Posted 12/08/2018

Kildare People Aboard the Titanic

By James Durney

James Durney uncovers some remarkable Kildare Connections

On the night of 14 April 1912 the newly-launched passenger liner Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank with the loss of 1,523 passengers and crew.

Kildare Observer 27 April 1912

The Titanic was built at Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast and sailed on its maiden voyage from Southampton calling at the ports of Cherbourg and Queenstown (Cobh). The Kildare Carpet Company, based at Millbrook, Naas, supplied some of the carpets for the Titanic and her sister ship, the Olympic. The Kildare Observer of 27 April reported on the Titanic disaster:

The figures given by the president of the Board of Trade confirm the returns already published about the awful loss of life caused by the sinking of the Titanic. Altogether 815 passengers and 688 members of the crew lost their lives. Out of a total of 416 female passengers, 315, or 76 per cent., were saved. The crew included 23 women, and of these 21, or 91 per cent., were saved. Altogether 493 passengers, or 38 per cent. of the total, and 210 members of the crew, or 23 per cent., were saved. Judging by the sensational incident at Southampton on Wednesday when a number of firemen left the Olympic, alleging that the collapsible boats were not seaworthy, the Titanic disaster has created a feeling of nervousness among seasoned seamen.

Lost: James Kelly

On 23 April the Mackay–Bennett search vessel picked up the body of Leixlip man James Kelly. The Mackay–Bennett’s crew was so overwhelmed by the scope of its recovery that it was decided to bury some bodies at sea. Some 116 bodies were buried at sea and 190 brought back to Halifax, Nova Scotia. James Kelly’s body went back into the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean the following day when he was buried at sea in canvas sacking. His death was recorded as: ‘Body No. 70 Male estimated age 34. Hair and moustache light. Clothing – Dark suit, vest and trousers; white socks; black boots. Effects – Beads, left on body; comb; knife. No marks. Name – James Kelly.’

James Kelly was actually older than thirty-four. He was forty-five and his death plunged the family at home in Co. Kildare, into financial crisis as well as the deepest grief. Mrs Kate Kelly was struggling to feed the rest of the family. There was some money sent home from the eldest son, Tom, who was a sergeant in the Connaught Rangers, and mill-workers Catherine (18) and Mary (16) also handed up money, but this was not enough. There were three other children – Bridget (13) William (12) and James (7). James Kelly senior was emigrating to America to join his eldest daughter, Margaret (20), and planned to then send for the rest of the family when he gained employment.

James Kelly was born in Co. Kildare in 1867 and in the 1901 Census his employment was entered as a road labourer. He married Kate Goff on 31 January 1887 in Leixlip. Kate was born in Leixlip in 1863. In the 1911 Census James Kelly was recorded as a general labourer, who could not read, which was not uncommon at the time. The Kelly’s lived in a two-roomed house in the town. Kate Kelly applied for money from the Distress Fund and at a meeting of the Celbridge Board of Guardians in May was awarded 4s per week as relief. The sum of £12 had been subscribed towards the fund from the local church collection the previous Sunday.

The entire Kelly family later emigrated to America to join Margaret and other relatives. Margaret had been employed at the Strouse-Adler garment company in New Haven, New England, for two years and had sent the fare home (Ticket number 330911 – £7 12s 4d, plus 4s extra) for her father to join her in the United States. He planned to send for his wife and children in a few months when he was employed and had lodgings for them. The family had sold all their possessions in readiness for their move to America and with the death of James decided to go ahead with the original plan. Margaret’s company volunteered to be responsible to the immigration authorities that the family should not become public charges and they were admitted to the United States in June 1912. A huge crowd greeted the family at Union Station, New Haven, with banners saying ‘Welcome – Titanic Kellys.’
A specially-formed committee advanced $625 to pay for the passage and to meet the expenses of establishing a new home for the Kelly’s. Two of Margaret’s younger sisters, Catherine and Mary, were employed by the garment company, while the three remaining children were enrolled in a local Catholic school.

Further grief was visited on the family four years later when Sgt Tom Kelly died of wounds received in battle on 23 January 1916 in Mesopotamia. A military memorial in Basra, Iraq, bears his name. His sisters Margaret, Catherine, and Bridget all lost their husbands at an early age. James Kelly’s widow, Kate, died in 1955, aged ninety.

Lost: Patrick Gill

On Saturday 6 April 1912 the recruitment of the general crew for all departments on board the SS Titanic began in the union hiring halls in Southampton. Following a prolonged coal strike that had idled most ships, positions aboard the Titanic were highly sought after. Patrick Gill (38) was hired as a ship’s cook. Originally from Co. Kildare, Patrick Gill (possibly born in Enfield) lived at Waverly Road, Southampton, with his English wife. Patrick Gill was lost at sea during the disaster, but there are no records of his death. Of the fifty-one men listed as ‘Attendants, Barbers, Waiters, Ship’s Cooks, etc,’ only two survived. Nearly forty of these were Italian nationals employed as waiters from Gatti’s of London to work in the á la carte restaurant. None of these waiters survived. Patrick Gill is on this list as a ship’s cook. Only two of the dozen or so of his workmates survived.

