Nora Agnes Keane was born in Castleconnell, Co Limerick, Ireland on 30 March 1864.1
She was the daughter of John Keane (1819-1885), a farmer, and Hanorah Fee (1830-1916).
She was sister to: Peter (b. 1857), Albert (b. 1862), Denis (b. 19 December 1867), James (b. 1871), Patrick (b. 1 April 1873) and William (b. 30 September 1875).
Nora emigrated in August 1888 2 when she was still a young woman, aboard the City of Richmond, settling in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and working as a housekeeper. She was later joined by several of her siblings, her brothers becoming firemen, and she and her brothers later ran the Union Hotel on Paxton Street in Harrisburg. Nora was still an unmarried housekeeper by the time of the 1900 census. Her passports describe her as standing at 5' 9", with fair complexion, brown hair, blue eyes and a broad face.
Nora's father had died on 8 May 1885 with her eldest brother Peter taking over the farm. Her elderly mother continued to live with Peter and his family at house 10, Gardenhill, Castleconnell and Nora had made previous trips back home to visit her family, with one voyage in September 1905 being aboard Umbria.
Nora boarded the Titanic at Queenstown on 11 April 1912 as a second class passenger (ticket number 226593 which cost £12, 7s). One of only a handful of Irish nationals travelling in second class, it can be assumed that she was acquainted with her fellow countrymen whilst aboard. Her cabin mates (cabin E101) were two English women, Edwina Troutt and Susan Webber. Nora would later confess to Miss Troutt that she had a terrible foreboding that the ship may sink, which was compounded when she accidentally dropped her Rosary and prayer book into the ocean whilst boarding.
On the night of the sinking Nora was so nervous that she required help to dress. Despite her anxiety, she insisted that Miss Troutt help her into her corset. Miss Troutt snapped, snatched the corset from her and tossed it away, scolding her about such trifles when they were in danger. The ladies went topside and Nora noted the scene on deck as being quite calm, with the officers having perfect control. She also described how a male "foreigner" jumped into her lifeboat as it was being filled, hiding into the bottom of the boat and being trampled on in the dark. The interloper later proved to be a valuable asset as he helped row.
Nora claimed to have been around 100 yards from the ship when she plunged and was close enough to see people struggling in the water whilst their cries carried across the ocean.
Following her arrival in New York aboard Carpathia, Nora was met by her brothers and she returned to Harrisburg.
Nora Keane in 1916
Nora, who remained a spinster living in Harrisburg, later ran a public house, living at 167 Paxton Street. Having declared her intention for US citizenship on 31 January 1910, she petitioned for the same on 23 May 1912.
She braved the ocean several times more to visit her native Ireland. With the intention of nursing her sickly mother, on 3 April 1915 Nora set sail on Lusitania, one of that ship's final Atlantic crossings; just over one month later, Lusitania would also be wrecked. The eventual death of her mother on 14 February 1916 saw another voyage back to Ireland.
Nora made another trip back to Ireland in 1919 with the intention of staying there for up to six years before returning back to Harrisburg. However, it is not clear if she ever set foot on American soil again and it seems she remained in Ireland even during the tumultuous period of the Irish War of Independence and the ensuing Irish Civil War.
Living for the remainder of her life in her native Castleconnell, Co Limerick, Nora Keane suffered a fractured hip during the summer of 1944 and complications from that injury led to her death a few months later on 20 December 1944. She was buried in Castleconnell.
Nora Keane in 1919