Encyclopedia Titanica

Kate Murphy

Third Class Passenger

Kate  Murphy
Kate Murphy

Miss Kate Murphy was born in Fostragh, Killoe, Co Longford, Ireland on 6 October 1893.

Kate Murphy Birth record
Kate’s birth registration

She was the daughter of Michael Murphy (b. 1841), a farmer, and Maria Lyons (b. 1845), who had married in the Ballinalee Roman Catholic Church in Granard, Co Longford on 24 October 1872.

The youngest of twelve children born to her parents, with seven surviving into adulthood, Kate's known siblings were: John (b. 8 June 1874), Anna Maria (b. 24 May 1875), Patrick (b. 10 October 1880), Bridget (b. 1881), Rose Ellen (b. 16 March 1884), Margaret (b. 17 March 1887), Michael (b. 22 July 1889) and Mary (b. 11 March 1892). Her brother Michael died from quinsy aged eleven months on 24 June 1890 whilst sister Mary died from whooping cough aged two months on 12 December 1892. Another unidentified child was also lost in infancy.

Kate and her family appear on the 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses living at house 20 and house 29, respectively, in Fostragh. By the time of the latter record she and her sister Margaret were still at home and without any stated profession. Her father would die from heart disease later that year on 28 June 1911.

Several of Kate’s siblings lived in the USA and sister Maggie had spent brief years there but returned home sometime prior to 1911 and had become engaged to a Cavan-man named Matthew O’Reilly who was forced to make an early return to New York. That same year an old neighbour from Fostragh returned to the village to pay a visit from his new home in Jersey City, New Jersey, John Kiernan. Maggie’s desire to be reunited with her fiancé were perhaps heightened by Mr Kiernan’s arrival and when it came to the time for John and his younger brother Philip to leave Ireland together, Maggie determined to join them, with an impressionable Kate making the same decision. 

Maggie had promised her mother to remain in Ireland until such times as her fiancé was settled and financially sound, with her brother John forbidding her from going to the USA. Along with Kate, she made clandestine plans to slip away at the same time as the Kiernan brothers and for weeks the sisters built up their luggage in secrecy in their barn. They would join other siblings already in the USA: sister Annie lived in Brooklyn and brother Patrick is believed to have lived in Philadelphia. It was to the latter city that Maggie and Kate were stated to be headed when they boarded the Titanic at Queenstown on 11 April 1912 as third class passengers (joint ticket number 367230 which cost £15, 10s). The pair slipped away without the knowledge of their friends and family, as Maggie later related:

"The night before the little group in our village was to leave to go aboard the Titanic, together with several other young women and men, I slipped away from my home, carrying all the clothes I could, and went to the Kiernan home, where a farewell party was being held. At that time I had promised to wait at home, until Mr Kiernan would come to this country and make a place. Then I was going to join him. But the thoughts of being separated from him was too much for me and I decided to run away from home.
At the Kiernan home I was received kindly, as we were all neighbours. At the first opportunity I told Mr Kiernan of my purpose. He reluctantly agreed. He was twenty-five and I am nineteen... - Altoona Times, 2 May 1912

The interview, widely syndicated, incorrectly states that Margaret and John Kiernan were sweethearts, a myth that has continued to be perpetuated. 

Whilst aboard the sisters shared a cabin on E-deck with two other Longford girls, Kate Gilnagh and Kate Mullin, and they were also acquainted with others from Longford, besides John Kiernan and his young brother Philip, including James Farrell and Thomas McCormack, the latter reportedly being a relative, possibly a second cousin. They possibly also associated with the McCoy siblings (Agnes, Alice and Bernard) and Ellen Corr, also from Longford, whilst aboard. 

On the night of the sinking, the sisters later recalled crewmen blocking their way up to the upper decks and they recalled seeing lifeboats leaving the ship only partially full. She also reported scuffles breaking out between some third-class men and crewmen determined to keep the steerage in their place whilst she saw women and children deep in prayer nearby. Lore has it that it was the intervention of Longford man James Farrell, who threatened to punch a crewman if he did not let the women past to the boats, who became the women's saviour.

Kate, her sister and the two Kates from Longford were rescued (possibly in lifeboat 16) alongside an interloper, Thomas McCormack (he claimed to have been picked up from the water and helped into the boat by the two sisters.). The Kiernan brothers and James Farrell were lost in the sinking.

Upon landing in New York, Kate had shaved a few years from her age and was described as a 16-year-old domestic. She and her sister gave their next of kin as their brother John back in Ireland whilst their destination was given as to the home of their sister Bridget Toomey in Manhattan. Family and friends greeted them at the Cunard pier.

Margaret and Katie Murphy

"Misses Margaret and Katie Murphy, natives of Fostora [sic], Drumard, Co. Longford, survivors of the Titanic wreck."
The Advocate, 27 April 1912

Following recuperation, in St Vincent's Hospital, Kate and Maggie accompanied Matthew O'Reilly and his sister to their home at 17 City Hall Place, New York and whilst there, a portrait of the pair was taken and later printed in The Advocate, an Irish-American newspaper, on 27 April 1912.

