Who was the longest-lasting Irish survivor of the Titanic?

15 April marks the 110th anniversary of the infamous sinking of the RMS Titanic, which shocked the whole world.

Who was the longest-lasting Irish survivor of the Titanic?

The RMS Titanic struck an iceberg just before midnight on 14 April 1912. Two and a half hours later, the luxury liner sank in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, taking 1,514 lives down with it.

To mark the anniversary of the tragic event, we take a look at the longest-lasting Irish survivor of the Titanic.

The Titanic sinking – a tragic event that shocked the world

Credit: commonswikimedia.org

On 15 April 1912, the luxury liner RMS Titanic foundered in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland. Out of 2,240 passengers and crew on board, only 706 people survived.

Among many of the mistakes that caused the sinking of the Titanic, one of the main ones was the ships poor navigation of icebergs. This did, however, change maritime history by leading to the creation of the International Ice Patrol.

It is suspected that around 164 of the Titanic’s passengers were Irish, 110 of which lost their lives, while 54 survived.

One of the survivors, and the longest-lasting Irish survivor of the Titanic, was Cork woman Ellen ‘Nellie’ Shine.

Ellen Shine – the longest-living Irish survivor

Credit: Flickr/ Jim Ellwanger

Ellen Shine boarded the RMS Titanic at Queenstown as a Third-Class passenger. One common myth about the Titanic is that most Third-Class passengers of the vessel were Irish.

In fact, most of the Third Class passengers were actually British. All in all, around 33 different nationalities were represented in the passenger lists. Only 25% of those travelling in Third Class survived the disaster.

Ellen’s age at the time of boarding the Titanic is something that is contested. Sources have said she was 20 years old, while a 1959 article that quotes her husband states she was 19. Her occupation in the manifest of passengers was listed as ‘spinster’.

She is quoted in The Times from 20 April 1912 saying, “I saw one of the lifeboats and made for it. In it, there were already four men from the steerage who refused to obey an officer who ordered them out. They were however finally turned out”.

Another newspaper quoted the same passage but with one key difference. It detailed how Ellen witnessed the four men being shot and thrown overboard by the officers. However, other survivors never recalled this detail.

The longest-lasting Irish survivor of the Titanic – one of few

Credit: commonswikimedia.org

Ellen’s age would once again be contested when records from her case number showed her telling American Red Cross that she was 16 at the time. Many sources state that she was actually 17 years old when she boarded the ship.

After the incident, Ellen hysterically collapsed when she met her brother Jeremiah and other relatives at the Cunard pier in New York, according to the Brooklyn Daily Edge.

It was also reported the following day that she and other women had knocked crewmen down who were trying to stop steerage passengers from reaching the boat deck.

Later on in life, she married firefighter John Callaghan, who was also from Cork, and they settled in New York. The couple had two daughters, Julia and Mary, who Ellen would go on to outlive.

After her husband’s death in 1976, she moved to Long Island to be with her family. In 1982, she moved to Glengariff nursing home. In 1991, she celebrated her 100th birthday. However, apparently, she celebrated this milestone three years early.

According to The Irish Aboard the Titanic by Senan Molony, she was at the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease by this stage.

She had not spoken about the Titanic in almost 70 years, but now, she couldn’t stop talking about it. She died on 5 March 1993 at the age of 101.

For more, read Ireland Before You Die’s article on the top 100 facts about the Titanic.

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