On April 15, 1912 the Belfast built RMS Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew on board. This was one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history and among those on board were many Irish.
In the run up to the anniversary of the disaster IrishCentral will take a look at the Irish on board – the lucky, unlucky and heroic.
This is an extract from the book “The Irish Aboard the Titanic” by Senan Molony which tells the tales of the people who were on board the night the ship went down. This book gives those people a voice. In it are stories of agony, luck, self-sacrifice, dramatic escapes, and heroes left behind.
Ticket number 330920. Paid £7 12s 7d, plus 3s 10d extra.
Boarded at Queenstown. Third Class.
From: Kingwilliamstown (now Ballydesmond), County Cork.
Destination: 855 Trement Avenue, Bronx, New York city.
Daniel Buckley lived because a woman in a lifeboat threw a shawl over him. Her action cloaked his presence as officers fired shots and ordered men who had rushed a boat to leave it – or die. A moment’s humanity had turned Dannie Buckley female.
He was an ambitious and enterprising young man who wanted to go to America to
make some money, as he told Senator William Alden Smith at the US inquiry. ‘I came in the Titanic because she was a new steamer.’
But his good luck lasted for only another six years. Daniel Buckley was killed in 1918, a month before the end of the First World War, while helping to evacuate American Expeditionary Force wounded from the front line on the French/Belgian border.
Buckley was born on 28 September 1890 and baptised the same day in the Church of
the Immaculate Conception in Boherbue, County Cork. His proud parents were Daniel Snr and Abigail Sullivan. The family moved to neighbouring Kingwilliamstown in 1905, where Daniel Snr became the town baker.
By 1912, Buckley and a number of young friends had decided on emigration to the United States, where opportunities would be better for a jobbing labourer like himself. The night before the party left for Queenstown to embark, there was an American wake in the town with strong drink, set-dancing and a singsong send-off. Buckley had penned a ballad to ‘Sweet Kingwilliamstown’, a tuneful tribute that endures in the area, but chose that night to sing an optimistic valediction: ‘When the Fields are White with Daisies, I’ll Return’.
Aboard the White Star vessel, Buckley and three friends found a Third-Class compartment near the bow. He shared the cramped room with his near neighbours Patrick O’Connell, Patrick O’Connor and Michael Linehan. Here is Buckley’s account in a letter to his mother composed three days after rescue:
On board the Carpathia, 18 March [sic], 1912.
I am writing these lines on board the Carpathia, the ship that saved our lives. As I might not have much time when I get to New York, I mean to give you an account of the terrible shipwreck we had.
At 11 p.m. on the 14th, our ship Titanic struck an iceberg and sank to the deep at 2.20
a.m. on the 15th. The present estimation is 1,500 lost, 710 saved. Thank God some of us are amongst the saved.
Hannah Riordan, Brigie Bradley, Nonie O’Leary and the Shine girl from Lismore
are all right.
There is no account of Patie Connell (25), Michael Linehan from Freeholds, or Jim
Connor, Hugh’s son, from Tureenavonacane. However I hope they were taken into some other ship.
There were four of us sleeping in the same apartment. We had a bed of our own and in every apartment there were four lifebelts, one for each person. At the time when the ship got struck I heard a terrible noise. I jumped out of bed and told my comrades there was something wrong, but they only laughed.
I turned on the light and to my surprise there was a small amount of water running
along the floor. I had only just dressed myself when the sailors came along shouting ‘All up on deck, unless you want to get drowned!’
We all ran up on deck. I thought to go down again to my room for a lifebelt and my
little bag. When I was going down the last flight of stairs the water was up three steps so I did not go any further. I just thought of Dan Ring’s saying ‘stick to your lifebelts and face a tearing ocean’.
We were not long on deck when the lifeboats were prepared. There were only sixteen
boats and that amount was only enough to carry a tenth of the passengers. The third boat that was let down, I went on it. There were about forty men in it.
We were only fifteen minutes in the boat when the big ship went down. It was a
terrible sight. It would make the stones cry to hear those on board shrieking.
It made a terrible noise like thunder when it was sinking. There were a great many
Irish boys and girls drowned. I got out without any wound. There were a lot of men and women got wounded getting off the steamer.
A good many died coming out on the lifeboats and after getting on the Carpathia.
It was a great change to us to get on this strange steamer as we had a great time on the
Titanic. We got a very good diet and we had a very jolly time dancing and singing.