The Titanic: A Night to Remember in Mayo

An artists impression of the Titanic Sinking. Image from commons.wikimedia.

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

Nora Fleming

Mary Mangan

James Flynn

Delia Mahon

Pat Canavan

Bridget Donoghue

Catherine McGowan

Mary Canavan

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.

The Lahardane Bell. Picture courtesy of Addergoole Titanic Society

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’.

References

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

Addergoole Titanic Society

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5 Comments

Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, Ireland, Irish Diaspora, Mayo Emigrants, Oral History

5 responses to “The Titanic: A Night to Remember in Mayo

  1. Goosebumps all over and tears in my eyes. What a moving tribute from you but also from those who stage their lonely mid-night vigil each year. Thank you!

  2. azsoap

    Thank you for this wonderful article, the community tribute of the bell ringing in the middle of the night is gorgeous.

  3. Pingback: Postcards from Cobh Co. Cork | A SILVER VOICE FROM IRELAND

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