Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'The Irish aboard Titanic': Book Review

With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic close at hand, Mercier Press have once again published Senan Molony's landmark book, The Irish aboard Titanic. While other books on Titanic focus on the foundering of the spectacular ship, and the loss of the rich and famous, Molony shares the history of those Irish passengers and crew members whose names might not ordinarily see the light of day, those whom we might find on our own family trees.

Senan Molony has been meticulous in his research, uncovering not just stories of bravery and bravado on the night of the sinking, but also revealing personal details about these individuals and their families, through letters, interviews, census documents, White Star Line records, newspaper reports, and family recollections. Particularly moving are the accounts of the traumatic impact the sinking had on the lives of those who survived, as well as on the families of those who perished.

I received this book on Monday and, although I do not have any ancestors who were on the Titanic, I could not put it down.  Especially compelling are the stories of young people full of hope who were headed to the new world, drawn by the dream of a better life.  Many were travelling at the urging of family members who had already emigrated, and some were travelling on pre-paid tickets sent home by those who awaited their arrival in North America.

One such passenger, Catherine Buckley, was urged by her elder sister Margaret to leave their native Cork, and travel to her in Massachusetts.  After her sister was lost on Titanic, Margaret paid dearly, shunned by their parents and labelled a murderer for in effect luring Catherine to her death, by urging her to travel to the United States.  There were also Irish on Titanic who had already emigrated, and were heading back to the Americas after visiting with family, having shared the delight of their success in the new world.  All of their stories are here, in histories which detail both the glorious and the ignoble, the joyous and the heartbreaking.

Senan Molony ends this excellent book with an extract from Lawrence Bessley's The Loss of The SS Titanic, with words which speak to a journey into darkness that none of those aboard could have foreseen,

"...the last we saw of Europe were the Irish mountains, dim and faint in the dropping darkness."

If you are interested in learning the extraordinary history of those ordinary Irish who travelled on Titanic, then I highly recommend you add this book to your collection.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely worth a look. You certainly seem to like it.


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