Mary Delia Burns

Miss Mary Bedelia Burns  

Mary Bedelia Burns was born in Kilmacowen, Co Sligo, Ireland on 15 September 1896.1

Mary Burns birth record
Mary’s birth registration

Hailing from a Roman Catholic family, she was the eldest child of Thomas Burns (b. 8 October 1868), a farmer, and Annie Kemmit (b. circa 1870) who had married on 20 February 1895.

She had seven siblings by 1912: Michael Joseph (b. 19 March 1900), Annie Mary (b. 30 October 1901), Margaret Ellen (b. 19 June 1903), Elizabeth "Lizzie" Josephine (b. 14 March 1905), Catherine (b. 26 November 1906), Gertrude Patricia (b. 1 March 1909) and Thomas (b. 24 January 1911).

The family appears on the 1901 census living at house 20, Kilmacowen; by the time of the latter record the family were living at house 15, Kilmacowen and Mary, the eldest child, was still a schoolgirl.

Although supposedly financially comfortable enough to have travelled second class, Mary boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third-class passenger (ticket number 330963 which cost £7, 17s, 7d) with two acquaintances from her locality, Margaret Devaney and Kate Hargadon, apparently choosing to travel in steerage to be with her friends. 

Mary was emigrating to the USA where she hoped to get employment as a housemaid for a well-to-do family. She was travelling to the home of her paternal aunt Mary, Mrs Peter Sheridan, who had migrated as a young woman and married to a Scottish-born typewriter ribbon finisher in 1899. The Sheridan family made their home at 942 Kent Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

Whilst aboard the Titanic Mary and her friends became acquainted with another Sligo-born man, Henry Hart.

Margaret Devaney, the only survivor among the three girls, gives two different versions as to what became of her friends. In one, printed in the Irish World on 4 May 1912, Miss Devaney related:

We were all on deck, not thinking it was serious, when the boy comes along and said " You girls had better get into a boat." Then he held out his hand, saying " I hope we'll meet again."... I got into the boat, but Mary Burns and Kitty Hargadon held back, thinking it was safer to remain on the ship, I never saw them again...

In another version of events Margaret related that Kate Hargadon was afflicted with seasickness and fear and could not face climbing a ladder to the higher decks; she remained in communal third-class areas, perhaps the aft well deck, and was tended to by Mary Burns who chose to remain with her. Whatever happened will forever remain a mystery. 

Mary Burns died in the sinking and her body, if recovered, was never identified. 

Confusion arose as to her fate as the name Burns appeared on the lists of survivors, it later becoming clear that the surviving Burns was first-class passenger Elizabeth Margaret Burns. Nevertheless, Mary’s aunt Mary Sheridan hastened to Manhattan in the hope that she was safe and well, searching hospitals in vain for her young niece.

Following the disaster Mary’s parents received £25 from the Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund.

Her father and mother later welcomed another two daughters; the first arrived on 13 June 1913 and was named in honour of Mary, Mary Delia Veronica. Another daughter arrived two years later on 24 February 1915, Norah Teresa. 

Mary’s mother Annie died from heart failure and senility in a Sligo hospital on 31 March 1949; her father died of similar ailments on 2 March 1952 in Aughamore, Co Sligo. 

Mary is remembered on a memorial plaque in Sligo Cemetery, Cemetery Road, Co Sligo and on a plaque by a family grave at Kilmacowen graveyard in Ballisodare, Co Sligo.

Mary Burns Memorial
Memorial at Sligo Cemetery
(Courtesy of Trevor Baxter)


  1. The identity of Miss Burns has been a subject of confusion; there were two Burns families in Kilmacowen, both headed by a farmer named Thomas Burns. One of those Thomas Burns married a Mary Monaghan (b. 1871) in 1892 and raised a family, one of their daughters being named Mary who had arrived on 15 November 1894; that family appears on the 1911 census living at house 17 in Kilmacowen, indicating the two families were close neighbours. Only through the identification of the Titanic Mary's sister Elizabeth (who married Michael Keaveny on 11 June 1932) by a modern-day relative has her true identity been established. Elizabeth's current-day family are still living in Ireland, albeit now mainly residents of Dublin.

References and Sources

Robert L. Bracken (2000) Irish Titanic Passengers
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
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

Newspaper Articles

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (21 April 1912) NO TRACE OF MARY BURNS
Miss Sheridan Searches Hospitals in Vain for Niece Who Was on Titanic.
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Richard Coplen said:

    Hey all, I've been interested in the Titanic disaster for nearly 13 years now. I've heard plenty of strange stories in connection with the sinking, but none more stranger than that which I heard the other day. While having lunch with some friends from university we started talking about dreams and nightmares which we've experienced. Before I go on I must tell you that none of those present knew of my interest in Titanic. Anyway, when it came to her turn, one of the girls - Sarah Burns from County Sligo told us about a dream she had a few years back..... In the dream she and this other... Read full post

  2. Michael Findlay said:

    Richard, Margaret Devaney O'Neill claimed that she left her friends, Kate Hargadon and Delia Burns, on either B or C-deck as the latter was too ill to follow her up to the boat deck. Kate stayed with her while Margaret went on to find the lifeboats. The plan was for Margaret to return once she determined the escape route. Margaret claimed that she never knew what happened to the girls after she left them. After she reached the boat deck, she was quickly ushered into a lifeboat and claimed that she was prevented from returning to them. Margaret Devaney O'Neill, who died in 1974, was... Read full post

  3. Gerard Louis Monaghan said:

    Hello Does anyone have family information on Delia Burns, a third class passenger on the Titanic. It maybe that her mother was a sister of my grandfather, Philip Monaghan of Carrickhenry, Ballysadare, County Sligo, Ireland.

