Miss Catherine "Katie" McCarthy was born in Ballygorteen,1 Co Tipperary, Ireland on 25 September 1888.2
She was the daughter of Patrick McCarthy (b. circa 1839), a farmer, and Mary Boyce (b. circa 1854), both Ballygorteen natives who had married on 23 February 1873.
Katie had five known siblings: Mary (b. 2 October 1874, later Mrs John Woolnough; d. 1950), Patrick (b. 21 February 1877), John (b. 13 April 1879), Johanna (b. 4 December 1881, later Mrs Thomas Peters) and Michael (b. 24 June 1885).
Her mother Mary died from typhoid in Tipperary's Union Workhouse on 19 June 1891 aged just 37.
When Katie and her family appeared on the 1911 census they were living at house 10 in Ballygorteen, Killadriffe, Tipperary and she was described as an unmarried farmer's daughter; as per Titanic's passenger manifest she worked as a domestic servant.
Katie had pondered going to America for a number of years but kept hesitating due to her unease about long-distance travelling; in early 1912 she finally resolved to make the leap, deciding to join her sister Mary in Guttenburg, New Jersey where she hoped to live for a few months before heading west where her brother John lived in Chicago.
On the night of the sinking Katie McCarthy, the only surviving member of their group, recalled that Tipperary man Roger Tobin called by their cabin and told them to get up and dressed and to bring lifebelts but assured them there was no danger. McCarthy said that only she sensed any urgency and whilst she implored the other two girls to follow her, she ended up leaving alone and never saw the other two Kates or Roger again. In a letter to her father, reprinted on 25 May 1912 in The Advocate, an Irish-American newspaper, she related:
"About 12 o'clock on Sunday night Roger Tobin called us to get up but told us not to be frightened, as there was no danger. To make sure, however, of our safety, he told us to get life belts. There were three of us in the room, Katie Peters, Katie Connolly, of Tipperary, and myself. When Roger Tobin called us I wanted them to come up on deck, but they would not come. They appeared to think there was no danger. That was the last I saw of them.
I then left the room, and on going out I met a man from Dungarvan (3), who took me up to the second-class deck where they were putting out the boats.
I was put into one boat, but was taken out of it again, as it was too full.
I was in the last boat to leave the ship, and was the second last person put into it. This was a short time before the ship went down.
We were only just out of the way when the ship split in two and sank. We remained in the boat all night until near 8 o'clock next morning, when we were rescued by the Carpathia. Our boat was so full that I thought it would go down every moment, and one of the boats capsized when we were leaving the sinking ship. I did not, however, feel at all frightened, and did not fully realise the danger and the full nature of the awful tragedy until I was safe on board the Carpathia. When we were put on board the Carpathia we were Immediately given restoratives and put to bed. I slept for an hour, and then got up, feeling all right. When we landed In New York on Thursday night at 11 o'clock we were met by a number of Sister of Charity nurses, who took us to St. Vincent's Hospital, where we were treated with the greatest kindness."
It is not certain which lifeboat Katie escaped in, but possibly boat 15. She later recalled hearing Nearer My God to Thee being played and the horrible cries of those struggling in the water once the ship had sunk.
Arriving safely in New York she was described as a 23-year-old domestic and headed to her sister Mrs J. A. Woolnough at 107 25th Street, Guttenburg, New Jersey. She was hospitalised for recovery in St Vincent's hospital before eventually being reunited with her sister.
Katie settled in her new home and a few months later was joined US by John Croke. The young man stepped off the Mauretania on 28 June 1912, described as an unmarried labourer from Co Tipperary, he was destined to the home of his “friend” Katie McCarthy who was by then residing at 321 East 15th Street, Manhattan.
John Croke4 was born 13 December 18835 in Cappauniac, Co Tipperary, son of farmers William Croke and the former Mary Keating. He and Katie grew up in neighbouring townlands.
Katie and John were wed in New York on 2 September 1914 but their marriage was not blessed with any children. John worked at Morse Dry Dock Co. in Brooklyn and by 1918 the couple were living at 144 Montague Street in that borough.
Neither Katie nor John naturalised as US citizens and in the early 1920s both returned to their native Ireland where Katie still had family. Her father, however, had died on 19 October 1915. Katie and her husband settled in Ballintemple, Dundrum, Co Tipperary where John worked as a farmer and merchant.
In later years Katie was reportedly held in high esteem in her local community and was described as a very kindly and sweet-natured lady. During the summer of 1948 she suffered a stroke but lingered for three months before her death on 12 November 1948 aged 60. She was buried in St Michael's Cemetery in Brodeen, Co Tipperary.
She was survived by her husband John Croke whose eventual fate is uncertain; he may have died in the 1950s or 1960s.