On the afternoon of Thursday April 11th 1912, the RMS Titanic weighed anchor just off Cobh – then Queenstown- County Cork, Ireland, and set sail for America. On board were many people leaving Ireland in search of a better future. Included in their numbers were a group of 14 men and women from the County Mayo parish of Addergoole, on the shores of Lough Conn.
The weather was fine and the voyage went smoothly for the first few days. By Sunday April 14th, the Titanic had travelled some 1,400 miles and was east of New Foundland. Most passengers were asleep when, at 20 minutes before midnight, she struck an iceberg that ripped a 300 feet long gash in her side.
Shortly after midnight on Monday April 15th the order was given to prepare the lifeboats. At this point, hundreds of the estimated 2,207 people on board were already doomed as the total lifeboat capacity was estimated at 1,178. At 12. 25 am the order was given to load the lifeboats with women and children, and by 1.15 am, 7 had been lowered.
An eyewitness report : ‘They called out three times in a loud voice: ”Are there any more women before this boat goes?” And there was no answer. Mr Murdoch called out, and at that moment a female came up whom he did not recognize. Mr Ismay said: ”Come along, jump in.” She said: ”I am only a stewardess.” He said: ”Never mind – you are a woman; take your place.”
The ship began to list and was tilted steeply when the last boat containing 44 people was lowered at 2 am. Hundreds of people were still on the deck as the water got higher and higher. The ship’s orchestra played ‘Nearer My God to Thee’. This is sometimes thought to be a romantic invention but, in a book of eyewitness accounts, several survivors and members of the crew attest to hearing the orchestra playing ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ as the lifeboats pulled away.
The stern lifted out of the water and at 2.18 am the lights flickered and went out. By 2.20 am, the Titanic was almost perpendicular in the water and she slipped into the icy depths. One eyewitness recounted: ‘After she reached an angle of 60 degrees, there was a rumbling sound, which he attributed to the boilers leaving their beds and crashing down. Finally she attained an absolute perpendicular position and then went slowly down’
An estimated 1,522 people lost their lives.
Included in their number were 11 of the hopeful emigrants from Addergoole:
John Bourke and his pregnant wife Catherine
John’s sister, Mary
Three of the women who had left Addergoole just days earlier were among the 700 who survived. They were Annie Kate Kelly, Delia McDermott and Annie McGowan.
At Lahardane Church there is a bell that is used in an annual commemoration of the people from Addergoole who were on the ill-fated Titanic. On the 15th of April each year between 2 am and 3 am, they remember their kinsfolk. At 2.20 am, the bell tolls slowly in memory of those who were lost. The tolling is followed by jubilant ringing in celebration of the three lives saved in this terrible tragedy. Each year, in the still of the night, the bell’s lonely toll and joyful rings resound across the lonely landscape of Mayo. It is then silent until the following year. Many of the bell ringers are family members of those who left their community 99 years ago.
This is a unique and very moving tribute to the lost members of this community, and to those who survived. The 15th of April is indeed their ‘Night to Remember’.
Beesley, L. Gracie, A. Lightoller,Bride, H, 1960. The Story of The Titanic as told by its survivors. Jack Winocaur, Ed. Dover Publications . Accessed at Google Books