Margaret "Maggie" Jane Murphy (March 17th, 1887 - September 29th, 1957) was a Third Class passenger on the Titanic. She was traveling with her sister Kate Murphy, her fiancé John Joseph Kiernan and his brother, Philip Kiernan, and his cousin, Thomas Joseph McCormack. She survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Margaret Murphy was born on 17 March 1887 in Fostragh, Ireland. Her parents were Michael Murphy (b. 1841), a farmer, and Maria Lyons (b. 1845). They married at the Ballinalee Roman Catholic Church in Granard, Ireland. They married on 24 October 1872. Margaret's known siblings were; John (b. 1874), Anna Maria (b. 1875), Patrick (b. 1880), Bridget (b. 1881), Rose Ellen (b. 1884), Michael (b. 1889), Mary (b. 1892) and Kate (b. 1893). Her brother Michael died from Peritonsillar abscess (quinsy) at eleven months old, her sister Mary died from a whooping cough at only two months old and another unidentified child died in infancy. They were a Roman Catholic family.
She first appears on the 1901 census living with her family at House 20 in Fostragh, Ireland. Around 1905, Margaret moved to America for sometime. In 1911, her father died from heart disease, so she returned to Ireland to visit her widowed mother. In August of 1911, a young man returned to Fostragh, Ireland from Jersey City, New Jersey, to visit relatives. His name was John Kiernan. Eventually, the two of them fell in love and hoped to marry each other when John had a decent house in America. When it was time for John to go back to America, Margaret promised her mother that she would remain in Ireland until her fiancé was settled and was doing well financially. However, she couldn't handle being separated from him, so, she and her younger sister Kate decided that they would sneak off to America with John, his brother Philip and his cousin Thomas. They decided that once they got to America, while John got a house, they would stay with their sibling Patrick who was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had one other sibling in America; Annie, who at the time was living in Brooklyn, New York.
Aboard the Titanic
To get to Philadelphia, the group boarded the Titanic at Queenstown, Ireland on 11 April. The sisters bought a joint Third Class ticket 367230 which cost them £15, 10s. The two of them left with the Kiernans' without their family knowing. After the disaster, Margaret would later say to the press that;
"The night before the little group in our village was to leave to go aboard the Titanic, together with several other young men and women, I slipped away from my home, carrying all the clothes I could, and went to the Kiernan home, where a farewell party was being held. At the time I had promised to wait at home, until Mr. Kiernan would come to this county (America) and make a place. Then I was going to join him. But the thoughts of me being separated from him was much too much for me and I decided to run away from home."
"At the Kiernan home I was received kindly, as we were all neighbors. At the first opportunity I told Mr. Kiernan of my purpose. He reluctantly agreed. He was twenty-five and I am nineteen." - Altoona Times, 2 May 1912
While onboard the ship, Maggie and Kate shared a cabin on E Deck with two other girls from Longford County, Ireland. Their names were Kate Gilnagh and Catherine ``Kate" Mullin. They also acquainted James Farrell, the McCoy siblings; Agnes McCoy, Alice McCoy and Bernard McCoy, and Ellen Corr.
On the night of the sinking, Margaret recalled that a crew member blocked their way to upper decks, and while she was on the lower decks (possibly the stern) she saw many lifeboats being lowered half full. She reported seeing many scuffles breaking between crew members and Third Class men and many women and children praying. Accounts differ, but it has been said that James Farrell saved the women and children stuck on the lower decks by threatening to punch a crew member if they didn't allow the women and children to get to the lifeboats. After the disaster, he was called "The Women's Savior."
Maggie, her sister Kate, her two cabin mates, Kate and Catherine, and her fiancé's cousin Thomas all escaped in lifeboat 16. Thomas later claimed that he was pulled into the lifeboat after jumping ship. He was probably allowed off the lower decks and up to the lifeboats because he said he would escort the girls to a lifeboat. Margaret's fiancé John and his brother Philip did not survive the sinking.
The occupants of lifeboat 16 were later taken aboard the Carpathia. They reached New York on 18 April. In New York she was described as a 21 year old domestic servant. She and her sister stated their destination was their sister Annie in Manhattan, New York. They possibly changed their destination to Manhattan because of the closer location. They were greeted by their siblings Patrick and Annie and an old friend of Margaret's; Matthew O'Reilly (b. 27 October 1881). They met when they were children, both of them living in Fostragh. They eventually came to the United States together, but Margaret later left for Ireland. He didn't know that she was coming back until he saw her and her sister's name on the survivor list.
After the Disaster
Both sisters were taken to St. Vincent's hospital to make sure they weren't suffering from anything and to make sure they hadn't fallen ill. Once she and her sister were released from the hospital, she gave several interviews to newspapers. One of the newspapers said;
"Perhaps the most interesting story was that told by Miss Margaret Murphy, a typical colleen beauty, with even features, rosy cheeks and pure Irish blue eyes, who left her home in Fostra, County Longford, without the knowledge of her parent or relatives, and boarded the Titanic. with the intention of marrying John Kiernan, a neighbor, who was in her party. When the critical moment of shipwreck came Kiernan gave up his life for her when he surrendered his lifebelt to her and saw her safely in a boat."
She also told interviewers that;
"When we heard the Titanic was doomed we all left our berths and rushed on deck. I saw boat after boat being loaded with passengers while I stood trembling at the side of Mr. Kiernan. He tried to cheer me up, and the truth of the matter is I never thought of a moment that the steamship was going down. When both of us realised that it was, Mr. Kiernan took a lifebelt off himself and assisted me into one of the last lifeboats to leave the steamship. We kissed each other goodbye and he promised to see me soon. . . ."
After all of the interviews, she ended up going to stay with Matthew O'Reilly and his sister at 17 City Hall Place, New York. There, a picture was taken of Margaret and her sister Kate. The picture was later printed in The Advocate, an Irish-American newspaper, on 27 April.
Late Life and Death
In July of 1913, Margaret and Matthew married. Their marriage was in the newspaper in New York, and it said;
"Margaret Murphy Bride of Church Sexton, with sister, also survivor, as Bridesmaid Kate Murphy, one of the survivors of the Titanic disaster, was married in St. Andrew's Church, on Duane Street, yesterday, with her sister Katherine. She became the bride of Matthew O'Reilly, sexton of Andrews."
"A wooing which began when O'Reilly met Miss Murphy on the night the steamship Carpathia arrived with those whose lives were saved in the wreck, resulted in the wedding yesterday. The Rev. Patrick Masterson, cousin of O'Reilly, performed the ceremony and was the celebrant at the nuptial mass."
"Many friends of the couple attended the wedding. A wedding breakfast was served in O'Reilly's old home No. 17 City Hall place, following the ceremony. Hundreds of people followed the bridal party to one of the Chelsea piers, where they boarded the steamship Coronia, bound for Europe. They will spend three months in County Cavan, Ireland, of which they are both natives of."
During their honeymoon, they probably visited Margaret's mother, who at the time was either 74 or 75 years old. Maggie's mother Maria died on 29 April 1929.
The couple settled down in New York and had three children together; Margaret (b. 1917-1959), Anna Marie (b. 1919-2004) and Matthew (b. 1921-1998). According to the 1920 and 1930 censuses they were residing at 575 Third Avenue, New York. Matthew made a living as a funeral director. Margaret did not work.
She was widowed on 15 April 1939 when Matthew died. She never remarried and in her later life, rarely spoke of her experience on the Titanic. She died while visiting family in Slate Hill, Orange, New York on 29 September 1957. She died because of natural causes. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.