An old penny carried on the Titanic by survivor Ellen Corr was presented to Longford Titanic Commemorations Committee by Ms Corr’s niece Mary Reilly at Library headquarters in Longford town last week. The penny has been on display at the Titanic Exhibition in Longford town for the last month and will now be officially presented to the holders of the County Museum.
The penny, which has been in safe keeping within Ms Corr’s extended family for a long number of years now, made its way back to her native Moyne when she visited her homestead seven years after the Titanic disaster in which five Longford people lost their lives.
“Ellen Corr came back seven years later and she gave the penny to her sister,” Ms Reilly told the Leader. “It was 1954 when my mother decided to go to New York and her mother, Ellen’s sister, handed her three pennies – representing faith, hope and charity – and one of those pennies was the one that Ellen had with her on the Titanic. One time my mother’s home in New York was broken into and her dollars were stolen, but they never took the pennies and they have survived the test of time.”
Ellen Corr made her decision to travel on the Titanic very quickly. In fact so much was her haste, that her sisters in America did not know of her impending arrival until officers arrived at their door in New York to inform them that their sister had survived the ship’s sinking.
“In April 1912, she went to find out about travelling to New York at an agents in Arva and she was told that a Belfast ship was travelling in four days,” Ms Reilly added. “She obviously had the money on her because she purchased a ticket and wrote a letter to her sisters in New York. In those days it took six weeks for a letter to reach its destination, so news of her survival greeted them before her letter did.”
Ellen Corr was 16-years-old when she decided to join her two elder sisters in New York.
“Her ticket number was 367231 and she paid £7 15s,” her niece told the Leader. “She shared a cabin with another passenger and on that fateful night, she returned to her cabin and while lying on her bed, she heard a huge bang. She thought it was a door slamming and jumped up to make sure the door wasn’t closed for the other passenger to return, but when she ran up the stairs, her cabin door closed behind her and she was unable to return.
“It was a twist of fate really, because it forced her to go up onto the upper deck where the rescue boats were lowered. She made the last boat and was the second last person to get in.”
When she arrived on Ellis Island, Ms Corr was held in detention for a number of days. Policemen made contact with her sisters and they were shocked and surprised because they had not known that she had been aboard the Titanic in the first instance.
“Back home when they heard about the Titanic, they initially feared the worst and it was a number of days later when they received a telegram from New York to say that Ellen was safe,” Ms Reilly explained. “She made one trip home and that was the trip in which she passed on the penny. It was also on that trip that she met her husband, Patrick Sweeney and they married two years later.
“They were married for five years when he died after he was hit by a van while cycling his bike. She never returned to Ireland after that and rarely talked about her ordeal. I did raise the subject with her once and she recounted the events in a matter of fact way. She got on with her life and had a positive outlook despite her experiences. She enjoyed good health and died in New York in March 1980 at the age of 83.”
When asked how she felt about handing over the precious penny to County Longford Heritage and Archive Services, Ms Reilly said, “I’m happy to hand it over now. Other people will now get the chance to enjoy it and appreciate the significance of it.”