Faces of the Titanic - Survivor Ellen Shine's gripping story
Her granddaughter, Christine Quinn, likely to be next New York Mayor
"We afterwards went to the second cabin deck and the two girls and myself got into a boat. An officer called on me to go back, but I would not stir. Then they got a hold of me and pulled me out."
No one testified to any disorder at boat No. 13 at the two official inquiries. Steward Frederick Ray, who was in this boat, told the US Senate investigators, in reply to questions, that he saw no male passengers or men of the crew ‘ordered out or thrown out of these lifeboats on the starboard side. Everybody was very orderly.’ But Irish passenger Dannie Buckley declared: ‘Time and again officers would drag men from the boats … ’ Resolution of the problem is elusive. Should one disregard the claims of men shot dead for staying stubbornly in a lifeboat? Someone somewhere is spinning pure invention.
Ellen Shine told her story once and would never be drawn on it again. According to the embarkation records, she was an 18-year-old spinster, but by the time US immigration had come aboard the Carpathia, she declared herself to be a 16-year-old servant from Newmarket, County Cork. She was actually aged 17 when she boarded the Titanic and from the small hamlet of Lisrobin (Buckley mistakenly referred to her as ‘the Shine girl from Lismore’ in a letter home composed on the Carpathia). She was on her way to join her brother Jeremiah in New York.
Ellen collapsed in hysterics when met by Jeremiah and other relatives at the Cunard pier in New York, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. It reported the next day that she and other women had knocked down crewmen who tried to prevent steerage passengers from reaching the boat deck.
Ellen’s was case number 418 to be dealt with by the American Red Cross. The notes from this report record her saying she was aged 16 and that she had lost clothing and a cash sum of $500. She was awarded $100 in aid.
In later years, Ellen Shine married and became Mrs John Callaghan. Her husband, a firefighter, hailed from Kiskeam, also in Cork, and they settled in New York. They first returned to Ireland only in 1959, on the Mauretania, but made a number of visits thereafter. The couple had two daughters, Julia and Mary, whom Ellen would be fated to outlive.
In 1976 she moved from Manhattan to Long Island to be with her family following the death of her husband. In 1982 she entered Glengariff nursing home where she celebrated her 100th birthday in 1991 – three years early. By this stage, however, Ellen was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Never having discussed the Titanic disaster in nearly seventy years, she suddenly could not stop babbling about it. A torrent of Titanic revelations flowed from her loosened tongue, to the irritation of other residents. When Ellen finally wanted to talk about the disaster, no one was listening.
Ellen Shine Callaghan died on 5 March 1993, and is buried in St Charles Cemetery, East Farmingdale, New York.
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