Monday, March 10, 2014

Thanks to two Sneaky Sisters!

Let me tell you about two very sneaky sisters that were on the Titanic: Miss Margaret Jane Murphy, known as "Mary" or "Maggie and Sister Miss Catherine "Kate" Murphy, from Aghnacliffe, Co Longford, Ireland.  
Maggie was 25 years old and Kate only 19 years old. Both were ready for a change. Life had been rough since their father died when they were young. Their mother was often sick, which left the oldest brother to take care of them and he was very protective. 
Kate and Maggie begged their brother to let them go to America. They received letters from other siblings who had already left Ireland and now lived in the Land of Opportunity and were enjoying its riches. However, Big Brother would not permit it.
Ladies in Edwardian Style Clothing
There were 2 young boys who lived next door to Kate and Maggie, otherwise known as the Kiernans, who began courting them. These 2 young men ages, 25 and 22 years old were planning to go to America on the Titanic.  The Kiernans, bought third class tickets for themselves on the Titanic and secretly bought tickets for Kate and Maggie as well.
One day in April 1912, the sneaky sisters told their brother that they were going to Queenstown to wish the Kiernans farewell. Instead, Kate and Maggie were actually planning to travel with the Kiernans to America. Can you just see these two women trying to hide their luggage and their excitement from their brother and trying not to get caught?!
Perhaps the girls thought it would be safer to travel with these young men to look after them in case they needed protection? Maybe it was a premonition, because protection is exactly what they needed!   
The first four days at sea, Kate and Maggie enjoyed 3rd class parties and dining. However, on Sunday night, April 14th, the sisters were woken by the passengers in the next cabin and were told to hurry to the deck for further instruction. The sisters began to panic as they were held back by crew at the gates to the upper level.   Was this karma punishing them for disobeying their older brother?  Was it to be the end of them for their sneaky deeds?   I am sure there were a few prayers maybe a plea for forgiveness and a hope that God would give them a second chance.  Then they heard a strong voice of James Farrell yelling,  "Great God, man! Open the gate and let the girls through!" The crewman complied. Kate and Maggie scurried through the hallways and found their way to a lifeboat right before it hurled into the sea.
Titanic and Olympic - Sister Ships
The sights and sounds that they experienced during the next hours became a frequent nightmare.  They worried that the Kiernans had been left aboard the sinking ship. They saw many struggling in the waters to survive. They heard cries for help in the dark and finally the seas became silent and Titanic was gone. 
 Help was on the way. The Carpathia heard the distress signals, and made the journey to come to their rescue. These two sisters were given a second chance. 
The following is an article from the New York Times on Sunday 21st April 1912.  It is an interview with Mr. Thomas Joseph McCormack’s sister Catherin Evers tells about her brother’s experience on Titanic.
"When he saw the condition of the ship he put on a lifebelt and leaped overboard. He tried to get into one lifeboat which was only partly filled and the sailors beat him off with their oars. He tried to enter another partly filled boat and was again beaten off, being partly stunned this time.”
Then two young women in the boat, Kate and Mary Murphy, reached into the water and grasped him. They pleaded with the sailors that there was plenty of room in the boat, and at last got him aboard."
What you don’t know is that accompanying Thomas Joseph McCormack age 19, were his two cousins, Philip and John Kiernan. Tom McCormack survived the sinking, but lost his two cousins.
After their arrival in New York, the sisters were sent to St. Vincent's Hospital for recuperation. Their family already living in America came to get them.  Kate and Maggie were very sad to find out that the Kiernans had died on the ship, as well as James Farrell, the man who had saved them. The sisters then had to write back to Ireland to let their poor mother know they where safe.

Written by : Cheri Winger 
1st Class Maid, Titanic Museum Attraction
Branson, Mo.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Fighting Irish

March is here and the whole month is a celebration of the Irish Heritage that runs throughout the world.  If you don’t have an Irish bloodline, it doesn’t matter! You can still celebrate with the rest of us that do.  The Irish are a proud people that have had struggles in their past, but always digs a little deeper and come through their difficulties.   

When we think of the fighting Irish, most of us think of the 1909 Notre Dame-Michigan Game where a teammate yelled, “What’s the matter with you guys?  You’re all Irish and you’re not fighting worth a lick!”  Notre Dame came back to win the game! The Irish are born with determination. A reporter overheard the remark and reported the game as a victory for the “Fighting Irish!”                
With determination and pride, the Irish Built Titanic. The Irish were also part of the crew and represented a lot of the passengers on board.  So, to talk of Titanic, one can not help but speak of someone that was Irish.  I could tell you story after story of some of them, so when asked to write about an Irish passenger, it was very hard to choose which one.


I personally love to dress up as one of my favorite passengers,

“Miss Bridget Delia Mc Dermott” of the Addergoole fourteen.  Bridget had great determination to retrieve her hat after being in a lifeboat.  During the sinking, this Irish lady, who was in her third class cabin when Titanic hit the iceberg, returned to the decks only to see all the  lifeboats already being lowered into the water. As is typical of a "Fighting Irish", Bridget jumped fifteen feet off the side of the ship and landed in lifeboat number thirteen.   

Titanic Crew Member Cheri dressed as Miss Bridget Delia Mc Dermott


Even though Bridget's story is one of my favorite, I have instead chosen to tell you about a couple of sisters and a brother that were greatly loved.  Like most siblings growing up, the McCoy sisters bickered and argued amongst themselves, but were close siblings. It reminds me of my family. As my brothers and I began aging, we would ask each other, "Remember when we were young, and we ....?" The McCoy sisters of Ireland also had a memory that they will never forget.  


Two sisters Agnes and Alice came to take their twenty four year old brother Bernard back to America.  Like most Irish families of that day, the family sent their children to the new land for a better future.  Part of the family was in American and each time they saved up additional money, they would come back for additional family members.   


On Titanic, you can image how the girls enjoyed seeing Bernard ’s amazement

of everything new and exciting.  That excitement changed to panic that Sunday

Night when Titanic struck the iceberg and each third class passenger struggled to make his way out.  When the McCoy sisters found their brother that night, whose cabin was far from theirs, they pushed through gates, stewards, and crew to the boat deck with hard determination.  But when the crew told Bernard that he couldn't get into a lifeboat, the McCoy sisters fell silent. Their hearts stopped as the crew pulled them into a lifeboat, leaving Bernard behind. Will this be the end of Bernard ?  


Robert L. Bracken wrote a lovely piece on this family and I would like to use parts of his story for my article. The following is a direct quote from his writings:


"Agnes McCoy later gave an account to the New York Herald. She said - Both my sister and I wanted to remain on shipboard when they would not allow poor Bernard to come into the lifeboat with us. He told us to go ahead, but we thought that if one was going to drown, we might as well all go down. We were literally thrown into the lifeboat and while we fought and cried, it was lowered over the side. The boat bobbed around in the water for some time before the men got at the oars, and the first thing I knew, I saw a form whirl through the air and splash into the water near our boat. When the form came up, I recognized it as Bernard. I cited to my sister, who was nearer to him than I, to help him. The poor boy took hold of the side of the boat and I staggered to his rescue. Several persons pushed me back and I saw a seaman strike Bernard's hands with an oar. Then he tried to beat him off by striking him on the head and shoulders. It was more than I could stand, and calling for Alice, I made for the seaman. With more strength than I thought I ever possessed, I threw the man to the bottom of the boat and held him there fast. Yes, maybe I did hit him once or twice, but I think I was justified under the circumstances. In the meantime, Alice helped the poor boy over the side and lifted him to safety. I think everyone on board the lifeboat was highly elated and perfectly satisfied that our brother was safe with us. We need him here with us as any two sisters do.”


A victory for the “ Fighting Irish!”  It isn’t really the victory in the fight itself, but for the determination to overcome under any circumstances.   And that is something to really celebrate!  




Titanic Crew Member Cheri