Friday, August 8, 2008

The Case of Peggy O'Neill

An Irish Pub, in downtown Palm Harbor (we do so have a down town) by the name of Peggy O'Neill's has the following story on their menu:

"Peggy O’Neill was a nineteen-year-old Irish emigrant who was traveling to Boston from her home in County Mayo Ireland. She was to be married in June of that year. But her dream would not come true, for she sailed on the largest ship afloat at that time, it left from Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City on April 10, 1912, the ship was the H.M.S. Titanic. On the fourth day into her journey, she was awakened and told that the ship was sinking. Unfortunately Peggy O’Neill was not one of the rescued 705 survivors. One thousand five hundred twenty-two passengers and crew were lost that night. In 1922 a song was written called That’s Peggy O’Neill, it was very popular song of it’s day."

They also have very good food including the best Irish version of the French Dip I've ever had the pleasure to gobble up.

I wanted to know more about Peggy O'Neill as I have a fascination for the stories of the people who sailed on the Titanic. I have a decent collection of books on the subject. I browsed through several 2nd and 3rd class passenger lists but found no "O'Neill". None among the 1st class either. Next I looked for Margarets among the 3rd class passengers who embarked at Queenstown, Ireland. There were several Margarets, including Margaret Devany. She is listed as age 19 with a destination of New York - not Boston. She is also listed as survivor and was rescued from collapsible Lifeboat C.

I found her story in "Titanic Women and Children First" by Judith B. Geller. Margaret Devaney is the Peggy O'Neill I was searching for. Turns out, she came to the US, not to be married, but to join two brothers and sister who had already immigrated before her. Two years after her rescue she met her future husband John Joseph O'Neill and became Peggy O'Neill Here are some interesting bits of information about her:

She was pretty and gregarious

Her family held an American "wake" for her before she sailed. It was common to do so as the families did not know if or when they would ever be together again.

Her younger brother John gave her a pocket knife as a going away gift.

She traveled with 2 neighboring farm girls, neither of whom survived the sinking

She shared a six bed cabin on G deck with 5 young women.
and paid £7 17s 7d for her ticket.
She and her friends took apples from the 3rd class dinner table on what was to be their last evening. Peggy went back to her cabin to get her pocket knife to peel the apples. Afterwards she tucked it away in a "safe" pocket along with her rosary.

She had to climb a ladder and scale a gate to get to the boat deck.

Her lifeboat, C is the same one that Bruce Ismay, President of the White Star Line slunk into. Also William Carter who's Renault was in the cargo hold. This is the automobile in which the fictional characters Jack and Rose made love in the 1997 movie Titanic.

Peggy helped push the lifeboat away from the Titanic as it was being lowered.

The oars were lashed to the oarlocks by stiff new ropes and the lifeboat needed to be cut free from the Titanic- Peggy's 7 inch pocket knife was used to free them.

On board the rescue ship Carpathia, a crewman from the life boat presented Peggy with the flag from the lifeboat as a memento.

Her brother commandeered a policeman's horse to make his way through the crowds when the Carpathia docked in NY.

When she married John O'Neill along with his name she took his birth date - she did not know her own.

Peggy's parish church was St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue in NY. This is where she and John were married.

They had 6 children

She kept her mementos of that night, the flag from the crewman and the knife that saved them from going down with the Titanic. The rosary, she gave to a niece who became a nun.

Peggy died at age 82 on June 12, 1974
There is only one known surviving survivor of the Titanic Disaster, Gladys "Millvina" Dean


Sweet Repose said...

What a wonderful story and with a happy ending, scared me at first...whew.


MuseSwings said...

Glad it didn't scare you at the end!

driving miss willow said...

This story is very interesting. Thank you. There are transcripts one can retrieve on the internet from the two tribunals investigating this collision. I used to have my students reenact the interviews and talk about the obvious division and treatment of first class passengers vs. second class, etc.

loolylouise said...

So do you feel it's your civic duty to inform the pub's menu writers of your correct version of history? Maybe not, on accounta they'd never let you back in. No more French/Irish Dip. Do they at least have the correct photo of the lass?
(Hi, Sissy! Love you!)


Janeen said...

Your blog is a new favorite for me and I've enjoyed getting caught up on your recent postings. The poems and love letters are lovely!

MuseSwings said...

Willow, Thank you for visiting. What an interesting class assignment! The # of 3rd class passengers interviewed by the tribunals was miniscule- might have been zero. Hey Loolie! I left the story with the pub - no comment or reply. They have no pic of her on the menu - and we go there so rearely they've forgotten to block me at the door.
Janeen! I'm enjoying your blog as well and have you on my list to read daily It's lovely to have you pop over for visits!

Lavinia said...

This is fascinating! I'm so glad that Peggy had a happy ending, and did not go down on to Davy Jones Locker on that chilly winter's eve.

MuseSwings said...

Me too! Sounds like she had a good life!

Kalianne@BygoneBeauty said...

What an interesting story! I'd like to add this post to my favorites. The Titanic story fascinates me too. It must be very absorbing to research.

Must learn more about 'life boat etiquette' too - if I'm ever to flee a sinking ship I'd want to do it style and decorum.

MuseSwings said...

Someone aboard a lifeboat did suggest trying to maintain some kind of class distinction. Sorry, but they didn't throw her overboard.

Sandy said...

Fascinating story...