Titanic Passengers' Life Stories Explored in New Exhibition
Published: 28 February 2012
A revealing new exhibition exploring the stories of the Irish passengers who travelled on Titanic opened today at the Ulster American Folk Park.
Set in the context of European emigration, Titanic: Window on Emigration uncovers the stories of steerage passengers, why they left for America and what happened to many of the 40 Irish survivors.
Among the fascinating stories is that of Helen Shine Callaghan from Cork, the grandmother of the Democratic politician and current Speaker of New York City Council, Christine Callaghan Quinn, who is expected to launch a campaign to become the first female mayor of New York in 2013.
Helen, a 20 year-old who described herself as a servant from County Cork when immigration officials came aboard Carpathia, the ship which rescued people from Titanic after she sank, later married a New York firefighter, John Callaghan, and lived until 1993. A picture of Christine Callaghan Quinn with her mother and grandmother is one of many featured in the exhibition.
Titanic: Window on Emigration also tells the story of the only third class passenger on Titanic from Northern Ireland. Thomas Morrow from Rathfriland boarded the ship at Queenstown and died in the sinking. A Worshipful Master of the Drumlough Loyal Orange Lodge, Thomas was going to join his brother who worked on a ranch in Canada.
The stories of three County Cavan girls who survived the tragedy are also featured - Mary McGovern, Julia Smyth and Kate Connolly shared a cabin on the ship. Kate became a live-in maid for a New York family. She later invested in property and by 1926 owned several apartment buildings. Mary McGovern returned to Ireland in 1920 where she married and raised a family.
Exhibition highlights include 300 original artefacts including examples of Edwardian costume like those worn by third class passengers as well as jewellery and personal items from the era. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a recreation of a typical third class cabin on board Titanic.
Speaking at the official opening of the exhibition, Pat O’Donnell, Curator of Exhibitions & Collections at the Ulster American Folk Park, said: “On 11 April 1912, 113 people boarded Titanic at Queenstown near Cork. They were just a small number of the 30,000 who left Ireland for North America in 1912. The story of the Irish on Titanic which we are telling through this new exhibition provides an insight into the many other Irish emigrants and their motivation to travel to the other side of the world.
“Many, encouraged by letters from family in America had sold everything they owned, convinced they were heading for a land of opportunity. Only 40 Irish Titanic survivors eventually made it to America. Although many of thesurvivors’ later lives turned out well, many of them remained as silent about the sinking of Titanic as they were about the trauma of permanently leaving home.”
She continued: “Our exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to find out what life was like on board and how, contrary to popular opinion, the third class passengers enjoyed a good standard of accommodation.”
Tim Cooke, Director of National Museums Northern Ireland which runs the Ulster American Folk Park, commented: “This exhibition is both timely and appropriate in that it focuses on the human stories behind the Titanic tragedy. It is the first time some of these stories have been brought to public attention in this way and it connects people from across the island of Ireland very directly with both passengers who perished and with survivors who went on to pursue new lives in North America. Visitors will find it a fascinating addition to the powerful emigration story told so effectively at the Ulster American Folk Park."
The Titanic: Window on Emigration
exhibition will run at the Ulster American Folk Park until 26 January 2014.
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