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“All Quite Calm and Collected”: Frederick Dent Ray

Frederick Dent Ray was 32 years old when he signed onto Titanic’s crew on April 4, 1912.

He had set out for sea at just 17 years old, and appears to have travailed ports around the globe.

When the Second Boer War came, he enlisted in the Prince of Wales’s Light Horse Infantry. A bout of enteric fever—more commonly known as typhoid—eventually got Frederick booted from service, and he was returned back to England.

But Frederick did not settle in at home quite yet.

He soon took himself to South Africa, and he joined the Cape Mounted Police. He there engaged in Lord Methuen’s final wartime campaign.

Frederick returned again to England after that, entirely unscathed.

By 1908, he was a married man. He and his wife Annie initially settled in Southampton, but census records find them in Reading by 1912.

Frederick put himself back out to sea, undertaking employment with the White Star Line as a First-class saloon steward. Per his own description, Frederick’s duties were “to wait at the tables and set the saloon generally. That is all.”

Most notably, Frederick served on the R.M.S. Olympic for an extended period. He was even on board in September of 1911, when the Olympic collided with the H.M.S. Hawke.

On board Titanic, Frederick was assigned the attendance of particular First-class passengers for the duration of the trip.

His passengers included celebrated artist Frank Davis Millet, Mr. Clarence Moore, the Clarks, and Major Archibald Butt, a close and coveted aide to American President Howard Taft.

On the evening of April 14th, Frederick was waiting starboard-side tables in the dining room. 

That particular night, he waited upon Mr. Millet and Mr. Moore as they dined together—but not Major Butt, as he had been extended an invitation to the Wideners’s dinnner-time gala for Captain Smith. This was taking place on the opposite side of the very large saloon. 

Frederick’s shift was to end at 9:00 p.m.

After work, Frederick retired to his cabin at about 10:30 p.m.

Frederick’s cabin was located aft on E-Deck, and was designated as Room 3. He shared this “saloon waiters’ quarters” with 27 other stewards.

Frederick was asleep when Titanic collided with the iceberg, and the impact aroused him from sleep. He later described it as “a shock. Similar to a train being pulled up in the station.”

He thought only that something had gone awry with the engines and laud awake for a few minutes. 

Another steward, who was Frederick’s superior, then instructed him to get out of bed right away, because the ship had struck an iceberg. It was serious, he said, and they needed to get to their stationed lifeboats.

Frederick thought he was kidding. And so he laid in bed a bit longer before falling back to sleep.

When Frederick next awoke, a colleague was standing in the doorway, shouting, “All hands to the boats!” 

And so Frederick finally got up, dressed and donned a life vest, and made his way to the boat deck. 

On C Deck, he met with a colleague, Second Steward George Dodd, who instructed Frederick to go find another lifebelt. Frederick searched through five staterooms before locating the item and returning it to George. 

Then Frederick continued up to the boat deck and his assigned boat, Lifeboat No. 9. This was located on the starboard side, which was overseen by First Officer William Murdoch.

Once Frederick arrived, he saw that things were “dragging” and felt very cold.

Senator SMITH.
When you got to lifeboat No. 9 and saw those 8 or 10 men standing around it and one or two passengers and no women, what took place?

Mr. RAY.
I went to the rail and looked over and saw the first boat leaving the ship on the starboard side. By that time I was feeling rather cold, so I went down below again, to my bedroom, the same way that I came up.

And so Frederick went back down to the stewards’ quarters on E-Deck to grab an overcoat. 

While there with his open suitcase, Frederick took a moment to grab some handkerchiefs, which he said he “had a good supply of” thanks to his wife. He also had the presence of mind to grab toiletries like his toothbrush and shaving gear. 

“I thought wherever I was next...” he later recalled, “I should require them.”

Frederick began making his way back up to the boat deck.

En route, he saw the alleyway called Scotland Road was deserted, and E-Deck was flooding. 

Frederick then ran into First-class passenger Martin Rothschild on the stairwell, whom Frederick knew from his prior stint on Olympic. The two men spoke briefly about the accident.

"I spoke to him and asked him where his wife was. He said she had gone off in a boat. I said, 'This is rather serious.' He said, 'I don't think there's any occasion for it.'" So we walked leisurely up the stairs until I got to A deck and went through the door."

Martin Rothschild would not survive.

That conversation was not all that Frederick Dent Ray attested to, regarding his second trek to the boat deck.

On the way up, I saw the purser with five of the staff of the pursor's office with the safes open, and they had mailbags there. They were putting the jewels and jewel boxes into the mailbags… and talking, chatting one to the other. I continued… on my way up to the boat deck, and on the way up, I heard a fiddle. I wondered whoever was playing a fiddle at that time? ... and [it] transpired afterwards that it was a band. I thought it might be a passenger playing a fiddle…

they weren't playing any tune… they were tuning on the fiddle.

Frederick thereafter reported to Lifeboat 9 and assisted passengers in boarding, then moved to Lifeboat 11 to do the same. Some were reticent; some were recalcitrant.

Frederick then proceeded down to the next lifeboat—No. 13–which he stated was about half-full with women and children. The sailors then instructed men to board, in order to help in rowing the boat. 

It was then he spotted First-Class passenger Washington Dodge, with whom Frederick had already become acquainted.

"I met him on the Olympic in on the previous occasion and I persuaded him to come on the... come back on the Titanic. And of course, when we sailed from Southampton, I recognised him, and we had a chinwag and talked to one another, and he had a wife and a little boy about four years old, about [?] of that. And... I said, Where's your little... where's your wife and little boy? He said, well, he said, they've gone in another boat. And I said, well, I said come on. I said you get in this boat. We want somebody to row."

