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Flowers left for Catherine Buckley
May 23, 2010For nearly a century her body lay in an unmarked grave in a West Roxbury cemetery.The 22-year-old daughter of an Irish farmer was bound for Boston - against her family's wishes - in the spring of 1912 to build a better life. Her half-sister, who had come to Boston years before, had saved a month of her wages as a maid, about $35, to pay for the passage and arranged a job for her in the home of a wealthy West Roxbury merchant. On April 11, 1912, Catherine Buckley left her hometown near Ovens in County Cork and boarded the RMS Titanic. Four days later and hundreds of miles away, her body was plucked from the icy North Atlantic waters - one of the more than 1,500 who perished in the Titanic's sinking - her life fading into an infamous moment in history.But thanks to a New Jersey preservation society and the efforts of a handful of local organizations, Buckley's memory and story were commemorated yesterday in a ceremony unveiling a headstone bearing her name."She kind of typified the Irish that were coming to this country," said Bob Bracken, treasurer of the Titanic International Society, the man largely credited with reviving Buckley's tale. "Truly, many of them fulfilled their dreams here."More than 100 people, including more than a dozen family descendents, gathered yesterday for the unveiling of a donated granite slab hewn by Thomas Carrigg & Sons monument company.Una Reilly, chairwoman of the Belfast Titanic Society, said the Titanic must have truly been a ship of dreams to a farmer's daughter from County Cork."This was a big adventure," Reilly said before the solemn crowd. "I want to remember that Kit, full of optimism and enthusiasm for the future."Two of Buckley's great-great-grandnieces unveiled the simple stone and 16 family members each laid a rose on her grave."I think Catherine would be very proud right now," said Charles A. Haas, president of the Titanic International Society, fighting back tears.She remains the only known third-class Irish passenger whose body was buried on land, said Bracken, who has spent 20 years researching Titanic passengers. Buckley's body was one of only about 330 recovered, her cloth scapular bearing a hand-stitched cross still pinned to her breast when she was fished from the water.Buckley's story sparks fascination for many interested in Titanic's history, but for her descendents yesterday was the last stop on a century-long path to closure, after grieving family members in Ireland blamed Buckley's half-sister, Margaret, for her death.In a cruel twist, Buckley was never supposed to be on the Titanic.A strike by coal miners kept many ocean liners docked. Buckley's ticket - originally for a direct route to Boston aboard the Cymeric, a smaller ship owned by the White Star Line - was transferred to the "unsinkable" Titanic, set to arrive in New York. In one of her last letters before she sailed, Buckley worried about her connecting boat to Boston."Too bad I couldn't go direct to Boston," Buckley wrote in a missive dated March 19, 1912, that has been preserved by the family. "I have to go the way I am told to."Distraught by the change of plans and worried about leaving her friends at home, Buckley boarded in what was then Queenstown, Ireland, the last stop before the ship cut a path west through the North Atlantic.Convinced that one sister led the other to her death, the family turned its back on Margaret.Desperate to make amends, Margaret made the long journey to County Cork, arriving at her family's doorstep on Christmas Eve, eight months after the disaster. Margaret's stepmother called her a murderer and closed the door to her, Bracken told the crowd yesterday."They wouldn't let her in the house, as the story goes," said Margaret's grandson, David Kay, 69, of Lynn. "They turned her away."Bracken and others who have researched Buckley's story are unsure why her grave went unmarked."I think commemorating Kate Buckley's death is symbolic of all of the Irish immigrants who sought to come to the United States," said Michael Lonergan, Irish consul general here and a guest at yesterday's ceremony. "It's very appropriate that it's here in Boston."Credit: Matt Byrne, Globe Correspondent
 Added: Aug. 11, 2010

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