The Titanic Experience in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland.
I recently paid a long overdue visit to the Titanic Experience in Cobh, not too far from where I live. Although not as big as the one in Belfast, it was well worth the trip. The exhibition is situated in the original building that held the offices of The White Star Line.
Titanic arrived in Queenstown (now called Cobh) in county Cork to pick up mail and 123 passengers, before setting out on her first trans-Atlantic voyage. There were over 2,000 passengers and crew on board as the ship left the harbour at 1.30 pm on Thursday 11 April 1912, bound for New York.
This is what the White Star Line building looked like on the day, pretty much the same as it does now. On the tour of the exhibition, we got to stand on the same spot as those you can see in the photograph just above the crowd of people gathered on the quayside.
The pier that the passengers left from still stands and was known as Heartbreak Pier. The tenders that brought them out to the Titanic, which was anchored off Roche’s Point, were called the PS America and the PS Ireland.
It was a very poignant moment, looking at the remains of the old pier.
Of the 123 passengers who boarded from Cobh, three were first class, seven were second class and the remaining 113 were third class or steerage. Only 44 survived, ten of those being from Cork. When you receive your ticket for the guided tour you are given the name of one of the passengers who boarded Titanic from Cobh that day. At the end of the tour you find out whether or not you were among the survivors. The name on my ticket was that of Katherine Buckley, aged 22, a young Irish woman from county Cork.
As I was listening to the guide and experiencing what it was like to be in a third class cabin, as opposed to a first class one, I began to wonder about the young woman whose ticket I was given. At the time, a first class passenger paid £870/$4,350 ($69,600 today) and for third class the price was £8/$40 ($640 today). To find out more about Katherine, I did some research online.
Katherine Buckley was from Ovens in county Cork and lived on a small farm. Her half-sister, Margaret, had saved the price of her fare so she could join her in America. A job had been arranged for Katherine in the home of a wealthy Boston businessman but her family were opposed to her leaving. Her death led to a rift in the family, as Margaret was blamed for it. The sad fact is, that Katherine was not originally meant to sail on the Titanic, her ticket was bought for Boston. She was to sail on board a smaller White Star Line ship called the SS Cymric. When a strike ensued, she was transferred to the Titanic.
Katherine Buckley’s remains were recovered and returned to Margaret in America, the only Irish body to have been sent to relatives. For almost a hundred years she lay in an unmarked grave in a cemetery in West Roxbury, Boston. The family dispute over Katherine’s death has only been resolved in recent years, when in 2010 her final resting place was given a headstone. She is the only third class passenger to have a memorial and over a hundred people attended the ceremony, including relatives of Katherine. Sixteen of her descendants each placed a rose on her grave and two of her great-great-grandnieces unveiled the marker.
My next trip up north will have to include the Titanic Quarter. Although the exhibition in Cork is much smaller than the one in Belfast, it is very moving to stand on the spot where Titanic’s last 123 passengers left dry land to board her. You can find out more about the guided tour in Cobh here.