Faces of the Titanic: Jeremiah Burke lost his life at 19 - put a message in a bottle before he died

Lost on the Titanic, 19-year-old Jeremiah Burke

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PHOTOS - photographs of some of the Irish on board

Profile taken from Senan Molony's book "The Irish Aboard the Titanic"

Ticket number 365222. Paid £6 15s.
Boarded at Queenstown. Third Class.
From: Ballinoe, White’s Cross, Upper Glanmire, County Cork.
Destination: Mrs Burns, 41 Washington Street, Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Jeremiah Burke [19] is the passenger fabled to have thrown a despairing message in a bottle from the decks of the sinking Titanic. Miraculously, the bottle washed up on the shoreline just a short distance from his home in Ireland just over a year later.

The message contains an unclear date which could variously be 10, 12 or 13 April 1912. The Titanic struck the berg at 11.40 p.m. on 14 April. Interestingly, an article in the Irish News, published on 20 April 1912, observed that very few authentic cmessages from shipwrecks had ever come to safety and ‘very many … are cruel hoaxes’.

Jeremiah’s grieving family believed the message found by a coachman on the shore at Dunkettle, close to their home, was authentic. The message reads: ‘From Titanic. Good Bye all. Burke of Glanmire, Cork’. Kate Burke, his mother, recognised her son’s handwriting. She announced that the bottle was the same holy water bottle she had given to her boy on the day of his departure.

Jeremiah Burke was only 19, and stood six feet two inches in his stockinged feet. He was the youngest of seven children who had all worked on the 70-acre family farm, and stated on embarkation that he was an agricultural labourer.

Two of his sisters had previously emigrated to the US and he was resolved to join
them when a letter arrived from Charlestown with money for his passage. His cousin Nora Hegarty, from neighbouring Killavarrig, decided to accompany him on the expedition to America.

Jeremiah’s father William drove the cousins to Queenstown in his pony and trap. He
reported seeing them making friends with another intending passenger, a piper identified as Eugene Daly. He survived, while both Jeremiah and Nora drowned.
More Cork Victims

The sympathy of the people of Cork will go out in full measure to the parents of Miss
Nora Hegarty of Killavallig, Whitechurch, and Mr Jeremiah Burke, of Upper Glanmire, both of whom were only 19 years of age and who lost their lives in the Titanic disaster.

They left Queenstown full of hope for a bright and happy career in the United States.
They were seen off by a number of relatives and friends and with them they cheerfully discussed their future prospects, but alas their young hopes and schemes were doomed by cruel disappointment.

They were both very popular in the Glanmire and Whitechurch districts and the
shock which their death occasioned was general and acute. Their parents and relatives will have the sympathy of all in the great sorrow into which they have been plunged.

(The Cork Examiner, 27 April 1912)

Then in early summer 1913, the Royal Irish Constabulary contacted the family with the news that a man walking his dog had picked up the message in a bottle at Dunkettle, where the river in Glanmire meets the Lee and flows to the sea. The note is now on public display at the Queenstown Experience visitor attraction in Cobh.

His grandniece has said: ‘The bottle and note were all his mother had, and in a way it was like a tombstone. He wouldn’t have thrown away a bottle of holy water his mother gave him. There was an element of panic to it.’

Last Hour Messages

The possibility that messages from some of the people left on the doomed Titanic may
have been committed to the deep is discussed … Such notes, enclosed in bottles, may have been thrown overboard; and if so, their chances of being found are a hundred times better than those of any messages ever given to the sea. The US cruiser [sic] MacKay-Bennett is only one of the many ships that will be sent specially to search the scene of the shipwreck, and the possibility of salvaging something from the wreckage is certain to draw many Newfoundland fishing boats to the spot.

It is of course true that very few authentic messages from wrecks have ever come to safety. Very many that were first reported turned out to be cruel hoaxes. The bottle-
messages that purported to come from the Yongala, which went down off Queensland, and from the Allan liner Huronian, which was lost in the North Atlantic, and from the Waratah, whose fate was never known, were all discovered to be false.