from the Titanic
One of the remarkable stories of the last century was the
sinking of the Titanic - not just the scale of the tragedy
with the loss of over 1,500 men, women and children, but
because, in many respects, it seemed the death of an era
of grand-style travel, of a time when the pace of life (at
least for some) appeared to be typified by the grace and
luxury of a fine liner making stately progress across the
oceans of the world. The ship had many special Irish links
- she was built in Belfast for the White Star Line, and
also probably had more Irish victims of the great tragedy
than many other nationalities - the Titanic was the vessel
that could bring them to a new life in the United States,
but many had their death warrants sealed because they were
travelling below decks and in steerage.
By Mattie Kilroy
The Titanic had on its passenger list many from the West
of Ireland who were at the time looking to greener pastures
of the U.S.A. for a better future, a better life and, of
course, opportunities to work.
Many of the passengers had their ticket sent home by a brother,
sister, uncle or relative who had travelled to the U.S.A.
before them and wanted to share in their new life and to
provide an opportunity for another family member to avail
of a better life than was available in the early part of
the 20th Century.
Most parishes had some connection with the ill-fated Titanic
but Ahascragh, Caltra and a parish in Co. Longford had five
members on board and in the village of Caltra a Commemorative
Plaque stands and proves to be a daily attraction for many
visitors. The following is an extract form the book The
History of Ahascragh-Caltra
Five people from Caltra parish booked tickets to travel
to Amercia on the Titanic on her maiden voyage. They were:
Margaret Mannion, Loughanboy, Ellie Mockler, Tom Kilgannon,
Martin Gallagher of Currafarry, hero of the fateful liner,
and Tom Smyth, Chapelfinnerty. The three men perished. Margaret
Mannion and Ellie Mockler survived. Tom Kilgannon gave an
Aran sweater to Ellie Mockler which his mother had knitted
for him and it is said that she took it back to his mother
in Ireland nine years later. Ellie later joined the Mercy
Martin Gallagher was one the heros in that fateful liner.
It is said that he recited the Rosary as the last of the
lifeboats was lowered into the water. Almost fully recovered
from the shock of her ordeal, when she was rescued from
the sinking White Star Titanic on Monday, April 15, 1912,
Ellie (sister of Martin Mockler) who had emigrated to New
York previously, told the complete story of her experiences
to her brother. Immediately on her arrival in New York on
the rescue ship Carpathia of the Canara line, Ellie was
taken to St. Vincents Hospital suffering from shock
and later went to the home of her sister in New York.
It was Ellies first trip across the Atlantic, also
the first ship she had ever seen. Born and brought up in
the village of Currafarry in the parish of Caltra, Ellie
took passage on the steerage of the Titanic. She was accompanied
by her neighbour Margaret Mannion and both were acquainted
with Martin Gallagher who sailed from the port. For days,
the voyage across the water was one of pleasure and gaiety.
When the ship struck the iceberg, Ellie and about eight
or nine other young women were pushed through the hatchway
by Martin Gallagher, the brave young man who lost his life.
He fastened life belts on them and took them to the rail
that divided the steerage section from the cabin passengers
and lifted them over it onto one of the life boats that
was being loaded, where they were all seated.
Martin then stepped back and made no attempt to escape himself.
He not only assisted a number of women to one of the lifeboats,
which the officers and crew made no attempt to do as far
as the steerage passengers were concerned, but calmly remained
on deck and took his chances in face of almost certain death.
Joe Giblin, also from the area, was to be another passenger
on the ill-fated Titanic but did not travel due to a little
too much alcohol at the end of a send-off party or American
Wake as it was then know. He did not wake up in time
Margaret Mannion returned to Ireland in 1919 and married
Martin Hopkins in Ahascragh parish. By coincidence, the
ship on which she returned was the Carpathia, the ship which
rescued many passengers from the Titanic. Ellie Mockler
worked for five years with the National Biscuit Company
in New York before joining the Mercy Sisters on the 8th
September, 1917. Sister Mary Patricia, as she was then known,
was assigned to Worcester and later served as Sacristan
at St. Pauls Cathedral for over thirty years.
Only 705 people survived the tragedy.
A night to remember
The following story of the R.M.S. Titanic is based on the
account given by Margaret Mannion to her grandson.
She stood on the dock-side at Queenstown Harbour with the
ticket she had bought in the town of Ballygar held tightly
in her hand. She was waiting for the arrival of the fabulous
ship the RMS, Titanic. Soon after the Titanic
docked, a tingle of excitement ran through Margaret body.
With her was the man she was going to marry when she arrived
in New York . Two of his friends were with him
and another friend of her own, Ellie Mockler.
After about half an hour, the long-awaited announcement
came, All aboard the R.M.S. Titanic for New York.
