STORIES AT TITANIC EXPERIENCE COBH

At the heart of Titanic Experience Cobh lies the personal stories of 123 men women and children, who travelled to Cobh (then known as Queenstown*) on April 11th 1912, to board Titanic bound for New York. Four days later they found themselves fighting for their lives in one of history’s most tragic maritime disasters.

*Cobh was renamed as Queenstown in 1849 in honour of the arrival of Queen Victoria. In 1921 when the Irish Free State was established, the name reverted back to Cobh in its Irish form. As Titanic sailed in 1912 you will find most Titanic related stories will reference the town as Queenstown.

THE RICE FAMILY

The story of Margaret Rice and her 5 young sons is one of the most heart breaking stories of all the 123 Queenstown passenger stories.

Margaret Rice was 39 years old and was travelling 3rd class with her five young sons, Albert aged 10, George aged 9, Eric aged 7, Arthur aged 4 and Eugene just 2 years old. Margaret had returned to Ireland after the tragic death of her husband two years earlier.

Margaret subsequently made the decision to return to America with her sons. She had originally booked passage in May 1912 but as family friends were travelling in April on board Titanic, she changed her plans to travel with them, believing it would be better to have company when travelling with such a young family.

Eyewitness reports give us a heartfelt and moving image of Margaret with her five children on board as Titanic sank. It is believed Margaret feared losing her children in the chaos and opted to remain in her cabin when the evacuation started. Unfortunately she made it to deck too late to be saved. The family are reported to have been last seen on deck, Margaret clutching her 2 year old son, with all four other children grasping at her skirt. Sadly, Margaret and all her five children were lost in the tragedy of Titanic.

THE ODELL FAMILY

In addition to those who boarded at Queenstown (Cobh), there were 7 passengers who disembarked including The Odell Family.

Lily Odell, along with her son Jack, sister-in-law Kate and her two brothers Richard and Stanley May, travelled on Titanic from Southampton to Queenstown. The Odell/May party occupied three First Class suites on B-Deck.

On arrival at Roches Point they disembarked, boarding the tender ‘America’ to bring them ashore. Kate Odell took some of the last ever photographs of the Titanic while sailing away from the ship towards Queenstown. Little did they know the fate that would befall their fellow passengers just days later.

The Odell/May family toured Southern Ireland combining Business and leisure in their hire car. As news of the tragedy unfolded, the family returned to England to attend the Titanic Memorial Service in St. Pauls Cathedral.

Here at Titanic Experience Cobh, we have a selection of personal items from the Odell/May family collection, relating to their trip aboard Titanic.

THE LUCKY STOKER

In addition to our passengers, there were a number of crew on board with links to Cobh and Ireland. John Coffey is the fascinating story of one Cobh mans escape from the Titanic tragedy.

John was a 23 year old stoker working for the White Star Line Shipping Company. Having worked on Titanic’s sister ship Olympic for a time, John signed up to work on Titanic in order to gain free passage home to Cobh to visit his family. On arrival in Queenstown he hid among the mailbags and made it ashore undetected.

After news of the tragedy began to unfold word of John Coffeys escape began to make headlines. As the world’s media turned its attention to him, John Coffey’s story became a little more embellished. When questioned after the tragedy he explained he jumped ship as he had a foreboding of tragedy. After his lucky escape from Titanic John Coffey went on to work on RMS Mauretania.

THE CHIEF PURSER

Hand-picked for his ability to attract high end clientele, Wexford man Hugh McElroy was serving as Chief Purser aboard Titanic. Indeed his notoriety was featured in the pages of The Cork Examiner who ran a feature on Titanic’s arrival into Cork harbour. The article ran on April 15th, with the news of the tragedy yet to reach Irish Shores.

The author notes that while “The Captain may be the best, unless the Purser knows everybody and everything, and combines the perfection of urbanity, tact, prompt appreciation of circumstances – in fact, is the best of fellows – his passenger list does not fill all the time, but on any ship which Chief Purser McElroy has filled that position, the booking has always been complete well in advance of the sailings.”

It was noted by several eyewitnesses that Purser McElroy played a leading role in trying to control panic and assist in the loading of lifeboats. When all hope was lost he was seen shaking hands with fellow officers before being lost to the icy Atlantic waters.