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Mary Heslin (Kelly)

Birthplace: Derrynagarragh, Castlepollard, County West Meath, Ireland
Death: December 27, 1950 (60)
Brooklyn, Kings, New York
Place of Burial: Holy Cross Cem., Brooklyn, New York
Immediate Family:

Daughter of John Lawrence Kelly and Mary Kelly
Wife of John Heslin
Mother of Private; Private; Jacqueline Heslin; Private and Private
Sister of Private; Private; Private; Private; Private and 2 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Mary Heslin

  • Name: Miss Mary Kelly
  • Titanic Survivor
  • Born: Wednesday 19th February 1890
  • Age: 22 years
  • Nationality: Irish
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Last Residence: in Castlepollard, County Westmeath, Ireland
  • 3rd Class passenger
  • First Embarked: Queenstown on Thursday 11th April 1912
  • Ticket No. 14312 , £7 15s
  • Destination: New York City, New York, United States
  • Rescued (Englehardt Boat "D")
  • Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
  • Died: Wednesday 27th December 1950 aged 60
  • Buried: Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, United States
  • Reference: Englehardt Boat No. D
  • Reference: R.M.S. Titanic deck plans

Miss Mary Kelly, 21, of Castle Pollard, Co Westmeath, boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (ticket number 14312, £7, 15s). Her destination was New York City.

Mary Kelly was rescued in Collapsible D.

“That’s my great-grandmother. The coat wasn’t hers. They lent it to her for a photo shoot and then took it back!” commented Gaby Cryan.

She was referring to a story originally posted on The headline read “Faces of the Titanic: Hero Mary Kelly cared for two French orphans who found themselves alone in a lifeboat.”

Below the headline, Mary Kelly, a poised young woman, stylishly dressed in a large hat and the aforementioned fur coat, looks out with clear eyes from a century old photograph.

In her face is the reflection of the Rockaway family that honors her today.

“The bravest young lady,” noted Laura Cryan, Gaby’s sister. “My late grandfather, John Heslin, is Mary Kelly’s son. His wife, my grandmother, Annie Heslin, is her daughter-in-law.

Peggy Cryan, Patti Reilly, and Mary Reed are all Mary Kelly’s granddaughters. We’re Mary Kelly’s great-grandchildren. Gaby, Carolyn; and Laura Cryan, and Cassidy, Melanie and Jenny Reed, and Glynnis, Tricia, and Bobby Reilly. We’re all Rockaway or Breezy residents.”

At the age of 22, Mary Kelly of Castlepollard, County Westmeath, Ireland, boarded RMS Titanic bound for New York.

Holding ticket number 14312, Kelly was looking forward to a new life, marriage and a family. Her third-class ticket cost 7 pounds 15 schillings.

John Heslin, her fiancé at the time, had gone ahead months before to set up a place for them both.

Two-thousand, two hundred and twenty-three passengers and crew sailed with her.

On April 15, 1912, when Titanic hit an iceberg, Kelly was one of only 710 who survived as the massive ship went down.

But surviving one of history’s greatest maritime disasters was not the end of her adventure.

At around 2 a.m., as Titanic sank, a father handed his two children into the arms of those in the last lifeboat to cast off.

Mary Kelly’s were two of the outstretched arms that took them from their father, who they would never see again. She cared for them and held them close for the entire trip until they were rescued.

The ‘Titanic Waifs,’ as the popular press dubbed them were, as the IrishCentral article puts it, “Two curley-haired French boys named Lolo and Momon who found themselves alone and adrift in an open lifeboat with only a young Irish girl to comfort them, crooning in her foreign tongue.” They were only two and four.

As it turned out, although they were traveling under the names of Louis and Lola Hoffman, their real names were Michel and Edmond Navratil.

Their father, who booked passage under the name Louis Hoffman, was a Slovakian tailor whose real name was Michel Navratil Sr. He had spirited the children away from their French mother, Marcell. The two were recently separated.

Because the boys only spoke French it took weeks for their story to get back to their 21-year old mother in Europe.

They were joyously reunited a month later.

Edmond died at age 43. He had fought in the French Army during WWII.

Michel Navratil Jr. would become the oldest male survivor of the Titanic. He died at age 92 in 2001.

Mary Kelly married John Heslin. Her wedding dress and presents from family and friends in Ireland had been claimed by the cold sea floor. But the Red Cross gave a $100 housewarming gift to the couple.

She would later relate that a crew member showed her how to reach the upper decks through a ventilation shaft. So she was able to escape from steerage and make it off the ship.

Two days after Christmas in 1950, Kelly would pass away in her home on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. She was 60 years old.

Her life and legacy, courage and compassion, became part of history. They also became part of her family’s history, now firmly rooted in Rockaway.

References and Sources Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279]). Noel Ray (1999) List of Passengers who Boarded RMS Titanic at Queenstown, April 11, 1912. The Irish Titanic Historical Society


No male passenger in this boat. Passengers: Mrs. J. M. Brown, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Frederick Hoyt, the Navratil children. Picked up from the sea: Frederick Hoyt. Bade good-bye to wife and sank with ship: Mr. Harris. Crew: Bright, Q. M., in charge; Seaman Lucas; Steward Hardy. Stowaway: One steerage foreigner, Joseph Dugemin. Jumped from deck below as boat was lowered: H. B. Steffanson (Swede), and H. Woolner (Englishman). Total: 44. British Report (p. 38) : Crew 2, men passengers 2, women and children 40.

NOTE: Col. Gracie's book has Mrs. Futrelle in Boat 9, however, Encyclopedia Titanica puts her in Englehardt Boat "D". The lead paragraph in ET´s Lifeboat 9 explains how she came to enter No. 9. The entry for No. D seems to be in error. INCIDENTS

C. H. Lightoller, Second Officer (Am. Inq., p. 8i):

In the case of the last boat I got out, the very last of all to leave the ship, I had the utmost difficulty in finding women. After all the other boats were put out we came forward to put out the Engelhardt collapsible boats. In the meantime the forward Emergency boat (No. 2) had been put out by one of the other officers, so we rounded up the tackles and got the collapsible boat to put that over. Then I called for women and could not get any. Somebody said: "There are no women. This was on the Boat Deck where all the women were supposed to be because the boats were there. There were between fifteen and twenty people put into this boat — one seaman and another seaman, or steward. This was the very last boat lowered in the tackles. I noticed plenty of Americans standing near me, who gave me every assistance they could, regardless of nationahty.

And before the British Court of Inquiry the same officer testified:

Someone shouted: "There are no more women." Some of the men began climbing in. Then someone said: "There are some more women," and when they came forward the men got out of the boat again. I saw no men in her, but I believe a couple of Chinese stowed away in her.

When that boat went away there were no women whatever. I did not consider it advisable to wait, but to try to get at once away from the ship. I did not want the boat to be "rushed." Splendid order was maintained. No attempt was made to "rush" that boat by the men. When this boat was being loaded I could see the water coming up the stairway. There was splendid order on the boat until the last. As fnr as I know there were no male passengers in the boats I saw off except the one man I ordered in, Major Peuchen.

A. J. Bright, Q. M. (Am. Inq., p. 831) : Quartermaster Rowe, Mr. Boxhall and myself fired the distress signals, six rockets I think in all, at intervals. After we had finished firing the distress signals, there were two boats left (Engelhardt collapsibles "C" and "D") . All the Hfeboats were away before the collapsible boats were lowered. They had to be, because the collapsible boats were on the deck and the other boats had to be lov/ered before they could be used. The same tackle with which the lifeboats and the Emergency boats were lowered was employed after they had gone in lowering the col- lapsible boats.

Witness says that both he and Rowe assisted In getting out the starboard collapsible boat *'C" and then he went to the port side and filled up the other boat "D'* with passengers, about twenty-five in all. There was a third-class passenger, a man, in the boat, who was on his way to Albion, N. Y. (The passenger list shows this man to have been Joseph Dugemin.)

We were told to pull clear and get out of the suction. When boat "D" was lowered the forecastle head was just going under water; that would be about twenty feet lower than the bridge, and the ship had then sunk about fifty feet — all of that, because when boat "D" was lowered the foremost fall was lower down and the after one seemed to hang and he called out to hang on to the foremost fall and to see what was the matter and let go the after fall. Boat "D" was fifty to a hundred yards away when the ship sank. They had a lantern in the boat but no oil to light it. After leaving the boat, witness heard something but not an explosion. It was like a rattling of chains more than anything else.

After "D" got away Mr. Lowe came alongside in another boat, No. 14, and told them to stick together and asked for the number in D" boat. Steward Hardy counted and told him. Lowe then put about ten or a dozen men from some other boat into witness's boat because it was not filled up. One seaman was taken out. This would make thirty-seven in "D" boat. Just at daylight they saw one of the collapsible boats, "A," that was awash — just flush with the water. Officer Lowe came and took boat "D" in tow, because it had very few men to pull, and towed it to boat *'A" and took twelve men and one woman off and put them into his boat No. 14. They were standing in water just about to their ankles when No. 14 and "D" came up to them. They turned the swamped boat adrift with two (three) dead bodies. They were then towed under sail by Mr. Lowe's boat to the Carpathia, about four miles away.

William Lucas, A. B. (Br. Inq.) : I Got into Engelhardt"D." The water was then right up under the bridge. Had not gone more than 100 yards when there was an explosion and 150 yards when the Titanic sank. Had to get some of the women to take oars. There was no rudder in the boat. Changed oars from one side to the other to get her away. Saw a faint red light abaft the Titanic^ s beam about nine miles away — the headlight also. The witness was transferred to No. 12.

J. Hardy, Chief Steward, second-class (Am. Inq., p. 587) :

We launched this boat filled with passengers. Mr. Lightoller and myself loaded it. I went away in it with the quartermaster (Bright) and two firemen. There were Syrians in the bottom of the boat, third-class passengers, chattering the whole night in their strange language. There were about twenty-five women and children. We lowered away and got to the water; the ship then had a heavy list to port. We got clear of the ship and rowed out some distance from her. Mr. Lowe told us to tie up with other boats, that we would be better seen and could keep better together. He, having a full complement of passengers in his boat, transferred about ten to ours, making thirty-five in our boat. When we left the ship, where we were lowered, there were no women and children there in sight at all. There was nobody to lower the boat. No men passengers when we were ready to lower it. They had gone; where, I could not say. We were not more than forty feet from the water when we were lowered. We picked up the husband (Frederick W. Hoyt) of a wife that we had loaded in the boat. The gentleman took to the water and climbed in the boat after we had lowered it. He sat there wringing wet alongside me, helping to row.

I had great respect and great regret for Officer Murdoch. I was walking along the deck forward with him and he said: I believe she is gone, Hardy." This was a good half hour before my boat was lowered.

Senator Fletcher: Where were all these passengers; these 1, 600 people?

Mr. Hardy: They must have been between decks or on the deck below or on the other side of the ship. I cannot conceive where they were.

In his letter to me, Mr. Frederick M. Hoyt relates his experience as follows:

"I knew Captain Smith for over fifteen years. Our conversation that night amounted to little or nothing. I simply sympathized with him on the accident; but at that time, as I then never ex- pected to be saved, I did not want to bother him with questions, as I knew he had all he wanted to think of. He did suggest that I go down to A Deck and see if there were not a boat alongside. This I did, and to my surprise saw the boat "D" Still hanging on the davits (there having been some delay in lowering her) , and it occurred to me that if I swam out and waited for her to shove off they would pick me up, which was what happened."

Hugh Woolner, first-class passenger (Am. Inq.,

p. 887):

Then I said to Steffanson, "Let us go down on to A Deck." And we went down again, but there was nobody there. I looked on both sides of the deck and saw no people. It was absolutely deserted, and the electric Hghts along the ceiling of A Deck were beginning to turn red, just a glow, a red sort of glow. So I said to Steffanson, "This is getting to be rather a tight corner; let us go out through the door at the end." And as we went out the sea came in onto the deck at our feet. Then we hopped up onto the gunwale, preparing to jump into the sea, because if we had waited a minute longer we should have been boxed in against the ceiling. And as we looked out we saw this collapsible boat, the last boat on the port side, being lowered right in front of our faces.

Senator Smith: How far out?

Mr. Woolner: It was about nine feet out.

Senator Smith: Nine feet away from the side of A Deck?

Mr. Woolner : Yes.

Senator Smith : You saw a collapsible boat being lowered?

Mr. Woolner: Being lowered; yes.

Senator Smith: Was it filled with people?

Mr. Woolner : It was full up to the bow, and I said to Steffanson, "There is nobody in the bows. Let us make a jump for it. You go first." And he jumped out and tumbled in head over heels into the boat, and I jumped too and hit the gunwale with my chest, which had on the life-preserver, of course, and I sort of tumbled off the gunwale and caught the gunwale with my fingers and slipped off backwards.

Senator Smith: Into the water?

Mr. Woolner: As my legs dropped down I felt that they were in the sea.

Senator Smith : You are quite sure you jumped nine feet to get that boat?

Mr. Woolner: That is my estimate. By that time you see we were jumping slightly downward.

Senator Smith: Did you jump out or down?

Mr. Woolner: Both.

Senator Smith: Both out and down?

Mr. Woolner: Slightly down and out.

Senator Smith: It could not have been very far down if the water was on A Deck; it must have been out.

Mr. Woolner: Chiefly out; but it was sufficiently down for us to see just over the edge of the gunwale of the boat.

Senator Smith : You pulled yourself up out of the water?

Mr. Woolner: Yes; and then I hooked my right heel over the gunwale, and by this time Steffanson was standing up and he caught hold of me and lifted me in.

One lady (Mrs. Harris) had a broken elbow bone. She was in a white woollen jacket. At dawn Officer Lowe transferred five or six from his boat No. 14 to ours, which brought us down very close to the water. At daylight we saw a great many icebergs of different colors, as the sun struck them. Some looked white, some looked blue, some looked mauve and others were dark gray. There was one double-toothed one that looked to be of good size; it must have been about one hundred feet high.

The Carpathia seemed to come up slowly, and then she stopped. We looked out and saw there was a boat alongside and then we realized she was waiting for us to come up to her instead of her coming to us, as we hoped. Then Mr. Lowe towed us with his boat, No. 14, under sail. After taking a group of people off of boat *'A — a dozen of them — including one woman, we sailed to the Carpathia. There was a child in the boat — one of those little children whose parents everybody was looking for (the Navatil children) .

The last of the Titanic* s boats which were never launched, but floated off, were the two Engelhardt collapsibles "A" and B" on the roof of the officers' house. In my personal account I have already given the story of boat "B," the upset one on which Second Officer Lightoller, Jack Thayer, myself and others escaped. Since I wrote the account of my personal experience I have had access to other sources of information, including some already referred to; and though at the expense of some repetition, I think it may be of interest to include the record of this boat in the present chapter, as follows:

Miss Mary Kelly was born in County Westmeath, Ireland on 19 February 1890.

She was the daughter of Lawrence Kelly (b. 1855), a farmer, and his wife Mary (b. 1862). The couple had married around 1887 and had a total of eight children. Mary's known siblings were: James (b. 1889), Kate (b. 1892), Anne (b. 1894), John (b. 1895), Edward (b. 1897) and Bridget (b. 1900) and she grew up in a Roman Catholic household.

She appears on the 1901 census with her family living at house 16, Collinstown in Westmeath. Her father apparently died not long after this and her mother never remarried. Mary would be absent from the family home by the time of the 1911 census when they were living at 18 Pakenhamhall Street, Kinturk, Castlepollard.

Mary Kelly worked as a domestic in Castepollard and hoped to find employment working for wealthy families in New York. She was also engaged to be married to a Castlepollard man by the name of John Heslin (b. 23 March 1893) who had crossed the Atlantic several months in advance of her own journey.

Mary Kelly boarded the Titanic in Queenstown, Co Cork on 11 April 1912 as a third class passenger(ticket number 14312 which cost £7, 15s). Her destination was 113 West 15th Street, Manhattan. On board Titanic she shared a cabin with two Cork girls, Annie Jane Jermyn and Bridget Carney, (Twin) .

On the night of the disaster Mary and her cabin mates made their way to the upper decks and eventually to the forward boat deck where they were rescued in the last lifeboat successfully launched from the Titanic, collapsible D. Whilst afloat Mary helped look after the two mystery French boys, Edmond and Michel Navratil, whose father had placed them in the lifeboat before stepping back and sinking with the ship.

Mary eventually reached New York and was reunited with her fiancé. The couple were wed around 1913 and settled in Brooklyn where they had six children: Howard (1914-1993), Maureen (b. 1920), Margaret (b. 1923), Jacqueline (b. 1924), John Lawrence (1927-2004) and James (1931-1991).

Mary Kelly Heslin remained in Brooklyn for the rest of her life but did return to Ireland for a visit in later years. She died at her home in Brooklyn on 27 December 1950 and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.

Credits Gavin Bell, UK

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Mary Heslin's Timeline

February 19, 1890
Castlepollard, County West Meath, Ireland
Age 33
New York, USA
December 27, 1950
Age 60
Brooklyn, Kings, New York
December 27, 1950
Age 60
Holy Cross Cem., Brooklyn, New York