Saved: Norah Murphy

Norah Murphy (34), from Sallins, was travelling with Michael McEvoy, a nineteen-year-old Co. Laois born workman with whom she had recently taken up. Norah had been working as a “nurse domestic servant” in the household of Sallins publican John and Mary Healy and their six children. She and Michael McEvoy were travelling on the same ticket, which cost £15 10s and was purchased in Dublin by Michael, but were accommodated at opposite ends of the Titanic. Norah had signed aboard as a spinster, but local folklore in Sallins suggests she had a chequered past. She was born in Dublin City and it was rumoured she was married, though her entry in the 1911 Census was as a single woman.
In the chaos of the early morning of 15 April Norah was bundled into a lifeboat while Michael’s fate at the other end of the ship is unknown. His body was never found. Norah’s destination was originally a boarding house on East 50th Street, but following her rescue by the Carpathia indicated to customs and immigration officers that she intended to seek refuge at the Irish Immigrant Girls Home at 7 State Street, New York. Here Norah received some monetary assistance from the religious administrators of the home and also was given relief of $100 from the American Red Cross.

Norah Murphy later went to work for the father of American tennis star Karl Behr as a domestic. The position apparently had been arranged by Karl, a fellow Titanic survivor. He was saved in lifeboat 5, in which it is possible Norah was also an occupant, as the classes remained segregated on the Carpathia. Of the 709 third-class passengers only 175 were saved, compared to 198 of the 317 first class passengers and 112 of the 258 second class passengers saved.

Lost: Edward Pomeroy Colley, Dr William F. N. O’Loughlin, Ernest Waldron King

Edward Pomeroy Colley was born in Dublin in 1875 into a distinguished family with ties to Co. Kildare – Viscount Harberton (Ernest Arthur George Pomeroy), and Baron Harberton, of Carbury. Edward’s father, Henry Fitzgeorge Colley, was a magistrate and landlord, married to Elizabeth Isabella Wingfield. Edward was an engineer and land surveyor. During the Klondike Gold Rush he opened a mining brokerage firm in Vancouver and successfully speculated in mining stocks. Edward had business interests on both sides of the Atlantic and frequently travelled between Dublin and a home on Vancouver Island in Victoria’s affluent English Bay neighbourhood. He had been in Ireland for Christmas 1911 and was returning to Canada aboard the Titanic.

On the night of the sinking he attended a concert in the first class reception area on D Deck and retired to his cabin just after 11 p.m. He died on the morning of his thirty-seventh birthday. In the weeks thereafter, several women wrote to his family in Ireland claiming to have been his girlfriend or even fiancée. Reportedly he was one of the heroes who sacrificed his life for others in the disaster.
Dr William F. N. O’Loughlin, senior surgeon on board the Titanic was also lost at sea. Born in Tralee, Co. Kerry, in 1850, O’Loughlin gained his medical licence in 1869, but as he attended the Catholic University he could not obtain a medical degree, as his university had neither public endowment, nor a charter from the monarch enabling her to confer degrees. With his license to practise O’Loughlin began work in a dispensary medical service in Clane, Co. Kildare. He stayed in Kildare for eighteen months and then left to join the White Star Line when he was just twenty-one. William O’Loughlin was last seen at his post near the first-class entrance. Reports said he was resigned to his fate and had refused to put on a life jacket.

Standing with Dr O’Loughlin were a number of Irishman, including assistant purser Ernest Waldron King (28) from Clones, Co. Monaghan. His father was Rev. Thomas Waldron King, the Church of Ireland rector at Currin, Clones, Co. Monaghan, who with Mrs King, was in charge of the Straffan Estate Schools for many years. Ernest had received his early education at Straffan. He had been unemployed for a year before he secured work aboard the Titanic and signed on to the liner on 9 April. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Nova Scotia , where 121 victims of the Titanic are interred. There is an inscription on Waldron King’s headstone which reads: ‘Erected by Mr J. Bruce Ismay to commemorate a long and faithful service.’

Kildare Observer 27 April 1912

Private John T. Young (33), based on the Curragh with the Connaught Rangers, was so overcome with grief at the loss of his younger brother Francis (30), on board the Titanic, that he shot himself. John Young had been a corporal and had recently been reduced to private. As a store man he slept alone in the store where he had access to a carbine which he used to inflict the mortal wound. The Young’s were natives of Castlebar, Co. Mayo.

The Rescuers

The brother of Newbridge-born crystallographer Kathleen Yardley Lonsdale, Fred Yardley, was one of the earliest wireless operators and apparently was the person who received the last signals from the Titanic.

William Fitzpatrick, the son of Thomas and Deborah Fitzpatrick, Lullymore, was a sailor on board the Cunard liner Carpathia which rescued 705 Titanic survivors. The Carpathia, sailing from New York, was the first ship to learn of the Titanic’s plight. She was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in July 1918, with a loss of five crew members.

One of those whose expert opinion was asked by the Inquiry was the Artic explorer, Kildare-born Ernest Shackleton. He, of course, would have had great knowledge of travelling through ice-packed seas. In January 1913 it was revealed that over $8 million in compensation claims had been filed by Titanic survivors and families against the White Star Line.


Kildare Local Studies and Genealogy Department, Newbridge.
Census of 1901 & 1911.
Kildare Observer
The Irish Aboard the Titanic. Senan Molony. Dublin 2000.
The Riddle of the Titanic. Robin Gardiner & Dan Van Der Vat. London 1995.
Titanic. A Journey Through Time. John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas. Somerset 1999.

Originally published on the 28 May 2009 on the kildare eHistory blog
James Durney is the County Kildare Historian in Residence for the Kildare Decade of Commemorations.

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