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Piper’s Titanic account on block

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The story of an Irish hero of the Titanic sinking who broke free from the steerage section of the liner and serenaded passengers on his bagpipes with a rendition of "Erin’s Lament," is to come up for auction in New York next month.

Eugene Daley from Athlone, Co. Westmeath, boarded the doomed liner on its maiden voyage in Cobh, Co. Cork.

His account of the sinking reveals the problems facing poor passengers, most of who drowned.

Daley relates how they were held below decks by ship’s officers "for what seemed like a lifetime." All this time they knew the water was rapidly rising as it poured in through the gaping holes in five of the liner’s 16 watertight compartments after the collision with an iceberg.

More than 1,500 of the 2,220 passengers died when the Belfast-built liner sank in three hours.

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When the Titanic called to Cobh — then called Queenstown — it took on 126 passengers. Only 40 of them survived the tragedy.

Most of the Irish passengers brought the cheapest, steerage tickets.

The list of those who perished shows that a male steerage-class passenger had a one-in-10 chance of survival. If you were a female and in first class, it was virtually 100 percent.

Daley relates how he saw two "dagoes" shot and others punished by officers on the Titanic as they tried to escape from below decks.

After breaking free, he helped cut loose a collapsible lifeboat that saved other passengers. He himself jumped into the freezing water.

He was rescued from the iceberg-strewn waters by the Carpathia, a liner that went to the aid of the Titanic.

Daley fainted when he was taken on board. He was too cold to write down his story, so it was dictated to a doctor on board, Frank Blackmarr of Chicago, who wrote it up on his medical stationery.

Daley vividly describes the horror of the people in the water. "My God, if I could only forget those women’s cries, if I could forget those hands & faces in the water. . . "

Daley eventually managed to climb onto a collapsible lifeboat. Two men on the lifeboat with him died of exposure before the Carpathia arrived.

He saw other passengers being sucked down the Titanic’s giant funnels "like flies" as it sank below the waves.

Daley told Blackmarr that he had climbed aboard the third-class promenade deck and "serenaded his fellow passengers on the bagpipes with a rendition of "Erin’s Lament."

A spokesman for the Christie’s auction house, which is selling Daley’s story with a guide price of $8,000 on Feb. 17, described it as a "most moving" story of survival that showed the difference between the social classes on board.

At one stage the doctor’s scrapbook about the Titanic sinking was almost thrown out with the rubbish.

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