Titanic 1912-2012: A city mourns

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All of Southampton’s Catholic communities were affected by the tragedy of Titanic.


His fellow Catholics will be overjoyed to hear our friend, Mr J Foley, storekeeper, was among the saved. He was appointed to man a lifeboat in which Lady Astor [the wife of John Jacob Astor, the richest passenger on Titanic] was saved.

Richard Stephen Carr of Winchester Rd was soon to be married and banns were read during the voyage.

The 3 RC priests on board all died. Fr Byles, a convert, was the only English priest, on his way to Brooklyn for his brother’s wedding. Of the final scenes just before the ship went down, and when all the boats had left, none was more solemn than that of a group of men and women kneeling before Fr Byles making their last confession. As he made the sign of the cross as absolution, the waves broke over the group and the ship sank.


This immense tragedy has overwhelmed the world with horror and grief. The stories of all the brave deeds done in those hours of agony are like a great song of triumph over weakness and fear. “Watch and pray for you do not know the day and hour”.

Mr John Coleman, born 57 years ago in Cork, came here with his wife 6 years ago and was to collect for our new church on the Titanic.

Mr James Kelly attended Mass here at every opportunity and when in New York encouraged others to do so – a great example to his wife and 3 sons.

William Luke Duffy was the Engineer’s Clerk. He was born in Dublin and this was his first trip. He leaves a wife, 1 child and aunt, Mrs Ward, who gave a framed portrait of the “Sacred Face of Jesus” for the church entrance.

Mr Frank O’Donoghue was to bring back from New York his wife and little Frankie. We sympathise with Mrs O’Donoghue so far away from friends and relations.

We remember also Mrs Fletcher married only a few weeks.

A set of green vestments was bought by the bereaved for the St Patrick’s Mission.


Titanic engineers memorial, East Park, Southampton

A Requiem Mass was held attended by local clergy and large numbers of the Royal Engineers from the Ordnance Survey Office in the Avenue. Fr O’Mahony told the people “Captain Smith called the sailors to “Be British” in the face of death. I am asking you to “Be Christian mourners” – along with grief there would be consolation. Their loved ones were now with God and would one day welcome the mourners into Heaven where they would never be parted”.

St Edmunds has care of a Titanic chalice, bought after a collection, inscribed only “1912”.


On Sunday a High Mass was offered by Fr Aloysius Smith whose brother, a local man, was lost in the wreck of the Titanic. Praying for all the dead, the widows and orphans, Fr Dolman said  Let me tell you if they died as brave men, they also died as true Christians. Although the men had died without the Last Sacraments, God had forgiven them their sins and welcomed them to Himself along with their Guardian Angels”.

Father Bans in charge of the Crusade of Rescue in London, offered to take all the children orphaned by the disaster to give them a home. This offer was taken up on behalf of at least one child, Kathleen Walsh, daughter of Catherine Walsh of Woolston, payments being made from the Titanic Memorial Fund to Fr Bans.

A couple of weeks after the tragedy, John McMullin died; his eldest brother had died on the Titanic. Sympathies were given to his mother


We were very grieved to hear of the sad death of Mr Simmons in the wreck of the Titanic. We all sympathise with Mrs Simmons in her great bereavement. She used to play the harmonium for us at the Portswood Church, her brother, Mr A A Ereaut being our Choir Director.

Three weeks later Mrs Simmons lost her mother, Mrs Ereaut.

The Titanic Memorial Fund

Titanic musicians memorial, Cumberland Place, Southampton

This fund was raised for the aid and relief of the widows, orphans and relatives of the crew and passengers who died in the Titanic disaster. By 19 March 1913 the fund had raised £418,775 but many survivors had their applications rejected. Among the members of the Southampton Committee were Fr Denis O’Mahony of St Edmunds and Mr and Mrs Cooksey of St Joseph’s. Miss Maude Newman was a Lady Visitor for the committee, cycling around the town for over 30 years visiting families and assessing their true needs.

Miss Alice Sophia Bowles of Bugle Street was the Catholic member of the Ladies’ Committee and she had several tough cases:-

Mrs Keegan and family. Payments made to Miss Bowles and others to buy food for the family. No money to be given to mother. June 19 1914 Anonymous letter alerting police to extreme cruelty and neglect of the children who were taken into the workhouse. (Joseph John, Laurence. Sydney Francis, Alice Ellen) Sydney sent to a home for the blind. Laurence sent to sea.

Mrs Simmons. Given £5 for teeth extraction and a pair of false teeth.

Mrs Luigi Gatti. Child Victor in very delicate health age 10. Grant from fund to pay for education at a private school at £3 6s 8d a term ( £10 a year). This will be instead of help in gaining an apprenticeship

Mrs Thomas Shea. Delicate son, Leslie, given 2 shillings a week for nourishing food 1913-1914 then boarded out in July 1914 for 10 shillings a week
In 1948 Mrs Shea wrote 30 letters asking for money. The decision was that after rent etc she had £1 18s 6d which was thought to be enough.
In 1953 she was given £2 15s 4d for 2 pairs of glasses.

Miss Catherine Walsh. Her daughter Kathleen, known as Walsh and later Roche, was sent to Fr Bans’ Crusade of Rescue in London to be cared for in 1912.
In 1922 she was given £1 a month until the conclusion of her course at the training college in September 1927 in north London. She married and had two children and died in Ireland in 2000.

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