On the 23rd of January 2018, we had a very special visitor here at Titanic Experience Cobh.
Bridget Murtagh came here with her class from Woffen College Spartanburg, South Carolina, as part of a three-week tour of Ireland. She is the great-granddaughter of Katherine Gilnagh Manning, who boarded the R.M.S. Titanic from Cobh/Queenstown on the 11th of April, 1912. During her visit, Bridget shared her families memories of Katherine (Katie’s) experience.
Katherine Gilnagh was born on October 29, 1895, to Hugh and Johanna Gilnagh and was from County Longford. Her oldest sister, Mollie, was already living in New York City. At the tender age of 16, Katherine boarded Titanic as a third class passenger to follow Mollie to America.
The miracle of Katherine’s survival at sea can be attributed to a man named James Farrell. He first alerted Katie to the tragedy and led her to the deck where the last lifeboats were being launched, seeing her safely into lifeboat 16. James Farrell was not so fortunate and did not survive the tragedy.
After hearing the scale of the tragedy, Katie’s family back in Ireland couldn’t believe she had survived and insisted she send them a picture of herself with her sister Mollie to prove it.
She eventually made it to New York with her prayer book in hand, her only surviving possession, now treasured by the family. Unlike many others, Katherine didn’t let the horror cripple her life and went on to share her experience. She was later featured on the two shows, To Tell the Truth, and Steve Allen Show. In his book, A Night To Remember, Walter Lord, recalls some of her stories of the tragedy from conversations he had with Katie. She became a member of the Titanic Enthusiasts of America and the Titanic Historical Society.
The tragedy did, however, leave her with a deep fear of water.
She married John Joseph Manning and together they had three children – John, Katherine, and Eugene, who is Bridget’s grandfather.
Although Bridget never met her great-grandmother, she has been told only the greatest things about her. She was noted as being very kind and genuine in anything she did. She was strongly religious her entire life and enjoyed her Catholic faith.
Bridget also shared some precious family photos with us.