Frederick then followed Mr. Dodge into Lifeboat 13.

There, as Frederick recalled, a woman was in the midst of a panic attack. And Frederick in turn seems to have lost his patience.

"She was crying all the time and saying, 'Don't put me in the boat; I don't want to go in the boat; I have never been in an open boat in my life. Don't let me stay in.' I said, 'You have got to go, and you may as well keep quiet.'"

One of the sailors then dropped a bundled baby down into Frederick’s arms, with its mother climbing down into the lifeboat shortly thereafter.

Lifeboat 13 had a harrowing descent. It was “jumpy” and uneven according to Frederick, but it also nearly killed its passengers.

Nearing the water, Frederick and others foresaw danger.

…we got nearly to the water, when two or three of us noticed a very large discharge of water coming from the ship's side, which I thought was the pumps working. The hole was about 2 feet wide and about a foot deep, a solid mass of water coming out from the hole. I realized that if the boat was lowered down straight away the boat would be swamped and we should all be thrown into the water. We shouted for the boat to be stopped from being lowered, and they responded promptly and stopped lowering the boat.

The men used the lifeboat’s oars to push away from the boat, but their escape was hardly over.

Because there were no sailors in the boat, none of the occupants seemed to know how to cut the lifeboat loose from the ropes. 

And the discharging water had pushed Lifeboat 13 aft.

Directly under Lifeboat 15, which was descending with rapidity.

People screamed for knives to cut the falls, and the men—most notably Lead Stoker Fred Barrett—frantically severed the ropes. 

Lifeboat 15 came within two feet of crushing to death the 60-plus people in Lifeboat 13.

Once away from the ship—a decision that Frederick Dent Ray claimed he had objected to—Fred Barrett was elected in charge of the tiller.

And so Frederick Dent Ray, along with other able-bodied men, rowed throughout the night.

We pushed out from the side of the ship. Nobody seemed to take command of the boat, so we elected a fireman to take charge. He ordered us to put out the oars and pull straight away from the ship. We pulled all night with short intervals for rest. I inquired if the ladies were all warm, and they said they were quite warm and they had a blanket to spare. There seemed to be very little excitement in the boat. They were all quite calm and collected.

Later, in a letter to Titanic historian Walter Lord, Frederick explained how the handkerchiefs he had pocketed from his suitcase, came in handy to help the men on board stay warm.

"...of course you know that after going up to my lifeboat, I went back for my overcoat & looking in my (bunk?) I saw 6 handkerchiefs which were to become very useful as the people in the boat were complaining of the cold to their heads, so I told them to tie a knot in each corner & they had a very good improvised cap, Mrs W.Dodge had one, & in the morning, six heads were crowned."

Frederick also recalled in an earlier letter to Mr. Lord that he had accidentally absconded from Titanic with two salt spoons in his pocket. A mistake, he swore it was, and not petty larceny.

My wife has just reminded me that I have not told you how I came to have 2 salt spoons in my pocket on that night. She is afraid you might think that I was going to pinch them, how it happened was in cleaning the table it meant going the length of the saloon to put them in the side board drawer...

Frederick Dent Ray was called to testify on Day 9 of the American Senate Inquiry. He was not summoned to appear at its British counterpart.

Frederick Dent Ray would turn out to be one of the Titanic’s longest-lived survivors overall, as well as the longest-lived surviving crewmember.

He died in 1977, aged 97.

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“God Help Me, I Told a Lie”: Kate Gilnagh

"God Help Me, I Told a Lie": Kate Gilnagh

A week before Kate Gilnagh stepped aboard the R.M.S. Titanic, a fortune teller had called at her family's home in County Longford, Ireland.

According to Kate's relatives, her father Hughie was turning the woman away when 17-year-old Kate stepped forward, insisting that she would like her fortune told for a sixpence.

The fortune teller reportedly took Kate's palm and told the girl: she would soon cross water, and although there would be danger, that Kate herself would not come to harm.

Kate Gilnagh boarded Titanic in Queenstown, Ireland, as a steerage passenger on April 11, 1912. She was emigrating to America to join her sister Mollie in Manhattan.

Kate took to cabin 161 on E-Deck.

And by lucky chance, she found herself bunking with three other girls all also from County Longford: they were two other Kates, and a Margaret.

Over the course of the voyage, Kate Gilnagh seems to have become acquainted with more male passengers who came from Longford--this was hardly surprising to anyone, according to reports, due to her memorable beauty.

Kate also is reported to have socialized with Eugene Daly, a 29-year-old piper who is rumored to have caught her eye while on deck.

On the night of the collision, Kate recalled to Walter Lord that there was a lively party happening in the communal portion of steerage. She even detailed that a rat had, at one point, scurried through the mess of dancers, inciting short-lived chaos.

Eventually, Kate and her three bunkmates had retired to their cabin when a man with whom they had become acquainted, rattled the door.

According to Walter Lord, this was none other than Eugene Daly.

Kate Gilnagh and her cabin-mates attempted to make their way to the upper decks. But they were stopped en route.

According to Kate, an unidentified crewman blocked the way of the group in an attempt to keep the steerage passengers in order. And when she herself tried to pass through an unknown barrier, said crewman halted her in her path.

It was then that she reported her friend Jim Farrell shouldered his way through the crowd with ferocity.

"At another barrier a seaman held back Kathy Gilnagh, Kate Mullins and Kate Murphy... Suddenly steerage passanger Jim Farrell, a strapping Irishman from the girls' home county, barged up. 'Great God, man!' he roared. 'Open the gate and let the girls through!' It was a superb demonstration of sheer voice power. To the girls' astonishment the sailor meekly complied."

Excerpt from "A Night to Remember," by Walter Lord, page 57.

With Jim's help--and Kate later referred to him in an interview as their "guardian angel"--the group ascended the decks.

But somewhere along the line, Kate Gilnagh is reported to have gotten spun around and had gotten lost from her friends. She told Walter Lord that she quite suddenly found herself alone on the portside Second-class promenade with no apparent means to reach the boat deck above.

The deck, Kate said, was eerily devoid of people, aside from one man leaning on the railing and staring grimly out toward the blackened sea. Seeing her plight, he offered for her to stand on his shoulders so she might reach and climb up onto the deck above them.

Kate accepted.

Just as she hauled herself onto the boat deck, a nearby lifeboat--often reported as Lifeboat 16--was starting its descent. Kate attempted to board, but she was blocked yet again by a crewman telling her the boat was at capacity.

"But I want to go with my sister!" she spontaneously cried out.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the sinking, Kate Gilnagh told the following to the New York Daily News.

"God help me, I told a lie... at first they didn't want to let anyone else into it because it was overcrowded. I said that I wanted to go with my sister. I had no sister aboard. They let me get in, but I had to stand because we were so crowded."

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

Jim Farrell had also made it to that same lifeboat, but he did not leave the deck.

According to a contemporary report from the Irish Post, on May 25, 1912, the pair had one final, somber interaction.

"[Kate Gilnagh] further states that she was wearing a small shawl on her head which got blown off, when a person named Mr James Farrell on Clonee, gave her his cap.

As they were being lowered, he shouted: 'Good-bye for ever' and that was the last she saw of him."

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

When Kate arrived in New York City, she was listed as a domestic servant, aged 17 years, and destined for a relative's house on East 55th Street.

Her sister Mollie was reportedly "inconsolably arranging a Requiem Mass" for her sister's repose, when Kate walked into the room.

Fifty years later, Kate retold the story to the New York Daily News.

"My relatives thought I was dead and when I got to my sister's house they were preparing for my funeral."

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

Mollie and Kate immediately arranged to take a portrait together.

They did so to reassure their family back in Ireland that Kate had somehow, by the grace of heaven, survived the sinking of the Titanic.


Lord, Walter. "A Night to Remember." St. Martin's Griffin, 2005 edition.

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

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“Steadfast in Peril”: Titanic’s Post Office

"Steadfast in Peril": Titanic's Mail Room

Titanic’s “R.M.S.” designation meant “Royal Mail Steamer.”

The White Star Line, unremarkably, was under contract with the British government to efficiently and expediently transit mail.

And Titanic did in fact carry mail.

3,364 bags of it, to be precise. 

These thousands of sacks, containing multiple millions of pieces of mail, arrived on board at all three port destinations reached.

Most mail bags embarked at Southampton and Cherbourg, with 1,758 at the former port and 1,412 at the latter. A comparatively small amount of 194 followed at Queenstown, before Titanic turned toward the open sea.

Receiving and sorting this mail by journey’s end was the sole responsibility of only five mail clerks. 

Two of these men, James Williamson and John Richard Jago Smith, reported from the ranks of the Royal Mail.

Three American clerks—Oscar Woody, John March, and William Gwinn—joined them from their employ within the United States Postal Service.

Maritime postal clerks were esteemed, to say the least.

These men were elite, with most having been recruited from the Railway Mail Service and Foreign Mail Section after extended service. Such clerks have been noted to sort an average of 60,000 pieces of mail per day with minimal error.

And the five clerks on board Titanic were no exception to this rule of excellence.

Titanic’s postal quarters were split between two deck levels: the Post Office on G Deck, and the Sorting Mail Room on Orlop situated directly beneath it. They were located forward on the starboard side, within the fourth watertight compartment.

Titanic's mail facilities were by all accounts more polished--and far more generous--than any that the postal clerks had previously experienced. 

On most vessels, the mail sorting room was distant from the hold that stored the still-bagged mail, and it was typically constricted and dingy.

Titanic, on the other hand, provided such spacious accommodation. And it boasted an infinitely efficient design: the two rooms were “stacked” one over the other, with a wide companionway connecting them for easy access.

The expansive post office had racks and cubbies for envelopes. Additionally, there was a broad sorting table and even a latticework gate that allowed the clerks to separate registered mail from the rest.

The sleeping quarters originally assigned to Titanic's postal clerks were situated among steerage cabins.

The Postal Museum in London possesses letters from the ship’s inspection on April 9th, the day before her maiden voyage. Therein, the writer(s) take umbrage with conditions of the clerks’ accommodations among Third-Class passengers--and in derogatory terms.

"The [sleeping] Cabins are situated among a block of Third Class cabins, and it is stated the occupants of these latter, who are mostly low class Continentals, keep up noisy conversation sometimes throughout the silent hours and even indulge at times in singing and instrumental music…if their [id est, the mail clerks] work during the day is to be performed efficiently it is essential that they should enjoy a decent sleep at night."

Consequently, the mail clerks were swiftly given alternate, more peaceful accommodations.

They were also reassigned a private dining room on an upper deck--a saloon they shared with the two Marconi operators.

From the moment the Titanic set sail, the five postal clerks would have been at work sorting through the literal thousands of bags of mail in the hold: categorizing all parcels and post according to their intended destinations. 

Additionally, the First- and Second-Class Reading and Writing Rooms had postal boxes stationed outside their doors for passenger use.

The clerks, therefore, may have been alternately tasked with retrieving any such mail—and certainly worked to sort all of that, too.

The goal was to have all mail successfully dispatched at the so-called “quarantine station” in New York Bay, where all incoming ships had to tarry for health inspections.

Therefore, the mail would have disembarked even before the ship’s passengers.

At the time of the iceberg strike, the five men were in their private dining area celebrating the imminent birthday of American postal clerk Oscar Woody.

He would be turning 41 years old the next day, on April 15th.

Upon feeling the collision, the five mail clerks immediately made their way to the post office on G Deck.

Mail on board a ship was considered seriously precious cargo, and the clerks were duty- and honor-bound to safeguard it at all costs. 

And so the men set to bundling and transferring all the mail they could manage into sacks and closing them up for transport to the upper decks.

Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was sent down to the mail room by Captain Smith.

At the American Senate Inquiry, Boxhall retold his story of meeting the postal clerks. 

Looking down into the open companion way that connected the post office where they stood to the mail hold directly below them, Boxhall stated he saw full-up mail bags floating by.

[Senator Fletcher] 3682. Did you do so?
- I was proceeding down, but I met the carpenter. 

3683. What did you say to him?
- I said, "The captain wants you to sound the ship." He said, "The ship is making water," and he went on the bridge to the captain, and I thought I would go down forward again and investigate; and then I met a mail clerk, a man named Smith, and he asked where the captain was. I said, "He is on the bridge." He said, "The mail hold is full" or "filling rapidly." I said, "Well, you go and report it to the captain and I will go down and see," and I proceeded right down into the mail room.

3684. What did you find there?
- I went down as far as the sorting room deck and found mail clerks down there working.

3685. Doing what?
- Taking letters out of the racks, they seemed to me to be doing.

3686. Taking letters out of the racks and putting them into pouches?
- I could not see what they were putting them in.

3687. You could not see what disposition they were making of them?
- I looked through an open door and saw these men working at the racks, and directly beneath me was the mail hold, and the water seemed to be then within 2 feet of the deck we were standing on.

3688. What did you do in that situation?
- (continuing): And bags of mail floating about. I went right on the bridge again and reported to the captain what I had seen.

In a contemporary report, Officer Boxhall reportedly recounted his time in the mail room with further detail.

According to Boxhall, the clerks continued their work even as the post office began to flood not five minutes later.

They began hauling the heavy sacks--at least 100 lbs each, one under each arm--moving waist-deep through the frigid seawater.

Over and over again.

"When he got down to E deck, where the mailroom was located, he says he found it awash. Gwinn was there in his nightclothes, having rushed down from his room two decks above. Three other clerks were also there and all were bundling registered mail in sacks. It is estimated that its value was $800,000.

Boxhall says that the four men loaded themselves with heavy sacks of mail and stumbled on decks. at that time the boats were being launched."

Eventually, the struggling mail clerks appealed to the stewards for aid, and bedroom steward Alfred Theissinger obliged.

Alfred later recalled the following.

"I urged them to leave their work. They shook their heads and continued at their work. It might have been an inrush of water later that cut off their escape, or it may have been the explosion. I saw them no more."

All in all, Titanic’s postal clerks salvaged approximately 200 bags of mail from the post office on G Deck—but in the end, none were saved.

Tragically, nor were they.

All five men—Woody, Smith, Williamson, March, and Gwinn—died that night.

Two of their bodies were retrieved from the sea by the MacKay-Bennett: John March, and Oscar Woody.

The United States Postmaster General stated the following in a recommendation to the Postal Committee of the House of Representatives.

"The bravery exhibited by these men," [Postmaster General] Hitchcock said, "in their efforts to safeguard under such trying conditions the valuable mail intrusted [sic] to them should be a source of pride to the entire Postal Service, and deserves some marked expression of appreciation from the Government."

In Britain, a memorial was dedicated in Southampton: it reads “Steadfast in Peril.”

In 1999, a documentary revealed that the mailroom was accessible via the front cargo hatch. 

Inside the post office on G Deck, the underwater robot--called Robin--found the mail sorting table, overturned and slowly rotting. Nearby, the latticework fence that segregated registered mail from the rest was open.

Then Robin descended further into the mail room on Orlop deck.

There, the submersible encountered canvas bags, grown over with sea life, and still full of mail.

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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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“The Captain’s Tiger”: James Arthur Paintin

"The Captain's Tiger": James Arthur Paintin

James Arthur Paintin was a tiger.

That is, he was the sole steward to attend to no lesser man than Titanic's captain, E.J. Smith.

James went by his middle name of Arthur, and he was 29 years old in April of 1912.

He was also a newlywed, having married Alice Bunce only five months prior, in November of 1911. They had courted for approximately four years prior to their marriage.

According to the account of a family member, Arthur Paintin intended for the Titanic to be his final stint at sea, because Alice had become pregnant. The couple reportedly hoped to purchase a hotel.

Arthur boarded the RMS Titanic as a personal steward to the captain, and was therefore a member of the Victualing Crew. Old nautical terminology refers to Arthur’s particular role as “the Captain’s Tiger.”

The origin of this unofficial but quite compelling title seems to be something of a mystery.

Arthur had entered into employment with the White Star Line in 1907, and by 1912, he had already served as Captain Smith’s Tiger on both the Adriatic and Titanic’s elder sister Olympic.

It is unclear if Arthur had acted in the capacity of a steward for a significant amount of time prior to his time with Captain Smith, because while on board Titanic, he wrote that he had joined a “stewards club” the previous August. He did note that benefits did not begin in that club until the first anniversary of his membership.

So Arthur was thusly intrigued by the opportunity to join what was essentially a rotary club called the "Hearts of Oak". He expressed this interest to his father.

When Arthur signed onto Titanic in Southampton on April 4th, he had a cold, although it was just beginning to improve.

“My cold is still pretty bad,” he wrote in a letter to his parents while on board, “but nothing like it was last week.” 

And he wasn’t exactly inspired by his accommodations, but he endeavored to be positive in spite of it.

"Bai jove [sic] what a fine ship this is, much better than the Olympic as far as passengers are concerned, but my room is nothing near so nice, no daylight, electric light on all day, but I suppose it's no use grumbling."

Citation courtesy of "Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage," by Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth, and Sheila Jemima. 1994.

As the Captain’s Tiger, Arthur was in essence a personal valet. And it would certainly seem that Captain Smith had a distinct appreciation for Arthur's excellent services, as Titanic's maiden voyage was at least their third voyage together.

Arthur would have been responsible for Captain Smith’s functional needs within his quarters, like his laundering and boots, and with bringing him necessities like messages and meals as needed.

It is possible that Arthur accompanied Captain Smith to public meals, in order to attend to his needs. But where and when the Tiger himself ate, is not known.

Stewardess Violet Jessop observed that, at least on Olympic, all manners of stewards ate hurriedly and without much respite, whenever their schedules would allow it.

 "[Stewards ate] standing in any available corner of a greasy pantry, amid steamy smells and nauseating, grease-strewn decks, eaten in the quickest possible time in order to get away."

Citation courtesy of "Titanic Survivor: The Newly Discovered Memoirs of Violet Jessop," edited by John Maxtone-Graham. 1997.

There was a lounge on board Titanic assigned exclusively for the use of personal maids and valets of passengers. But it it is unknown if this lounge likewise would have been available and appropriate for the Captain's Tiger.

To date, Arthur Paintin’s movements throughout Titanic's voyage are entirely unconfirmed. There appears to be no record.

Acting as the Captain’s Tiger was a role of some significance—which is why Arthur’s absence from eyewitness accounts is sometimes noted by Titanic enthusiasts as peculiar. But then again, it is not in the general purview of a personal steward to be noticeable.

Only Frederick Dent Ray, a surviving Saloon Steward, has thus far been noted as having witnessed James Arthur Paintin on board--specifically, in the final moments of the sinking.

Frederick testified as follows on the ninth day of the American Inquiry, stating that Arthur had last been seen alongside Captain Smith on Titanic's bridge.

Senator SMITH.
Did he [Captain E.J. Smith] have a personal waiter or steward of his own?

Mr. RAY.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Who was he?

Mr. RAY.
A man named Phainten [James Arthur Paintin], I think it was; I am almost sure.

Senator SMITH.
Did he survive?

Mr. RAY.
No, sir. He was last seen on the bridge, standing by the captain.

Just like E.J. Smith, the Captain's Tiger did not survive the sinking of the Titanic.

The body of James Arthur Paintin, if recovered, was never identified.

Back home, Alice Paintin was widowed after less than six months of marriage. And three months after Titanic foundered, she gave birth to her lost husband's son.

She named the baby James Arthur Paintin.


Hyslop, Donald, Alastair Forsyth, and Sheila Jemima. "Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage." Sutton Publishing Limited, 1997.

Jessop, Violet. "Titanic Survivor: The Newly Discovered Memoirs of Violet Jessop Who Survived Both the Titanic and Britannic Disasters." Annotated by John Maxtone-Graham. Sheridan House, Inc., 1997.

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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 Click of the Familiar Machinery Comes As a Welcome Interruption”: The Print Shop

"The Click of the Familiar Machinery Comes As a Welcome Interruption": Titanic's Print Shop

The RMS Titanic, much like many other ocean liners, had a print shop.

No photos of it are known to exist.

But it was surely a small space packed with machinery and typeface. An article published in the "Printers' Register" in 1905 describes the typical liner's print shop in delightful detail.

How many of all the thousands who have crossed on the great liners have ever been inside the ship's printing-office? It is a picturesque little shop, fitted up much the same as any printing-office on land, with type-cases and printing-press, where the click of the familiar machinery comes as a welcome interruption to the incessant throbbing of the ship's engines... 

The ships' printing-office is usually an inside room and of the size of an ordinary stateroom, with the berths removed. The cases and frames of type in these days of oceans newspapers pretty well fill the little office.

When considering the substantial variety of ephemera that a ship would use, the presence of a printing office was certainly a necessity.

Among the paper goods printed on board an ocean liner were a variety of menus every day, multiple times per day, for hundreds of travelers in each of the passenger classes.

Additionally, the printing office producsd pamphlets on-board programs and special events, stationary, and even waiters' notepads. On Titanic and her older sister Olympic, there would have also been a need for printed tickets to exclusive, paid-access areas such as the Turkish baths.

A contemporary illustration of the "Cool Room" of the Turkish Baths on RMS Olympic, which would have been identical to that on Titanic.


While it might be assumed that all of these materials could have been entirely prepared in advance of a voyage, it would have been detrimental to do so because they were so often subject to change, particularly at sea.

For instance, a course boasted on a pre-printed menu could be ruined when ingredients were unavailable because of anything from spoilage to a delayed supply train and poor weather. This was all the more true for a vessel that had never sailed before; bills of fare may very well have been extemporaneous, or otherwise edited last-minute at a whim.

According to Bob Richardson of the British Printing Society, any color printing would have been completed on shore and otherwise left blank for the printing office on board, who would fill in the text of the item in black ink. The typefaces selected by White Star were commonly used in 1912 and limited in ornament, such as the British "Westminster" typeface by Stephenson Blake, as well as "Grot," more commonly known as "Gothic." The fanciest typeface was arguably Theodore De Vinne's design for passenger stationary, which read "On board R.M.S. Titanic."

Thus, there was plenty to keep a liner's printing office in constant operation. And then, with the advent of the wireless telegraph, passengers vessels would adopt yet another paper item: the newspaper.

In the past year [of 1905] the ship's printing-office has gained a new interest. It has become a newspaper office as well... The installation of the wireless system has given a new occupation to the printer. On many of the great ocean liners, for instance, a newspaper is published every day... It is common for a steamer to be in communication with some other boat each day, and so the possibilities of picking up news from one side of the Atlantic or the other are many. The steward editor is seldom at a loss for some news items from the outside world, at worst not more than three days old...

The newspaper is... about 8 by 4 inches [in size].

Titanic likewise produced its own so-called newspaper, called the "Atlantic Daily Bulletin."

Interestingly, though, it would seem that Titanic did not handle the Bulletin in the usual way as described above. Veteran deep-ocean explorer and Titanic enthusiast Parks Stephenson has indicated that the Atlantic Daily Bulletin would not have fallen under the purview of the printing office, unlike documented procedure on some of Titanic's peer vessels.

According to Stephenson,  Senior Marconi Operator Jack Phillips was responsible for writing down the day's news broadcast during his First Watch. He thereafter transmitted the daily update to the Purser's Office, where it was copied with a typewriter and pinned up in the First-Class Smoking Lounge, a facility exclusively available to men.

The First-Class Smoking Room on Titanic's elder sister, Olympic. Taken by William Rau for Harland & Wolff, 1911. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The exact model of Titanic's printing machinery has not been discovered to date.

Additionally, the location of Titanic's printing office is still debated. There are alternating reports that it existed on either D Deck or E Deck dependent upon the iteration of the ship's deck plans. It is most commonly argued that Titanic's printshop would likely have been located on D Deck, because it was adjacent to the First-Class pantry and in the immediate vicinity of the First-Class restaurants; this arrangement would have benefitted the manufacture of menus.

Along with the ongoing bills of fare that the printshop would be tasked with every day, this location would have been ideal because it placed the printers in the proximity of wealthy customers who could commission them for custom work, such as private dining menus, luggage tags, and personalized calling cards.

In fact, a business card that was acquired on Titanic still exists. It belonged Father Frank Browne during his brief time on board, and it had been given to him by the First-Class Gymnasium's athletic instructor Thomas W. McCawley. Given its minimalist appearance, it is likely to have been printed on board. At the top edge of the plain white card, Frank noted, "Card given me by".

Mr. T. W. McCawley

Physical Educator.



        R.M.S TITANIC,

              WHITE STAR LINE.

© "Father Browne's Titanic Album: A Passenger's Photographs and Personal Memoir," by E.E. O'Donnell SJ, 2011.

Titanic's printing office was tended by 53-year-old Print Steward Abraham Mishellany, a refugee from the modern country of Lebanon. After his family fled the Ottoman regime, he had then emigrated to Egypt before resettling in England, where he married a women named Grace Sarah Holland.

Mishellany was in turn assisted by Ernest Corben of London, who was 27 years old.

Abraham appears to have been a veteran employee who had also worked on the RMS Olympic. He, like many a Print Steward, was considered a special breed of worker.

 The press is worked by hand. The ship's printer is a regular steward and, like them, wears the ship's uniform. He must, besides, have some qualifications which a landsman may never learn. He must be a good sailor. It is not enough that he should never be sick when a menu or a Marconi newspaper edition is to be run off; he must be able to work quickly with his office at an angle of perhaps 45 degrees.

The two men were likely occupied with their duties throughout the voyage.

It is presumed that on the night of April 14, 1912, that the two printer stewards were probably working late. Orders for the next day's breakfast menus were most likely given to Mishellany and Corben in the afternoon or early evening.

There is no eyewitness record that accounts for Abraham or Ernest during the sinking.

Neither of the men survived.

A government printing office circa 1905, from the Harris & Ewing Photography Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Because so many items were printed exclusively on board, there are very few paper artifacts that survived the sinking of the Titanic, most of which are menus.

A First-Class luncheon menu saved by passenger Abraham Lincoln Solomon sold at auction for $88,000 in 2015.

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“We Saw Everything Quite Distinctly”: Titanic & the SS City of New York

"We Saw Everything Quite Distinctly": Titanic & the SS City of New York

According to the records of the National Meteorological Library & Archive of the United Kingdom, Titanic's maiden voyage was more or less as lovely a spring day as one could behold. "Southampton had a dry night with clear spells," the reports reads, and "the morning dawned fine with some good spells of sunshine... Despite the sunshine it was a chilly day with a cool north-westerly wind."

And thus, Titanic set sail at about 12:05 p.m.

Second-Class passenger Lawrence Beesley described the scene as Titanic crept away from the dock.

Soon after noon the whistles blew for friends to go ashore, the gangways were withdrawn, and the Titanic moved slowly down the dock, to the accompaniment of last messages and shouted farewells of those on the quay. There was no cheering or hooting of steamers' whistles from the fleet of ships that lined the dock, as might seem probable on the occasion of the largest vessel in the world putting to sea on her maiden voyage; the whole scene was quiet and rather ordinary, with little of the picturesque and interesting ceremonial which imagination paints as usual in such circumstances.

Excerpt from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley, published in 1912.

Despite the lackluster start, those crowds watching on the quay were no less likely to marvel at Titanic's magnitude, especially compared to other vessels docked in her vicinity.

Having looked down on the world from the Titanic's boat deck, I went on the quay and looked up at the projecting heads of the passengers. It was like standing by the wall of St. Paul's Cathedral and craning your neck to get a glimpse of the Apostles on the roof...

For the first yards a caterpillar might have raced the Titanic. It was difficult to imagine such a tremendous object moving, so slowly. I walked along to the end of the deep water dock and saw her come by at a slow pace within a stone's throw of the quay. Her propellers churned the green sea up to liquid grey mud.

And it was shortly thereafter that Titanic nearly collided with the SS City of New York.

As Titanic left her berth, her size and weight caused water displacement, resulting in significant swells.

Nearby, both the RMS Oceanic and the SS City of New York were moored and lashed together alongside the dock. Both vessels had been "laid up" due to the coal strike that had immobilized so many of Titanic's peers.

The SS City of New York on or about August 9, 1914, carrying passengers fleeing the Great War. From the George Grantham Bain collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Titanic passed by both ships, which caused an enormous bulge of water that lifted the Oceanic and New York to a height, before dropping them just as suddenly.

The Oceanic recovered from the jostle, but the New York did not fare so well. Its hawsers--otherwise known as the wrist-thick, steel mooring cables that bound her to the dock--snapped and flew backward.

The sound of the breaking hawsers, people said, was like the cracking of a gun.

 As the Titanic moved majestically down the dock, the crowd of friends keeping pace with us along the quay, we came together level with the steamer New York lying moored to the side of the dock along with the Oceanic, the crowd waving "good-byes" to those on board as well as they could for the intervening bulk of the two ships. But as the bows of our ship came about level with those of the New York, there came a series of reports like those of a revolver, and on the quay side of the New York snaky coils of thick rope flung themselves high in the air and fell backwards among the crowd, which retreated in alarm to escape the flying ropes. We hoped that no one was struck by the ropes, but a sailor next to me was certain he saw a woman carried away to receive attention. 

Excerpt from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley, published in 1912.

Unmanned and violently unmoored, the SS City of New York began drifting stern-side directly toward Titanic.

Captain Smith immediately ordered the engines "full astern", and Titanic's starboard anchor was partially lowered in anticipation of a collision. One of the tugboats nearby, called Vulcan, rushed forward and, with deft maneuvering, brought the New York under tow.

Happily the prompt action of the men in command and the quick use of a couple of steam tugs prevented a collision, and the mighty Titanic at last steamed away like a proud queen of the sea, an hour late but not at all worried.

Titanic and New York avoided the crash by mere feet.

Ultimately, The New York was urged back to dock by a coterie of tugboats; Titanic, delayed by an hour but otherwise unbothered, "quietly glided, in brilliant sunshine" further and away.

Photo taken by the Odell family from the deck of the Titanic, during its near-collision with the SS City of New York, April 10, 1912.


Perhaps those who had the clearest view and grandest scope of the near-disaster were two assistant electricians named Albert Ervine and Alfred Middleton, both of whom had managed to mount Titanic's aft and fourth funnel. This is where they found themselves for the duration of the calamity.

Albert Ervine later wrote the following in a letter posted back home to his mother Helen.

As soon as the Titanic began to move out of the dock, the suction caused the Oceanic, which was alongside her berth, to swing outwards, while another liner broke loose altogether and bumped into the Oceanic. The gangway of the Oceanic simply dissolved.

Middleton and myself were on top of the after funnel, so we saw everything quite distinctly. I thought there was going to be a proper smash up owing to the high wind; but I don't think anyone was hurt.

Albert George Ervine was born in Belfast the summer of 1893. He was named after his father, and called "Bertie" by his family.

Young Albert Ervine was educated at the Belfast Royal Academy, thereafter studying at Methodist College and the Municipal Technical Institute. His apprenticeship then commenced at Coombe, Barber & Coombe, before he moved on to Harland & Woolf, where he studied so-called "marine electronics."

By 1911, the census reflects Albert Ervine as an unwed electrician.

Electrical plant of the Titanic's elder sister RMS Olympic. Taken in May of 1911 by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


Bertie Ervine is recorded as having provided electrical work on the RMS Titanic during its construction. He entered into the employ of the White Star Line after returning from the maiden voyage of another vessel: the SS Maloja, which had likewise been constructed by Harland & Wolff.

It is reported that Bertie Ervine had actively petitioned the White Star Line, hoping to be assigned to Titanic. And so, on April 2, 1912, Bertie Ervine walked out of the Belfast house that he shared with his parents and siblings, and set off to the docks.

Titanic docked in Southampton on April 10, 1912.


Somewhere along his way that day, or perhaps once he arrived, Bertie linked up with fellow assistant electrician Alfred Middleton.

The two boys had been good friends for some time, presumably due to their parents belonging to the same religious community. Having been hired as crew for Titanic's "delivery trip" to Southampton, England, they would depart immediately following the successful completion of her sea trials.

Titanic came to rest at Southampton shortly after midnight on April 4th. And on April 6th, Bertie and Alfred signed on to Titanic once again, for the vessel's maiden voyage.

In the letter to his mother, Bertie outlined his work schedule as "on duty morning and evening from 8 to 12; that is four hours work and eight hours off." Therein, Bertie also described a drill, or "full dress rehearsal of an emergency" that his group had conducted that morning, April 11th.

