Answered Help identify a passenger please

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WarrenHarding

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Hello Everyone -
I need your help - when I was a young child, many, many decades ago, there was an article in our local paper on the anniversary of the sinking - a resident who lived in the next town - was a passenger. My mother suggested I write her - which I did and she responded - however, as a child I never asked the questions that I needed to identify her - what was her maiden name, what lifeboat number, etc.

I have the following clues from rereading her letter (I still have it - April 1967)

1. She was an Irish immigrant traveling in third class.

2, She was traveling with two other girls who did not survive.

3. She lived (at least when the letter was written) in Upper Montclair, NJ

4. "The ship was sinking fast when I got into the lifeboat (she does not say if she boarded port or starboard)"

5. She implies it was chaotic on the boat deck when she left the ship - so I assume it was late and one of the last lifeboats?

6. She stated "we were picked up by the Carpathia around 0600"

She signed the letter "M.M. O'Neil" - which I have always assumed is her married name. She also claims to have given a knife that she was carrying in her purse from eating some fruit the previous day to someone to cut the ropes so they could use the oars.

Does anyone have any idea who this survivor is or any other information?

Thanks!
 
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Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

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Hi Warren,

The survivor was Margaret O'Neil (nee Devaney). She was traveling with both Mary Burns and Kate Hargadon from Kilmacowen, County Sligo, Ireland. Neither of the two ladies survived the disaster. In the late 1960s, she moved to Clifton, Passaic, New Jersey (which I've noted on Google Maps that Upper Montclair is one of it's neighbourhoods).

As for which lifeboat she was in, it is not confirmed. Margaret said she "was on the second class deck" (aft boat deck) and left from there. I've theorized that she was in boat 13 which was on the starboard side, based on the available information:

  • Both boats left approximately at 1:40-1:41 a.m.
  • Boat 13 had a higher percentage of third class passengers, along with boat 15
  • Margaret recalled having to push the boat that she was in away from the side of the ship, since it was getting too close for safety, due to the noticeable list to port which had started five minutes previously. Saloon Steward Frederick Dent Ray also corroborates this and mentions oars being used, to push the boat clear
  • Margaret loaned her pocketknife to a seaman (possibly Robert Hopkins) who had difficulties releasing the boat from the falls, before boat 15 almost (just mere inches) came down on top of it
  • Several survivors also mention the trouble the boat had such as Fireman Frederick Barrett, Lawrence Beesley, Extra 3rd Baker Charles Burgess, Elizabeth Dowdell; Mary Glynn and Lookout Reginald Lee, which was due to the condenser discharge from the ship
  • Oars were used to prevent boat 15 from coming down any further, until boat 13 was away
Interestingly, Margaret attended the New York Premiere of "A Night to Remember" on 16 December 1958.

What a treasure Margaret's letter must be for you.

Hope that helps!
 
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Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

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I've theorized that she was in boat 13 which was on the starboard side
Excellent analysis Jason. Indeed, by 01:30 am there was quite a crowd around lifeboats #13 and #15 on the boat deck and while they were being loaded, some passengers gathered on A-deck just below. That was the reason that first Lifeboat #13 and then #15 were lowered to the A-deck to complete their loading. Also, as you say Lifeboat #13 is more likely for Margaret Devaney to have occupied because #15 had far more men than women going by most accounts, most of them of Scandinavian origin. Had she been on Lifeboat #15, Miss Devaney would have noticed and mentioned it later. So, Lifeboat #13 fits the bill.

Margaret recalled having to push the boat that she was in away from the side of the ship, since it was getting too close for safety, due to the noticeable list to port which had started five minutes previously. Saloon Steward Frederick Dent Ray also corroborates this and mentions oars being used, to push the boat clear
I am really glad that you mentioned this. A lot of people argue that the people in Lifeboat #13 did not have to push the boat away from the side of the Titanic as it descended. I think that conjecture is based almost entirely on Lawrence Beesley's statement to that effect; yes, Beesley was an intelligent, educated man, but under the circumstances at the time, it is possible that he missed others using their oars to push the lifeboat away from the ship. He could have been rather preoccupied with baby Alden Caldwell in his arms, whom he passed to Hilda Slayter next to him.

But do you think that the port list started as late as 01:35 am? I was under the assumption that it was sometime between 01:15 am and 01:20 am.

Margaret loaned her pocketknife to a seaman (possibly Robert Hopkins) who had difficulties releasing the boat from the falls, before boat 15 almost (just mere inches) came down on top of it
I had missed that. I thought Fred Barrett climbed over several passengers to hack away at the ropes of Lifeboat #13 using his own knife.
 
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Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

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But do you think that the port list started as late as 01:35 am? I was under the assumption that it was sometime between 01:15 am and 01:20 am.
"On A Sea of Glass" puts it at 1:35 a.m. which was the only reference I could find in the wee hours of the morning. However after discussing this with a friend in the know, Gus Cohen was in the aft well deck and he stated that the 3rd class passengers began to panic shortly before they were allowed up because the ship had started listing. It is thought that the third class were allowed up at about 1:30 so it possible the list may have started ten minutes before, at about 1:25. Charles Lightoller, however assumed that the list started as early as 1:10.

I had missed that. I thought Fred Barrett climbed over several passengers to hack away at the ropes of Lifeboat #13 using his own knife.
You right, Barrett did just that. But Margaret specifically refers to a seaman which made me think of Hopkins over Barrett, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities that it was in fact Barrett who Margaret handed her knife too.
 
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WarrenHarding

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Hi Warren,

The survivor was Margaret O'Neil (nee Devaney). She was traveling with both Mary Burns and Kate Hargadon from Kilmacowen, County Sligo, Ireland. Neither of the two ladies survived the disaster. In the late 1960s, she moved to Clifton, Passaic, New Jersey (which I've noted on Google Maps that Upper Montclair is one of it's neighbourhoods).

As for which lifeboat she was in, it is not confirmed. Margaret said she "was on the second class deck" (aft boat deck) and left from there. I've theorized that she was in boat 13 which was on the starboard side, based on the available information:

  • Both boats left approximately at 1:40-1:41 a.m.
  • Boat 13 had a higher percentage of third class passengers, along with boat 15
  • Margaret recalled having to push the boat that she was in away from the side of the ship, since it was getting too close for safety, due to the noticeable list to port which had started five minutes previously. Saloon Steward Frederick Dent Ray also corroborates this and mentions oars being used, to push the boat clear
  • Margaret loaned her pocketknife to a seaman (possibly Robert Hopkins) who had difficulties releasing the boat from the falls, before boat 15 almost (just mere inches) came down on top of it
  • Several survivors also mention the trouble the boat had such as Fireman Frederick Barrett, Lawrence Beesley, Extra 3rd Baker Charles Burgess, Elizabeth Dowdell; Mary Glynn and Lookout Reginald Lee, which was due to the condenser discharge from the ship
  • Oars were used to prevent boat 15 from coming down any further, until boat 13 was away
Interestingly, Margaret attended the New York Premiere of "A Night to Remember" on 16 December 1958.

What a treasure Margaret's letter must be for you.

Hope that helps!
How very kind of you to spend so much time in responding - after more than 50 years, the mystery has been solved - this dear lady who took the time to respond to a 12-year-old boy now has a name and her history lives on.

FYI - when I looked up the lifeboat occupants this morning, she is listed in Collapsible C - with Bruce Ismay! However, your thesis makes much more sense that Margaret would have been in Lifeboat 13.

If you are interested in seeing a PDF of the letter, let me know - I would be happy to send you a copy.