Kate was married in Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan on 17 July 1913 to Michael Guilfoyle, whose brother Denis had married Kate's sister Anna the previous year; the pair met through their respective siblings.

Michael Joseph Guilfoyle (b. 13 September 1889) was born in Cregg, Co Clare, Ireland, the son of shopkeeper Michael Guilfoyle and the former Bridget Hogan. He had migrated to the USA in November 1907 aboard Cedric, becoming a Brooklyn policeman and later an inspector for the US customs service. 

Kate Murphy Signature
Kate’s signature from her son’s passport


Kate and Michael made their home in New York and had three children: Marie Josephine (b. 2 June 1914), Michael Joseph (b. 8 August 1916) and Rita Catherine (b. 16 January 1919). In the late 1910s the family lived in Brooklyn.

By the time of the 1920 census they were living at East 38th Street and on the 1930 census at Third Avenue, both in Manhattan. The 1940 census shows the family living in Brooklyn. Around the early 1930s the family acquired a second home in rural Swan Lake, Sullivan County, New York to where Kate and Michael eventually retired and where they dabbled in real estate. 

Although Kate never returned to Ireland, in December 1919 she sent her three-year-old son Michael to the old country to spend time with Kate’s mother. The boy’s grandmother was most anxious to meet him and intended leaving to him her estate upon her death. The visit turned into years and young Michael and his mother were not reunited until May 1924. Kate’s mother Maria later died on 29 April 1929.

Kate Murphy's Son
Kate’s son Michael in 1924

Kate never cared to discuss the Titanic disaster in later years and she was fated to outlive her sister Margaret with whom she escaped the sinking, the latter passing away in 1957.

Mrs Guilfoyle and her husband Michael spent their final years living at their Swan Lake home where on 2 October 1962 Michael passed away following a protracted illness. 

Kate lived just short of a further six years and passed away on 24 September 1968 whilst visiting relatives in Brooklyn. Only weeks shy of her 75th birthday (although her death notices stated she was 68), Kate and her husband are buried together in St Peter's Cemetery in Sullivan, New York.

Her daughter Marie (later Mrs John Garry) died in Florida on 22 October 1996. Son Michael, later a WWII veteran, remained in New York where he died on 3 October 1981. Kate’s last surviving child Rita (later Mrs Floyd Townsend) died in Florida on 22 September 2016 aged 97.

References and Sources

Irish Independent, 15 May 1912

Newspaper Articles

New York Times (21 April 1912) BEATEN FROM LIFEBOAT
Youth Says Sailors Tried to Keep Him In Water
Liberty News (4 October 1962) Joseph Guilfoyle
Liberty News (26 September 1968) Kate Murphy - obituary
Mrs Michael Guilfoyle, 68
The Advocate (12 October 1968) Mrs Catherine Guilfoyle


Addergoole Titanic Society (2011) New Titanic Themed Church Stained Glass Window
New window for Church in Lahardane; Ireland's Titanic Village
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Arne Mjåland

    I got some information about Catherine Murphy Guilfoyle from Liberty Public Library, NY in 2000. "I did contact the local historical society, which found an obituary in the Liberty Register Oct 10 1968. Here is the summary of it: Catherine Guilfoyle born in Longford County, Ireland Oct. 6 1899 and died Sept 24 1968 in Brooklyn, NY. She was a resident of the Swan Lake area for 37 years. A widow of Michael J. Guilfoyle JR., a former Customs officer who died Oct 2 1962. She is buried in St Peters Cemetery , Liberty. The obituary briefly stated that she was a Titanic passenger." The librarian... Read full post

  2. Kelly Johnson

    Kelly Johnson

    Re: wow!!! this is a great sight. isthere any one that was aboard the Titanic that is alive today?If there is what is there age?

  3. Heidi Lubbers

    Heidi Lubbers

    Re: i have nine questions for you ,"How did passengers in third class dress?"" how did passengers wear there hair?" "what food did third class eat on board" " what games did they play?" " and what other activities did they enjoy?" " did passengers in third class carry luggage?" if so how many? if not, what did they bring? and "how did passengers send messages to each other?"

  4. Michael H. Standart

    Heidi, I'm afraid that if you want to interview Catherine Murphy directly, the only way you'll be able to do so is in whatever afterlife your religion believes in since she is no longer living. If you don't care to go to that extreme any time soon...and I hope you don't...you might try parsing the Passenger Research and Life Aboard folders.

  5. Mshk98

    these are me dads godfathers aunts

  6. Kerri

    for my high school play we did titanic and i based my character off of Catherine Murphy.

  7. Thelittlemermaid_1990

    I am a decendant of catherine murphy... from what I have studied... It looks like I am a third or 4th cousin off the sisters. :D

  8. Jessica B

    These women are my great (many times) aunts, related through my grandmother. <3

  9. Jessica B

    are you related to the Seeleys?

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Miss Kate Murphy (Katie)
Age: 18 years 6 months and 9 days (Female)
Nationality: Irish
Religion: Roman Catholic
Marital Status: Single
Embarked: Queenstown on Thursday 11th April 1912
Ticket No. 367230, £15 10s
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Buried: St Peter's Cemetery, New York City, New York, United States

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