It was August 11, 1890 in the small County Limerick village of Askeaton.
On this bright sunny Irish day a third child and second daughter was born
to laborer James Madigan and his wife Margaret (née Duggan). They named
their daughter Margaret and she became Maggie to family and friends in Askeaton.
She had a much older brother, Simon (born in 1878), and a sister, Mary,who
was three years older than Maggie.
This small family lived frugally on Church Street in the village. Maggie
spent her early years living the life of a typical Irish peasant with church
and family the focus of her life. The familys life was forever altered
when her beloved sister, Mary, emigrated to America in 1904 at the age of
19. She was suddenly alone, as her older brother, Simon, had a family of his
own by then and her parents were very advanced in years. She decided she would
join her sister in America as soon as the necessary money could be secured.
James Madigan died about 1910 and Maggie received money from her sister Mary
to sail for America. Simon, the ever-protective elder brother, would not allow
her to sail until he had found others from the Askeaton area who would watch
over Maggie on her trip to America.
In early 1912, the opportunity came when Daniel Moran, a New York City policeman,
and his sister Bridget (Bertha), returned to settle the estate of their father,
who owned a small farm in Toomdeely North, townland adjoining Askeaton. They
were returning to the New York City region with a friend, Patrick Ryan, a
cattle dealer from Toomdeely, who was emigrating to New York City at age 32.
The threesome were well known to Simon and he entrusted Maggies care
to them. The group, including Maggie, secured accommodations on the small
White Star liner Cymric. However, due to the British coal strike,
Cymric, like so many other small liners, was taken from service and
its passengers were transferred to other White Star liners. The foursome from
Askeaton were given accommodations on the luxurious Titanic, due to
begin its maiden voyage on April 10 in Southampton and pick up passengers
at Queenstown in Ireland on April 11.
The night prior to Titanics sailing, the foursome lodged at
the McDonnell rooming house at The Beach in Queenstown. The morning of the
11th of April, the group from Askeaton joined scores of other Irish immigrants
at Mass in St. Colmans Cathedral and then made their way to the Deepwater
Quay, where they would board the tender America and be ferried out
to the Titanic, moored off Roches Point. Maggies tragic adventure
On the half-hour trip to the Titanic on the America, Eugene Daly, an Irishman
from Athlone in County Westmeath, played the soulful Erins Lament on
his bagpipes and Maggie found herself nostalgically wondering if she would ever
again see her cherished homeland or her aged mother. Once aboard Titanic, Daniel
and Patrick separated from Bertha and Maggie to find their quarters. Daniel
and Patrick were berthed in the bow with the other single men and Bertha and
Maggie were given accommodations in the stern area of the ship with the other
single women. The voyage was relaxing but largely uneventful, with most of their
time spent in the third class general room aft on Titanics C deck.
Maggie and Bertha had retired early Sunday evening, April 14, and were asleep
when Titanic had her fateful brush with the iceberg. Having a cabin so deep
within the ship, they felt the collision much more vividly than the first and
second class passengers with accommodations on higher decks. They were actually
jolted awake by the collision and roused from their sleep by the commotion in
the hallway outside their cabin. Confused and frightened, Maggie and Bertha
were soon joined by Daniel and Patrick who hustled them to the third class promenade
area where they managed to climb to the boat deck with many other steerage passengers,
after having been held back by crewmen for a period of time. Having ascended
to the boat deck at the stern of Titanic, Maggie and her friends found Father
Thomas R. D. Byles, an English priest from Ongar, Essex, ministering to and
consoling many of Titanics steerage passengers, reciting prayers and
trying to calm them as attempts were being made to place the women and children
in the last of the lifeboats, notably numbers 13, 14, 15 and 16. Daniel and
Patrick fought to place Maggie and Bertha into lifeboat 15 shortly before it
descended from the boat deck. After narrowly avoiding crushing boat 13, which
had become entangled under it as it descended from the boat deck, the overcrowded
lifeboat hit the water and barely stayed afloat that long cold night. They never
saw Daniel and Patrick again.
Following her rescue from the freezing Atlantic by the Carpathia,
Maggie was removed to St. Vincents Hospital for a few days recovery
from her ordeal. She then went to live with her married sister, Mary Horgan,
in Manhattan. After working as a domestic in New York City for a year, Maggie
met a Swiss-Irishman named Alphonsus Hardt, who had been born in New York
City of a Swiss father and an Irish mother. After a short romance, the couple
were married in St. Bernards Catholic Church on West Fourteenth Street
on December 28, 1913 and lived nearby in a tenement at 30 West Nineteenth
Street in Manhattan. Al Hardt worked hard as a longshoreman on the docks to
support Maggie and a son, Alfred, born in 1915. Maggie suffered two monumental
tragedies during the 1920s. Her beloved son, Alfred her only
natural child drowned tragically about 1925 and her husband, Alphonsus,
died suddenly in September of 1928 at age 50. Maggie was again alone and went
back to work as a domestic. A few years later, she was introduced to Thomas
OShea, whose mother was a cousin of Patrick Ryan from Toomdeely townland
near Askeaton in Ireland. They were married shortly after. Tragedy again struck
Maggie when Mary Madigan Horgan, her only sister and relative in America,
died suddenly. Maggie was devastated at the loss of her sister, but took on
a maternal role in the raising of Marys two teenaged children during
the 1930s. She evidently led a very normal and uneventful life with
husband, Thomas OShea, until his untimely death at the age of 48 in
June of 1951. Maggie, at age 60, was alone once more.
She survived by domestic household work and whatever other menial work she
could find as a laundress, seamstress or day laborer. After years of toil for
her basic survival, Maggie Madigan died on December 14, 1968 at the age of 78.
She had lost everything dear to her in life two husbands, her only son,
her beloved sister. As inauspicious as she had been in life, so she is in death
buried with her two husbands in a single unmarked grave in Calvary Cemetery
in Woodside, Queens.
I wish to acknowledge Ellen Madigan Lenihan, late of Askeaton, County Limerick,
Ireland and daughter of Simon Madigan, Maggies brother, who is the family
source for most of Maggies story. Though she never met her Aunt Maggie,
she told me that she felt a closeness to her through her letters home. Though
Maggie never returned to Ireland after leaving her homeland on the Titanic in
1912, she faithfully kept in touch through numerous letters over the years.
Maggie Madigan must join the list of Titanic survivors whose lives
were never fulfilled. The optimism and hopes of a cheerful Irish colleen in
1912 never blossomed in America as anticipated, but instead seem to have been
doomed during every phase of her life.