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Mrs. John Henry (Catherine Ruane)

Catherine Henry (née Ruane), 24 or 35, was an Irish national and British subject originally from Cloonconna, Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland. As of 1915 she was residing in New York, New York, United States with her husband, whom she met in the States. Catherine survived the Lusitania disaster and was rescued by the Westborough, disguised as the “Greek” Katrina.

Early life and move to New York

Catherine was the daughter of John Ruane of Cloonacanna. She immigrated to the United States aboard the Cunarder Campania at the end of April 1908. While after the Lusitania sinking she claimed that she was 16 in 1908, Ellis Island records list her age as 27, suggesting that she was actually 35 in 1915 instead of the age she claimed to be, 24. While in New York, Catherine was employed as a babies’ trained nurse. She also met John Henry, and they married in the United States on 26 November 1914. John Henry worked as a fireman. Her trip aboard the Lusitania’s last voyage was her first trip home in seven years. At the time of the Lusitania's last voyage, Catherine was pregnant with her first child. She was returning to Ireland on a two years’ visit to her mother, a widow in straitened circumstances earning her livelihood by cultivating a farm of 25 acres which she owned. Before sailing on the Lusitania, the Henrys sold their household furniture for something in excess of $300 and this with her joint savings, in all $1,900, Catherine Henry took with her in cash on the Lusitania.

The Lusitania disaster

Catherine was in her cabin when Lusitania was torpedoed. She stayed on the ship and on deck until the ship sank from beneath her, and the water carried her away. She had her lifebelt on, which kept her afloat for 2 hours, until fellow survivors pulled her on top of an overturned boat that was already holding 35 people. While in the water, her face was bruised and her eye blackened. She saw hundreds of dead in the water around her and described the cries of others that she heard, particularly mothers, as heartrendering. She was in the water for about five hours. Catherine and her fellow survivors on the overturned boat were rescued by the Westborough disguised as a Greek steamer named Katrina. Catherine praised the men and crew for behaving gallantly and heroically, clearing the way for women and children. She lost property valued at over £100 in 1915 money.

A stay in Ireland

Catherine passed through Claremorris on her way home to Cloonacanna. She was interviewed by Western People and Mayo News. While her experiences were distressing, she sustained no fractured or serious contusion. A healthy male child, Michael Lusitania Henry, was born to her four months after the Lusitania disaster. John came to visit Catherine in Ireland from October 1917 to October 1918, and during that time she gave birth to twins, Patrick Joseph and Mary Agnes. Catherine returned to the United States in 1922, but her children stayed with her mother in Ireland. Catherine and Henry presented her case to the Mixed Claims Commission, where she sought German reparations for lost property and health effects. The Commission decreed that Catherine's health and abilities had recovered fully from the Lusitania disaster and awarded them $7,500.00 in lost property. Catherine Henry later moved back to Ireland and was still giving interviews about her Lusitania experience in the late 1940s.

Related pages

Catherine Henry at the Mixed Claims Commission
Contributors: Senan Molony, Ireland Michael Poirier, USA References: Mayo News, 15 May 1915, pg. 8. Docket 407, Mixed Claims Commission. Page 431. Molony, Senan. Lusitania: An Irish Tragedy, pg 38-39. Mercier Press, 2004. Western People, 15 May 1915, pg. 6.

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