Keane and a night to remember
name of Titanic survivor Nora Keane from Castleconnell made
news around the world a fortnight ago when a watch said
to be hers was auctioned in the US for more than $19,000.
NORMA PRENDIVILLE has been researching Nora Keanes
story with members of her family.
It was terrible that wreck. It cannot be described in all
its horror and detail. I think of it with the terrible fear
upon me again.
These are the words of Castleconnell woman Nora Keane who
made her own small place in history as one of only 705 people
to survive the sinking of the Titantic. More than 1500 others
perished in the early hours of April 15, 1912, less than
three hours after the worlds biggest and most luxurious
liner struck an iceburg.
Noras recollections of that disastrous night, told
to a reporter at The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,
resonate down the generations.
I was ready for bed as were most of the passengers
who had not already gone to sleep when the officers came
and told us to leave the ship. They told us to put on life
preservers as the vessel was in bad shape. We did this:
then we went on deck, she said.
Prior to the stewards announcement there had been
no indication of trouble. Nora said, although she recalled
sensing a slight shock.
The night was cold and clear. On deck, Nora found that the
officers had perfect control of everything. There was some
excitement amongst some of the people but not what you would
expect under the circumstance.
The officers called out who was to go in the lifeboats and
the crew showed every courtesy in lowering the women
and children into the boats.
Nora Keane was fortunate. She got out in the fourth or fifth
The men passengers stood back. Without doubt, they
sacrificed their lives to give women and children the prefence,
One man, however, made it into their boat.
No one saw him go. When we got into the boat, we tramped
over him for some time but didnt see him or even know
we were stepping on a human form. said Ms Keane.
But the man afterwards proved useful, being able to handle
the boat which contained 55 passengers.
The sea was calm. It was not a large boat and we were
much crowded, she said.
Had the sea been choppy, the lifeboat would surely have
capsized, Nora told the reporter, because the sides
of the boat were nearly to to water.
She recalled, too the horror of being unable to help victims
in the water.
Two men floated by us. Both of them had life preservers.
One of them drooped low in the water. He did not call. The
other called to us: take me on. It was almost
an impossibility to do anything. Our boat barely floated.
Goodbye the men in the water called. Then his
head went down a little later. He disappeared out of sight.
That was the case with many others. It was terrible sight
to witness. It cannot be forgotten. The sight of men in
the sea was awful. she recalled.
From the lifeboat, Nora saw the Titanic go down at approximately
2.20am on April 15.
The ship seemed to go down forward and raise to an
awful height, all at once. There was a roar and a deafening
sound. The cries and moans of those passengers and crew
in the water was awful. Very soon, there was nothing seen
or heard. The ship went down about 100 yards from where
our boat was. Bodies drifted past us. Pieces of the wreck
were around, she said.
Nora also recalled the band playing.
And that band played, I dont know how the men
did it, while we were getting on the boats. It played when
we drifted away. Men jumped into the sea but the band played.
Some of them must have stood in water that was then over
that part of the deck while they played for we were on nearly
the same level with the deck then.
They played Nearer my God to Thee till the ship rose
and they went out of sight. They must have been playing
when it went down, said Nora.
Nora and the 704 other survivors were picked up by the Carpathia
And it was The Patriot who told her brothers in Harrisburg
that she was safe, having previously reported their anxiety
At 9.15am on April 18, the Capathia docked in New York where
Nora was met by her brothers, Dennis, William and Patrick
and John Keane.
Dennis described the scene for The Patriot.
The ship made a beautiful appearance as she came almost
silently up. There was no sound. I believe that a pin could
have been heard fall up to the time the gangsways were lowered
for the passengers. Down the planks came the survivors.
The big lines of police stood silent and we stood silent
too. Then people would break out of the ranks and take their
loved ones in their arms, he said.
Nora then returned to Harrisburg where she had made her
home with another brother, Michael, who had a hotel there.
Her name continued to appear in local directories until
1919. According to her grand niece, Sr Noreen Keane, Nora
returned to Castelconnell in the 1920s and lived with her
brother, Peter, and his family until her death on December
20, 1944 at the age of 80.
She was a tall woman who walked with a very straight
back, Sr Noreen said of the grand-aunt who was part
of her family.
She was also a very religious woman and she often told them
the story of the Titanic.
Born on March 30, 1864, Nora was one of a family of seven
boys and two girls to John and Honora Keane. She emigrated
to the US in the 1890s and they settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvnia.
Nora had been on an extended visit to her mother in 1912
when she booked her passage back on the Titanic. She had,
it seems, intended to return on an earlier boat, but believed
she would be more comfortable on the Titanic where she was
a secondclass passenger. She was just 48 at the time.
Nora, recalls St Noreen, lost her rosary beads when she
was on the tender bringing her out to the Titanic in Cobh,
She considered this a terrible augury and kept repeating
to her cabin companion, Edwina Trout, (later MacKenzie)
that she felt something awful was going to happen.
Mrs MacKenzie told St Noreen when they met in 1983 that
on the night the Titanic sank, Noras response to the
stewards pleas to hurry up to deck was I am
not going anywhere without my corsets.
Courtesy of the Limerick Leader
By Norma Prendiville
May 21st 2005