Profile taken from Senan Molony's book "The Irish Aboard the Titanic"
Ticket number 330932. Paid £7 15s 8d.
Boarded at Queenstown. Third Class.
From: Knockfarnaught, Lahardane, County Mayo.
Destination: 404 Henrietta Street, St Louis, Missouri.
Although one of the first to find a place in a lifeboat, Delia insisted on climbing out of the early boat to insist on recovering a prized possession. She had bought a new hat in Cawley’s shop, Crossmolina, the nearest big town to her home place in a remote part of County Mayo, just before she travelled to America.
Journalist Tom Shiel told her story in The Connaught Telegraph of February 1998:
Nephin Mór had been snowcapped on a number of occasions during the winter of 1912 and the people in the valleys below were longing for Spring. Even when only the boggy summit of Mayo’s highest mountain was mantled in white, the people of Addergoole parish (Lahardane), indeed the whole of Ireland, had a cold time of it.
Many times that long ago spring of 1912, Delia McDermott looked westwards from
her parents’ thatched cottage at Knockfarnaught at the great majestic bulk of mountain. When the hedgerows were greening and only a few tiny stripes of snow remained on the upper reaches, Delia knew the time was fast approaching when she would be uprooted, perhaps forever, from her birthplace.
As part of her preparations for the great journey to America, she travelled one day to Crossmolina to buy new clothing. One of her purchases was a smart new hat. She liked the hat so much that weeks later she risked her life to recover it from her cabin in the ill-fated Titanic.
Delia was one of 14 people from Addergoole preparing in spring 1912 to travel on the White Star liner. Only three of the group survived. Delia, despite dicing with death on the double in order to retrieve her cherished millinery, was one of the lucky ones.
There was great activity in Addergoole as sailing time approached. Those not travelling were out and about on the land and in the bog, or perhaps taking the odd trip to Castlebar where the women sold eggs and the men purchased grain and farm implements.
Thoughts of turf-cutting and harvesting were far from the minds of those who were about to emigrate as they travelled by pony and trap over the steep Windy Gap and then at a smart gallop into Castlebar. By the time the scythes had felled the first grass of that year’s hay harvest, they planned to be carving out new lives in Chicago or other bustling industrial cities in the industrial United States.
In March, ten of the intending passengers, including Delia McDermott, then 28 years old, booked their passage with Thomas Durcan of Castlebar. Three others booked with another travel agent, Mrs Walsh of Linenhall Street.
The days before they were due to travel for Queenstown were extremely busy ones for the Addergoole contingent. They visited neighbours most would never see again and there were tearful embraces on the doorstep of many a thatched cottage.
Delia McDermott’s niece, now Delia Melody of Lord Edward Street, Ballina, tells the story of a strange and chilling encounter between her aunt and a mysterious man in black in Lahardane village the evening before she left for Cobh.
‘She was in Lahardane with friends when suddenly a hand tapped her on the shoulder,’ Mrs Melody explained. ‘She turned around and there was a little man there whom she thought was a traveller. My aunt went to give the man a few pennies and he told her he knew she was going on a long journey.
There will be a tragedy, but you will be saved,” the little man said before disappearing.’
When Delia mentioned the little man to her friends, they said they hadn’t seen anybody. Thus Delia McDermott began her long and eventful journey to the New World filled with some foreboding …
Luck was also in Delia McDermott’s favour. She was one of the first to find a lifeboat but returned to her cabin for the new hat she had bought before the journey. Says Delia’s niece, Mrs Melody: ‘It was perhaps a foolish thing to do, but luckily she managed to get a place in a boat. She had to jump fifteen feet from a rope ladder onto the lifeboat. At this stage the Titanic was sideways. It was going down.’
Delia indeed survived and later prospered in the United States. She never returned to Ireland.
Report of the American Red Cross (Titanic Disaster) 1913: