Ballydehob’s Titanic Three
Throughout the length and breadth of Ireland emigration to Britain and America was at its peak as thousands of young men and women departed annually in search of a better life. Almost every town and village had its own shipping agent to facilitate the emigrants’ departure. Ballydehob was no different with John Barry being the local White Star Line shipping agent. John ran a family business which included a hotel and shipping agency on Main Street where Hudson’s Health Food Store is now located.
It mustn’t have been unusual for him, when in late March or early April 1912, he sold three steerage class tickets to three young ladies for passage to America. Little did he know how ‘The Unsinkable Titanic’, would be? The tickets were sold to Bridget Driscoll, Letter Road, Ballydehob, and Mary Kelly, a native of Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath and Annie Jane Jermyn, Derreenaclough, Ballydehob.
Bridget Driscoll, at 27, the oldest of the girls, was born 17th January 1885. She was the eldest daughter of John and Kate Driscoll, who resided on the family farm on Letter Road, Ballydehob. Happily that direct connection continues today with her niece, Miss Kitty O’Driscoll, who will be shortly celebrating her 96th birthday, still living in Letter Road. Bridget had actually immigrated to America in 1910 but on hearing that her mother was seriously ill returned home the following year. Unfortunately, her mother had died a matter of days before her return. So, after spending a short time in Letter Road she decided to return to America.
Mary Kelly, the recipient of the second Ballydehob ticket was just 22 years of age, having been born in Co. Westmeath on the 19th February 1890. How Mary came to buy her ticket in the Ballydehob Shipping Agency is a matter of great speculation. By 1911 her father had died and her widowed mother with Mary’s younger siblings had moved into the ‘Widows’ Home’. No record of Mary living in Co. Westmeath during that year is available. However, in 1911 a Mary Kelly who fits her profile was working as a Domestic Servant in ‘a big house’, ‘Rosnalee’. Can we assume that she must have moved on to Ballydehob to take up similar employment some time after the census of 1911? Her grand-daughter, Mary Moynihan, who lives in Florida, said that her grandmother often mentioned Ballydehob when she, Mary Moynihan, was a young child. The older Mary’s plans to stay in Ireland don’t seem to have been of a long term nature as she had decided to marry her boyfriend, John Heslin from Castlepollard, who was already in New York.
Annie Jane Jermyn, the third ticket holder, born on 13th July 1885, was 26 years old when she decided to emigrate. She was the third of nine children of Henry, a farmer, shopkeeper and builder and his wife Susan, Derreenaclough, Ballydehob. Annie Jane, or Nancy, as she was called by the family, was planning to stay in Lynn Massachusetts with her older married sister, Mary Grace Draper. There are now no close remaining relatives of the Jermyns in Ballydehob, as shortly after the Titanic tragedy the entire family, including the parents all moved back to the United States where Henry and Susan lived in a substantial dwelling on Carlton Street, Peabody, Massachusetts. However, a number of further-removed cousins still live in the general West Cork area and Henry’s excellent workmanship as a builder can be observed locally in many houses reputedly built by him.
There is no record of whether the three girls were acquainted with each other as they set off from the railway station in Ballydehob but, in all probability, they must have communicated on the way, the other two depending on Bridget as she was an experienced trans-Atlantic traveler. This experience may have been a fortunate turn of events when disaster struck early on the night of 14th April. As the final lifeboat, ‘Collapsible D’, was being launched at 2.05a.m on the 15th April, Bridget made her way on to the boat , followed by Mary and then Annie Jane. At the last moment before the lifeboat was lowered into the freezing ocean, a remarkable event occurred, a frantic father handed Mary his two infant sons, ‘Louis and Lola’ and asked her to carry them to safety. Later the boys’ story and rescue became headline news. ‘Collapsible D’ successfully made its escape and was just 100 meters from the doomed Titanic when she slid beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic.