Mike Hackett recounts the story of John ‘Jack’ Foley, an Irish seaman from Youghal, Co. Cork, who saved more than 50 people on the RMS Titanic. Foley was working as a storekeeper on the ill-fated liner when it collided with an iceberg in the Atlantic and sank on April 15, 1912. As the ship sank, Foley and fellow crewmen took charge of Lifeboat 4, guiding dozens of women and children to safety as they awaited rescue from the RMS Carpathia.


The luxury ‘unsinkable’ liner Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15th April, 1912, in the North Atlantic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New-York City.

Nothing was spared when this vessel was fitted out. The passenger accommodation, especially the first class section, was said to be magnificent and this was evident by the fares that it commanded.

The Parlour Suites with private promenade cost $4,350 for a single transatlantic passage. Even the Third Class was unusually comfortable with exceptional quantities of good food – a lot more than those passengers were used to at home.

It was the largest ocean liner in service at the time and carried 2,212 souls when she struck an iceberg at 23.40 pm on Sunday, April 14th, 1912. You had 1,320 passengers and 892 crew on board.
Before the collision, Titanic received several warnings about icebergs in the area but was travelling at 22 knots when her lookouts spotted a large one. Unable to turn quickly enough, the ship suffered a glancing blow that buckled her starboard side and opened six of her sixteen compartments to the sea.

Titanic had been designed to stay afloat with four of her forward compartments flooded but no more than that. The crew quickly used distress flares and sent wireless messages to attract help from other vessels as the passengers were put into the lifeboats.

Titanic had only twenty lifeboats on board and they were just meant to ferry passengers to nearby ships. There was no way that those lifeboats could save all the people on board the doomed liner.

Added to this was poor evacuation methods which saw some boats leave while only half-full. Titanic sank with over a thousand passengers and crew still on board – while a lot more jumped into the sea and died in the icy water.

Her sinking at 02.20 am on Monday, 15th April, resulted in the deaths of over 1500 people. It was one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

In the midst of this disaster was a Youghal man in charge of one of the lifeboats. He was John (Jack) Foley and this is a short version of his life and times.

It was in September of 1865 that Nicholas and Nora Foley of Muckridge, near Youghal, had a baby boy born to them that they called John. He grew up in that seaside town with the family living at Browne Street, Tallow Street and North Main Street, at different stages.

He began frequenting the quays, admiring the vessels and it instilled in him a wish to make a life on the ocean wave.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own