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“I Think It Is True That They Can Smell Danger”: Titanic’s Rats

"I Think It Is True That They Can Smell Danger": Titanic's Rats

When Thomas Ranger, a fireman on Titanic, arrived in Washington DC for the American Senate Inquiry, he had experienced the luxury of hotel lodgings in Washington, D.C.

When Thomas arrived back home in Britain, however, and was asked to testify before the British Board of Trade, he slept multiple nights outside on the bank of the Thames.

Another bedless man amidst “benches and tramps," Thomas Ranger stated he “prefered to walk than sleep” at the Sailors' Home.

All because of vermin.

Ranger and other surviving crew, on standby to be called before the Board, had been advised to stay at the Sailors’ Home in London, which had offered wayward seafarers interim accommodations between voyages since the 1800s. 

In May of 1912, however, the rooms in the Sailors’ Home were overly full—to the point that makeshift quarters were put out in the yard.

Meanwhile, construction to the building was ongoing, with bricklayers. The Titanic survivors were assigned to the vicinity of the remodeling efforts.

And Thomas Ranger could not bear to sleep there because the construction had disturbed and displaced an unspecified quantity of rats.

It’s no revelation that rats are—and have been—everywhere.

Even on a grand, new liner’s maiden voyage.

Yes, Titanic indeed had a rat population.

Rats have congregated on ships for so long and with such regularity that they are believed to have spread worldwide alongside human, thanks to our human Age of Conquest when ships dominated the open seas.

It’s reasonable to hypothesize that rats would have boarded the Titanic much like they have any other vessel in history: by running up unguarded mooring lines, as stowaways within waiting cargo, and even by taking up residence within the walls during construction in the shipyard.

Interestingly, around the time of the British Inquiry into the Titanic disaster, a law had recently been enacted that mandated the use of rat-guards on mooring lines, upon penalty of a five-pound fine.

But rats are cleverer than that.

Oftentimes, rats were so plentiful aboard that firemen working the boilers had a particular method of killing shipboard rats on-sight: by scooping the offending rats up with their shovels and flinging them into the fiery maw of the furnace.

For this reason, many ships had at least one cat on board.

In the case of Titanic, this rumored mouser was named Jenny: a newly adopted stray about to birth a litter.

According to Violet Jessop, Jenny the Ship's Cat was tended to primarily by a scullion named Joseph 'Big Joe' Mulholland.

The Sunday Independent reported on Joe's own account on the anniversary of the sinking, in 1962.

"There was something about that ship I did not like and I was glad to lift my old bag and bid goodbye...

Big Joe is still fond of cats and perhaps he has a reason. He recalls that on his way down to the Titanic before she set sail from Belfast with bands playing and crowds cheering, he took pity on a stray cat which was about to have kittens. He brought the cat aboard and put her in a wooden box down in the stokehold.

At Southampton, when he was ruminating whether to take on the job of store-keeper on the trip or sign off, another seaman called him over and said: 'Look Big Joe. There's your cat taking its kittens down the gang-plank.'

Joe said, 'that settled it. I went and got my bag and that's the last I saw of the Titanic.'"

Citation from "The Irish Aboard Titanic" by Senan Molony, 2000.

As the paper reported: "When his cat walked off, so did Joe."

And so Titanic's left on her maiden voyage mouser-less.

There is no official record of how many rats were on Titanic.

But eyewitness accounts attest to at least a half-dozen.

Fireman Jack Podesta gave an interview to the periodical ‘Southern Evening Echo’ in 1968, in which he reported having seen rats behaving oddly down in the boiler rooms on Saturday April 13th—the day before the iceberg strike.

"On this very morning, my chum and I had just gone across firing our boilers and we were standing against a watertight door—just talking—when all of a sudden, on looking through the forward end on [Titanic’s] starboard side, we saw about six or maybe seven rats running toward us. They passed by our feet; in fact, we both kicked out at them and they ran after somewhere. 

They must have come from the bow end, about where the crash came later. We did not take much notice at the time because we see rats on most ships, but I think it is true that they can smell danger."

But it wasn’t just crew that sighted rats on board.

There are fleeting mentions that children in third-class chased the occasional rat.

And third-class passenger Kathy Gilnagh also told Titanic historian Walter Lord that on the night of April 14th, she had seen a rat.

Shortly before collision, there was a large party in the common area of steerage.

And Kathy Gilnagh told Walter Lord that, at some point during the frivolity, a rat scurried across the room--presumably dashing across the makeshift dance floor. According to Kathy, the girls shrieked and may have even cried, but a few boys gave chase.

Kathy did not elaborate about whether those boys managed to catch that particular rat.

But the party reportedly continued on.

Even during the collision with the iceberg.


Molony, Senan. "The Irish Aboard Titanic." Wolfhound Press, 2000.

Lord, Walter. "A Night to Remember."

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“Not Bad for A Shipwrecked Man”: Patrick O’Keefe

"Not Bad for a Shipwrecked Man": Patrick O'Keefe

Patrick O’Keefe had tried to sell his ticket for Titanic for £7.

Patrick had been awaiting the Titanic’s arrival in a hotel in Queenstown, Ireland. And he had dreamt the night before his departure that the ship would sink.

Patrick had moved to America two years earlier in 1910, when he was only 19 years old. Freshly settled in New York City and living with his cousin, he worked as a porter and general laborer.

Patrick's work strengthened him with regular heavy lifting. He also reportedly had a tradition of swimming in the River Suir each Christmas Day.

In 1912, at the age of 21, Patrick had returned to Ireland to visit with his family and meet his new stepmother. He had initially booked passage back to America on the SS Baltic. 

But Patrick’s brother, James, convinced him to stay over an extra week in Ireland so the entire family could be together for Easter on April 7th.

And so Patrick transferred his ticket to Titanic.

Having failed to find a taker for his doomed ticket, Patrick reluctantly embarked on the Titanic at Queenstown on April 11th.

He did so only because he feared derision.

He wrote to his father, “I thought if I went back to Waterford again the boys would be laughing at me.”

Patrick was crestfallen to leave Ireland behind again. He sent the following postcard to his father before boarding the Titanic.

"I feel it very hard to leave. I am down-hearted. Cheer up, I think I’ll be alright — Paddy."

Citation from "The Irish Aboard Titanic," Senan Molony, 2000.

Patrick’s shipboard activities are not very detailed.

On the night of the sinking, he made his way up to the boat deck and presumably remained on board in the ship’s final moments before it broke.

Patrick reportedly cast himself overboard with two Englishmen, named Edward Dorkings and Victor Sunderland, both of whom were fellow steerage passengers. According to Victor’s own account, he jumped when he saw nearby stokers doing the same.

Patrick was adept at swimming and unphased by the frigid seawater, due to his customary Christmas swims. 

And so Patrick, along with Victor and Edward, swam toward the lifeboat Collapsible B, which had floated away from Titanic’s deck upside-down.

Again per Victor Sunderland’s account, the three grabbed hold of the collapsible as it floated past Titanic's forward funnel—which came crashing down only moments later.

Balancing on the sloped, slick back of Collapsible B, Patrick O’Keefe began hauling other survivors up onto the boat.

Perhaps this seemingly Herculean task was a bit easier for him than most, thanks to his strength from his work as a porter.

On May 16, 1912, the Cork Examiner reprinted the following report from a stateside periodical, about Patrick.

An act of heroism was performed by Mr Patrick O'Keefe who, plunging into the sea from the steerage deck, managed to capture a collapsible raft on which he first pulled an Englishman from Southampton then a Guernsey Islander, and after that with the assistance of those he had already rescued, some 20 other men

Citation from "The Irish Aboard Titanic," Senan Molony, 2000.

Furthermore, Junior Marconi operator Harold Bride--who had himself survived the sinking on Collapsible B--testified in the American Inquiry about an unnamed passenger who was at the center of assistance efforts that night.

And there was a passenger; I could not see whether he was first, second, or third.

Senator SMITH.
What kind of a looking man?

I could not say, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Have you learned who it was?

No, sir; I heard him say at the time he was a passenger.

Senator SMITH.
Was it Colonel Gracie?

I could not say. He merely said he was a passenger.

Senator SMITH.
Where did he get on?

I could not say. I was the last man they invited on board.

Senator SMITH.
Were there others struggling to get on?

Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
How many?


And according to the Brooklyn Eagle, who interviewed Father Michael Kenny about his visit to Titanic survivors in hospital:

"O’Keefe’s success in rescuing lives after he assumed absolute command of the raft was one of the many providential avenues of escape provided for the steerage passengers of which I heard many recitals during my visit to St. Vincent’s."

Citation from "The Irish Aboard Titanic," Senan Molony, 2000.

Patrick reportedly never spoke on the matter himself, and he was never summoned to testify at either the American or British inquiry.

He was noted by St. Vincent’s Hospital as having sustained heavy bruising, and eventually received a grant from the American Red Cross.

Back in Ireland, Patrick’s father was bereft and had scheduled Masses to pray for the repose for the soul of his lost son.

But then, he received a telegram from his boy.

"Dear Father,

I write you these few line to let you know I am safe and feeling fine. Do not worry for me, for I am all right and going to start work in the morning at twelve dollars a week (not bad for a shipwrecked man). Dear father, I am sure you felt downhearted when you heard the Titanic was lost. I dreamt myself she was going down before I left Queenstown… I lost everything I had on the Titanic but, thank God, my life was spared."

Citation from "The Irish Aboard Titanic," Senan Molony, 2000.

Mr. O’Keefe immediately adjusted the aforementioned masses from bereavement to thanksgiving for his son’s miraculous survival.

Patrick went on to his new job, eventually working as a window dresser for an unidentified department store. Later on, he became a lift operator in a New York City office building.

Patrick O’Keefe declined to ever speak about the sinking of the Titanic.

But at the outbreak of the Great War in America, he traveled to Canada to enlist as a British subject--rather than be conscripted into the American forces and be forced to cross the Atlantic again.

So profound was his aversion to sea travel, in fact, that after 1912, Patrick never once stepped foot in Ireland again.

Patrick O'Keefe died from a heart attack in 1939. He was 49 years old.

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“On a Trip Around the World”: Henry Sutehall, Jr. & Howard Irwin

"On a Trip Around the World": Henry Sutehall, Jr. & Howard Irwin

Henry Sutehall Jr. had been away from home for over two years when he boarded Titanic in Southampton on April 10, 1912.

Harry, as he was called, had been born in England in 1886. He emigrated to the United States with his parents and two younger siblings in 1895. They departed from the docks at Southampton, thereafter settling in Buffalo, New York.

His father worked with plaster in construction; his mother managed the family’s corner store on Delaware Avenue, selling tobacco products, confections, and ice cream.

And when Harry came of age, he took to work as a “trimmer,” working with upholstery in fancy carriages and automobiles.

Harry worked at E. E. Denniston’s in Buffalo. And that was where he met his new best friend: a young Canadian man named Howard Irwin.

The Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Buffalo, NY, circa 1912.


The young men were dissimilar: Harry was unassuming, even-tempered, and genteel, with nary a vice. Howard, on the other hand, was arrogant, adventurous, and irascible. By his own admission, he got into fights.

But they forged a devoted friendship, and soon, Harry Sutehall and Howard Irwin decided to embark on a round-the-world tour.

And so, on New Year’s Day of 1910, Harry and Howard set out on their adventures. Harry brought along his violin, and during their cross-country travels, Howard picked up the clarinet. Harry presumably guided his friend in nurturing his musical skills.

The boys worked their way across the United States; or, as Howard wrote in his journal, “stopping in all the principalities between Buff [Buffalo] and Frisco [San Francisco].”

They financed their travel by working as trimmers whenever they could offer their services. But they took other jobs as well—at one point, they worked as peach-pickers in California.

And then, sometime in the summer of 1911, Harry and Howard headed to Australia.

The ferry Kurraba at Mosman Wharf, Sydney, Australia, circa 1910. Courtesy of the museum of Applied Arts & Sciences.


They arrived in Sydney.

The boys seemed to fare well in Australia. Harry reportedly won a sweepstake of some kind while they were there, which contributed itself toward their travels.

While there, Harry fell in love. The girl's identity has not been discovered to date, but Harry made his intentions clear in the letters he wrote home: he would, one day soon, return to Australia to marry her.

Somewhere along the way, Howard Irwin had also fallen in love--although the relationship appeared to have been deteriorating. Pearl Shuttle had been touring the United States in her own right, as she was either a vaudeville performer or playing cornet a band.

Their love was epistolary, and Howard expressed in his letters to Pearl that because she was so beautiful, that he feared she would fall in love with another man. Over and over again, Pearl attempted to reassure Howard.

“You asked me if the love I had was dying,” Pearl wrote. “I say not.”

After many exchanges sent between Australia and the United States and back again, Pearl sent a seven-page letter to Howard in which she suggested they break up.

The boys parted ways after their stint in Sydney, only because they had diverging interests and they had plenty they each still wanted to see. But they vowed to meet up again along their westward wanderings toward home.

Howard and Harry made good on their word and reunited in Durban, South Africa, where they won a talent contest, perhaps thanks to their musical aptitudes. Then Howard and Harry once again split off, promising to meet again in England in 1912 to head back home on the maiden voyage of Titanic.

After separating from Howard, Harry went on to Europe.

While there, he is reported to have had an audition with American composer John Phillip Sousa. "The March King," as Sousa was widely known, had great esteem for Harry's talent but alas, he had no need for a violinist. So he advised the young man as to potential avenues he might take, to further his musical ambitions.

Eventually, Harry made it to England ahead of schedule. He stayed with family and enjoyed the reunion; they had not seen each other in five years, since 1907.

John Phillip Sousa circa 1900. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Harry Sutehall boarded Titanic as a Third-Class passenger at Southampton on April 10, 1912. He was unexpectedly alone.

For reasons still unconfirmed, Howard Irwin didn't show up.

By some accounts, Howard had left Europe two months early, because Pearl was deathly ill, and he had rushed to be with her. By Howard's own account, he had been shanghaied: the night before, he had gone out drinking with some random fellows and when he woke up, he was on an eastbound steamer vessel, heading to the Orient.

Not many people believed him.

Regardless of Howard's absence, Harry curiously boarded Titanic in possession of Howard's trunk. Maybe it was a mistake; maybe, it was a favor for his friend who had left it behind.

Harry Sutehall Jr. did not survive the sinking. He was 25 years old.

Howard Irwin claimed he was in Port Said, Egypt, when he heard that Titanic had foundered. He returned home thereafter, without his belongings and without his best friend.