  4. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Hi Gerard, Miss Burns' mothers' maiden name was Mary Monaghan so you may be on to something. She was born in 1894 in County Sligo. Phil Gowan

  5. Gerard L Monaghan said:

    Thanks Phil Any other information on her family ie brothers and sisters if any, would be much appreciated. Gerry Monaghan

  6. ian Hough said:

    Gerry Delia was on the Titanic travelling to the home of her aunt, Mary Sheridan, her fathers sister 'Her death was never spoken about in the house afterwards because it was so sad' said a younger sister, still alive in Ireland, who asked not to be identified. Source Senan Molony The Irish aboard Titanic All the best Houghie

  7. Eddie Ainsworth said:

    Is there any way to contact two contributors to the reports on Mary Delia Burns, i think we may be related, there names are Joe McDonagh, nephew of Mary and Roberta McGowan, Mary was my mother's aunt.

  8. Neil Scanlon said:

    Hi, I am 23 years old from Sligo, Ireland. I recently found out that Mary (Margaret) Burns was related to my father Eamonn Scanlon.I would like to know more about Mary and maybe find new relatives, I have been fascinated with the story since I was told it, and hope to one day travel and meet all long lost relations.

  9. Joe McDonagh said:

    In the 1911 Census Delia Burns was listed as age 14. From Joe McDonagh

  10. Pixiegirl12887 said:

    Mary Delia Burns is my Great Great Aunt, it's amazing what I learn and she's exactly hundred years older then me.

  11. Pixiegirl12887 said:

    Mary Delia Burns as I said before is my Great Great Aunt. My Great Grandmother Elizabeth Deery was adopted by Marys sister Nelie Burns who lived in America. They waited for her but soon found out that she died, my Grandmother told me this story of when her mother waited for her. I am part of her family by adoption but she is still family in my eyes. I hope to learn more about her and her family.

  12. Chilidog19 said:

    I hope nobody minds me using her name in a story for my history class. I chose it at random and I don't mean to be disrespectful to anyone.

  13. N Scanlon said:

    My father was related to Mary Delia Burns, he was Scanlon and we are from Co Sligo also. I am 25 years old and currently doing a family tree when I stumbled across this information.

  14. Pixiegirl12887 (1020) said:

    Hi I'm Krista and I would also love to learn more about Mary. I am related to her as her Great Great Great Niece.  Her sister Nellie adopted my Great Grandmother and I want to learn more about her and her family.

  15. Tracey (1066) said:

    Hi My name is Tracey (maiden name Keaveney) and Mary (or Delia) as the family called her was my grandmothers sister. I don't know much more about her than the site tells us but my father (her nephew) has 4 brothers and sisters still alive who frequently tell the story. They're all in Dublin now. I don't know any of the family that are still in Sligo.     It's good to know other people are as fascinated by her story as I am!

  16. Tracey (1066) said:

    Hi Neil My grandmother was Delia's sister! She married a Keaveney and they  lived in Sligo but the family are now all in Dublin or London. We're all fascinated by the story and the family still talk about Delia

  17. Pixiegirl12887 (1020) said:

    What is your grandmothers name? My great grandmother was adopted by Nellie Burns ( On of the oldest siblings ) Neil who has also commented on here has helped out a lot with information. There is still some family in Sligo and Niel has told me the names of the siblings he knows about. I really want to know more about Mary and her family.  

  18. May said:

    Hi, I have recently found out that Mary is my Great Great Great Aunt. Her sister Nellie Burns adopted my Great Grandmother. I was told that Nellie was waiting for Mary but soon found out that Mary didn't make it. I have also found someone who was a cousin to Mary. If you need more let me know.

  19. Olivia Moran said:

    Hi Everyone. I know it is a couple of years since you posted the comments below but I would be very interested in learning more about Mary Delia Burns and her sister Lily Keaveney who was a teacher in Lakeview School. I am currently putting together a book on St John's Parish, Carraroe, Sligo which I am hoping to have published by the end of the year.Tracey, you mentioned your sister was Lily. I am hoping to learn more about her. I have been chatting to past pupils of Lakeview School but would love to hear from you about her. I have some school pictures that she is in if you are... Read full post

Showing 20 posts of 23 total. View all.

Reply Watch Thread


Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Robert L. Bracken, USA
Joe McDonagh (nephew of Mary Delia Burns)
Roberta McGowan (relative by marriage of Mary Delia Burns)
Noel Ray, Ireland

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2020) Mary Delia Burns (ref: #701, last updated: 17th April 2020, accessed 23rd July 2021 15:00:04 PM)

Discover More

Join the Encyclopedia Titanica Community (22k)     Join the Encyclopedia Titanica Facebook Group (12.5k)