The tragedy of the families left behind

Titanic remembered
The tragedy of the families left behind

Edwin McGreal

Like most relatives of the Addergoole Fourteen, Bridget Philbin found it uncomfortable to discuss or even mention the Titanic disaster which robbed her of her brother, James Flynn.
James had turned 28 the previous September, which was quite old for a man to be emigrating. Two younger brothers - Michael and Anthony - had already emigrated to the US and James was going to join Anthony in New York.
In the village of Lahardane, 100 years on, Bridget Philbin’s grandaughter, James’ grandniece, Pauline Barrett is running a charming gift shop stacked with Titanic memorabilia. She has written an interesting and informative book - The Addergoole Titanic Story - and recalls the few occasions she spoke to her granny about the disaster.
“All my granny told me when we spoke about it was that he was a good swimmer. He had learned how to swim in Lough Conn and, in her mind, he should have been able to swim to safety. It has been said that he was prevented from getting onto a lifeboat by an oar. The only way that story could have been told was by Annie Kate Kelly who was here in the 1950s. We can’t verify this but my grandmother was certain of it. It is like the belief that Catherine Bourke was pregnant - it cannot be proven.
“The story was handed down in the family but it wasn’t talked about openly. When you think about it people had lost a son or a daughter, the body cannot be identified or even found and you are very poor. Your offspring have been sent to America to get money but they never make it. You have no closure, no body to bury. The pain that is there is immense but you have little choice but to try to get on with it and that’s what people tried to do,” Pauline told The Mayo News this week.
But all that has changed now and the Addergoole parish have embraced their Titanic connection and are paying due honour to the fourteen who left the village on the morning of April 11.
“Toss Gibbons always said that if Belfast is Ireland’s Titanic City, then Lahardane is Ireland’s Titanic Village. The bell ringing at the church became the focal point. So long as what happens is a commemoration and a celebration of them and not a festival, it will be great.
“What made me happy was that my mother was able to light a candle in the church to remember her uncle once an official memorial began, that was special,” admitted Pauline.