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Margaret Devaney: a Titanic Survivor

Margaret Devaney: a Titanic Survivor

One century ago, on Sunday 14th April 1912, the steamship RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the Atlantic on her maiden voyage from Southampton, Cherbourg and Cobh, Co Cork. The liner was carrying 2,225 people and 1,512 were lost. In the March issue of Irish Travel Trade News, our correspondent Joe Jennings reveals how he interviewed one of the 713 survivors, Margaret Devaney.

Margaret Devaney

The RMS Titanic struck the iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland at 11.40pm and sank to the bottom 4,000 metres down, at 2.20am. The sunken hulk was discovered on Sunday 1st September 1985 by the distinguished marine explorer Dr Robert Ballard.

An amazing new exhibition centre, Titanic Belfast, was opened this weekend in what is now known as the Titanic Quarter in the heart of the construction site of the Titanic. The striking six-floor building features nine interpretative and interactive galleries that explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of the liner, as well as the city, and people who built her.

Some 40 years after the iceberg collision, one of the 713 survivors, Margaret Devaney, returned on holiday to her native home at Kilmacowen, a few miles from Sligo. As a young trainee reporter on the Sligo Champion I was assigned to interview her.

When she was taking a train from Collooney to Cork to join the liner, her 12-year-old brother John had involuntarily fished a small penknife from his pocket and given it as a keepsake to Margaret. A few days later, when she was being hustled into one of the Titanic’s lifeboats, the boat became entangled in a rope as it tried to pull away from the sinking ship. A man on board the lifeboat shouted if anyone had a knife to help him cut the rope. She had the knife in her dressing gown, passed it to the man to cut them free and saved the people in the lifeboat from disaster.

Margaret Devaney boarded the Titanic at Queenstown (Cobh) – to settle in New York City where her brother and two sisters lived – as a third-class passenger (ticket number 330958, £7 17s 7d) together with her friends Mary Delia Burns and Kate Hargadon, also from Co Sligo.

After Margaret’s rescue, she lived in New York City and married John Joseph O’Neill in 1919. They relocated to Jersey City, New Jersey where they became the parents of six children (two of whom died in childhood). She frequently gave interviews about the Titanic and spoke to many civic and school groups.

After her husband died, Margaret moved to Clifton, New Jersey. She passed away on 12th June 1974, at the age of 82. She was buried in Holy Name Cemetery, New Jersey.

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NEIL STEEDMAN has been a trade journalist, copywriter, editor and proofreader for 52 years, and News & Features Editor for ‘Irish Travel Trade News’ for the past 42 years.

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