County Tipperary’s intriguing and mysterious connection to the Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912, will be investigated and revealed in a documentary to be aired on Tipp FM this weekend.
Records have always shown that there were seven people from the county on board, with only two survivors, but the programme examines whether there may have been an eight person who also survived.
In the programme, Templemore historian Oliver Brennan discusses how he came across what he describes as “a fascinating little vignette” in a 1912 edition of the Tipperary Star which could indicate the possibility. Senan Molony, author of the much lauded book, The Irish Aboard Titanic (which provides details on every Irish person aboard) on being initially presented with the evidence by the producer describes it as “puzzling”.
The seven people from the county known to have been on board consisted of two crew members and five third class or steerage passengers. While the programme details the background of all these people, the primary focus is on the two who survived in terms of how they managed to escape from the ship and what became of them in later life. These were third class passengers Catherine McCarthy and Edward Ryan.
Catherine McCarthy from near Bansha was 21 at the time and lived for a few years in America before returning to Ireland with her husband in 1921 where they ran a small shop in Dundrum. She had no children and apparently never spoke of the disaster up until her death in 1948. The programme features an interview with her niece, Mary Ryan, who explains the circumstances of how it came about that she and her sister lived with Catherine for six years. A letter she wrote immediately after the sinking, as well as an excerpt from the only known audio recording she ever did in 1937, also feature.
The second survivor was Edward Ryan from near Emly. He boarded the Titanic and in the years following the disaster was always dogged by allegations that he had managed to board a lifeboat in a manner not becoming of a gentleman. Two letters written by him concerning his rescue feature in the programme, as does an interview with Nora O’Connell, a relative of his living in the Emly area. Another contributor describes Ryan as “having a sadness about him” in later years.
The programme also looks at several Titanic mysteries associated with the Premier County. One concerns the story of a Templemore man who narrowly avoided being on board and the other looks at how the ship’s only unidentified Irish passenger (as he bought his ticket from someone else and boarded under their name) may have played a role in helping to save the life of one of the two Tipperary passengers.
The documentary, which includes a visit to Cobh, where 123 Irish passengers embarked,, as well as Cahir where some of those from Tipperary bought their tickets, also features excerpts from a never before broadcast telephone interview with the world’s last Titanic survivor – Milvena Deane which she conducted with the producer for posterity some years before her death in 2009.
Others interviewed are Michael Peters and Sheila Collins who are descendants of a County Tipperary passenger who was lost; historian Vincent McMahon from the Cobh Titanic Experience and Martin Reilly from Mullinahone who is a member of the Irish Titanic Society. Newspaper accounts, eyewitness statements together with reference to the two inquests into the sinking are also incorporated.
The documentary, Beyond the Berg – Tipperary’s Titanic Survivors, by Tom Hurley, is to be aired on Tipp FM on Sunday, August 25, at 6pm.