Mr Eugene Patrick Daly was born in Lisclogher, Co Westmeath, Ireland on 23 January 1883.
He was the son of Patrick1 Daly (b. circa 1845), a constable with the Royal Irish Constabulary and originally from Westmeath, and Catherine Farrelly (b. circa 1850) from Meath who had married in Kells, Co Meath on 15 May 1878.
He had seven known siblings: twins Joseph and Mary (b. 2 April 1880), Susannah Mary (b. 1 June 1881), Michael (b. 28 October 1885), Thomas (b. 6 October 1887), Margaret (b. 24 December 1889) and James (b. 21 May 1891). The twins did not survive long after birth; Joseph died 3 April 1880 and his sister Mary the following day.
Eugene and his family had moved to Ballykeeran, Co Westmeath around the mid-1880s; his father died there from heart failure on 13 May 1893 aged 48. The remaining family relocated to their nearest large town Athlone shortly after and are recorded there on the 1901 census living at 11 Glasses Lane; Eugene, the man of the house, was described as a wool factory hand. By the time of the 1911 census he, his mother and siblings Margaret and James were listed as living at 2 Wolfe Tone Terrace, Athlone and he was described as an unmarried wool heaver. He was also a mechanic on the side and involved in several Gaelic organisations as well as the Clan Uiseach War Pipers' Band.
Deciding to strike out for a new life in America and after years of saving, Daly purchased a third class ticket (number 382651 which cost £7, 15s) for Titanic; travelling with him was a Margaret Daly, reportedly a relative, and a friend Bridget Mulvihill. After boarding, he played his traditional Irish uilleann pipes as the ship steamed away from Queenstown.
At the time of the collision Daly had been asleep in his bunk but the crash stirred him awake. He got up and dressed and looked out into the corridor where he saw a steward who advised him that nothing was amiss and to go back to bed, which he did. However, the growing commotion outside his cabin of people running about and concerned voices drew him again to get up and leave his cabin. He went to the cabin of Margaret Daly and Bridget Mulvihill and escorted them to the communal steerage areas; even then stewards were assuring he and his friends that there was no danger. An attempt to get a lifebelt from an unidentified man resulted in the surrender of the lifejacket to Eugene on account that it went to Margaret Daly. By that time word had spread that the ship was indeed in peril.
The trio managed to navigate their way to the upper decks after being "let up", possibly arriving at aft starboard boat deck late in the proceedings by which time most lifeboats had left or had been lowered flush with A-deck; Daly described bringing his friends to the second cabin deck (presumably he meant A-deck) where all three entered a boat (possibly lifeboat 13 or 15). Assured that he was safe, a voice shouted at him to get out; Eugene did not stir until he was forcibly removed from the craft which was then lowered. Whilst there was another lifeboat in vicinity ready for lowering, Daly did not attempt to board it and instead went to the forward boat deck where the last two collapsible boats were being readied for launch, with an officer attempting to deter any rush by brandishing a revolver and threatening to shoot any man that attempted to board the boats. Daly sensationally related to the Daily Sketch (4 May 1912) that two men who had attempted to rush one of the boats were shot, one apparently dead, the other man attempting to unsuccessfully climb to his feet. The deterrent worked for Daly and he made no move to board the boat. Shortly after however he claimed another shot rang out; looking over he saw the same officer lying dead on the deck; although he did not see what had happened others told him that the officer had shot himself.
Following this Daly rushed to the lifeboat which he described as "a canvas craft" and with six or seven other men attempted to release the boat; by then water was beginning to inundate the forward boat deck but the collapsible craft had become trapped under the cables supporting the funnels. A sudden dive made by the ship released the collapsible boat which then floated away freely.
With no other boats in sight Daly jumped into the water; he soon encountered Collapsible B and managed to pull himself aboard (he believed it to be the same boat that he had just attended but was perhaps mistaken in his daze, that boat - presumably being Collapsible A). From Collapsible B he saw many people jump overboard and saw the ship go down, he fearing that the stern, which seemed to be swaying around, might keel over and land on them. He would later claim the thickness of his overcoat attributed to his survival, a garment he held on to for many years and which he named his "lucky coat."
Rescued by the Carpathia, Daly was reportedly unconscious by the time he had been brought aboard and had to be carried to a cabin. Arriving in New York he was described in Ellis Island records as a 29-year old mechanic from Lisclogher, his nearest relative being his mother Catherine, also in Lisclogher (sic), and he was headed to a Mrs Schultze at 901 Dean Street in Brooklyn.
Following recovery in St Vincent's Hospital in New York he wrote to his mother to inform her of his safety; he would later file a claim for $50 for the loss of his uilleann pipes. Similar pipes, possibly Daly's, were later salvaged from the wreck.
After a short while in America Eugene met Englishwoman Lillian Caulfield (b. circa 1884) and they were later married on 17 February 1917; the couple appeared on the 1920 census residing as lodgers at 4 Clifford Terrace in Brooklyn and he was described as a machinist, noted in his circa 1917 military draft was working for the American Manufacturing Company.
In May 1921 Daly applied for a US passport, his address at the time being 104 Oak Street, Brooklyn, and he was described as a machinist stood at 5' 9" and with brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He was intending to visit his mother in Ireland; his mother remained at Wolfe Tone Terrace for the rest of her life and she died on 13 April 1934.
Eugene Daly and his wife Lillian in their passport photograph, 1921
Daly and his wife appear to have divided their lives living between Ireland and New York; their daughter Marion (later Mrs Michael Joyce) was born in Galway in 1925. Reportedly a devout churchgoer and musical well into his old age, Daly was well-known in his area and remembered as a man who spoke very loudly, perhaps on account of deafness acquired during his many years in the mills.
Eugene and his wife lived in Ireland until he became a widower around 1961 and he returned to America to be with his daughter and her family. He died on 31 October 1965 and was buried at St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx.