Eugene Daly was dreaming, in a deep sleep. In the dream, he was playing his uileann pipes to a rapturous audience of dancers in the ship's sumptuous main ballroom. He played like a man possessed, jigs and reels, in perfect pitch. The audience were thrilled. All of a sudden he panicked and woke. He had woken up to the sound of water lapping under his bunk. Unused to electric light, in the windowless 3rd class cabin, deep in the ships hold, well below the water line, he struck a match. What he saw sobered him up. Unthinkable as it was, Titanic was sinking.... he grabbed his coat, leaving his uileann pipes behind him and made for the stairs.

In April 1912, Eugene Patrick Daly, 29, a weaver from Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland, was travelling to New York City, just one of 113 Irish passengers who unfortunately chose the Titanic to emigrate to the USA. He boarded the Titanic on the 11th of April, 1912, at Queenstown (ticket number 382651). The ticket cost him £7, 15s, or almost 6 months pay for a working man.

It has been confirmed in eye witness accounts of the Titanic’s call to Cobh, that Daly played "Erin's Lament", "A Nation Once Again", "Boolavogue" and other well known nationalist tunes on his uilleann (elbow) pipes (a traditional Irish instrument) for his fellow steerage passengers, as America, one of the two tenders to the Titanic steamed away from Queenstown harbour, bound for the gleaming liner that lay at anchor far out in Cork harbour, near Roches Point. It was both a heartening and a poignant moment listening to those traditional airs as the passengers left Ireland, most of them for the last time.

Amazingly Daly survived the Titanic’s tragic sinking by clinging to an upturned collapsible lifeboat (Collapsible 2). He credited his survival to his heavy overcoat. Though frost-bitten and near death, he was rescued, but he lost his precious pipes. He would later file a claim against the White Star Line’ for $50 for their loss. Similar pipes, possibly Daly's, were recently salvaged from the Titanic wreck and are now in the Titanic Museum collection.

Eugene Daly got married in America to Lil Caulfield from Co. Mayo, and whether he was homesick or inspired by the Irish Free State, he returned to Ireland in 1921. He suffered terribly from paranoia on the return ship journey and never again set foot aboard a ship once they arrived home. With his new wife he moved to Galway where he found work in the Galway Woolen Mills. He lived at 7 St. Johns Terrace in Galway and was a popular musician in the city, playing pipes and flute in ceili bands around the city.

In 1961, after his wife died, he emigrated one last time to the USA, to Missouri, but this time by plane. He lived out his last days there with his only child, his daughter Marion Joyce.

Eugene testified at the Titanic Hearings in New York and his description of the sinking, the inadequate lifeboats and especially his eye witness testimony of a ship’s officer shooting third class passengers who were trying to board a lifeboat has been relied on heavily by historians of the Titanic and is the stuff of film legend now. His credible eye witness testimony of the chaotic scenes and passenger discrimination onboard Titanic was instrumental in the passing of new Lifeboat laws for passenger ships. He helped save many lives in subsequent ship wrecks because of the new Lifeboat laws.

His account of the tragedy was used as research in many movies and stories about the great liner. He was unique amongst survivors in his willingness to recount the story whenever asked, as most other survivors, no doubt suffering from post-traumatic shock, or grief, rarely or never uttered a word on their brush with death when Titanic sank.

Eugene Daly died on 30 October 1965 aged 82. He is buried in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx

I tell the stories of the Irish Titanic passengers from Galway on my Walking Tours of Galway. For more information check out 

Thanks for reading ... come join me on a walk sometime in Galway.

Brian Nolan


Views: 1484

Tags: Athlone, Galway, Living History, Music, Piper, Titanic, Tours, Uileann, Walking, galwaywalks, More…tours, walking

Comment by Jim Curley on April 15, 2014 at 5:59am
Good stuff, Brian.

I will be giving my Addergoole 14- Titanic talk tonight for the Irish American Cultural Society of South Jersey In Galloway Township,NJ.

At 2:20 this morning the people of Lahardane, County Mayo gathered on the grounds of St. Patrick's Church to remember their Titanic dead.
Comment by Brian Nolan on April 15, 2014 at 6:10am

Thanks for that Jim. Hey, that's an interesting talk you'll be giving. By way of disclosure, my Brother Dr. Paul Nolan is the guy who started the whole Addergoole 14 remembrance. he and I (and others) have worked on it for over a decade. For your talk, you might also like my description of the Addergoole 14's sorry plight in 'The Journey' 

Good luck tonight. Brian

Comment by Jim Curley on April 15, 2014 at 6:25am
Thanks, Brian. Your brother, Michael Molloy, Pauline Barrett and the rest of the folks in Mayo did a great job during the centennial observance. God bless them for keeping the memory of these poor souls alive.

My mom was born in Islandmore Under the shadow of Mt. Nephin. I remember driving the Windy Gap to get from Castlebar to Islandmore.
Comment by Brian Nolan on April 15, 2014 at 11:40am

The Windy gap, to Islandmore, sounds like a fairy tale, but in reality it is at once one of the more beautiful drives in Mayo, while at the same time a daunting trek on horse and cart or walking, as your ancestor did in 1912. You can be proud of her and of the other 13, they were great hearted folks and just in the wrong place at the wrong time, a lottery win. On that note, someone in Castlebar won €15 million in the lottery this week...have not come forward to claim it yet...'Waking Ned Devine' comes to mind...imagine if it were someone in Lahardane...what a fairy tale that would be!

Comment by Fran Reddy on April 15, 2014 at 6:55pm

A great read Brian, thanks.

Comment by Jim Curley on April 16, 2014 at 8:01am

My talk last night went well. Despite it being a nasty night weather-wise, 60+ people showed up. The audience was welcoming, attentive and responsive. What more could a speaker want? My thanks to the Irish-American Cultural Society of South Jersey for inviting me.

It's amazing how many "Titaniacs" there are in the world. The story of the brave people in steerage certainly resonates with anyone who hears the story.


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