Mr John Foley was born at Muckridge in Youghal, Co Cork, Ireland on 14 September 1865.
He was the son of Nicholas Foley (b. 1843), a labourer and later a coachman, and Nora Broderick (b. 1835), natives of counties Cork and Waterford respectively.
Raised in a Roman Catholic household, he had two known siblings: Kate (b. 1868) and Michael (b. 1872) and by the early 1870s the family were living at Tallow Street in Youghal.
Exactly when John went to sea is not certain but he appears on the 1891 census as an able seaman working aboard the SS Irene Morris, then docked at Swansea.
He was married in Kinsale, Co Cork on 1 September 1894 to Mary "Minnie" Murphy (b. circa 1870 in Cork), daughter of fishmonger Maurice Murphy; at the time he was still living in Youghal but his bride was a resident of Kinsale.
John and Minnie had seven children: Maurice (b. 9 June 1895), Norah (b. 22 August 1896), Mary Ann (b. 1 October 1898), Nicholas (b. 27 November 1901), Catherine (b. 7 January 1905), Margaret (b. 1910) and John (b. 1913).
John, his wife and first three children appear on the 1901 census of Ireland living in 9 Cork Street, Kinsale, Co Cork and he is described as a merchant sailor. Their first five children were born in Kinsale, their last known address being Cork Street in 1905 before they moved shortly after to Southampton, Hampshire, England sometime around 1907. The family appear on the 1911 census of England living at 2 Queens Road, Shirley, Southampton and Foley is described as a mariner.
John, better known as Jack, initially signed-on to the Titanic in Belfast for her delivery trip on 25 March 1912 as a quartermaster. When he signed on to the Titanic in Southampton on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as 2 Queen's Road, Southampton but this time he would be serving as a storekeeper. His previous ship was the Olympic and his wages were £5 per month.
Shortly after the collision on 14 April he and lamp trimmer Samuel Hemming went to investigate a hissing sound emanating from the vicinity of the forward area under the forecastle head. They removed the hatch of the storeroom and went down to see if the ship was making water, going down as far as the tank top, but the ship seemed sound. Ascending to the forecastle again Hemming determined that the hissing sound was coming from an exhaust pipe coming from the forepeak tank. They encountered Chief Officer Wilde and told him of the situation regarding the tank but explained that the storerooms were dry, with the chief officer saying "All right." before walking away. He and Hemming then went back to their bunks and went to sleep.
It is believed he worked on helping prepare several of the portside boats before he and Hemming worked on getting lifeboat 4 lowered flush with A-deck, helping a seaman "Sam Parks" (he presumably means lamp trimmer Samuel Hemming2) search for an axe to chop away the sounding spar protruding directly below boat 4.
Foley helped man lifeboat 4 and several crewmen jumped into the water and swam towards this boat shortly after it was lowered. One them, Hemming, spotted Foley in the boat as he was trying to pull himself aboard and shouted "Give us a hand in, Jack" to which Foley replied "Is that you, Sam?" Foley and some other of the boat's occupants helped pull Hemming aboard.
Boat No. 4 of the Titanic, containing Mrs. John Jacob Astor, was about 100 yards from the ill-fated steamship when it came close to an overturned life boat to which nine or ten men were clinging right (?) exhausted and chilled to the bone...Mrs. Astor, who up to this time had not spoken since the boat was launched, cried out to Jack Foley, who was facing her rowing: 'Take them in. They have as much right to life as we have. We can make room for them. Please, sir, take them in.
Jack Foley turned to his mate, Sam Parks, who had the oar behind him, and looked interrogatively at him. Eight half-frozen men were taken into the already crowded boat....
Jack Foley is or was a storekeeper on the ill-fated ship and Parks was a quartermaster. They were the men selected to man the boat containing Mrs. Astor. In thinking about the affairs tears welled into Foley's eyes as he recounted the experience of his boat load. He said:
.....it took us some time to launch No. 4...the last boat to launch... The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N. Y., Saturday Morning, April 20, 1912
Foley was not required to testify at either the US or British Inquiries into the sinking. He returned home and signed-on to the Oceanic on 10 July 1912 but failed to join the ship when it sailed.
Jack Foley continued to live in Southampton with his family and he continued working at sea, later serving aboard Majestic; he was made a widower when his wife passed away in 1922 aged 52.
John himself later lived at 2 Oriental Terrace in Southampton and passed away on 18 September 1934 following a stroke. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton (section L9, plot 32). His estate, worth £180, 14s, 5d was left to his unmarried daughter Mary.