An Irishwoman’s Tale of Survival

Anna Katherine Kelly left her home in Cuilmullagh, County Mayo, Ireland at the age of 20 and boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger. Bound for Chicago, she planned to meet her cousins, Anna and Mary Garvey, who had already moved there. On board the ship, Anna joined a group of other young Irish men and women she knew, led by Katherine McGowan, all dreaming of new lives in America.

3rd_class_passengers_at_scotts_quay_queenstown_ready_to_board_tender_for_titanic

Third class Titanic passengers in Queenstown, Ireland

When Titanic struck the iceberg, Anna woke and noticed the hum of the engines had stopped. But no stewards came to inform the steerage passengers of what happened. Some of the men went up on deck, but were told there was no danger. Later, a steward pounded on Anna’s cabin door. Minutes later on deck, she stood with her friends in ankle-deep water while the remaining seats in the last lifeboats were filled.

A married couple Anna knew, Mr and Mrs. Bourke, argued at the railing. Mrs. Bourke refused to enter the lifeboat without her husband. A steward dragged Anna forward and she was thrust into the lifeboat in Mrs. Bourke’s place. That lifeboat, #16, was the last to be launched from the Titanic, except for the collapsible boats near the bridge.

Anna and her friend Katherine McGowan reached New York aboard the rescue ship Carpathia. After a short stay in the hospital, they were given old coats and shoes and train tickets to Chicago.

pasgrs in lifeboat

Titanic passengers in lifeboat as seen from Carpathia

Out of the fourteen friends who had boarded the ship together at Queenstown, only three survived the sinking: Anna, Katherine, and another woman.

Anna became a nun, Sister Patrick Joseph Kelly. She spent most of her life teaching in the Chicago area and also in Detroit. She traveled home to Ireland once, to visit her sister. She died in 1969 in Adrian, Michigan at age 77.

anna_katherine_kelly as a nun

Sister Patrick Joseph (Anna Kelly)

2 Comments on “An Irishwoman’s Tale of Survival

    • Thanks, Rondi! Several passengers had a Michigan connection, including Ruth Becker, the heroine in my novel. This is the only one I’ve found so far that had traveled in third class.

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