Chicago Links to the Titanic - Annie Kate Kelly

Chicago Links to the Titanic - Annie Kate Kelly
Sister Patrick Joseph (Annie Kate Kelly) at the wedding of her niece, Mary Kelly Greene, February 8, 1964, Photograph courtesy of the Kelly Family.

Today, April 14, was the beginning of the end of the R.M.S. Titanic which started sinking on April 14, 1912 and became legend early on the morning of the 15th.  I have been writing a series of articles on Chicago’s links to the Titanic and this is the third in that series.

Annie Kate Kelly, Anna McGowan and the “Addergoole 14”

Not all Chicago links to the Titanic disaster involved people of world-wide notoriety.  Many of the steerage passengers were merely immigrants attempting to start a new life in the United States.

One of those passengers was 20 year old Anna Katherine Kelly “Annie Kate” from Cuilmullagh, Lahardane, County Mayo, Ireland.  Annie was one of the Addergoole 14, a close knit group of Irish immigrants from the Addergoole parish of which Cuilmullagh Lahardane was a part.  Annie Kate (20), the youngest of the “14” Anna McGowan (17) and Bridget Delia McDermott (31), were the only three survivors of the group.

 The Addergoole 14

Katherine McGowan (cousin to Annie Kate)

Anna McGowan (Katherine McGowan’s niece)

Anna Katherine Kelly (cousin to McGowans, Canavans and Flynns)

John Bourke

Catherine Bourke (wife of John)

Mary Bourke (sister of John)

Mary Canavan (cousin to Patrick Canavan)

Patrick “Peter” Canavan

James Flynn

Bridget Donohoe

Nora Fleming

Mary Mangan

Bridget Mahon

Bridget Delia McDermott

I had the honor of working with Annie Kelly’s great grand niece (Kathleen Herrebout) during the 2010 Federal Census.   I also had the privilege of talking on the phone with Annie’s grand niece (Mary Greene) as well.

Much of the information in this article comes from interviews with Annie’s family as well as a September 2011 article published by a great nephew, John Kelly and various articles of newspaper coverage from the time.

Annie was born on January 14, 1892 to John Kelly and Ellen Flaherty.  Annie was the fourth oldest of 9 children (8 girls and 1 boy).  The children, in order of birth from oldest to youngest, were Margaret, Patrick, Bridget, Annie, Lilly, Ellie, Agnes, Emily and Nora.  Ellie died before reaching adulthood.

In October of 1911, Katherine McGowan, who was living in Chicago, took her niece, Anna McGowan to visit their relatives in Lahardane, County Mayo, Ireland.   Katherine had recently emigrated to the U.S. and Anna McGowan had been born in Pennsylvania.  Katherine’s stories about America had been heard throughout the rural area and by the time that Katherine was making her plans to go back to America, twelve other individuals from the area had decided to go with on their return trip aboard the newest and most luxurious ship in the White Star Line, The RMS Titanic.

The night before the passengers had sailed, their families had thrown them a party.  In Ireland these were sometimes referred to as “American Wakes”.  It took a great deal of money for a trip to the States and more often than not travelers would not have the time or money for a return trip.  Because of this, many people considered this the last time that they would ever see their America-bound relatives.

Annie Kate actually had relatives in Chicago awaiting her arrival, her eldest sister, Margaret Kelly Rowland as well as two cousins, Anna and Mary Garvey.

According to John Kelly’s article, a niece of Bridget Delia McDermott, Ms. Delia Melody of Ballina) related that Delia McDermott had a strange encounter the night before she had left for Queenstown. Delia was preparing for her departure by purchasing new clothes.  One of her prized items was a sharp new hat. The evening before she left for Queentown, as she was in Lahardane village with friends, she was suddenly tapped on the shoulder. She turned around to see a mysterious little man in black whom she thought was a traveler. As she reached in her purse to give the man a few pennies, he told her that he knew she was going on a long journey. He told her there would be a tragedy, but that she would be saved. As Delia turned back around to tell her friends, the little man disappeared. Her friends said that they hadn’t seen anyone!

With anticipation, excitement and heartache the day of the departure of the “Addergoole 14” had come and they boarded the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage to New York City.  Queensland (currently it has been renamed to Cobh, “cove” the original name of the city) was actually the 3rd boarding stop for the Titanic.  It loaded passengers first at Southhampton, England and a short time later in Cherbourg, France and then finally in Queenstown. The Titanic left Queenstown bound for New York City at 1:30PM, April 11, 1912

Once in the steerage section, Patrick Canavan, Annie’s cousin of about the same age and 43 year old John Bourke explored the ship and happed to find a ladder that went from the steerage section all the way to the 1st Class Decks (little did they know how important this ladder would be later)

