Mrs Catherine Bourke

Catherine and John Bourke

Mrs Catherine Bourke (nee McHugh) was born in Tawnagh, Addergoole, Co Mayo, Ireland on 1 November 1879.1

She was the daughter of Patrick McHugh (b. 1842), a farmer, and Mary Madden (b. 1845) who had married in Ballina, Co Mayo on 22 May 1865. 
Her known siblings were: Margaret (b. 4 May 1866), Anthony (b. 27 August 1868), Mary (b. 10 September 1870), Cecily (b. 8 March 1877), Ellen (b. 3 November 1881) and Thomas (b. 17 November 1883).

Both her parents died when she was young; her mother passed first, afflicted with a debilitating illness for the last six months of her life before dying on 19 January 1886. Her father outlived her mother by mere months and passed away from cancer on 25 September 1886.

Aged only 16 years when she was left without parents, Catherine emigrated within the next few years to the USA and settled in Chicago, Illinois where it appears she already had family. She returned to her native Ireland in 1910 and after a whirlwind romance was married to a childhood acquaintance, John Bourke, a farmer from Carrowskeheen, Addergoole in Lahardane Parrish Church on 5 March 1911.

Catherine, her new husband and his sister Mary appeared on the 1911 census living at house 11 in Carrowskeheen.

Catherine's friend Catherine McGowan had returned to her native Mayo in late 1911 with the intention of returning to Chicago in the following Spring. This perhaps prompted her husband John to follow suit and he, Catherine and her sister-in-law Mary made plans to emigrate to Chicago where her sister Ellen lived at 66 Ruby Street in Chicago.

She joined a large group of over a dozen people from the locality who would all be travelling third class aboard Titanic and Catherine and her husband boarded the Titanic at Queenstown on 11 April 1912 (ticket number 364849 which cost £15, 10s).

On the night of the sinking Catherine, John and Mary were all reportedly asleep at the time of the collision but were awakened by a steward who told them to get up and dressed. The trio (perhaps with the others whom they were travelling with) all made the upper decks with Catherine and her sister-in-law Mary having ample opportunity to escape. However, both Catherine and Mary refused to be parted from John under the women and children first edict and the three of them were lost in the sinking.

Catherine's body, if recovered, was never identified.


  1. Birthdate as per birth record; another date cited is 28 October 1879.

Articles and Stories

Connaught Telegraph (1912) 
Chicago American (1912) 
Chicago Daily News (1912) 
Connaught Telegraph (1912) 
Chicago Examiner (1912) 
Chicago Daily Journal (1912) 

Comment and discuss

Reply Watch Thread


Gavin Bell, UK
Noel Ray, Ireland

References and Sources

Irish Examiner, 11 April 2012
Search archive Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Catherine Bourke (ref: #689, last updated: 12th September 2018, accessed 14th April 2021 13:20:30 PM)

Discover More

Join the Encyclopedia Titanica Community (21k)     Join the Encyclopedia Titanica Facebook Group (11k)