassed A Deck. "There is a landing (on A deck), but no entrance," the British Inquiry was told by Edward Wilding, the naval architect who designed the Titanic.
As the Titanic sank, Irish passengers clustered around two escape routes.
On C Deck, there were two metal ladders leading up from the steerage promenade to the deck above (B) near the second class smoke room. There was one ladder at each side of the ship. A gate at the top of each exterior ladder was unlocked, but, according to survivors, guarded by a crewman to keep steerage passengers down. At the foot of at least one of the ladders a crowd gathered.
Other Irish passengers crowded around the entrance to the second class stairway. A barrier had been placed at the foot of the stairs (certainly it had on C deck), preventing steerage passengers from using the route. (5)
Given that the McCoy group never mentions any obstruction to their movements about the ship, it's possible they came down before the escape routes were plugged. And that they were below deck, trying to reach their quarters, when all hell broke loose on the ship, resulting in a mass breakout of steerage passengers.
Getting to the Lifeboats
The exact moment of the breakthrough to the boats by steerage passengers is easy to deduce. The majority of steerage passengers were still trapped on C Deck when above them, on A Deck, Lifeboat No. 11 was being loaded, primarily with mothers and their children. After putting Mrs. Jane Quick's two children into the lifeboat, the officer in charge felt it was full enough and he tried to stop Mrs. Quick from entering. She protested vehemently, and he relented, letting her in, but announcing loudly,"That's enough. No more can get in." (6)
His words set off a panic. Steerage passenger Abraham Hyman, who had made his way topside, described what happened next.
"...I counted in one boat 32 persons. Then there was a shout that no more could go into that boat...By this time we all felt sure that we would be drowned if we stayed on the boat---that is, all of the steerage people thought so. And that was enough to drive them wild and a fight began among them to get to where the boat was being made ready. Some of the men tried to get their wives into the boat and mothers tried to get their children into them, and only the men who had nobody with them fought for themselves, so far as I could make out in the confusion. The forward deck was jammed with the people, all of them pushing and clawing and fighting..." (7)
Margaret Mannion told her grandson how the Irish passengers reacted. Her story, as he remembered it, was carried in the Connacht Tribune, December, 2002.
"Down below, Margaret recalled, the third class passengers began to get very panicky, especially as water started to rise about their feet. At last, one brave Irishman jumped up and said, “Tis do or die” and the rest of the men agreed. They stormed down the corridors followed by the ladies in their light clothes." (8)
"They were stopped by a large barrier at the foot of a stairway, put there to stop steerage passengers mingling on upper decks, but a few strong fellows managed to smash it down. They moved on. At one stage a sailor tried to stop them, but they took care of him and soon reached the top where there were two more sailors standing with guns. They tried to threaten the passengers by firing shots in the air but this did not frighten the men, Margaret recalled. They just threw the sailors out of their way and rushed to the lifeboats followed by the women and children. The second class passengers were just about to board the boats. The sailors had no other choice but to let the third class women and children into the boats."
One of the leaders of that rush was Margaret Mannion's fiance, 25-year-old Martin Gallagher.
Earlier that night, Gallagher had been dancing with 18-year-old Mary Agatha Glynn at a get together to celebrate their pending arrival in New York. She never forgot his bravery.
"There were many women and men who proved themselves brave after the ship struck, but of them all I think a young fellow named Gallagher deserves best mention. I don't know the man's first name. You could hardly call him a man, as he was scarcely twenty-one years old. We called him Mr. Gallagher...Young Gallagher arose with us and while helping us into the boat continued chanting the prayers. He knew it meant death to stay on the ship, but refused to take a seat in the boat...He was the real hero of the steerage." (9)
A different group of Irish immigrants had, meanwhile, made an equally dramatic dash for their lives.
Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember, kept notes of an interview with Titanic survivor Katherine Gilnagh who was among that group gathered at the foot of the ladder on C deck.
"Every one was just waiting around. News came that the boats were being lowered, but when she and the girls tried to go up to them, a man stopped her at the Third Class barrier and wouldn't open the gate. They were still standing there, when Jim Farrell came up. "Great God, man!" he roared, "Open the gate and let the girls through!" To the girls' surprise, the man did then open the gate, and Kate slipped through to the Second Class deck." 7/20/55 Interview with Katherine Manning (nee Gilnagh) (10)
Irish passenger Daniel Buckley very likely witnessed Farrell's charge up the stairs. He told the U.S. Senate Inquiry:
Mr. Buckley: "There was one steerage passenger there and he was getting up the steps and just as he was going in a little gate a fellow came along and chucked him down, threw him down into the steerage place. This fellow got excited and he ran after him he could not find him. He got up over the little gate.
Senator Smith: What gate do you mean?
Mr.Buckley: A little gate just at the top of the stairs going into the first class deck.
Senator Smith: Was the gate locked?
Mr. Buckley: It was not locked at the time we made the attempt to get up there, but the sailor, or whoever he was, locked it. So that this fellow who went up after him broke the lock on it and he went after the fellow that threw him down. He said if he could get hold of him he would throw him into the ocean.
A muster of ship's crew tried to stop any passengers who followed Farrell from getting to the stairs leading to the lifeboats. Margaret Murphy witnessed what happened.
"A crowd of men were trying to get up to a higher deck and were fighting the sailors--all striking and scuffling and swearing. Women and some children were there praying and crying..." (11)
"The crowd was still fighting the sailors. John Kiernan and the other lads grabbed some chairs and they made a sort of scaffold. They helped us girls on top of the chairs so that we were above the crowd fighting all around us and not in so much danger of getting hurt."
While this group fought sailors on B Deck, other Irish passengers were stampeding up the second class stairway.
Gallagher led a dozen Irish men and women up to the boats. Father Joseph Byles had been comforting frightened passengers on C deck when the surge up the stairway began; he led those around him up to the boats, among them Bertha Moran, her brother Daniel Moran, a New York City policeman, his friend Patrick Ryan, and her companion Margaret Madigan.
"Continuing the prayers, he led us to where the boats were being lowered. Helping the women and children in he whispered to them words of comfort and encouragement," said Bertha." (12)
The McCoys and Thomas McCormack joined the rush up the stairway--- which was only five feet wide. Second Class passenger Elizabeth Dowdell described the crush.
"When we tried to get to the deck the stairways were so crowded that we could not use them. Men and women were climbing over each other here, and it was impossible for them to move up. They appeared to me to be steerage passengers, and their cries and curses were terrible to hear." (13)
With a melee between passengers and crew in full swing on B Deck, and the second-class stairway clogged by a crush of desperate passengers, other Irish women found different routes to the lifeboats.
Bertha Mulvihill was saved by a sailor.
"The people were rushing up the stairways and way down in the steerage I could hear the women and men shrieking and screaming. The women called for their children. The men cursed." (14)
"...At the top of the passage I met a sailor with whom I had become acquainted on my passage across..."We're lost; we're lost," I cried, but he took me by the arm and told me to follow him."
"Some of the Italian men from way down in the steerage were screaming and fighting to get into the lifeboats... my sailor friend told me to follow him and he would try to get me into a lifeboat. We climbed up bolts and cleats until we got to the next deck." (15)
A group of people from Adergoole County Ireland joined the mob pushing and scuffling their way up the stairs from C Deck. But they soon found their group scattered.
17-year-old Annie Kelly was in that band of family and friends.
"Annie McGowan was with me when I was going up the stairs, but she became separated from me at the head of the stairway, and was carried by the throng over to the other side of the ship. I did not see her again until I was on the Carpathia." (16)
McGowan, the youngest of the Adergoole group at only 15, had been traveling home to America with her aunt, Margaret McGowan.
"The whole time in the lifeboats the crew just kept telling me, 'Don't worry, your aunt is in a lifeboat on the other side, and she'll be all right.'" But she never saw her aunt again. (17)
It's at this junction that Thomas McCormack's story becomes invaluable. The Irish passengers arrived at the lifeboats in two distinct groupings---which can loosely be called the Gallagher people, who clustered around the aft starboard boats, and the Farrell people, who are found at the aft port boats.
The Farrell group included the Kiernan brothers. And since McCormack said he never again saw the Kiernans after leaving them to go topside, we know he and the McCoys were among the Gallagher people. (This, in turn, allows us to make sense of a multitude of stories wherein the two McCoy sisters (Agnes, 29, and Alice, 26,) were mistaken for the Murphy sisters (Margaret, 24, and Kate, 17) and vice versa.)
By determining if a survivor has a connection to Gallagher or to Farrell, we can locate her either at the port boats or the starboard boats.
Loading the Lifeboats
Mary Agatha Glynn, 18, along with her roommates Julia Smyth, 17; Kate Connolly, 23; and Mary McGovern, 22, had been praying on deck when Martin Gallagher found them and led them up the stairs to the boat deck. He placed Glynn in Lifeboat No. 13, which she identified distinctly as the boat which was almost swamped by another coming down right on them.
On the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the niece of Glynn's husband, who lived near them in Washington for 10 years, recalled the story of how she was saved. “(The niece) said Mary told her there was a lad she was dancing with that night who put her on the boat and his girlfriend was with him and he put her on the lifeboat as well and she didn’t want to go on and he was holding his rosary beads and they watched him go down." (18)
That girlfriend was Margaret Mannion, 28, who was quoted earlier.
Nineteen year old Margaret Devaney had also made her way to the top deck. She was making the trip to the United States with two even younger friends from her hometown in Sligo County, Ireland--- Mary Delia Burns, 15, and Catherine "Kitty" Hargadon, 16.
"(She) got swept into the crowd," said her granddaughter, Patricia O'Neill Gildenberg. "They were lowering a lifeboat, and she remembered being `flopped' or `pushed' into the boat." (19)
But which boat? Devaney gave plenty of interviews throughout the rest of her life but provided few clues to which lifeboat she escaped in. Unfortunately the details of her story did not remain consistent. She said she got separated from her friends and she was thrust into a boat; when the boat reached the water she provided a penknife, that had been given to her by her brother as a going-away present, to a sailor so that he could cut some ropes to....well, that differed throughout the years. Early on, it was to cut the ropes to free the lifeboat from the Titanic. Later, it became to cut the oars free because they were tightly lashed to the sides of the lifeboat and couldn't be untied.
