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Mrs. Christopher Murray (Rose Ellen McGinley)

Rose Ellen Murray, 30, was an Irish national married to a United States Naval Officer traveling as a second-cabin passenger aboard Lusitania with her brother, Patrick Vincent McGinley. Both survived the Lusitania disaster. During the sinking, brother and sister were separated when their lifeboat overturned and threw them into the water. Each thought the other was lost until they were reunited in Queenstown (present-day Cobh), Ireland. Rose Ellen would later fabricate a claim that she was also a Titanic survivor, which was eventually used against her in committing her to a mental asylum.

Early life and marriage

Rose Ellen's family was originally from Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland (present-day Northern Ireland) and then moved to Belfast in County Antrim. She emigrated to the United States aboard Lusitania in 1910, arriving in New York City on 15 April. She was 24 years old at the time and traveling with her brother, Patrick. In the United States, she met and married a U.S. Naval officer, Christopher Murray, presumably while visiting the naval training academy in Newport, Rhode Island. With Christopher Murray, they split time between Dublin, Ireland, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rose Ellen loved ships and travel, and crossed the Atlantic at least fifteen times between 1910 and 1926. In press releases between 1925 and 1932, she would claim to have made 34 crossings, despite making a number of other voyages in that time. By 1935, Mrs. Murray, her husband, and two of her brothers lived on South Circular Road in Dublin.


The following is her 1915 account of the sinking:
I left the saloon and went up to the lounge, where I took off my coat and sat down. I had no sooner sat down than we got the first, awful, shock. the boat lifted right up on one side, and the people all rolled off their seats on to the floor. I got outside and into a lifeboat, but I had no lifebelt on. A minute or so passed, and my brother came rushing up with two belts- one for me and one for himself. He put the lifebelt on me, and then the captain ordered everybody out of the lifeboat. We got on deck again, and immediately afterward the second torpedo struck. it was awful. I remember seeing the four funnels fly clean out of the ship. My brother said 'My God! We have got to go to a watery grave after all!' We scrambled into the lifeboat again, but then the boat tumbled over and everybody was thrown into the water. I went down head foremost, and my brother fell with me. I thought I was lost, but I came up to the surface again, and the lifebelt kept me up. I paddled around for a little while, and then caught hold of an oar, and hung on to it for an hour. I shall never forget my experiences in the water. All those bodies! My clothes were torn off me, as I got caught in the wreckage and the bodies, and I became unconscious. I was picked up by a lifeboat, and we were towed to Queenstown, where they carried me on a stretcher to the Queen's Hotel. A doctor attended to me, and about three in the morning I recovered consciousness. I was anxious about my brother, and could hear nothing of him. There were 200 dead bodies in the Queen's Hotel, and survivors seemed to be in every room. Some had lost their arms, and some their legs, while one poor girl's eye was terribly injured. About seven o'clock in the morning I went down to the morgue to look for my brother but could not find him, and they brought me back to the hotel, where I again became unconscious. I got out on the street again, and went to get some clothes, and I was just passing the Cunard offices when I saw my brother. I became hysterical, and when he saw me he was almost hysterical too. We had both thought we should never see each other alive again. We were happy after that. The people at Queenstown were more than nice. They couldn't do enough for us, it seemed. We left Queenstown at 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, and arrived at Belfast at ten minutes past midnight.
Rose Ellen's later accounts had extra details that were not in her earlier account. Those included how she helped Rita Jolivet take up a collection for the ship's musicians, how Rose Ellen leaped from one of the highest decks as the ship approached vertical, how, in the water, an old man clinging to some wreckage caught her by the hair before he went under. She also talks about how she was wrapped in a blanket and taken to a hotel in Queenstown, where someone gave her a pair of pajamas. She then took a train that afternoon to my old home in Belfast, still wearing the pajamas, without shoes or socks.

The Titanic fabrication

In later stories, Mrs. Murray would claim that she was both a survivor of both the Titanic and Lusitania disasters.  She told reporters of her long wait on the freezing ocean for the Carpathia (completely made up), and of her hours clinging to an overturned Lusitania lifeboat (true). Her Titanic story lacked the details her Lusitania account did, but no one questioned her. She was also aboard the Celtic when that liner was involved in a minor collision and added that story to her list of tales that she would regale reporters. Among her great quotes, she stated that she loved “the sea to the extent that she cannot now sleep on land”


One day, in July 1935, three young woman approached Mrs. Murray at her Dublin home and told her that they were going to escort her to a mental institution. Rose refused to go with them and, instead, went to The Four Courts in Dublin to discuss the situation with her lawyer and start legal proceedings against an unnamed party. While she was still at the Four Courts Building, the three women found Rose and informed her that they were taking her to Verville, a private mental hospital. She was forced to her knees and had her arms restrained. The women pulled Rose Ellen into a taxi with great difficulty, and brought her to Verville, where she stayed from 5 July 1935 to 10 October of that year. A sanity hearing determined that Rose Ellen was sane and able to maintain her own affairs. Apparently, someone had used Rose Ellen’s oft-told Titanic, Lusitania and Celtic stories, and an incident in which Rose Ellen had been blackmailed over some indiscretion, to have her committed.  The doctors at Verville were informed that Rose Ellen was delusional and ranted about being a survivor of multiple disasters.  By affadavit and other evidence, Rose Ellen proved that all four claims were partially true and not melancholy ravings, and was released.  Her actual Titanic story, as sworn in court, was that she was supposed to have sailed on that ship, but a missed train caused her to miss her departure.  This story could be true, but was much different from what she told reporters, where she stated that she was on the open ocean with the other survivors. The identity or identities of whoever had her committed was not made public, but the fact that afterwards Rose Ellen lived separately from her husband and brothers suggests the likely suspects. In November 1939, Rose Ellen sued Dr. Sullivan, of Verville, claiming that she had been falsely committed, and was physically assaulted by another patient during her time in the institution. She had been punched in the face, driving her eyeglass into her eye, and when she complained was told that she had to learn to watch out for herself.  The jury found in favor of Dr. Sullivan that December on the grounds that Rose Ellen had been legally committed with papers filed 28 June 1935, and that the assault was not due to specific negligence on Dr. Sullivan's part. Rose Ellen Murray died on 12 January 1942 at age 62, found dead on the floor of her home at Merrion Square, Dublin.  Her estate was valued at 3,500.00 pounds. Her husband and three brothers were bequeathed fifty pounds each, with the majority of her money going to charity.  Her brothers opposed the will, and in July 1942 each were granted an additional 200 pounds. Her husband Christopher, still in naval service, wrote the court to say that he did not want to interfere with his late wife’s wishes.

See also

Frank Toner - the most famous alleged survivor of the Titanic, Empress of Ireland, and Lusitania sinkings Albert Charles Dunn - another alleged survivor of the Titanic, Empress of Ireland, Florazan, and Lusitania (of which only the last two are confirmed)

Links of Interest

The Price of Fame : Rose Ellen Murray, the Lusitania's Titanic Survivor Rose Ellen McGinley's Record at Ellis Island Contributors: Jim Kalafus, USA Senan Molony, Ireland Michael Poirier, USA References: Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier. "The Price of Fame: Rose Ellen Murray, the Lusitania's Titanic Survivor." Gare Maritime. 2010. <> Accessed 5 April 2015 08:01:27 PM Molony, Senan. Lusitania: An Irish Tragedy. Mercier Press, 2004. page 65.

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