Joseph Mulholland was born in Belfast, Ireland on 12 September 1883.1 Hailing from a Roman Catholic family, he was the son of Joseph Mulholland, a seaman, and Jane McManus, a laundress who were married on 16 November 1882, a few weeks after he was born.
Joseph’s father died when he was a child and his mother remarried to James Henry Hare, a labourer who was from a Protestant background, and through his mother’s second marriage Joseph had several half-siblings. The family lived for many years on Garmoyle Street in north Belfast, appearing there on the 1901 census when Joseph was described as a labourer. He later joined the Royal Navy Reserves and was shown on the 1911 census residing at Portsmouth where he was described as a stoker. His circa 1919 crew card describes him as standing at 5’ 9½” and having brown hair and blue eyes and exhibiting numerous tattoos on his arms.
Previously serving aboard the Troutpool, Mulholland joined the Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. Having been part of delivery crews before his friend, junior boilermaker Hugh Fitzpatrick, had coaxed him into joining for the maiden voyage proper and Joe gave this some serious consideration. However, he later claimed to have had an uneasy feeling about the ship; this was compounded when, he claimed, the ship’s cat deserted and when he later had a confrontation with “a young whippersnapper of an engineer” who told he and his colleagues off after one of the stokeholds was partially flooded. He also recalled an incident whereby Thomas Andrews, with whom he was modestly acquainted (from his delivery trips) and whom he described as a very decent man, came into the stokehold and pointed to some insulting slogans about Catholics and the Pope that had been chalked “up on the smoke-box.” Mr Andrews asked if he knew anything about the slogans, to which Mulholland replied he did not; disgusted, Mr Andrews left and soon returned with some other crewmen to have the offending articles removed. Mulholland returned to Belfast to work on other ships.
After the disaster one of his mates aboard the Titanic sent him a small silver purse that he had found in the bottom of one of the lifeboats; instead of trying to reunite the item with its rightful owner, the unidentified crewman sent it to Mulholland as a keepsake. He retained the item for over forty years and the Belfast Telegraph (6 February 1957) explains that Mulholland sent the item on to William MacQuitty whom he had met on the latter’s research trip to Belfast. He was later a special guest at a screening of A Night to Remember in 1958, a film that he did not think highly of.
Giving his address as 45 New Andrew Street, Belfast, Mulholland was married on 6 April 1914 in the Church of St Joseph to Sarah Bleakley (b. circa 1884 in Scotland) of 177 Nelson Street. It is not believed that they had any children.
Joseph Mulholland served with the merchant navy both during and after WWI. He remained in Belfast, living at Upton Street for many years and was a regular correspondent with the Belfast Telegraph, writing numerous anecdotes, complaints or observations. In 1962 he was interviewed about his experiences for the Sunday Independent and was still a resident of Upton Street at the time; his later whereabouts remain unknown.