The Addergoole Fourteen: The real story behind The Girl Who Came Home

Addergoole Fourteen

Sometime around May 2011, I began researching the Titanic. I knew I wanted to write a novel about Titanic – not so much about the ship itself, but about the people who sailed on her. I wanted to find out what happened to those who survived the tragic event. I wanted to find out how friends and families, especially those in Ireland, first heard the news that the ‘unsinkable’ ship had, indeed, sunk in The Atlantic. I wanted to find an ‘un-known’ story within this famous tragedy, which would be the inspiration for my fictional re-telling.

In survivor accounts and newspaper reports from the time, the same Irish survivor names kept coming up: Annie Kate Kelly, Delia McDermott and Annie McGowan. I dug a little deeper and discovered an incredible story of three young girls, travelling as part of a larger group, who had survived. One (she believed) took the last place in the last lifeboat and another jumped out of one lifeboat in order to return to her cabin to fetch the new hat she had bought in Ireland especially for her arrival in New York. Luckily, she was able to make a jump of fifteen feet to get onto another lifeboat as it was being lowered into the water.

Through further research, I discovered that Annie Kate, Delia and Annie were part of a group which has, in recent years, become known locally as The Addergoole Fourteen: a group of emigrants – friends and relatives – who had left their small villages in rural Ireland, travelled by cart and train to Queenstown in County Cork and boarded Titanic. Eleven of the group lost their lives in the tragedy. These three young women survived with miraculous stories to tell. I knew immediately that theirs was the story I wanted to tell in, what became my first novel, The Girl Who Came Home.

With help from Michael Molloy and others at The Addergoole Titanic Society, I began to understand the impact of the Titanic event on the Parish. I was so moved by the stories of parents waiting for days and days of news of their sons and daughters. I read about the wakes they held in their homes for the family members who would never be brought home. The event had a profound effect on the entire community and it is now remembered annually with a candlelit, bell-ringing ceremony. The local church now boasts one of only two Titanic-themed stained glass windows in the world.

For the people of Lahardane, the real Titanic village of my imagined Ballysheen, the memories of the fourteen who left their homes that spring day in April 1912, live on through the annual memorial service and through the plaques which recall the names of the fourteen and through the stained-glass window. The homes of some of the fourteen are still standing, although many are now just ruins.

With the Titanic centenary in 2012, the Addergoole story found a new audience. What I hadn’t realised, as I was writing The Girl Who Came Home, was that an Irish production company was in the process of filming a documentary about The Addergoole Fourteen. My novel was published in March 2012 and the TV documentary ‘Waking the Titanic‘ was shown on Irish TV channel TG4 to coincide with the centenary in April, 2012. For me, watching this was like watching my characters – and the real people who inspired the creation of them – come to life, and I will never forget how I felt as I watched it.

As we approach the 101st anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, we find ourselves faced with the prospect of a Titanic II being built. I have mixed thoughts about that (which will, no doubt, become a future blog post) but for now, I am simply humbled by the bravery and hope shown by those fourteen people – and hundreds of others – who left their homes and their families in search of a better life.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan Mahigian
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 22:22:27

    I’ll start by saying that I’ve never before written to an author after reading their work. However, I really wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it. I felt that I was right in the middle of Maggie and Grace’s lives the whole time I was reading. You have a gift for detail that draws the reader in that is simply wonderful. You certainly succeeded in telling the story of those who sailed on the Titanic in a way that makes the reader aware of the tragedy not only for those who were lost, but those who survived as well. Thank you so much for writing this novel!


  2. djkellyauthor
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 12:24:39

    I too enjoyed The Girl Who Came Home, as I have a personal interest in Titanic.

    My Mayo-born maternal grandmother migrated to the US as a teenager (eventually succumbing to homesickness and returning to live in Ireland some years later) and she swore she had sailed to America on Titanic. We assured her this could not be true however as Titanic never made it to America. It was only after she passed away that we discovered she had in fact sailed there on the Lusitania (before it was torpedoed by the Germans, naturally). I thought that was the end of any personal link I might have had with Titanic, but my further family history research uncovered the shocking fact of my paternal great grandmother’s brutal murder in Belfast in 1910. The official papers on the case revealed the fact that her husband, my great grandfather, was a Harland & Wolff shipwright who was engaged in building a certain White Star Line ship at the time of the murder. Yes, that’s right, my ancestor was indeed one of the men who built Titanic.

    ‘A Wistful Eye – The Tragedy of a Titanic Shipwright’ by DJ Kelly [available from Amazon in paperback & kindle] is my own account of the murder and reflects the hard lives of the wee folks in Belfast’s working class districts during the turbulent early years of the 20th century.

    If anyone is seeking to discover whether their own Belfast ancestors might have had a link with Harland & Wolff in Titanic days, you will be disappointed to know that H&W kept no records of shipwrights. However, you may be heartened to learn that I have a record of some 600 people, mainly shipwrights who worked alongside my GGF when he was building Titanic. The list includes, in most cases, their names, occupations and addresses and may be accessed (free) via my website:


  3. Merrill Guillory
    Aug 19, 2014 @ 23:32:06

    Hazel Gaynor, thank you, and thanks many times over for this wonder story that allowed me to be part to this exciting journey. You were able to tell a story that has been told many times, and still touch the human spirit in such an inspirational way


  4. Anthea
    Oct 29, 2014 @ 00:30:21

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this book. I love historical novels. At first the book as a hard slog as I got to know characters and then realized that they were to die. I loved the way you tied in the story of the great grandaughter and began to feel a little disappointed as I realized it was another “Jack and Rose” story. After I chased the “Addergoole” story, I realized it was the real “Jack and Rose” story.


  5. Debbiie
    May 18, 2015 @ 20:04:12

    Just finished the book and I was so moved by the story that I did a bit of research and found this blog. The characters are so memorable.


  6. Suzanne Strohschein
    Apr 19, 2016 @ 19:12:18

    What a wonderful and heartfelt account of the tragedy of the Titanic’s cruel fate. Your characters are vividly developed and breathe life on each page of the book. You leave us with so much to reflect on and provide us with the overwhelming nature of this catastrophic event in history.


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