Miss Margaret Devaney, 19 or 20 , boarded the Titanic at Queenstown, she was leaving her home in Kilmacowen, County Sligo, Ireland to settle in New York City where her brother and two sisters lived. She boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (ticket number 330958, £7 17s 7d) together with her friends Mary Delia Burns and Kate Hargadon also from County Sligo.
In a 1973 interview, she said the three girls were alerted to the disaster by an older male friend from their homeland. After a brief investigation of the aft deck, the three girls went to retrieve their lifejackets from their cabin during which time they lost track of their older friend.
Margaret said that after encountering locked gates to Second Class, the three climbed a ladder from the Aft Well deck to one of the decks on Second Class. One of her friends began suffering from seasickness and had to stop. The other friend stayed with her while Margaret proceeded on, intending to return for them when she located a boat. But she found herself caught up in the crowd around Collapsible C and was pushed in. She said that as the boat was lowered it got caught on the ship's rivets, the crew had trouble loosening the falls to free the boat. One of them begged the passengers for help in cutting them. Margaret discovered she had a pocket knife on her and gave it to the crew by which they were able to cut the collapsible free.
After Margaret's rescue, she lived in New York City and married John Joseph O'Neill in 1919. They relocated to Jersey City, New Jersey where they became the parents of six children (two of whom died in childhood).
Her son Matthew O'Neill was born March 15, 1922 and died in Flemington, New Jersey in February of 1982. Her son John J. O'Neill was born December 11, 1927 and died in Cresskill, New Jersey on April 2, 1996. Both daughters survive. Helen Landsberg still resides in Clifton, New Jersey.
As Margaret Devaney O'Neill, she frequently gave interviews about the Titanic, spoke to many civic and school groups and was among the dozen or so survivors who attended the New York premiere of the film, A Night to Remember.
After her husband died, Margaret O'Neill moved to Clifton, New Jersey. She passed away on June 12, 1974, at the age of 82. She was buried in Holy Name Cemetery, New Jersey.
Mrs O'Neill had saved three momentos from the Titanic and these relics are still treasured by her descendants. The first was her third class ticket (which she had in her sweater pocket when she left the Titanic). The second is the actual knife that the crewmen used to cut the ropes that tied the oars together. The third is a lifeboat iron emblam flag that was removed from a lifeboat and given to Margaret while on the Carpathia. The man who gave the flag to Margaret was in charge of the boat told her that she was responsible for the lifeboat escaping the Titanic by having the knife. As a token of his appreciation, he presented her with it.
Robert L. Bracken, USA
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
Arthur Merchant, USA
Noel Ray, Ireland
- The Queenstown passenger list gives her age as 19, Bracken (2000) gives her age as 20. Margaret Devaney herself never knew her birthday and later adopted the same date as her husband. She later said that growing up in the poor and rural areas of Ireland, one didn't celebrate birthdays so it wasn't unnatural to not know one's birthday.
Passaic Herald News, 13 June 1974, Obituary
Robert L. Bracken (2000) Irish Titanic Passengers
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
Names and Descriptions of British Passengers Embarked at the Port of Queenstown, 11 April 1912 (PRO London, BT 27/776/2).
Noel Ray (1999) List of Passengers who Boarded RMS Titanic at Queenstown, April 11, 1912. The Irish Titanic Historical Society
Articles and Stories
Jersey Journal (1974)
New York Times (1973)
Passaic Herald News (1974)