In 1993, a submersible recovered Howard Irwin's luggage from the wreck site of Titanic. Inside, were his clarinet and shoes,  a leather satchel filled with letters from Ms. Pearl Shuttle, and his travel diary from 1910.

The first entry reads:

With luck this trip will take us two years and with bad luck (WELL) we are going anyway.

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“The Trunks and Valises And All That With Them”: Ludwig Muller

"The Trunks and Valises And All That With Them": Ludwig Muller

With the advent of the 20th century arrived a more enlightened perception of immigration. Steamship companies sought to capitalize on the ever-increasing number of steerage passengers boarding their European vessels for the United States.

Among the first to boast elevated accommodations for its Third Class was the White Star Line.

The following was published as a review of the White Star liner RMS Baltic, which underwent her maiden voyage in June 1904 under the command of Captain Edward J. Smith, who would command the RMS Titanic less than a decade later.

But the most significant feature of the new ship is the splendid accommodations provided for the third-class passengers, the emigrants. Nothing could show more clearly the value which the great steamship companies place upon the privilege of carrying the common people... the newer ships cater distinctly to their comfort and each new boat makes distinct advances in this direction.

Translators, most often to as "interpreters," were employed on board passenger liners such as the Baltic, Olympic, and Titanic.

Typically, a single interpreter was assigned per voyage, and this individual was responsible for assisting and otherwise managing the mass of immigrants in the steerage class. Many emigrating groups were families from northern and central Europe; thus, interpreters often seem to have been fluent in Germanic languages alongside English.

The "Interpreter Steward" acted as a liaison between passengers and crew, facilitating communications between parties that included non-English speakers. The on-board interpreter could be prevailed upon to aid in any number of circumstances, from the most mundane of matters to the downright whimsical.

In 1906, for instance, the interpreter of the White Star Line's RMS Majestic was called upon to assist in officiating the at-sea wedding of a "youthful runaway couple" from Norway who were unable to get married before boarding, as they had intended.

This ceremony was, incidentally, arranged with great diligence and evident joy by Chief Purser Hugh McElroy. He would, six years hence, serve in the same role on Titanic.

At the opposite end of the spectrum were interpreters who were reported as idle, morally compromised ne'er-do-wells. The following account regarding an unidentified White Star interpreter was published in 1909.

An interpreter who spoke English, Swedish, Norwegian, and some German was on board to serve when needed. He was, however, not at all conscientious in the performance of any duties and evidently not very capable. His price for granting privileges, performing favors and overlooking abuses was a mug of stout... he did not hesitate to solicit free drinks from everyone... he was generally present in the dining room during meals, though he did nothing. To young women passengers his manner could be most friendly and gracious. To others he was positively rude.

© "Guide to the Crew of the Titanic: The Structure of Working Aboard the Legendary Liner" by Gunter Babler, 2017.

By all survivor accounts, however, this description does not characterize the interpreter of RMS Titanic.

Ludwig Muller, also called Louis, was German by birth. He had already operated as the Third-Class interpreter on Titanic's older sister Olympic. He presumably spoke an assortment of northern European languages.

Ludwig embarked on Titanic at Southampton on April 10, 1912. His last recorded address was a hotel called the Hooper's Temperance, an establishment on Oxford Street in Southampton that was frequented by transient mariners from all around.

On board, Ludwig found himself bunked in a rare two-bunk cabin on E Deck. His sole cabinmate was a Third-Class Steward named Sidney Sedunary.

A typical Third-Class cabin on the RMS Olympic, Titanic's older sister, circa 1911.


Ludwig's experience on board Titanic prior to the iceberg strike is not recorded. Considering that he was acting as the sole interpreter for over 700 steerage passengers, it is fair to presume he was continually on the clock.

His movements during the sinking, however, were noted in multiple survivor accounts.

During the sixth day of the British Board of Trade's Inquiry into the disaster, Chief Baker Charles Joughin testified to that he had spotted Muller during the sinking.

Joughin also spoke in detail about the hindrances that Ludwig Muller dealt with as he endeavored to do his duty. Specifically, the steerage passengers whom the interpreter was attempting to direct insisted upon hauling all of their luggage with them, and Ludwig could not dissuade them.

6174. So that, unless on this particular occasion special instructions were given to [Third-Class passengers] as to the route they should follow they would not know where to go, would they?
- They would not know unless they were given instructions.

6175. Did you hear any such instructions given?
- Yes.

6176. By whom?
- I saw the interpreter passing the people along that way, but there was a difficulty in getting them along because some of the foreign third class passengers were bringing their baggage and their children along.

6177. Who was the interpreter?
- I do not know his name.

6178. You do not know his name?
- No.

6179. Where was he standing?
- He was standing just abaft this emergency door leading into the third class.

6180. He was pointing or directing those who came to the door?
- Passing them along.

6181. That is at the door, but my point is this. Did you see or know of anyone going to the third class quarters and giving instructions there to the third class passengers?
- No, Sir, I did not. I am out of that altogether.

6182. As to the course they should follow in order to escape?
- I did not hear any orders.

6183. You did not hear any directions being given to these people to go to this door, when further instructions would be given to them?
- I only saw and heard the interpreter doing his business.


6193. You say at the time this passage seemed to be obstructed by third class passengers bringing their luggage?
- Yes.

6194. Would that lead to any confusion?
- It would.

6195. Did it, as a matter of fact?
- There did not seem to be much confusion, only it hampered the steward; it hampered the interpreter and the men who were helping him, because they could not prevail on the people to leave their luggage.

During this same testimony, the Solicitor-General was compelled to circle back to the professional conduct of the interpreter and his efforts to aid the Third-Class passengers.

6350. You spoke of seeing an interpreter in the third class part of the ship trying to get the third class people to come along and go up to the deck?
- Yes.

6351. Did I catch you rightly to say the interpreter was doing it and men were helping him?
- I could see two or three stewards.

6352. You could?
- Yes.

6353. Third class stewards?
- I suppose they were, I am not quite sure.

6354. Trying to persuade the people?
- Yes.

During the British Inquiry, a Mr. Clement Edwards solicited further information from surviving First-Class bathroom steward Samuel Rule regarding Ludwig Muller's actions during the disaster.

Rule's account aligned seamlessly with Joughin's testimony three days prior. In fact, he indicated that Ludwig Muller had been proactive in spite of an apparent lack of instruction from superiors, endeavoring in the absence of leadership to direct the Third-Class passengers. It is also worth noting that a significant number of those immigrants on board did not hail from countries that spoke Scandinavian languages.

And yet, it would seem that Muller did his damnedest anyway.

Rule also corroborated Joughin's account that said passengers were adamant in carrying their possessions along with them, and that this impeded Muller and the Third-Class stewards who were attempting to aid the situation.

9769. Did anyone give the stewards' department any orders what to do?
- They gave me no orders.

9770. Did you see any orders given by any of these people in position?
- No.

9771. Did you see any stewards going forward or aft to the third class?
- As I passed out on E deck, Muller, the interpreter, was getting all his people from forward aft, and they were taking their luggage with them on E deck.

9772. He was getting them from forward to aft?
- Yes, the afterend of the ship.

9773. Were there any women among them?
- No, all men.

9774. They were passing the men along E deck?
- All the foreigners.

9775. And they were bringing the baggage along?
- Yes, the trunks and valises and all that, with them.

9776. Was there any chaos in the alleyway?
- None whatever; you would think they were landing on the tender taking their baggage to New York.

