Miss Hannah Riordan was born in Glenalougha, Kilmeen, Co Cork, Ireland on 27 January 1891.1
She was the daughter of Peter Riordan (b. 1857), a farmer, and Mary O'Connor2 (b. 23 July 1868), both Cork farmers who had married in Kingwilliamstown (modern-day Ballydesmond), Co Cork on 21 July 1886.
She had six known siblings: Ellen (b. 4 August 1887), Julia (b. 27 April 1889), Maria (b. 17 May 1892), Hanora Mary (b. 18 May 1894), James (b. 27 March 1896) and Eugene (b. 3 December 1897).
Her mother fell ill with pneumonia and died on 24 June 1899 at the age of 30; her father never remarried and the remaining family appear on the 1901 census living at 7 Glenalougha, Kilmeen, Co Cork and by that stage her maternal grandmother Julia O'Connor (b. circa 1827) had stepped in to help care for the family. By the time of the 1911 census Hannah was described as a single domestic servant and still living with her widowed father and siblings, then at 9 Shanavoher in Kilmeen, Co Cork.
Hannah boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (ticket number 334915 which cost £7, 14s, 5d). Her destination was 319 Lexington Avenue, New York City where her sister Ellen Riordan Lenihan lived. Ellen was holding a position she had found for Hannah as a domestic worker. Travelling with Hannah were several others from the Kingwilliamstown (now Ballydesmond), Cork area, among them her cousin Patrick O'Connor and Daniel Buckley, Bridget Bradley, Patrick Denis O'Connell, Nora O'Leary and Michael Linehan. It is likely she shared a cabin with her fellow Cork girls. Whilst aboard she became acquainted with several other Irish passengers, including Sligo-born John Meehan.
On the night of the sinking, Hannah recalled her friend John Meehan escorting her to a lifeboat, telling her not to worry about him as she was a strong swimmer. She was rescued from the sinking in lifeboat 13 along with Bridget Bradley but her cousin Patrick O'Connor and friend John Meehan were among the lost. Coming off the Carpathia in New York it was stated she was headed to her sister Ellen at 119 Washington Street, New York City.
Hannah remained in New York for the rest of her life and only returned to Ireland once for a visit in the 1920s; her father died that same decade when he passed away on 28 February 1927. She worked as a domestic maid and was naturalised as a US citizen on 10 May 1928 in Manhattan. In her application she is described as a maid, standing at 5' 9" and weighing 150 lbs, with brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion; at the time she was living at 109 East 72nd Street in New York City.
Hannah Riordan in the mid-1920s
On St Patrick's Day (17 March) 1936 Hannah was married in St Anselm's Church in the Bronx to John "Jack" Spollen (b. 11 September 1899), also an Irish immigrant who hailed from Kings County (modern-day Co Offaly) and who was the son of James Spollen and the former Margaret Galvin.
Shortly after their marriage Hannah and John moved to 14 Whitesboro Street in Utica, New York but they later returned to the Bronx and lived the rest of their lives there. The couple had no children and appeared on the 1940 census as residents of 134 Hoe Avenue in the Bronx when John Spollen was described as a houseman in a hotel.
Hannah rarely spoke about the Titanic disaster in later life and refused to grant interviews to newspapers or television journalists or even discuss it with family and friends. A devout Roman Catholic for the rest of her life, family recall Hannah as a kind and loving stereotypical Irish matriarch figure who dressed modestly but, despite well-advanced years as an American, not only retained her dark, almost black hair but also her native Cork accent.
Hannah Riordan Spollen died in the Bronx on 29 September 1982 aged 91. Her widower John died less than a year later on 4 April 1983 and they are buried together in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.