For years the common wisdom was that Devaney escaped in Lifeboat No. 12. More recently, family members, drawing on her memory of having to push the boat away from the sinking ship because of the list the Titanic had developed, concluded she had been in Collapsible C.
Accepting the principle that a witness's earliest account is most likely to be true, I've adopted her first story that the sailor called for a knife to free the boat from the ropes holding it to the ship. In that case, only Boat No. 13 fits the bill. We know for certain that the occupants of No. 13 were in a panic to get free once they reached the ocean because they could see another boat, No. 15, being lowered literally on their heads.
Nobody in Collapsible C ever reported trouble getting the boat away from the Titanic.
Quartermaster George Rowe, in charge of C, was questioned repeatedly at the Senate Inquiry about leaving the Titanic and never mentioned any trouble with the ropes. The same was true of pantryman Albert Pearcy. Bruce Ismay, who escaped in Collapsible C, was the only survivor to make any reference at all to getting clear from the doomed vessel.
Senate Day 11
Mr. ISMAY. The ship had quite a list to port. Consequently this canvas boat, this collapsible boat, was getting hung up on the outside of the ship, and she had to rub right along her, and we had to try to shove her out, and we had to get the women to help to shove to get her clear of the ship. The ship had listed over that way.
Senator FLETCHER. Did the tackle work all right?
Mr. ISMAY. Absolutely. As for Boat No. 12, seaman Frederick Clench eliminates any possibility that Devaney was there. He testified at the U.S.Senate Inquiry: Mr.Clench. He looked up, and me being the only sailor there, he said, "Jump into that boat," he said, "and make the complement" - that was two seamen.
Senator BOURNE. That was in No. 14?
Mr. CLENCH. That was in No. 12, sir. That was the boat I went away in. I goes into the boat, and then, of course, we had to wait for orders to lower away. We started lowering away and get down to the water. I goes and gets the tumbler and drops clear into the water, and drops clear of the blocks.
Senator BOURNE. The tumbler being the loosener from the fall?
Mr. CLENCH. Yes, sir; pulls the hook back so we dropped clear of the falls. Then we had orders to pull away from the ship.
The clincher is the eyewitness account of Mary Agatha Glynn who was saved in Lifeboat 13.
"While we were being lowered, the tackle became caught in some manner, and a lifeboat descending from the upper deck was about to strike us. One of the girls in our boat...with rare presence of mind took a small clasp knife from her pocket and severed the rope. The sailors then began to pull with might and main in order to clear the boat from the danger zone." (20)
A "clasp knife" was a pocketknife.
The evidence is barely there, but its likely that one more Irish woman from steerage was also in No. 13 that night---Nora Healey, 29. She gave no interviews and no family stories regarding her escape have been found. She suffered such traumatic shock that she spent weeks in hospital, before being repatriated to Ireland, according to a distant relative. (21)
Nora Healey never recovered her full sanity and died years later in a psychiatric hospital. With so little to go on, why place her in No. 13?
Because she was from Greethill, Athenry, Galway County. Of ten steerage passengers from Galway, five of them were travelling as a group---Martin Gallagher, Thomas Kilgannon, Thomas Smith, Margaret Mannion and Helen Mockler. She was closer in age to Margaret Mannion (29 and 28 respectively) than to anyone else from Galway. The other Galway passengers were three men travelling alone (John Flynn, 48, Andy Keane, 23, and Patrick Shaughnessy, 20) and a woman eloping (Mary Mullin travelling under the name Mary Lennon.)
The Next Boat---No. 15
Bertha Mulvihill arrived on the boat deck just as No. 13 was being lowered to take more passengers off on A Deck.
"Only two boats remained. One of these pushed off. I stood directly over the other. "Jump" said the sailor. I jumped.and landed in the boat." (22)
Hard on her heels were Eugene Daly and his cousin Maggie Daly who had obviously climbed to the top deck in Mulvihill's wake. Eugene Daly remembered it this way:
"A boat was being lowered there. Maggie and Bertha got in, and I got in. The officer called me to go back, but I got in. Life was sweet to me and I wanted to save myself. They told me to get out, but I didn't stir. Then they got hold of me and pulled me out." (23)
Mulvihill, Maggie Daly and Eugene Daly climbed into No. 15. Already in that lifeboat were Maggie Madigan, Bertha Moran, Ellen Mockler, and the McCoy sisters.
Madigan, 21, was travelling with Bertha Moran, her brother Daniel, 27, and Patrick Ryan, a 32 year old cattle dealer who had been lured by Daniel's tales of life in America. As noted, they had followed Fr. Byles up the stairs to "where the boats were being lowered." (24)
Ellen Mockler, having been separated from her friend Margaret Mannion at No. 13, managed to get into the last boat still loading in her vicinity. Her attention was drawn to Fr.Byles.
"One sailor," said Miss Mocklare, "warned the priest of his danger and begged him to board a boat. Father Byles refused. The same seaman spoke to him again and he seemed anxious to help him, but he refused again. Father Byles could have been saved, but he would not leave while one was left and the sailor's entreaties were not heeded. "After I got in the boat, which was the last one to leave, and we were slowly going further away from the ship, I could hear distinctly the voice of the priest and the responses to his prayers. Then they became fainter and fainter, until I could only hear the strains of 'Nearer My God, to Thee' and the screams of the people left behind..." (24)
"A young man who was in the steerage with us helped me into the boat. It was cold and I had no wrap. Taking off the shirt he was wearing, he put it around my shoulders, used the suspenders to keep it from blowing undone and then stepped back in the crowd."
That 'young man' was Tom Kilgannon who was making the trip with Martin Gallagher. His nephew Michael Kilgannon still tells the story:
“My uncle gave his green Aran jumper to Ellen Mockler to keep her warm in the lifeboat,” Mr Kilgannon recounted. “His mother had knit it for him. Within a month of it leaving his mother’s hands, Ellen returned the jumper. It was in the family until the 1950s, when it became moth-eaten and, sadly, was disposed of.”
The McCoy sisters, meanwhile, with their brother Bernard and cousin Thomas McCormack, had returned to the boat deck. Alice McCoy also spotted Father Byles.
"I first saw Father Byles in the steerage," said Miss McCoy. "There were many Catholics there, and he eased their minds by praying for them, hearing confessions and giving them his blessing. I later saw him on the upper deck reading from his priest's book of hours. Survivors, especially a young English lad, told me later that he pocketed the book, gathered the men about him and, while they knelt, offered up prayer for their salvation." (25)
The sisters were loaded into the very lifeboat they had seen emptied earlier at gunpoint.
"By the time they got back to the officer he was directing the placing of women in the lifeboat vacated by members of the crew and the women got in. Their brother, who is younger than either of them, watched as the boat was lowered." (26)
The scene, as described by the women, was a lot more chaotic.
"Both my sister and I wanted to remain on shipboard when they would not allow poor Bernard to come into the lifeboat with us. He told us to go ahead, but we thought that if one was going to drown we might as well all go down. We were literally thrown into the lifeboat and while we fought and cried, it was lowered over the side," Agnes McCoy said. (27)
As the starboard aft boats left the sinking ship, three Irish women stayed behind.
Kate Connolly, 23; Julia Smyth, 17; and Mary McGovern, 22, had been roommates. Their travelling companion, Mary Agatha Glynn, got into Lifeboat No. 13 and was saved. Why didn't they follow her?
Senan Molony, in his seminal book The Irish Aboard Titanic, related how Kate Connolly "saved a boy as the Titanic slipped to its grave. She carried the toddler, aged only two or three, into a lifeboat and kept him warm all night."
Handed an unknown small child, what would you do? Try to find the mother, obviously. That would explain why Kate Connolly and her friends didn't join the other Irish women in Boats 13 and 15
Who was the child that Connolly looked after? Only six children were separated from their mothers aboard the sinking Titanic. Three of them---Filly Aks, 3 months old; Trevor Allison, 11 months old; and Vera Dean, 7 months old---escaped on Lifeboat No. 11, before the Irish women reached the boat deck. Assad Thomas, at 3 months, was a baby not yet a toddler. That leaves Bertram Dean, 18 months, and Michael Joseph Peter, a month away from his fifth birthday, and hardly a toddler.
But if Kate Connolly's story provides the reason the trio stayed, it's Mary McGovern who tells how they managed to get off the Titanic.
"I was fast asleep in my cabin...which I shared with two others from Virginia, Co Cavan. On Sunday night we were woken and thrown out of our bunks by the shock of the collision...We (note that she includes the "two others from Virginia, Co Cavan" in her story) went from lifeboat to lifeboat, all of which were packed, and which one by one were being lowered away down into the water...We were shoved into the last of the lifeboats to leave..." (28)
The three didn't get off in No. 13 with Mary Glynn, and neither did they escape in No. 15 where crewmen were actively searching for women to put in. If they went "from lifeboat to lifeboat", then they passed No. 16, which would be only one boat. Steward F. Morris said No. 14 contained Irish women, but it wasn't the "last boat" . By the process of elimination, Connolly, Smyth and McGovern would have been "shoved into the last" boat left, No. 10.
Their story of being shuffled from boat to boat resonates with the account of Katie McCarthy.
"I met a man from Dungarvan, who took me up to the second class boat deck where they were putting out the boats. I was put into one boat, but was taken out of it again as it was too full. I was in the last boat to leave the ship..." (29)
Again the reference to the "last boat." Lifeboat No. 10 was the last boat to leave the Titanic from the area of the second class promenade on the boat deck. It was to carry many of the Irish steerage women to safety. (30)
Several of the Titanic's lifeboats witnessed incidents that became "fingerprints" which serve to identify those boats. An officer firing his gun as the boat goes down identifies Boat No. 14 and Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. A lifeboat almost swamped by another boat being lowered directly on top of it identifies Boat No. 13. Four Chinese stowaways identifies Collapsible C.
And Boat 10 has its own "fingerprint".
Seaman Frank Evans testified of it before the U.S. Senate Inquiry.
Mr. EVANS. That was the only accident, with this woman. She seemed a bit nervous. She did not like to jump, at first, and then when she did jump she did not go far enough, and the consequence was she went between the ship and the boat.
Senator BOURNE. She fell into the water?
Mr. EVANS. No, sir; she did not fall into the water. Her foot caught on the rail on the next deck and she was pulled in by some men underneath. This woman went up again on the boat deck and took another jump and landed safely in the boat.
Senator BOURNE. Do you know who she was?
Mr. EVANS. No, sir; I do not know her name.
Senator FLETCHER. Which was the last lifeboat to leave the ship?
Mr. EVANS. The last lifeboat was No. 10. That was the last boat to leave the ship, sir. Evans left the ship in No. 10 and was unaware there were still some lifeboats left at the front of the ship.
His story of the falling woman was corroborated by Steward William Burke, who also escaped in No. 10:
Mr. BURKE. "As I got to No. 10 boat, the chief officer was there...He said, "Get right in there," and he pushed me toward the boat, and I simply stepped in the boat and got in.
"When there were no more women to be had around the deck the chief officer gave the order for the boat to be lowered. I might say that about the last woman that was about to be passed in slipped, and was about to fall between the ship and the boat when I caught her. I just saved her from falling. Her head passed toward the next deck below. A passenger caught her by the shoulders and forced me to leave go. It was my intention to pull her back in the boat. He would not let go of the woman, but pulled her right on the ship."
The 'woman who fell' is No. 10's signature event. It places Nellie O'Dwyer in that lifeboat.
"The poor girl that was to go into the boat just before me was afraid. She jumped and missed the boat, all but one ankle, and a man at the oars grabbed her. She slipped from his hold..." (31)
Katherine Gilnagh got separated from her friends in the melee on B Deck. But she eventually caught up to them in time to board a lifeboat together, the boat where 'the woman fell'.
"Katherine and two other girls from County Longford, Ireland, made their way to the rail where the last boat was being loaded. The other girls got on the crowded craft. The woman ahead of Katherine was to be the last." (32)
"The woman jumped toward the swaying lifeboat and partly missed it, apparently breaking her leg in the fall. She was pulled back board (sic) the Titanic and Katherine moved forward."
" "I told the man I wanted to get on the same boat with my sister," she recalls. "It was a lie. But he said, 'oh, go ahead.' "
" "I didn't realize at the time how fortunate I was. I just wanted to be with my pals (the girls from County Longford.)"
'The girls from Longford' were Gilnagh's travelling companions, Margaret Murphy and Kate Murphy.
Margaret Murphy was chatty with reporters and was quoted in several stories. She told of being led to the lifeboats by John Kiernan who gave her his lifebelt when he saw she had none. "There is a chance for one of us and you take it," he said," Margaret told a New York Times reporter.
Margaret Murphy recalled, “I managed to reach the top deck and stood there shivering as I saw boats being lowered. I went down below and met John Kiernan who had been looking for me. We had great difficulty in getting back on the deck again, and John had to drag me through a surging mass of people. He tried to cheer me, telling me we would be safe …” When they reached the deck, Kiernan unstrapped his lifebelt and fastened it on her. Then he forced her into a boat that was about to be lowered. She protested, thinking she would be safer with him on the huge ship than without him in a small boat. As the boat prepared to swing off, Kiernan kissed her, and yelled, “Try and keep warm Maggie, and don’t mind me. I’ll be saved.” At that moment, said Margaret later, “I thought my heart would break.” (33)
Interviewed by a reporter for the New York American, she said Kiernan cried out: " Goodbye, Maggie."
"And he said it just as he said it hundreds of times at the door of my father's store."
"Don't say goodbye, John. I have hope. Have hope," said I. (34)
Kiernan's companion Thomas Conlon threw his coat to the Murphy sisters as they were getting into the lifeboat. James Farrell gave his cap to Katie Gilnagh.
Margaret Murphy provided a further clue to her lifeboat. She told the New York American: "Later we were tied up to another boat and some people were pulled out of the water and saved. One boat had only 27 in it, another only 24."
This accurately describes Lifeboats 10 and 12, which did, indeed, tie up to one another.
The presence of two other Irish women in Lifeboat 10 is likely but can only be inferred. Katie Gilnagh and Katie Mullen shared a cabin. They were both from Longford County. They were heading to the lifeboats together when Farrell shouted at a crewman to let them pass the gate at the top of the stairs. In this interview, republished in an early edition of the Titanic Commutator, Gilnagh said:
"I saw Kate Mullin and when they started to lower it without me I told the person in charge that my sister was in the boat. He stopped lowering and told me to take a good jump. The boat was swaying back and forth. The people had been yelling not to let any more in because it was so crowded and they were afraid it would tip."
Gilnagh is said to have written home about her escape, saying that James Farrell gave her his cap as the boat was being lowered, then shouted "Goodbye forever." Katie Mullen told her daughter that her last memory of Farrell was seeing him kneeling and saying the rosary.
The two girls were inseparable--- leaving home together, rooming together, seeking safety together and it's likely they got into the same lifeboat.
The other Irish girl to be pencilled into No. 10 is 17-year-old Ellen Corr. Another Longford girl, she was actually sharing a joint ticket, # 367231, with Kate Murphy. It makes sense that she would be in the same lifeboat as the others. (35)
In the New York American news story cited above, Margaret Murphy is quoted as saying,"Just as the davits were being swung outward a Chinaman pushed a woman out of the boat and took her place. Sailors grabbed him and handed him back to the deck..."