At about 11:35PM on Sunday night April 14, 1912 the Titanic struck the infamous iceberg in the freezing cold North Atlantic and started to take on water. Patrick Canavan and John Bourke sensed something was wrong and gathered up the group. They escorted women and children up this ladder and nobody really knows how many were saved that night because of their selfless service and initial curiosity that led to the discovery of the ladder. The situation had become somewhat chaotic by the time many of the steerage (3rd class) passengers were aware of a problem and many of the group became separated.  Anna McGowan and Delia McDermott ended up on the lifeboat boarding deck together but Delia had forgotten her prized hat that she had bought before the trip. She raced back for her hat and by the time she had returned the lifeboat was being lowered. She actually jumped the fifteen feet from the rope ladder into the boat and just as the strange little man in black had predicted she was saved.  Annie also became separated from the group but as luck would have it a young steward who had taken a liking to her during the trip found her looking lost and confused, grasped her hand and led her to lifeboat #16.  As she was approaching the boat, Catherine Bourke and Mary Bourke were climbing out because they heard that John Bourke would not be allowed in the boat.  Annie was helped in. As lifeboat #16 was being lowered, Annie could see Patrick Canavan, John Bourke, his wife Catherine and his sister Mary standing at the railing. Patrick was holding his rosary and raised it to Annie as a blessing for safety as they watched her being lowered into the dark, cold waters.

When I talked to Annie’s Great Grandniece, she told me that her great aunt very seldom talked about the Titanic. She did share some stories with her and she remembered how bitterly cold it was and how she prayed that if she made it out alive she would dedicate her life to the service of God. I’m sure Annie had some horrible memories of the Titanic that haunted her for many years.  I have read many of the survivor accounts and what seemed to span many of the accounts was the roar of the screams that were heard as the ship was going down and then the eerie silence that followed shortly thereafter. I heard of one survivor who could not go to a baseball game after the disaster because the roar of the cheers sounded too much like the roar of the screams that they had heard that night. It wouldn’t be until 4:10am that the first Titanic Survivor was rescued and brought aboard the Carpathia. The last person was brought aboard at about 9:00am. When the Carpathia docked in New York passengers were rushed through immigration and shipped off to nearby hospitals.  Annie Kate and Anna McGowan both spent 6 weeks at St. Vincent Hospital and then were released to make the trip to Chicago with nothing but their nightgowns and coats. They did manage to get some leftover clothes and shoes and a train ticket to Chicago. Jane Adams had already been a pivotal figure in establishing a Titanic relief fund in Chicago and Dr. Mary O’Brien Porter of the Catholic Woman’s League protectorate met Annie Kate and Anna McGowan and pleaded with Chicago Mayor Harrison to divert some of the Titanic relief funds from New York to help the two girls. Annie was still suffering from shock and exposure even six weeks later and a description of her condition was given in a Chicago Tribune article cited by John Kelly:

A nervous wreck as the result of her experiences on the Titanic, Miss Anna Kelly is at the home of her cousins, Anna and Mary Garvey, 306 Eugenia Street, with a physician constantly in attendance. Efforts are being made to save the reason of the young woman, who was one of the last steerage passengers to escape from the ill-fated boat. She has been unable to sleep, haunted by the wild scenes on the boat just before it went down, and is still suffering from the hours of exposure before she was picked up by the Carpathia. ‘Miss Kelly is a nervous wreck,’ said Dr. Thomas J. O’Malley, who is attending her. ‘I doubt she ever will completely recover her normal condition. Her life is in jeopardy now. Unless she can overcome her awful fear and terror at every sound, I fear for her life.’ Despite her condition, the young woman gave a graphic account of the wreck and the escape in one of the last lifeboats to leave the ship.

Anna did recover and joined Holy Name Cathedral Parish in Chicago and thanked God repeatedly for her rescue. It was there that she became acquainted with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She remembered what she had talked to God about in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912 and on June 12, 1921 at the age of 29, she entered the convent in Adrian, Michigan. She took the name Sister Patrick Joseph Kelly after her older brother. She professed on August 12, 1924 at the age of 32 years and made her final profession on June 19, 1933 at the age of 41.

Sister Pat loved Chicago and taught school for many years in the Chicago area including Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Phillip Neri, and St. Rita. She also taught at Ascension in Harvey, Illinois and Visitation in Elmhurst, Illinois. She also taught in other areas in Michigan and Iowa but whenever she was transferred she always begged to come back to Chicago.

In the 1940’s she broke her hip, which resulted in a lifetime of limitation and pain but it never slowed her down. In 1950 she made her first trip back to Ireland since that April in 1912. She was met by her older brother Patrick at Shannon airport and taken to the family farm in Cuillmullagh. She reunited with many relative and met new ones. She returned to Addergoole again in 1956.

Sister Pat taught until June 1969 when she retired to the motherhouse in Adrian, Michigan and remained there until her death on December 18, 1969. She is buried on the grounds.   

Kathleen, her great grand niece remembers that she hardly ever talked about her experiences on the Titanic but remembers her saying that she hated voting in Chicago early on because they would ask you what boat you came to America on and it didn’t matter if you said Titanic or Carpathia it would always attract a crowd of people and she never liked to be the center of attention.

The doctor who first stated that Annie may not return to her normal condition was as least partially right. She probably turned out better than normal. She dedicated her life to the service of others because of the great gift of life that she was shown. She lived to be 77 years old after a very full life. Her cousin and hospital mate Anna McGowan passed away on January 30, 1990 as Anna F. Straube at the age of 92.

Other Chicago Titanic Articles

Ida and Jean Hippach – A truly Titanic Chicago Survival Story

Chicago Links to the Titanic – William T. Stead – (Article 1 in a series)

Chicago Links to the Titanic – Francis Davis Millet – (Article 2 in a Series)


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