Nephin mountain, in County Mayo’s core is a brute of nature. Like some grumpy old man it sits, hunkered down in cosy eternity, its middle hollowed out as if hit by a prehistoric meteor and its peak dappled with cotton wool clouds. For miles around, even from the glassy waters of Lough Conn, Nephin edges some hump or bump of itself into your view.
From the tiny village of Lahardane, there’s no escaping it.
On an April day in 1912, Nephin sat under a dusting of snow. Lahardane’s residents were praying for spring to arrive in earnest – the winter had lasted too long. As the inhabitants of the village huddled in kitchens and rustled embers in hearths, 14 souls began a trip to Queenstown (now called Cobh).
The 14 all hailed from the parish of Addergoole and each nurtured a dream so typical of the time – a new life in the new world. They had one more thing in common: a ticket to sail on the RMS Titanic.
On their pony and trap journey through Mayo’s Windy Gap and through the town of Castlebar, there is little doubt that, mixed with the excitement of leaving, the 14 would have felt twinges of fear. As Senan Moloney notes in his article about the Addergoole 14 in Irish Central, “By the time the scythes had felled the first grass of that year’s hay harvest, they planned to be carving out new lives in Chicago or other bustling industrial cities in the industrial United States”.
For eleven of the party, they would never see land again. Only Delia McDermott, Annie McGowan and Annie Kate Kelly would survive Titanic’s sinking.
A reason to leave
Ireland’s story of emigration is well told. It is even immortalised in Ellis Island where a statue of Annie Moore stands as a testament to all those who went before and after her. Like the 14, Annie Moore left Ireland from Queenstown.
But in the case of the 14, why were they leaving Ireland? How did they find themselves on Titanic?
As the chairperson of Addergoole’s Titanic society, Mary Rowland knows better than most:
“Addergoole is a relatively impoverished area being in the centre of vast areas of bogland, woodlands, mountain ranges, rivers and lakes. There is no local industry and the locals have to travel to find work. Everyone here is very familiar with the concept of emigration to gain a career, earn a living and live a better life”.
That better life was denied to eleven of them by possibly maritime history’s most incredible disaster.
And while this year will mark the 101st anniversary of the sinking, Addergoole remains gilded with a sense of loss.
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A constant reminder
Interestingly, Mary tells us, almost 101 years on, relatives of the Addergoole 14 are still living in this tiny Mayo townland:
“There are a lot of descendant relatives in the Addergoole Parish alone as well as in the United States and Britain. Many of those living locally are members of the Addergoole Titanic Society”.
Under Nehpin's curmudgeonly shadow is where you will find the Addergoole Titanic Memorial Park. A bronze replica of Titanic’s hull and the bronze figures of excited passengers set the scene. “It’s a constant reminder of this maritime tragedy and the extraordinary loss for our little parish” Mary says. “Not alone for the local community but it keeps the memory of loved ones alive in the minds of the descendant relatives”.
15 April – 2:20am
Yearly now, on 15 April at 2:20am exactly, Lahardane’s church bell tolls for the 14. As Mary explains:
“The ceremony began in 2002 when the bell was tolled in the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church Lahardane to commemorate the fourteen people from the parish. From humble beginnings with the passing of time, it became a more structured and formal ceremony”.
The ‘passing of time’ has been a little cruel to the Addergoole 14. With people like Mary Rowland, though, no April 15th will again pass without fourteen peals of Lahardane’s church bells ringing loudly in Nephin’s sad shadow.