Almost immediately, people started walking towards the beautiful
blue and white ship. Some were crying leaving their loved
ones, others were excited going on such a magnificent ship
on her maiden voyage. The Titanic was four city blocks in
length with the latest, most ingenious safety devices. It
even had a herd of dairy cows, but there were not enough
lifeboats for the 2,207 passengers on board. Nobody seemed
too worried about the fact that there were so few lifeboats
on board because all were so confident in the ship. The
Titanic had four large funnels so from the hull to the top
of the funnel, it was at least eleven storeys high.
When Margaret Mannion and her friends boarded the ship they
couldnt believe how luxurious it was. The furniture
was so heavy that one couldnt lift it; it had beautiful
deep-pile luxury carpets; it even boasted a French side-walk
After the Titanic left Queenstown, all the passengers were
shown to their cabins. Margaret and her friend shared a
cabin between them and her boyfriend shared another cabin
down the hall with his two friends. Margaret stayed in her
cabin for a while to rest, while her boyfriend went for
a walk in D. Deck (D. Deck was for third class
passengers) and to take in the smell of refreshing salt
water. They didnt see any of the three men until that
night in the dancehall.
As the voyage progressed without incident, official sources
say that around 7pm on the third night, the temperature
dropped to 43ºF. Half an hour later it had dropped to 39ºF,
and later still temperature was down to 33ºF. At 9.30pm
second officer Lightoller is recorded as warning the engine
room to watch the freshwater supply because it might freeze-up,
and he also warned the lookouts in the crows nest
to watch for icebergs. At 10.30pm the temperature was 31ºF.
At 11pm the same night, other ships warned of ice on the
In the dining halls and dance halls, the passengers were
still unaware that the temperature was dropping rapidly.
It wasnt until Margaret and her friend went up on
deck to get a breath of fresh air that they realised how
cold it was and they also saw chunks of ice and little ice
bergs floating on the surface.
Margaret recalled that they were just getting undressed
when the ship took a very sharp turn which threw both of
them onto the floor. Almost immediately, the Captain made
an announcement asking for everyone to keep calm; they were
only steering clear of an ice-berg. However, she recalled,
he also requested them to return to their cabins just in
case it should happen again. At 11.40pm as Margaret was
just dropping off to sleep, there was a sudden jerk that
sent passengers reeling across their cabins. This was followed
by silence. The engines had stopped. Margaret recalled jumping
up and rushing out into the corridor to see what was going
on, as did many other passengers.
Suddenly, a deafening siren went off and people began to
panic. Just as Margaret went back to her friends, there
was a very loud crash. The two girls were in a terrible
state because neither they nor any of the third class passengers
knew what was going on.
In fact, up on top, evacuation had begun - if you were first
class, your hopes of being saved were much better. The ship
was, in fact, going down fast.
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.
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 by one the lifeboats were lowered down slowly
Fortunately Margaret Mannion managed to jump into the second
last boat to be lowered. It was there she lost sight of
her lady friend and most of all, her boyfriend. The thought
flashed through her mind that she may never see him again.
As soon as they hit the water, the sailor in charge ordered
everyone to start rowing straight away as fast as they could.
The last time Margaret saw her boyfriend was on the deck
saying the Rosary. They were all about a half a mile away
when they saw the Titanic sinking.
The crying and the roaring of the drowning men and the few
women in the distance, was a horrifying experience.
Fortunately, for Margaret, one kind lady in the boat gave
her a fur coat as the temperatures plunged.
They spent twelve long cold hours rowing, when suddenly
to their surprise and delight, they saw a flare shooting
in the sky. They then saw smoke rising in the distance.
It was the Carpathia. Everyone cheered loudly
when they saw what was about the most beautiful sight they
had ever seen.
The survivors were soon standing on dry deck with mugs of
hot coffee in their hands. Suddenly, Margaret spotted her
friend Ellie Mockler among the crowd. She ran to Ellie to
console her and to console herself. They were both delighted
to see each other and they were soon in the docks of New
Margaret Mannion was a native of Loughanboy, Caltra. She
was aged 22 when she decided to emigrate to America. There
were two reasons for her emigration: She had a sister Mary
already living there, and she was also seeking employment.
She had no arrangements made to travel on the Titanic but
is so happened that it was sailing on the day of her departure.
When she finally did reach America, she got a job and spent
seven years there. She returned to Ireland and met a man
named Martin Hopkins, they got married and lived in the
village of Ahascragh for forty years. She spent the last
eleven years of her life living in Clontuskert where she
died on the 15th May, 1970, the last survivor of the disaster
then living in Ireland.
Courtesy of the Connacht Tribune
By Mattie Kilroy