One-hundred years ago, a remarkable East Clare woman was rescued from the Titanic and on Sunday, April 15, the 100th anniversary of the day she was rescued by the Carpathia, Mary Agatha Glynn will be commemorated in her own parish in East Clare.
Born in Slievanore, a townland about three miles from Flagmount, in February 1893, Mary Agatha Glynn was one of the first steerage passengers to survive Titanic.
She was the elder daughter in a family 10 born to Pat Glynn and his wife, Ellen Guilfoyle.
Aged 19, Mary Agatha had used a ticket purchased by the Glynn family to board the Titanic at Queenstown, Cobh, Cork and was intending to travel on to her cousin, Mrs D Courtnay, in Capital Hill, Washington.
It is not clear what Mary’s connection was with 13 young people from Adergoole in County Mayo or if she was merely sharing cabins with the group but for whatever reasons, the fate of 11 of the group would not end as happily as that of Mary.
On April 15, the East Clare parish of Killanena Flagmount, together with the many cousins of the Glynn and Guilfoyle families, will pool their talents to honour the memory of one of their own and the only Clare survivor of the Titanic disaster.
The day will begin with the ringing of the Millennium bell, which will be rung 13 times at 9.20am to coincide with the time of Mary’s rescue. A commemorative walk will take place from Flagmount to Slievanore, where it is intended to plant a tree at the site of the Glynn homestead.
This will be followed by some activities at the lakeshore and a special mass at 2pm in Flagmount Church. Following mass, a memorial plaque will be unveiled by a member of the Glynn family and Mayor of Clare, Pat Hayes.
Local musicians, dancers, singers and set dancers are invited to join the festivities at the Lough Graney Kids Centre, where members of the public will be able to take the opportunity to view projects on Mary Agatha’s life, together with art and poetry created by local school children.
According to local woman Mary Noonan, “The memory of Mary Agatha’s story is still very vivid in the locality and a neighbour, Roger Moroney, can clearly remember his mother speak of the day the initial telegram was delivered to Pat and Ellen Glynn informing them that their eldest daughter had been lost on the ill-fated Titanic. Roger says his grandfather, ploughing in the neighbouring field, untackled the horses there and then to go and support the Glynns in their hour of grief. A wake was held and there was widespread mourning for the young girl. A number of days later, a second telegram arrived imparting the news that Mary, the first steerage passenger to reach Washington, was safe and well,” she said.
Days of grief and heartbreak were replaced by indescribable relief and joy after Mary Agatha’s rescue became known and the local community celebrated with the Glynn family.
“It was the best news the small County Clare village could have hoped to hear. Roger tells that some weeks later Ellen Glynn received a letter from her daughter saying she now had her two feet planted on solid ground and here she would stay for the rest of her days. Mary, like many Titanic survivors, would never again sail on any seagoing vessel,” Mary continued.
Mary added that records report that Mary Agatha’s testimony to the senate enquiry in the US was cited as one of the clearest and most concise recollections of any of the steerage passengers.
It was particularly insightful, as she was one of the few survivors who had first-hand evidence of “the boilers and engines being tested to the last” in order to meet its optimum speed on the night of the fateful disaster on April 14, 1912.
Quoting from Mary Agatha’s own personal account of the events leading up to the disaster, she said, “Everybody on the vessel seemed to be interested in the fact that the Titanic was going to make the distance across the Atlantic in record time.”
In an extract from Senan Moloney’s book Irish Aboard The Titanic, it states that Mary Agatha’s room was below deck, close to the engine room and earlier in the voyage she had sat below deck for warmth. But on the evening of Sunday, April 14, because of the almost unbearable heat, she and her companions had discarded every excess piece of clothing they could.
Ironically, for a number of the steerage passengers lucky enough to gain entry to the lifeboats, their scantily clad condition would lead to almost certain death in the sub-zero conditions of the North Atlantic.
To further compound their susceptibility to the elements, many of the young women on Lifeboat 13 with Mary made torches of parts of their clothing in order to attract the attention of passing boats but to no avail. Seven hours after the Titanic finally plunged into the icy Atlantic, Mary and her exhausted fellow travellers were rescued by the Carpathia. Her cousin, Josie Sheedy, describes how she came ashore barefoot and wearing only the lightest of nightclothes.
It is an incredible story and one that will be shared and recalled next Sunday and all are welcome to join at Loughgraney Kids Corner, where light refreshments will be served after mass.