While Samuel Rule stated that he did not see any chaos mounting in that moment, the staggering pressure that Ludwig Muller faced is irrefutable and harrowing to imagine. Eyewitness testimony affirms that, as Titanic sank, he remained with the steerage passengers in his charge.

And for that, he died.

The Third-Class promenade deck on RMS Olympic, circa 1914.


Ludwig Muller's corpse, if recovered, was unidentified.

He was 37 years old.

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“The Titanic Was Also A Vessel of Hope”: David Vartanian

"The Titanic Was Also a Vessel of Hope": David Vartanian

David Vartanian (who Armenian name was Davit) was 21 years old when his family implored him to leave them—and his new wife—behind in Armenia.

He had just married his sweetheart, Mary, in 1911.

David was a Christian, and the Armenian populace was suffering more each day, persecuted and abused by the hand of the Ottoman Empire. Additionally, there was a rumor that the Turks were beginning to draft able-bodied young men from the villages, sending them to the front lines without any weapons.

So local families collaborated to save their sons.

David Vartarian’s salvation was the kindness of his Turkish neighbors, who gave David their dead son’s papers, so that he would be permitted to leave the country.

And so David banded together with four other young men from the village. They set their course on foot for a seven-day trek to the Black Sea, where they then sailed for Marseilles, France.

Once there, the group purchased steerage tickets on the RMS Titanic. They would leave from Cherbourg.

David’s compatriot Neshan Krekorian described the steerage accommodations as snug, but comfortable.

Both David and Neshan were among those who insisted that steerage passengers were barricaded below decks. The reasoning, however, is rarely cited to be anything more than fact, although malice is often implied: Third-Class passengers were not permitted under any circumstance to enter other parts of the ship belonging to First- and Second-Class. Certain areas were always locked or closed off to prevent any wandering.

Neshan Krekorian attested to breaking a chain on a door. David said they had to break down the gates.

David Vartanian made it to the boat deck in the end and soon thereafter found himself with no other option than to jump from Titanic.

And so David watched Titanic sink.

It was his 22nd birthday.

Before leaving Armenia, David reportedly had taught himself to swim in a nearby creek; he would maintain that this incidental choice saved his life that night in the Atlantic.

David Vartanian always maintained that he swam for the nearest lifeboat, but when he reached it, the occupants within slapped and pounded at his hands to make him let go. They were terrified, he believed, that he would capsize the boat while attempting to climb in. 

David did not speak English at the time. He did not understand.

He back away, but had to swim back. When those in the lifeboat saw that David was only attempting to hold on, and not crawl in, they let him alone. He shortly fell into unconsciousness, and they hauled him into the boat.

This is sometimes speculated to have been Collapsible A, which was partially submerged.

David’s family have since been told that sometime after David had been pulled aboard unconscious, that the lifeboat went under. David swam to another, it is said, where he entered without any hesitation from the passengers in the boat.

In the end, there is no conclusive evidence to be had about which version of events is true. We only know for certain that he was somehow saved from the water.

David Vartarian and Neshan Krekorian were the only survivors of the five in their party. 

Upon reaching New York, the two men were hospitalized. According to David’s grandson, "The lower half of my grandfather’s body had a bluish tint from being in the frigid water for so long, and remained that way.”

While he and Neshan were convalescing, a reporter visited at the hospital with a translator in tow. At some point during the interview, this journalist informed David that he was one of two survivors with the same first name. When asked which he preferred, he replied, “Titanic David.”

He went by “Titanic David” for all the rest of his life.

But David’s saga had not concluded in his survival.

David eventually left Canada for Toledo, Ohio. By 1915, he had heard that the village he had left behind had been decimated in the ongoing invasion by the Ottoman Empire.

He was led to believe that his beloved wife, Mary, was dead--inevitably killed in the genocide of the Armenian people.

In 1915, Mary’s brothers had miraculously found their ways to America and had set up in Pennsylvania. David met up with them to begin a campaign to track down his dear Mary. 

Dead or alive, he had to find her.

David proceeded to write to relatives, churches and convents, orphanages, newspapers, and anyone or anything else  that occurred to him.

And six years after he left Armenia, David Vartanian found Mary alive. 

Mary had fled her village in the genocide, but had returned to live with her sister.

She herself, having heard of the disaster and nothing more, had believed that David had been killed in the sinking of the Titanic.

According to the Vartanian family, David sent Mary money for the journey for nearly five years. Their daughter Rose revealed that money in Armenia was gold coin, so Mary kept each coin on a necklace. 

One day, Mary would reunite with her husband in America. Because she was not a legal citizen, she would travel to Canada first, and then cross the border.

Immediately before Mary left Armenia for her passage to Canada, her family convinced her to leave the necklace behind because, as Rose Vartanian repeated decades on, “where you are going, the streets are paved with gold.”

Their great-granddaughter Melissa has mused on the significance of the Titanic not just from the vantage of trauma, but also of promise.

While I do agree that the sinking led to great loss and devastation, the Titanic was also a vessel of hope to so many that were fleeing persecution, or searching a better life.

Upon her arrival in Canada, Mary Vartanian was met by an Armenian friend of her husband’s. He escorted her to the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls.

According to her great-granddaughter, “They told [Mary] to walk across the bridge, to keep a good pace, and not look back, because she was obviously entering the country illegally at the time.”

And at the other end of Rainbow Bridge, waiting for his lost bride, was David Vartanian.

They had not seen each other for ten years.

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“Locker 14, F Deck”: Sidney Sedunary

"Locker 14, F Deck": Sidney Sedunary

Samuel “Sidney” Sedunary signed onto Titanic on April 4, 1912. He hailed from Berkshire, England, and was the eldest of 7 children.

Sidney was assigned as a Second Steward in Third Class. He had only recently been married to his sweetheart, Madge Tizzard, in late 1911. He was 25 years old; she, 24.

And by the time he boarded Titanic, Madge was pregnant.

Even though he was comparatively young at the time of his assignment, but he’d already had 8 years of experience at sea. In April of 1904, at just age 17, Sidney joined the Royal Navy. His record indicates that he was acknowledged for excellent conduct; his appearance is also noted with brown hair, brown eyes, and a tan complexion. 

After 1908, Sidney moved to the private sector, serving on the Adriatic, and then on Titanic’s elder, and practically identical, sister, the RMS Olympic.

A promotional postcard distributed by the White Star Line to advertise the quality of Third-Class accommodations in the Olympic class.


As the Second Steward in Third Class, Sidney was required to support the Chief Steward, a man named James W. Kieran. 

Most stewards were roomed en masse on F Deck. But Sidney was gifted with a E-Deck cabin shared with only one other crew member: Ludwig Muller, the sole translator hired for the entirety of Third-Class passengers.

A Third-Class passenger cabin on the RMS Olympic, circa 1911 or 1912.


There is comparatively little information regarding the circumstances of Third Class on the night of the sinking. Much of what is known is ascribed to the testimony of John Hart, one of the eight surviving Third-Class Stewards.

Third-Class evacuation during the sinking was inevitable bedlam. With multiple languages and a single ship translator, confusion was rampant. But it wasn’t just that. Many passengers, even in Third Class, were adamant that it was safer to stay on the ship. John Hart testified that many of the 59 people in his charge “refused to put [lifebelts] on… they said they saw no occasion for putting them on; they did not believe the ship was hurt in any way.” 

John Hart continued.

Some of them went to the boat deck, and found it rather cold, and saw the boats being lowered away, and thought themselves more secure on the ship, and consequently returned to their cabin… I heard two or three say they preferred to remain on the ship than be tossed about on the water like a cockle shell.

During the British Board of Trade Inquiry cited above, John Hart testified to witnessing Sidney working with his superior mid-sinking. (Please do note that Sidney's surname is transcribed phonetically as "Sedginary").

I waited about there with my own people trying to show them that the vessel was not hurt to any extent to my own knowledge, and waited for the chief third class steward, or some other Officer, or somebody in authority to come down and give further orders. Mr. Kieran [id est, the Chief Steward] came back. He had been to sections S, and Q, and R to see that those people also were provided with lifebelts… he had also his assistant with him, one by name, Sedginary. [Sidney Sedunary.]

Immediately thereafter, when asked again, Hart repeated that Sidney had been assisting James Kiernan in distributing lifebelts.

What about the assistant; you say his assistant was with him?

- Yes.

John Hart estimated that he received his initial orders to get lifeboats on his passengers after “three parts of hour” after the iceberg strike at 11:40pm, so he believed it was about 12:30pm. He came across Sidney and Chief Steward James Kieran sometime after that, after they had been to Section S, Q, and R, which were toward the stern and split between three decks: S on G Deck, R on F Deck, Q on E Deck.

G Deck had started to flood at 11:55pm. The forward section F Deck saw water by 12:05am; forward E Deck, around 12:10am, along with water traveling down Scotland Road—the well-known but rarely-named ship-long hallway.

The Chief Steward had to instruct all the other Third-Class stewards throughout the ship. While those stewards receiving instruction were ferrying people in groups up to boat deck—John Hart testified to having taken two or three trips up—the Chief Steward and his assistant were completely embroiled in managing directions on G, F, and E Decks.

The Third-Class General Room, as depicted in a promotional illustration by the White Star Line to advertise Third-Class accommodations in the Olympic class.


Inevitably, since Sidney was in the company of James Kieran or otherwise transmitting his orders to lower Stewards, he presumably moved between the forward (bow) and aft (stern) sections on E, F, and G Decks—which were already flooding to variable degrees.

Segregated in the depths of the ship and at points likely wading through frigid seawater as he acted as Kieran’s right-hand man, Sidney had to have known how frail his chances of survival truly were.

But even as he watched others—colleagues and passengers—move to the upper decks and back again, Sidney was dedicated in his duties as the ship foundered. 

As far as we can deduce from the evidence, he spent the majority of the sinking down below, unlocking cupboards and distributing lifebelts instead of seeking a lifeboat.

A Third-Class Stairwell on C-Deck on the RMS Olympic, circa 1911. Courtesy of Bedford Lemere & Co.


Sidney Sedunary likely did get up to boat deck. Only once it was too late.

And after the exhaustion and adrenaline of the evacuation, he could not survive the cold.

His corpse was the 178th recovered by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett, and was noted thusly.


CLOTHING - Blue serge suit; black boots and socks; uniform coat and waistcoat, with buttons.

TATTOO ON RIGHT ARM - Anchor and rose.

EFFECTS - Gold ring; knife; nickel watch; pawn ticket; pipe; ship's keys; 20s.; $1.40; 8 francs 50.


Sidney Sedunary was buried at sea.

White Star sent Madge a death notice that was cursory at best.


With that, they returned his effects to his 24-year-old widow: some change, Sidney’s broken pocket watch, which had frozen shortly after he entered the water and before Titanic went under—and a key with a metal tag that read “Locker 14, F"D"k.”

So this key that had been taken from Sidney’s body and remitted to Madge Sedunary was more than a simple key: it was a tribute to his unsung and steadfast courage on the last night of his life.

Madge gave birth to Sidney’s son and only child at the end of 1912. He was named after his late father. And in 1921, 9 years after Sidney’s death, Madge remarried—to his younger brother Arthur. They  had a son 5 years later, in 1926.

Sid Sedunary, Jr., died in 2010, at the age of 97. He was the last known surviving Titanic orphan.

6 years following Sidney Jr.’s death, the key that had been removed from his father’s body was sold at auction for £85,000.

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“My God, If I Could Only Forget”: Eugene Daly

"My God, If I Could Only Forget": Eugene Daly

Titanic had two stopovers after leaving Southampton: the first in Cherbourg, France, on April 10, and the last in Queenstown, Ireland, on April 11. 

And as Titanic turned away from Ireland toward the open sea,  Eugene Daly played “Erin’s Lament” on his uilleann pipes.

Eugene was from Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, and was 29 years old when he boarded Titanic.

Per census records circa 1911, Eugene was living with his widowed mother and two siblings. Eugene, as the eldest son, was the unmarried head of household, and was noted as a wool “heaver”. In addition, he supplemented his income by taking jobs as a mechanic.

And of course, Eugene also belonged to the Clan Ulseach War Pipers’ Band and the Irish National Foresters Band, as well as hid local chapter of the Gaelic League.

But Eugene decided to break free and try out a new life for himself in the United States. So he saved for a few years and purchased steerage passage on Titanic. He boarded at Queenstown, in the company of his cousin Maggie and their friend, Bertha. Like all steerage accommodation, he had a shared cabin. Per Eugene’s accounts, he was bunked with two other lads in C23.

The days in steerage seem to have been pleasant and minimally structured. Lawrence Beesley, a survivor from Second Class, shared his observations. And he seems to have spotted Eugene among the jollity, although he mistook his nationality.

Looking down astern from the boat deck or from the B deck to the steerage quarter, I often noticed how the Third-Class passengers were enjoying every minute of the time; a most uproarious skipping game of the mixed-double type was the great favorite, while ‘in and out and roundabout’ went a Scotchman with his bagpipes playing...

Lawrence Beesley, as written in "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic." © First Mariner Books, 2000.

It appears that Eugene played often for his fellows. Even on the night of the sinking, he played his pipes at infamous dance/party held in Third Class.

When Titanic struck the iceberg later that night, Eugene was nearly thrown out of his bed. He dressed in his trousers and shoes and went out to the gangway, but was assured by a steward that nothing serious had occurred and that he should just go back to bed.

Eugene did just that, if only for a little while. But commotion made him go back up on deck, where he saw a lot of people panicked and running around. So he rushed down to steerage to retrieve Maggie and Bertha.

They came out with me, but a sailor told us there was no danger. He said the ship would float for hours. He also said to go back, and that if there was any danger he would call us.

The group went to the stern to procure lifejackets, and Eugene reported that he had a “scuffle” with a man for one, which ended up being given to Maggie.

There was a great deal of noise at this time and water was coming in. We knelt down and prayed in the gangway. Then the sailor said there was danger. We went to the deck but there were no boats going off. Then we went to the second cabin deck. A boat was being lowered there. It was being filled with women. Maggie and Bertha got in, and I got in. The officer called me to go back, but I got in. Life was sweet to me and I wanted to save myself. They told me to get out, but I didn’t stir. Then they got hold of me and pulled me out.

As cited in "On Board RMS Titanic," by George Behe. © The History Press, 2012.

After he saw Maggie and Bertha safely off, Eugene went to find another boat that would let him on. And that is when he bore partial witness to one of the Great Mysteries of Titanic: an officer shooting two male passengers, before committing suicide.

In May of 1912, Eugene reported to the Daily Sketch that he saw an officer shoot two passengers who were fighting to break through the crowd to board a lifeboat.

There was a terrible crowd standing about. The officer in charge pointed a revolver and waved his hand and said that if any man tried to get in he would shoot him on the spot… Two men tried to break through and he shot them both. I saw him shoot them. I saw them lying thereafter they were shot. One seemed to be dead. The other was trying to pull himself up at the side of the deck, but he could not… Afterward, there was another shot and I saw the officer himself lying on the deck. They told me he shot himself, but I did not see him.

As cited in "On Board RMS Titanic," by George Behe. © The History Press, 2012.

Unable to find a ready lifeboat and with water rushing the deck, Eugene clamored to a “sort of canvas craft,” which may have been Collapsible lifeboat A or B. He worked frantically with a group of other men to free it from “a wire stay which ran up to the mast.”

But when the canvas lifeboat was washed off the deck, there was no choice for Eugene Daly but to dive into the ocean. And so he did.

Eugene swam for the same lifeboat that he believed he had been attempting to cut loose. The boat he found was Collapsible B, which had floated away upside down as Titanic submerged. Eugene climbed on top of it; he estimated that over a dozen men followed. Together, they watched Titanic groan and vanish.

Eugene Daly survived the night balancing on the back of Collapsible B, alongside many other men, including Second Officer Charles Lightoller, 17-year-old Jack Thayer, Colonel Archibald Gracie, and Junior Marconi Officer Harold Bride. He often credited his survival to the heavy coat he wore, and he held onto his “lucky coat” for the rest of his life.

Eugene's daughter, Marion Joyce, wrote the following about her dad's lucky coat.

On that fateful night aboard the RMS Titanic, he put on his shoes and his trousers and, a heavy block overcoat with an Astrakhan fur collar. He still had it on when picked up by the Carpathia - that coat and his watch and rosary were treasured relics of his survival.

Many a cold night in my childhood in Ireland, that coat would be thrown over us in bed to keep us warm. We called it "the Titanic." It had a greenish tinge to it, maybe from the sea water, but it still had heaviness and warmth in it.

When Eugene was brought on board Carpathia, he blacked out and was carried to the cabin of a passenger named Dr. Frank Blackmarr, who worked to revive Eugene with hot drinks and unspecified “stimulants.” And then Dr. Blackmarr transcribed Eugene’s account, word for word.

[NOTED BY DR. BLACKMARR: Here this man fell back on his pillow crying and sobbing and moaning, saying: ‘My God if I could only forget!’ After a bit, he proceeded.]

My God, if I could only forget those women’s cries. I reached a collapsible boat that was fastened to the deck by two rings. It could not be moved. During that brief time that I worked on cutting one of those ropes, the collapsible was crowded with people hanging upon the edges. The Titanic gave a lurch downwards and we were in the water up to our hips.

She rose again slightly, and I succeeded in cutting the second rope which held her stern. Another lurch threw this boat and myself off and away from the ship into the water. I fell upon one of the oars and fell into a mass of people. Everything I touched seemed to be women’s hair. Children crying, women screaming, and their hair in their face. My God, if I could only forget those hands and faces that I touched!

As I looked over my shoulder, as I was still hanging [on] to this oar, I could see the enormous funnels of the Titanic being submerged in the water. These poor people that covered the water were sucked down in those funnels, each of which was twenty-five feet in diameter, like flies.

Eugene was hospitalized along with other survivors at St. Vincent’s in New York, and from there, he sent the following letter to his mother.

Dear Mother, got here safe. Had a narrow escape but please God, I am all right, also Maggie. I think the disaster caused you to fret, but things could have been worse than what they were.

As cited in "On Board RMS Titanic," by George Behe. © The History Press, 2012.

Soon thereafter, he filed a claim with White Star for the loss of his beloved pipes, and was compensated $50. He was very pleased with the sum, thinking it more than that pipes had been worth.

Eugene was celebrated as a hero, especially back home in Ireland. "The Westmeath Independent" commented that "the courage credited to Eugene Daly in the foregoing will not surprise his fellow townsmen, who knew him as a man of principle and pluck. In the present deplorable disaster, he appears to have upheld the traditions of the Gael."

He went on to become a machinist for the Otis Elevator Company, and that led him to meet his future wife: the sister of his coworker Jimmy, an English woman named Lillian who owned silk mills in the neighboring state of Connecticut. They married in 1917, and the couple appears to have begun life in New York but eventually moved back to Ireland. Quite by accident and due to his trauma, according to Eugene's daughter.

In 1921, they got a cable from home to say that Eugene's mother was dying. So my Mom booked passage right away and they sailed for home.

...As soon as the ship was a few hours out Eugene lost all sense of security. He was in an extreme state of panic. He couldn't eat or sleep. He walked the decks the whole voyage, and my Mom paid a steward to look out for him.

Once they arrived in Ireland, Eugene refused to sail again. He did not return to the United States until he was widowed in 1961--and only then because flight was a travel option.

In his later years, Eugene was noted as a devout parishioner and quite musical, although he was also described as “very loud.” But people seem to have forgiven him this, as he was probably somewhat deafened from years of working in the mills.

Eugene Daly died on Halloween, 1965, in New York City. He was 82 years old.

In recent years, a curious artifact was salvaged from the wreck site: an instrument with undeniable similarities to uilleann pipes.


Behe, George. "On Board RMS Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage." The History Press, 2012.

Beesley, Lawrence. "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic: By One of the Survivors." First Mariner Books edition, 2000. Originally published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912.


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“Wishing You All Good Things Until We Meet”: Daniel Coxon

"Wishing You All Good Things Until We Meet": Daniel Coxon

In Merrill, Wisconsin, there once lived an Englishman, and they called him Popcorn Dan.

Daniel Coxon was beloved. He was genial and bright and the precise definition of “a character.”

In a small, dirt-road town such as Merrill, Dan was a delightful sight to behold. Because—as you may have deduced from his nickname—Dan Coxon was a popcorn vendor.

Every day, he walked the dusty streets of Merrill, with his pretty red-and-yellow popcorn cart, pulled along by his white horse. It was a noticeable spectacle, for sure. Add to that the steam ever whistling from the boiler and Dan’s renowned conviviality, and he never seemed to want for patrons.

Popcorn Dan most often set up shop on the corner of Poplar Street and East Main Street. Along with popcorn, he also sold freshly roasted peanuts.

But Dan did more than popcorn.

He took a lot of odd jobs around town, primarily manual labor and painting. He offered hauling services thanks to his horse and wagon. He even worked for a time as the live-in caretaker of a haunted house: a Queen Anne mansion, perched eerily on the banks of the Wisconsin River.

One might think that odd jobs and a popcorn cart wouldn’t pay out much in dividends. But one would be wrong.

On his varied income, Dan was the proud owner of a rare and pricey phonograph. His horse and popcorn cart, of course. And he was even able to purchase TWO houses. One, he paid $400.00 for; the other, $1,000.00. And being a savvy gentleman, he resided in the former, while leasing out the grander.

His tenant was Harry Krom, who had emigrated from Russia and opened the fanciest men’s dress shop in Merrill, called Krom Clothing & Co.

And industrious individuals are always impressive, sure. But Dan Coxon was particularly so. And this was because he worked all his many labor-intensive jobs with a physical handicap.  Specifically, Dan’s left arm was shriveled from birth.

Dan Coxon had emigrated from London to Canada sometime in the 1870s, and then Wisconsin sometime in the 1880s. He wasn’t married and was in no rush to do so; his brother said he “made a laugh out of it.”

By 1911, Dan was in his early 50s. He was well-established in Merrill and successful—and he wanted to open the first movie theater in northern Wisconsin.

And so, Popcorn Dan traveled back to the UK to learn more about the movie-theater business, and to visit with his family for the holidays.

But before he did, he had to get snazzy.

Just a few days before Thanksgiving, Dan went to Krom Clothing and dropped $15 on a new suit—as well as $115 on a proper fur coat. Today, that coat would cost approximately $3,000.00.

Dan arrived in London on December 23, stayed through Christmas, and then through the winter months into the springtime with his sights on Easter. He wrote the following to his friend on April 1, 1912.

I am now writing to let you know that I am coming back. I have already booked my passage back by the “Titanic,” which will leave Southampton on the Wednesday after Easter… I have had a pretty good time on the whole but am getting rather tired now of holiday making and shall be very glad to get back again and settle down once more.

As cited in "The Last Night on the Titanic," by Veronica Hinke, 2019.

Dan also ribbed his friend for some lazy and imprecise addressing.

I was very delighted to receive your letter. It was quite a wonder though that I did get it as the envelope was only addressed “Mr. Daniel Coxon London, England” which of course is not sufficient for a place like London. Anyway, I was glad to get it (thanks to the post office people here).

As cited in "The Last Night on the Titanic," by Veronica Hinke, 2019.

Popcorn Dan delayed his departure past Easter in order to sail on Titanic. He could easily have afforded a Second-Class ticket, but elected instead to only purchase steerage accommodation.

Dan left his brother Alfred’s house to reach Waterloo station at 7am and headed out from there to Southampton, which was over an hour away. Alfred accompanied them, as well as their nephew John, who was the son of their sister Elizabeth.

According to Alfred Coxon, Dan had a particularly difficult time trying to board Titanic because of his withered arm. The overseeing officers, Alfred said, subjected Dan to an inordinate amount of scrutiny and were extraordinarily suspicious of him. Dan even had to produce paperwork to prove that he was, in fact, a naturalized US citizen.

Once he was finally permitted to board, Dan, Alfred, and John spent about an hour and fifteen minutes exploring the ship. Once Alfred and John disembarked, they stayed on the dock and “waved [their] hands to him as far as [they] could see him.”

Like so many steerage passengers, we know comparatively little to absolutely nothing about Dan's time on board Titanic.

On the morning of April 15—the very same morning of Titanic's sinking—a letter written by Dan was delivered to Hans van Kaltenborn, a friend and newspaper editor in Brooklyn, NY.

If you happen to have the time I should, of course, be only too pleased if you could manage to come and meet me on the arrival of the boat. I have had a very good time, but now feel that I should be glad to get back and return to work, for I am getting a little tired of fooling around. I should think that by the time I get back the weather will be settling for the better, and the rougher kind will, I hope, be all over. It is growing pleasant over here now, and spring here, as you may know, is very delightful. Wishing you all good things until we meet.

Popcorn Dan died in the sinking. His body was never found.

His wallet, however, has been recovered from the wreck. It has been determined that the wallet was Dan's because the $10 and $15 bills within bore stamps from Merrill, Wisconsin.


Hinke, Veronica. "The Last Night on the Titanic: Unsinkable Drinking, Dining, & Style." Regnery History, 2019.

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“That Together With Sorrow and Worries”: Anna & Adolf Dyker

“That Together With Sorrow and Worries”: Anna & Adolf Dyker

Adolf Fredrick Dyker, who went by “Fred,” was born on a ship.

Fred’s parents were making a transatlantic journey from Sweden to New Haven, Connecticut, where public records indicated his father had lived since about 1870.

But the elder Mr. Dyker, who was naturalized in 1879, still owned a café in Stolkholm, where he traveled often. So Fred, despite spending at least some of his childhood in the United States, received his education in Sweden.

After a stint in a New York bank, Fred found work in his kinda-sorta hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, as a tram conductor on the Woodmont line during the summer of 1911.

It was recorded by the American Red Cross that Fred’s pleasant and courteous approach made him “an unusually valuable employee” who would have been fast-tracked for promotion. He earned $14 a week, which was probably a reasonably handsome paycheck for 1911.

Union Station in New Haven, Connecticut, circa 1914, where Fred Dyker would have reported to work as a tram conductor.


I’ve also read that Fred kept a collection of the tram stubs he’d taken on his shifts, but I cannot find a primary source for this. It’s pretty adorable, though, so let’s assume it’s true.

In 1908, Fred married Anna Elisabeth Judith Andersson, a Massachusetts-born American who was also of Swedish descent.

Anna went by “Liza,” and was a musician and singer. She had attended Yale School of Music and sometimes participated in church choir, and was also giving music lessons to get by. Per census records, they lived in West Haven, Connecticut, with Liza’s parents.

In 1911, Liza and Fred received word that Fred’s father was dying in Sweden; they re-mortgaged their home to enable themselves to go abroad to arrange and settle his estate.

Titanic was their ride home. They boarded as Third-Class passengers at Southampton on April 10, 1912.

The steerage class is often considered minimal at best—particularly in contrast to the nearly criminal opulence of First Class—but in truth, it was some of the best quarters, dining, and overall treatment than some of its passengers would experience elsewhere or ever again.

The Third-Class Dining Saloon on RMS Olympic, Titanic's elder sister, circa 1991. Courtesy of Bedford Lemere & Co.


On the night of the collision, Liza and Fred were wakeful. They were so awake, in fact, that Liza reported that she was still in her dayclothes, sans hat.

The couple soon found themselves at Lifeboat 16, which was far aft and under the supervision of Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

By all reports, Fred did not attempt to board the lifeboat with his wife, but rather stepped aside for other women and children. Fred gave Liza a kiss, as well as his hand to help her climb the gunwale, and said, “I’ll see you later.”

His tone has been reported to be flippant and cheery, and this is not unlike many husbands and fathers who put their loved ones into lifeboats alone. As the lifeboat pulled away from Titanic's side, Fred waved at Liza from the boat deck.

And as was true for so many broken couples and divided families, Liza and Fred would never see each other again. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported Liza’s statement in its April 19, 1912, issue.

I ran to the deck where I met Adolph. He had with him a satchel which contained two gold watches, two diamond rings, a sapphire necklace and 200 crowns. He couldn’t be saved in the boat I was in and he grabbed a preserver and said he would jump and try to save himself. That was the last I saw of him.

To add cruel insult to debilitating injury, Liza said the satchel that Fred had given to her was stolen as she was boarding Carpathia.

On board the rescue ship, Liza was suffering from extreme exposure and was under the care of the doctors on board. She managed to send only a brief telegram to New Haven that said, “Liza saved, Fred lost.”

At only 22 years old, she was already widowed.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on April 19, 1912, that Liza was “hysterical” when she disembarked from the Carpathia.

R.M.S. Carpathia docked in New York City after rescuing Titanic survivors, April 1912. From the George G. Bain Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress


When she finally got home, Liza was weary, bereaved, and bedridden for “many weeks.” According to her American Red Cross file, she was caused to lose her singing voice entirely from the illness and trauma that she’d suffered, and was fearful that she’d never regain it.

I lost my husband and everything I owned, I was wounded when I was brought from Titanic, that together with sorrow and worries has completely broke me down. My health have not recovered, I have tried to done some work to earn my living... 

Liza sued the White Star Line for the loss of her husband, as well as her luggage.

It would seem that Liza’s voice eventually recovered, as she reportedly returned to music lessons. She remarried some years later, and died in New Jersey in 1971.

Fred Dyker’s corpse, if found, was never identified. As was the case for the remains of virtually all Third-Class passengers, if it had been recovered, it would have been buried at sea.

As Fred Dyker was born on a ship, so he died on the same.

He was 23 years old.

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“Our Babe”: The Mystery of Titanic’s ‘Unknown Child’

"Our Babe": The Mystery of Titanic's 'Unknown Child'

Clifford Crease was 24 years old when he and his crewmates embarked on the grimmest journey of their lives: collecting the dead from Titanic.

The crew of the Mackay-Bennett recovers a Titanic victim.


The Mackay-Bennett arrived to the site on the night of April 19, and saw that there were far more bodies than anyone could have anticipated.

At 6:00 a.m. on April 20, their work began.

All crew on the Mackay-Bennett were required to keep a log or diary of their gruesome task in the wake of Titanic. Only Clifford's, which has been donated, and one other are known to remain in existence.

One by one, small skiff boats were dispatched from the Mackay-Bennett, where they began manually pulling corpses from the water, to describe their faces and rifle through their pockets.

It had already been almost a week that they'd been bobbing in the water, exposed to the elements and ships passing through the massive debris field. Most of the bodies were mangled from the sinking--lacerated, bruised, many with broken bones.

(Please take a moment to reflect on how traumatic this reaping truly was. The men on board the Mackay-Bennett never get the credit they deserve.)

After the third body, a female third-class passenger, had been pulled aboard and catalogued, Clifford Crease's work turned from solemn to sorrowful.

Over the side of the boat, he scooped up a fourth body. Tiny. Blond, ocean-pale, and eerily still. Unlike the corpses all around them, this body was pristine--more doll than person, we might imagine. Clifford cradled the dead baby boy in what seemed like interminable silence.

After searching for identification and finding none, they reverently noted the baby as follows.

CLOTHING - Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; petticoat; flannel garment; pink woolen singlet - brown shoes and stockings.

Clifford and his mates were in shock.

Back on board the Mackay-Bennett, the decision had been made to bury steerage passengers at sea, owing to a lack of space and shortage of embalming fluid. So only the First and Second Classes were embalmed or put on ice and returned to Halifax.

An exception was made for the nameless baby that was "probably third class." No one could bring themselves to commit him to the sea, all alone forever.

After recovering a total of 306 bodies from the site, the Mackay-Bennett returned to Halifax. Bodies were distributed to funeral homes, morgues, and grieving families. Photos were taken. Days passed.

But no one claimed the baby.

Hearses queued at Halifax Wharf, waiting to transport the corpses of Titanic victims to local funeral parlors. Courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management (NSARM).


The sailors who had been on board the Mackay-Bennett that nightmarish day then took matters into their own hands and adopted the child in death. Spearheaded by Clifford Crease, they arranged a funeral and pooled their wages for a small coffin and headstone.

In the coffin, they placed a brass plate engraved with two words: "Our babe."

Clifford acted as one of the baby's pallbearers.

The Unknown Child now rested in the Halifax's Fairview Cemetery. Suspecting that his identity might be that of 2-year-old Gosta Palsson, youngest son of Third-Class passenger Alma Palsson, he was interred in close proximity to her grave.

Years went by, and Clifford could never bring himself to forget The Unknown Child. Every year on the anniversary of the sinking, he laid a wreath on the grave.

And when Clifford Crease died in 1961, he was interred mere meters away from the child who had haunted him all of his life.

According to his family, Clifford didn't speak about his grim time on the Mackay-Bennett until the end of his life, prompted by a program he was watching on television about Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember." According to Clifford's granddaughter, "He never fully recovered... He told our father it was the worst thing that ever happened to him."

In 2001, two Canadian scientists named Ryan Parr and Alan Ruffman collaborated in order to find the identity of Titanic's Unknown Child.

They exhumed the remains, but there was nothing left other than a fragment of an arm bone, and three little teeth. Mercifully, the plate laid in the coffin by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett had protected these scarce remains. And miraculously, that was enough.

The remains were not a match to the Palsson family, who had originally given permission for the remains to be disinterred. They expanded the scope of their candidates from among 5 boys under the age of 3 who had died on Titanic.

In addition to Gosta Palsson, there were:

Gilbert Danbom 5 months old, from Sweden

Alfred Peacock 7 months old, from England

Eino Panula 13 months old, from Finland

Sidney Goodwin 19 months old, from England

Eugene Rice 2 years old, from Ireland

With the long-term assistance of geneaologists and historians, as well as willing descendants, Ruffman and Parr tracked down genetic samples from all 5 families of the little boys.

From the candidates remaining after Gosta Palsson was ruled out, 3 were evident non-matches; this left only Sidney Goodwin and Eino Panula as the possible Unknown Child, due to a shared mutation in their mitochondrial DNA.

Looking at the teeth that had been recovered from the grave, the scientists determined that they'd belonged to a child in the 9-15 month range. By process of elimination, Ruffman and Parr published their results: The Unknown Child was 13-month-old Eino, whose family was traveling from Finland.

It was accepted by the majority that the Unknown Child finally had a name.

But some, including Parr and Ruffman, suspected it was the incorrect one.

All because of a pair of shoes.

In 2007, Dr. Parr admitted that they may have made a mistake.

Back in 2002, a man named Earle Northover had donated a pair of brown-leather baby shoes to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. They had belonged, he said, to the Unknown Child.

According to Earle, the wee shoes had been removed from the baby, and saved from destruction by his grandfather Clarence Northover, a sargeant for the Halifax Police Department. Earle wrote the following in his letter to the Museum.

Clothing was burned to stop souvenir hunters but he was too emotional when he saw the little pair of brown, leather shoes about fourteen centimeters long, and didn’t have the heart to burn them. When no relatives came to claim the shoes, he placed them in his desk drawer at the police station and there they remained for the next six years, until he retired in 1918.

The shoes, Dr. Parr thought, were too big for a 13-month-old to wear. So they retested the DNA samples with the U.S. Armed Forces Identification Laboratory, where the team isolated a single, but significant and rare, genetic distinction.

With around a 98% certainty, Parr's team amended their previous results.

Thanks to the little shoes hidden in Sargeant Northover's desk drawer, the Uknown Child was identified as Sidney Goodwin.

Sidney Goodwin, Titanic's Unknown Child.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (taken in 1911)

At 19 months old, Sidney was the youngest of six children. His entire family was traveling from England to America where their father, Frederick, was set to have a new job at the new power station in Niagara Falls.

The Goodwins had planned to set to sail on the S.S. New York, but were transferred to Titanic as a result of the coal miners' strike.

All eight members of the Goodwin family--both parents, and all of their children--died when Titanic sank.

Aside from Sidney, who would spend almost a century unidentified, no member of the Goodwin family was recovered.

Sidney Goodwin's parents and five older siblings circa 1910. The entire family died in the sinking.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (published in UK periodical(s) in 1912)

The Goodwin descendants held a memorial service at the grave of The Unknown Child on August 6, 2008. One by one, they read the name of each child lost on Titanic out loud, ringing a bell for each.

The family elected to leave the headstone installed by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.

As a Goodwin cousin said in an interview, "The tombstone of the unknown child represents all of the children who perished on the Titanic, and we left it that way."

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