Loss of the Titanic

Andrew Houston, known as the Rossendale Bard, was born on March 23rd, 1846 at the height of the Great Famine, in the village of Doonbreeda at the foot of Nephin Hill, North Mayo. He later wrote a poem which was included in a collection of tributes published in 1912 titled "Poetical Tributes On The Loss Of The RMS Titanic". Andrew's poem was called; "The Loss of The Titanic".

By co-incidence, Andrew Houston was a former scholar of Rathkell National School, Addergoole, where his father was the first principal. Andrew attended his father's small school from 1855 to 1860, some 20 years before John and Mary Bourke were enrolled in the same school, both of whom perished on the Titanic.

Houston's father, himself a writer of verses and songs, was known as the Nephin Bard. After he died, the eleven year old Andrew immigrated with his mother and three siblings to England, to work in the Lancashire Mills alongside Michael Davitt, the Irish nationalist, agrarian and social reformer from Straide in Mayo. Hundreds of Mayo families followed that migrant path to east Lancashire to find work and avoid incarceration in the post-Famine Work-houses back home.

There Andrew kept up the tradition of writing poetry and became known as the Rossendale Bard, after the town in Lancashire where he lived. He wrote more than a hundred poems and songs before he died in 1920.

He probably did not even realise that eleven people from his own parish of Addergoole had lost their lives when he penned his poem 'Loss of the Titanic', but the final verse is a fair tribute to his empathy with those who died and those who remained behind.

"God solace all bereaved ones', what're their creed or race,
and may His brightest seraphs, their loved lost friends embrace!
And may the brave who perished be lovingly remember'd,
while rolls an ocean wave. "

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