Michael O’Donohoe’s interest in the history of Castleisland was all-encompassing. The collection contains material relating to the sinking of the Titanic on 15 April 1912 with particular focus on survivors from the Castleisland district.
The disaster was reported in the contemporary press as follows:
The mammoth White Star Liner, Titanic, acknowledged as the largest and most complete passenger vessel in the world, when she left Queenstown on her maiden voyage last Thursday, has sunk on Cape Race, after a collision with an iceberg. New York, Monday. The Titanic sank at 2.20 this morning.1
‘It would make the stones cry’
White Star officials reported that the steamer Carpathia with several hundred passengers was on her way to New York; there were 70 widows on board when it reached New York. Also on board was Daniel Buckley from where he wrote to his mother at her home in Kingwilliamstown (Ballydesmond):
Dear Mother – I am writing these few 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 11.40 pm on the 14th our ship, the Titanic, struck an iceberg and sank to the deep at 2.20 am on the 15th. The present estimation is 1500 lost, 710 saved. Thank God, some of us are amongst the saved. Hannah Riordan, Bridgie 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 Tureenavonscane. 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 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 stream 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 on the stairs, so I did not go any further. I just thought of Den 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 40 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 of 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 grand time on the Titanic. We got a very good diet and had a very jolly time dancing and singing. We had every kind of an instrument on board to amuse us but all the amusement sank in the deep. I will write a note when I get to New York. Goodbye at present – Dannie.2
The recollections of Nora O’Leary, another survivor of the Titanic who described herself as ‘only a slip of a girl’ who had never been outside Ballydesmond, were in contrast to those of Buckley:
I had gone to bed and was awakened by a crashing sound ... I went up to the deck and there seemed to be no panic. There were sailors running about but a boat was being lowered into the water. I said to myself that there must be some sort of danger ... I left whatever belongings I had and walked down the ladder and into the boat ... We rowed away from the ship and it was then I knew something dreadful was happening. You couldn't see a thing. I heard no screams – no noise from the ship we had left.3
1 Kerryman, 20 April 1912. 2 Kerryman, 18 May 1912. Cork born Buckley, who later enlisted in the US army, was killed in action in France on 15 October 1918. The song, Sweet Kingwilliamstown, is attributed to him; further reference The Irish Aboard Titanic (2012) by Senan Molony. 3 IE MOD/76/76.2.