In 2022 for the 110th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic, Irish storyteller Helena Byrne retold the story of how one heartbreaking Irish parish sent 14 of their own to their fate aboard the most famous ship in the world.
“On Thursday, April 11th, 1912, fourteen people from the parish of Addergoole in Co. Mayo boarded the RMS Titanic at Queenstown (Cobh) in Cork," Byrne writes.
"They were setting out for a better life in the Land of Opportunity. Sadly, only three of the group would survive."
In an 11-minute piece of audio from her 2018 album “Tóraíocht Shonais” (“Pursuit of Happiness”), “The Titanic and the Addergoole 14” tells their harrowing story and illustrates survivor Annie McGowan’s first-hand account of the events in the early hours of April 15, 1912.
Among those from Addergoole on board was Delia McDermott who was lucky enough to escape despite claiming back out of a lifeboat to retrieve something.
Although one of the first to find a place in a lifeboat, she insisted on climbing out of the early boat to insist on recovering a new hat she had bought in Cawley’s shop, Crossmolina, the nearest big town to her home place, just before she traveled to America.
The village now hosts the Addergoole Titanic Society which works to remember the Irish aboard the Titanic and the country’s history of immigration.
Kilkenny native Byrne is an accomplished vocalist, storyteller, actress, and songwriter. For several years, she has combined her love of Irish folklore and passion for the performing arts, performing as a seanchaí (storyteller) and singer for groups of all ages across Ireland. Akin to the traveling seanchaí of times past, Helena also performs regularly across the Atlantic.
You can purchase “The Titanic and the Addergoole 14” via Byrne's website. Proceeds from the sale of the track will go to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI); the Irish charity that saves lives at sea.
You can find more stories of the Irish aboard the Titanic here and a list of all the Irish who lost their lives here.
*Originally published in April 2018. Updated in April 2023.