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Extract: 'They tried to keep us down on the steerage deck as Titanic sank'

A new book brings to life the tragedy through the voices of those who survived. In this extract, survivor Daniel Buckley recounts the night the liner went down.

Nic Compton

Daniel Buckley was among a group of friends who joined the Titanic at Queenstown, planning to start a new life in America. Here is his account of the sinking of the Titanic taken from Nic Compton’s new book – Titanic on Trial: The Night the Titanic Sank, Told Through the Testimonies of Her Passengers and Crew.

THEY TRIED TO keep us down at first on our steerage deck. They did not want us to go up to the First Class place at all. I cannot say who they were; I think they were sailors.

The First Class deck was higher up than the steerage deck, and there were some steps leading up to it: nine or ten steps, and a gate just at the top of the steps. There was one steerage passenger, and he was getting up the steps. Just as he was going in the little gate, a fellow came along and chucked him down; threw him down into the steerage place.

‘All the boys were trying to console them and saying that it was nothing serious’

This fellow got excited, and he ran after him, and he could not find him. He said if he could get hold of him, he would throw him into the ocean. The gate was not locked at the time we made the attempt to get up there, but the sailor, or whoever he was, locked it. So this fellow that went up after him broke the lock on it. All the steerage passengers went up on the First Class deck then, when the gate was broken. They all got up there. They could not keep them down.

There was a great crowd of people. They were all terribly excited. They were all going for the decks as quick as they could. The girls were very excited, and they were crying; and all the boys were trying to console them and saying that it was nothing serious. Then the lifeboats were preparing.

There were five lifeboats sent out. I was in the sixth. I was holding the ropes all the time, helping to let down the five lifeboats that went down first, as well as I could.

When the sixth lifeboat was prepared, there was a big crowd of men standing on the deck, passengers and sailors and firemen mixed. And they all jumped in. So I said I would take my chance with them. There were no ladies there at the same time.

‘I was crying. There was a woman in the boat, and she had thrown her shawl over me’

I went into the boat. Then two officers came along and said all of the men could come out. And they brought a lot of steerage passengers with them; and they were mixed, every way, ladies and gentlemen. They said all the men could get out and let the ladies in. The men that were in the boat at first fought, and would not get out, but the officers drew their revolvers, and fired shots over our heads, and then the men got out. Six men were left in the boat; I think they were firemen and sailors.

I was crying. There was a woman in the boat, and she had thrown her shawl over me, and she told me to stay in there. I believe she was Mrs Astor. Then they did not see me, and the boat was lowered down into the water, and we rowed away out from the steamer.

There was a girl from my place, and just when she got down into the lifeboat she thought that the boat was sinking into the water. Her name was Bridget Bradley. She climbed one of the ropes as far as she could and tried to get back into the Titanic again, as she thought she would be safer in it than in the lifeboat. She was just getting up when one of the sailors went out to her and pulled her down again.

After surviving the sinking, Buckley found work in a hotel in New York. In 1917, he joined the 69th regiment, the so-called ‘Irish Brigade’, and served at the Western Front, where he was shot by a sniper while rescuing injured soldiers. His remains were buried in Ireland in 1919.

Titanic on Trial: The Night the Titanic Sank, Told Through the Testimonies of Her Passengers and Crew by Nic Compton. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

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Nic Compton

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