Again, many thanks -

WH
 
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Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

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Archibald Gracie also mentions the list in his book, "The Truth About The Titanic" but doesn't provide a time. However he does provide a revealing clue:
"When we were loading the last boat, just a short time before it was fully loaded, a palpable list toward the port side began, and the officer (Second Officer Ligthtoller) called out, “All passengers to the starboard side,” and Smith [his friend Clinch- Smith] and myself went to the starboard side, still at the bow of the ship.’"

However Lights remembers the order being given by Chief Officer Wilde:
"She was taking a list over to port, the order was called, I think, by the chief officer. "Everyone on the starboard side to straighten her up," which I repeated..I think the ship righted. When the order was given to the passengers to go to the starboard side I am under the impression that a great many went over and the ship got a righting movement and maintained it."

Lightoller's testimony at the British inquiry:

13852. How long did that state of things continue? When was it you did first notice either a list or that she was down by the head?
- Very shortly, afterwards I noticed she was down by the head, when I was by No. 6 boat. When I left No. 4 and went to No. 6 she was distinctly down by the head, and I think it was while working at that boat it was noticed that she had a pretty heavy list to port.

13853. (The Commissioner.) This must have been within a quarter of an hour from your coming on the boat deck?
- No, My Lord, it would take us a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes to get No. 4 uncovered and the falls out.

13854. But when you did get No. 4 out you noticed this list, I understand?
- No, My Lord, I think I said at No. 6.

13855. Then how long would it take you to get No. 4 and No. 6 uncovered?
- Well, it would take us from 15 minutes to 20 minutes to uncover No. 4; then to coil the falls down, then to swing out and lower it down to A deck would take another six or seven minutes at least. Then I gave an order to go down to the lower deck which I countermanded; perhaps two or three minutes might have elapsed there. Then I went to No. 6 about that time.

13856. How long were you working at No. 6?
- I really could not say, My Lord. I went to No. 6 then, as far as I remember.

13857. At what point of these events did you notice that the ship had begun to be down by the head or to have a list?
- It was when I was at No. 6 boat, My Lord.

13858. As I understand, that would be about half-an-hour after you had come on deck?
- I think it is longer than that.

13859. Well, let us say three quarters of an hour?
- Yes, perhaps three quarters of an hour.

Lamp Trimmer Samuel Hemming mentions the list and the order being given, but by Captain Smith:
"The Captain was there, and he sung out: "Everyone over to the starboard side, to keep the ship up as long as possible."
 
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Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

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How very kind of you to spend so much time in responding - after more than 50 years, the mystery has been solved - this dear lady who took the time to respond to a 12-year-old boy now has a name and her history lives on.
I'm happy to help and I'm glad the mystery for you, has been solved. Fifty plus years is a long time.

FYI - when I looked up the lifeboat occupants this morning, she is listed in Collapsible C - with Bruce Ismay! However, your thesis makes much more sense that Margaret would have been in Lifeboat 13.
Yes I too noticed that last night.

If you are interested in seeing a PDF of the letter, let me know - I would be happy to send you a copy.
I would be very interested in seeing it - I'll send you a message with my e-mail address. Thank you for the offer!
 
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William Oakes

William Oakes

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How very kind of you to spend so much time in responding - after more than 50 years, the mystery has been solved - this dear lady who took the time to respond to a 12-year-old boy now has a name and her history lives on.

FYI - when I looked up the lifeboat occupants this morning, she is listed in Collapsible C - with Bruce Ismay! However, your thesis makes much more sense that Margaret would have been in Lifeboat 13.

If you are interested in seeing a PDF of the letter, let me know - I would be happy to send you a copy.

Again, many thanks -

WH
I would love to see a PDF of that letter.
Thanks in advance and God Bless!
William
 
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WarrenHarding

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I'm happy to help and I'm glad the mystery for you, has been solved. Fifty plus years is a long time.


Yes I too noticed that last night.


I would be very interested in seeing it - I'll send you a message with my e-mail address. Thank you for the offer!
Jason - I managed to lose your email address within hours - a new record for me! Please resend it and I will send you the letter.
 
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