The same story told in the exact words is quoted in some newspapers, only attributed to Ellen Carr. Coincidence? Or two girls telling the same story with one quoted by one reporter and the other quoted by another.
The bulk of this examination of the Irish women who survived the sinking of the Titanic has focussed on two groups---the women who followed Jim Farrell to the port side of the boat deck and those who followed Martin Gallagher to the starboard side of the ship.
There is a third group that comes into play here. That's the Addergoole 14 as they're now called. This travelling group from Mayo County, Ireland, was led by Katherine McGowan, 42, a Chicago resident who had gone back to Ireland for a visit and to escort her 17-year-old niece Annie McGowan to America. She wound up the mother hen to a party including her best friend (and new bride) Catherine Bourke (nee McHugh) , her husband John, and his sister Mary Bourke.
As noted previously, Katherine McGowan was separated from her niece in the crush on the second-class stairway to the boat deck. Annie McGowan wound up on the port side of the ship---at Lifeboat No. 10.
She was quoted in the Chicago Daily Journal following the arrival of the Carpathia regarding her escape:
"There were many Irish passengers in the third cabins," said Annie McGowan in New York. "We were told to wait and we'd get off all right. When it came our turn there was one boat left. They put a few of us in that but most of the steerage passengers waited behind," she told the Chicago Daily Journal. (36)
With her at No. 10 were the Bourkes.
"I heard Johnny Burke (sic) calling goodbye to us, and then he and his sisters went up on the first cabin deck. It was light on the ship and I could see them going into the big parlor. They were singing as we pulled away from the boat and every Irish girl who heard them felt proud of it." (37)
Annie Kate Kelly, who was going up the stairs with Annie McGowan, told of winding up on the opposite side of the ship from her. The commonly repeated story of how she was saved is a classic example of "close, but no cigar."
The story, reported in the Chicago Evening World, was reprinted in The Irish Aboard Titanic. (38)
"They swarmed to the companionway leading to the upper decks, but were held back be officers who said things were not ready."
"John Bourke and Patrick Canavan knew there was a ladder leading to the upper decks. Gathering the women and girls about them, they started for the ladder. Just then a steward who had talked on several occasions to Annie Kelly, a roguish Miss, happened along and saw her, frightened and confused, dropping behind her friends."
"Grasping her hand the steward dragged her up the stairway to the deck where the lifeboats were loading. She was clad only in a nightgown. A boat was just about to be launched. The steward pushed her in."
Note that the story is paraphrased. Annie Kelly tells a slightly different tale when quoted by the press in her own words. Relevent excerpts:
Chicago Record-Herald, Tuesday, April 23, 1912, p. 2, c. 5:
Survivor In Chicago
Anna Kelley, 17 years old, who says she was the last woman to leave the Titanic, arrived in Chicago last night ...
“I am positive that I was the last woman to leave the sinking Titanic and be rescued,” said Miss Kelley. “There was a crowd of us standing on the second deck of the ship, with water nearly to our knees. The crew ordered me into the boat and told others to wait and take the next boat, which would be launched immediately.
Chicago American, Tuesday, April 23, 1912, p. 2, c. 6:
Chicago Girl In Last Lifeboat
I should not have been saved except for Mrs. Burke’s refusal to leave her husband and the Misses Burke saying they would not go if their uncle and aunt could not go with them,” said Miss Kelly. “I went in the very last boat and I was the very last passenger. The officer said there was room for just one more.
“I was aroused by the call of the stewardess, who told us all to dress as quickly as we could, though she did not explain what was the trouble. I dressed and went upon the second deck. Annie McGowan was with me when I was going up the stairs, but she became separated form me at the head of the stairway, and was carried by the throng over to the other side of the ship. I did not see her again until I was on the Carpathia.
Chicago Inter Ocean, Tueday, April 23, 1912, p.3, c. 5:
Chicago Girl Last to Leave Titanic
Miss Annie Kellly Reaches Home Here and Tells of Her Thrilling Experiences White Escaping From the Sinking Liner
when I had reached the second deck I began to understand that some terrible calamity had befallen the hip (sic). Not once did I lose control of myself, and finally I was dragged forward by a steward and placed in a lifeboat, much against my will, as I did not realize the danger.
Last to Leave
“I was the last to leave the ship as the boat I was placed in was the last to be put out to sea. Less than ten minutes—it seemed less than that during those first terrifying moments—after we left the steamer she sank.
Her story, then, is that
* after being roused by the stewardess, she started up the stairs to the boat deck.
* the second class promenade on the boat deck is referred to as the "second deck."
* she was separated from Annie McGowan and they wound up on opposite sides of the ship.
* somehow, after Annie McGowan was put off the ship in a lifeboat and saw the Bourkes going forward to the first class section of the boat deck, Annie Kate Kelly reunited with them.
* she was standing on deck "with water nearly to (her) knees"
* Catherine Bourke was given a place in the lifeboat but she refused to go if her husband couldn't join her. Her sister, and possibly other women of the Mayo group, chose to stay with her.
