Miss Mary McGovern1 was born in Clarbally, Templeport, Co Cavan, Ireland on 7 June 1891.
Hailing from a Roman Catholic family, she was the daughter of John McGovern (b. circa 1838), a farmer, and Bridget McManus (b. 14 December 1866), Cavan natives from Corlough and Ardmoneen, respectively who had married on 13 February 1888 in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim.
The second of seven children, Mary's siblings were: Patrick (b. 3 February 1890), John (b. 23 March 1893), Thomas (b. 10 December 1895), Francis (b. 12 October 1898), Philip (b. 23 May 1901) and Bridget (b. 3 September 1905). Two of her siblings reportedly died in childhood.
Mary first appears on the 1901 census residing with her family at house 4 in Clarbally; by the time of the 1911 census the family were resident at house 4 in Clarbally but Mary is not listed at the address and her whereabouts at the time are uncertain.
Mary was leaving Ireland to find work in New York where she already had family, including her brother Patrick who had migrated aboard the Dominion in August 1911.
She boarded the Titanic at Queenstown, Co Cork on 11 April 1912 as a third-class passenger (ticket number 330931 which cost £7, 12s, 7d), having travelled to Queenstown by train from Ballinamore, Co Leitrim. Carrying with her, besides her few belongings was a small parcel of soil from the church of Saint Mogue, given to her by her mother to safeguard her journey.
On the night of the sinking Mary had been in bed in her cabin with her friends. Following the collision, Mary reported that she did not feel any alarm or fear as everything for a short time remained silent. Soon the noise and commotion outside their cabin prompted the girls to get up and get dressed, fighting their way up to the communal decks only to be told to go and fetch their lifebelts. Upon their return journey to their cabin, Mary reported seeing seawater creeping slowly up a corridor (perhaps she meant Scotland Road). Luckily they reached the cabin, found said life preservers stored above the door and once again commenced their ascent through dense crowds back to the upper decks, presumably the aft well deck. Once arriving on either the boat deck or A-deck promenade, Mary recalled how many of the boats were already full or being lowered and that the boat she eventually left in was amongst the last to leave. It is presumed she was saved in lifeboat 13 with her cabin mates.
Upon arrival in New York Mary was described as a 20-year-old unmarried domestic; her relatives were stated as her parents and her destination address was to her cousin, a Mrs Greeves of 35 West 56th Street, New York. Before travelling there Mary was taken with other survivors to St Vincent's Hospital where she recuperated and was assisted financially to the tune of $100 by the American Red Cross.
What Mary did over the next few years in New York is not certain but she did not remain there and returned to Ireland before the close of the decade. Her elderly father died following heart failure on 10 September 1918 and Mary perhaps returned home around the same time, returning to her family in Co Cavan where she would remain for the rest of her life.
In Corlough Parish Church on 11 April 1921, just weeks before the partition of Ireland, Mary was married to Peter McGovern (b. 6 June 1889); he hailed from nearby Tullytrasna, Co Cavan and was the son of Hugh McGovern and the former Bridget McAuley.
Mary and Peter made their lifelong home on their farm in Tullytrasna, which lay only a few short miles from the newly-installed political border; they went on to have one son and one daughter, Hugh (b. 1923) and Mary Kate (b. 1925). For the rest of her life Mary kept the small parcel of Saint Mogue's earth that had accompanied her on Titanic.
Following a battle with stomach cancer, Mary McGovern died aged 66 on 24 August 1957 in a hospital in her native Co Cavan. She was survived by her husband and two children.
Well-regarded in her community as a kind and charitable lady, upon her death local media reported that her funeral attracted a large turnout. She was buried in Corlough Cemetery, eventually being joined by her husband and son. Her headstone reads:
LOVING MEMORY OF
DIED 14 MAY 1983
HIS MOTHER MARY
DIED 24 AUGUST 1957
HIS FATHER PETER
DIED 29 MARCH 1974
Her daughter Mary later became Mrs Tommie McHugh and she lived in Tempo, Co Fermanagh. She was still alive as of the late 1990s but her final whereabouts are not known.