* an officer said there was room for only one more on the boat. * she was "dragged forward by a steward" and put in the lifeboat
* the crew ordered her into the lifeboat but told others another boat would be launched immediately
* she was the very last passenger put in the very last lifeboat.
"The last Annie Kelly saw of John Bourke and his wife and his sister and little Patrick Flynn they were standing, hands clasped, in a row by the rail, waiting for the end." said the story in the Chicago Evening World.
Annie Kelly may have arrived on the boat deck in the vicinity of the aft starboard boats, but she didn't stay there. Perhaps she was scared away by the disorder there (to be discussed in a future article). But the next thing we know for sure is that she linked up with John Bourke, his wife and sister, and she was given a chance to enter a lifeboat and save her life. The clues she provides identify that boat as Collapsible D.
She was in "water nearly to (her) knees" on the boat deck, which clearly indicates she was at the bow of the ship since the stern was rising up out of the ocean. She says she was on the last boat, which Collapsible D certainly was. Even the fact that the crew was saying another boat would be launched shortly describes their belief that Collapsible B would be loaded in D's place.
A third, and last, of the Adergoole party to be saved was Delia McDermott, whose age is given variously from 25 to 31. Hers is one of the more fascinating stories. Delia was headed to Missouri to work as a housemaid and was travelling with her best friend Mary Canavan. They made it to the lifeboats and were standing in line waiting their turn to board when Delia made a last-minute decision to go back to her cabin. Why? To get her hat.
That story sounded apocryphal---until 2010 when her granddaughter Kathy Lynch-Cobuzzi took her own two daughters to Ireland to visit the village that Delia McDermott left behind. (39)
It turns out that before leaving on her journey to America, Delia's mother bought her a new hat and gloves so that she would "look like a lady" when she arrived.
""You are a lady, and a lady is not a lady without her hat and gloves. Be sure that you are wearing your hat and gloves when you arrive in New York." (40)
While taking her gloves out of her coat, Delia McDermott remembered her mother's words. Leaving her friend in line, she rushed to get her new hat. Now it makes sense.
The story, as recounted in the Independent, says some of her friends were hiding in toilets down in steerage and refused to come up with her. She tried to go up the staircase, only to find her way blocked by a mass of passengers. It was then that "a group of young men ran by." They, the story goes, "knew of a back staircase that they had been using all week to spy on the upper decks." Here, then, is the source of the rescue of Annie Kate Kelly recounted above.
Delia McDermott's story isn't over. It gets even better. She told family members that when she got back to the boat deck "she managed to get a place in another boat. She had to jump fifteen feet from a rope ladder onto the lifeboat." (41)
How to unravel Delia McDermott's story? What boat was she in line for? It's a convoluted path, but it appears to be No. 10, with the other Irish women.
Another survivor, Annie Kate Kelly, became a nun and she told her fellow nuns in Adrian Dominican Sisters:
"As the ship was sinking, women and children were evacuated first. They formed a line. A young bride refused to leave the ship without her husband. I was given the bride's place. As I was lowered into the lifeboat I looked up and saw my cousin Pat watching, holding in his hand his rosary, which he raised to bless me." (42)
So, Patrick Canavan was with the Bourkes when they saw Annie Kelly leave the ship. Before that, the Bourkes were at No. 10 when Annie McGowan was leaving. It's no stretch to suggest Patrick Canavan was also at No. 10. His first cousin was Mary Canavan, who was in line with Delia McDermott. The likelihood, then, is that she and Patrick stayed together, meaning that if Patrick was with the Bourkes at No. 10, so was Mary, and so was Delia McDermott.
If Delia left No. 10 to get her hat, the only boat left when she returned would have been Collapsible D. Now, the mention of a rope ladder would be an obvious "fingerprint" of any boat. Was there any other reference to a rope ladder and Collapsible D?
Unfortunately, no, or rather, not exactly. But I did find two other references to a rope ladder. In Chapter 8 of 'Sinking of theTitanic: Eyewitness Accounts', edited by Jay Henry Mowbray, the following story appears:
"In the boat with Mrs. Brown (Mrs. John M. Brown) were her two sisters, Mrs. Robert Cornell, wife of Judge Robert Cornell, and Mrs. S.P. Appleton."
"They followed each other down the long, roughly constructed rope ladder, a distance of more than fifty feet, into the tenth lifeboat. All were thinly clad. They had retired for the night and were tumbled from their berths when the crash came."
The problem is that Mrs.Brown escaped in Collapsible D and her sisters in Lifeboat No. 2.
Not to mention that "the tenth lifeboat" could be construed to mean Lifeboat No. 10.
The second reference appears in many stories and histories that mention Mrs. Emily Richards who escaped with her two sons in No. 4. These read:
"They returned to deck (sic) and were told to pass through the dining room to a rope ladder placed against the side of the cabin that led to an upper deck. Mrs. Richards, her two sons, her mother and her sister were pushed through a window into lifeboat 4."
The problem here is that a nearly identical paragraph appears in the Akron Beacon Journal, April 20, 1912, but it mentions they had to pass to 'a ladder' placed against the side of the cabin, not a rope ladder.
http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/akron-women-tell-thrilling-stories-rescue-doomed-ship.html "Akron Women Tell Thrilling Stories of their Rescue From the Doomed Ship"
The only hint of verification that Delia McDermott climbed down a rope ladder into Collapsible D is that the other two references are, curiously, both in the same quadrant of the Titanic as Collapsible D, namely the forward port side. If there was a rope ladder, it's not impossible for it to have been moved from boat to boat as needed.
Delia McDermott wasn't the only Irish woman to leap into Collapsible D.
So did Annie Jermyn.
"Nobody asked her to get into a boat, she asserts, although she stood on the deck near the boat davits in her night dress and bare feet. The last boat was about to start from the ship with only about 15 aboard, she says." Realing (sic) that it was my only chance I sprang from the upper deck of the vessel into the boat, falling a distance of nearly 30 feet and landing on my chest and stomach"." (43)
Jermyn was one of three women from the district of Ballydehob, Ireland.
Another was Mary Kelly who said she was saved in a collapsible boat. She pinpoints which boat with her reference to having a child placed in her care, one of the Navratil boys.
"Just before the boat pushed off an officer rushed up and asked whether anyone would take charge of a child. She volunteered and the child was thrust into her arms. She held it until they were picked up by the Carpathia. Miss Kelly said she felt sure this child was one of the little French boys Miss Hays has taken charge of..." (44)
Her granddaughter left a comment on the Internet in 2012 in which she stated that the grown-up boys actually contacted Mary Kelly later in their lives.
http://www.retronaut.com/2012/02/titanic-survivors-1912/ mary moynihan
April 9th, 2012 The two lttle French boys were handed to my grandmother, Mary Kelly she was in the last boat. She took care of the boys until they landed in New York. They looked up my grandmother years later, she lived in Brooklyn at the time. I’ll bet their conversation was a good one…
The third of the Ballydehob girls was Bridget Driscoll.
"Bridget would later tell how she helped 'another lady from Ballydehob', wrote Senan Molony in The Irish Aboard Titanic. Given that Annie Jermyn had to jump in or be left behind, that could only be Mary Kelly.
I started this essay with Thomas McCormack and its only fitting I end with him.
McCormack was last seen sending off the Mccoy sisters in Lifeboat No. 15. Standing with him was his cousin Bernard McCoy, the brother of Alice and Agnes.
"The ship was settling badly..." he told the Jersey Journal.
Bernard McCoy knew he had to be lucky to survive and he decided to make his own luck.
Lifeboat No. 15 had been gone about half an hour and yet was still nearby.
"...I saw a form whirl through the air and splash into the water near our boat," declared said Agnes McCoy between sobs. (45)
"When the form came up I recognized it as Bernard...The poor boy took hold of the side of the boast and I staggered to his rescue...I saw a seaman strike Bernard's hands with an oar. Then he tried to beat him off by striking him on the head and shoulders." "It was more than I could stand and calling for Alice I made for the seaman. With more strength than I thought I ever possessed I threw the man to the bottom of the boat and held him there fast. Yes, maybe I did hit him once or twice but I think I was justified under the circumstances."
"In the meantime Alice helped the poor boy over the side and lifted him to safety."
Thomas McCormack still held back.
He made his way to the bow of the ship where matters were no better. He, too, decided his only choice was to jump before the Titanic sank.
"Ernest (sic) jumped from one side of the Titanic while I jumped from the other." (46)
He told his sister and brother-in-law Bernard Evers a detailed story of how he survived and they recounted the tale to a reporter. (47)
"The monster ship was settling badly as he started to swim toward a life boat a short distance away."
"McCormack is a good swimmer and a strong athletic young fellow. As he neared the life boat which was moving slowly, he declares he was warned off by sailors who were in the boat."
"Realizing that it was his only chance of saving himself he seized the side of the boat only to be repeatedly beaten off by sailors. Blow after blow were showered on his hands, arms and body from their oars by the sailors and finally he was obliged to release his hold."
"Another life boat came along a few minutes afterward and McCormack, according to his story, repeated his attempt, this time successfully, to get aboard."
McCormack himself gave more details to the press three days later.
"After being beaten severely by sailors with oars I managed to get into one of the life and boats (sic) and my cousins Alice and Kate McCoy of Union Hill sat on me and tried to cover me up. (48)
"After a while one of the sailors saw my legs protruding, and seizing them asked me 'what in ____' I was doing in the boat. He dragged me out and tried to throw me into the water. I grabbed him by the throat and said if I went overboard I would take him with me. When he saw that he could not thro (sic) me over he finally desisted and I was allowed to remain."
McCormack’s sister Catherin Evers corroborated and clarified her brother’s experience to the New York Times:
"When he saw the condition of the ship he put on a lifebelt and leaped overboard. He tried to get into one lifeboat which was only partly filled and the sailors beat him off with their oars. He tried to enter another partly filled boat and was again beaten off, being partly stunned this time.”
“Then two young women in the boat, Kate and Mary Murphy, reached into the water and grasped him. They pleaded with the sailors that there was plenty of room in the boat, and at last got him aboard." (49)
* Footnotes will be posted separately