They had, he wrote, practiced the functionality of the watertight doors.

(Have just been away attending the alarm bell.)

This morning we had a full dress rehearsal of an emergency. The alarm bells all rang for ten seconds, then about 50 doors, all steel, gradually slid down into their places, so that water could not escape from any one section into the next.

So you see it would be impossible for the ship to be sunk in collision with another...

Three days later, on the night of April 14th, Titanic struck the iceberg.

And though she strained and flooded and foundered, her electricity did not fail until her final moments.

Assistant electrician Bertie Ervine was never recorded as having been sighted on deck at any point during the sinking. And for almost two hours, from 11:40 p.m. until 2 a.m.--approximately 20 minutes before Titanic fell beneath the waves--her lights somehow remained on, and her wireless radio remained operational.

Ervine is, therefore, presumed to have remained at his post deep within the ship, electing to sacrifice his safety and his life to make sure that Titanic's power would not go out.

What scenes were enacted to immortalize forever the engineers who kept the ship lighted, and afloat, giving a last chance of escape to passengers and even officers? How can we ever realize what it meant to find courage to reject the thought of beloved dependents on shore, and to face death in stoke-hold and engine room?

Bertie Ervine was the youngest member of Titanic's engineering crew. His remains were not recovered.

He was 18 years old.

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“They Told Me the People Were Singing”: Elizabeth & Madeleine Mellinger

"They Told Me the People Were Singing": Elizabeth & Madeleine Mellinger

Elizabeth Maidment was born in 1870 in Middlesex, England, and records indicate that she had five siblings. 

She married Claude Mellinger in 1895, at age 25.

But they did not move much further. 

By 1901, Elizabeth and Claude are reflected on the census as living at separate addresses: Claude at the registered family address, and Elizabeth and her children listed as visitors at a friend’s home.

They had five children, all in all. The first in 1895; the last, 1904.

It is not clear when the couple became estranged, but Claude sent their middle daughter, who appears to have gone by her middle name of Madeleine, a final letter from New Zealand in 1909.

By 1910, Claude Mellinger was registered as a resident of Australia.

Claude was reportedly a journalist of great accomplishment and talent. Per Madeleine, her father was “a genius whose extravagant high living brought the family to ruin.” But her mother never elaborated further on the “mistake” he’d made that finally expelled him from England.

Elizabeth clearly struggled an enormous amount in the years following Claude’s vanishing act. They had to auction off the furniture and the prized family heirlooms. And then lost their home altogether. And despite acting as a nanny/travel companion, finances forced her to ship her children off to relatives.

In 1911, her oldest daughter Eugenie Claudine is recorded as living with her, but her remaining children seem to have gone into the system… her son Alexander and Madeleine were both listed as inmates in children’s homes.

But in 1912, Elizabeth caught a break.

She was hired on as a housekeeper at Fillmore Farms, an estate in Bennington, Vermont, that was owned by the Colgate family—yes, of toothpaste fame.

She and Madeleine boarded Titanic at Southampton as Second-Class passengers. Elizabeth was 42 years old; her daughter was 13. 

It is unclear why none of Elizabeth’s other children accompanied her.

Also on Titanic and also headed to Fillmore Farms was First-Class passenger Charles Cresson Jones, who was the estate’s superintendent. He had been in the UK to purchase sheep from a Dorset-based farmer by the name of James Foot, and to attend a livestock sale as well. 

While it not definitively proven how Elizabeth came to snare the job of housekeeper at the Colgate estate, it is certainly reasonable to assume that she may have made the acquaintance of the superintendent during his travels.

And they clearly were acquainted. Mr. Jones is reported to have visited Elizabeth and her daughter in Second Class to show them photos of Fillmore Farms and Bennington. 

He came to our table—which was reserved… He had on a fur coat, full length, and I had never seen such a thing on a man. He gave me a golden sovereign (another first). Sunday, before lunch, he came over to our cabin in second class to bring pictures of lovely Bennington in spring, and to tell us what to do upon landing. We never saw him again alive.

Later in life, Madeleine admitted that, not knowing of Mr. Jones’s marital status, she fancied that that Mr. Jones might fall in love with Elizabeth and become Madeleine’s new father.

According to an interview with the Toronto Star, Madeleine answered the cabin door shortly after the collision with the iceberg.

We were asleep in our berths when a man banged on our door and told us to put on warm clothes and lifebelts and to get on deck.

As an adult, Madeleine realized that, had she not been there to answer that knock upon the door, that she might very well have ended up motherless in addition to already being fatherless. Because when the steward knocked, Elizabeth was sleeping, and the loud sounds did not rouse her.

And that was because Elizabeth was hard of hearing.

Elizabeth and Madeleine vacated the room in a hurry—so much so, that upon reaching the deck, Madeleine realized that her mother was not wearing any shoes. 

The pair found themselves on the port side. They were lucky enough to enter Lifeboat 14, which was launched by Second Officer Charles Lightoller and overseen by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. 

Officer Lowe would go on to experience a hero’s welcome at subsequent hearings due to his brave conduct and no-nonsense attitude.

Madeleine later described the sinking. Other passengers apparently tried to shield her from the trauma, but she was 13 years old and clearly knew better.

I could see the lights of the ship starting to go under water, then soundlessly, perhaps a mile away, it just went down. It was gone. Oh yes, the sky was very black and the stars were very bright. They told me the people in the water were singing, but I knew they were screaming.

Officer Lowe eventually transferred the passengers of Lifeboat 14 into other boats so he could return to search for survivors in the water. Elizabeth and Madeleine were moved into Lifeboat 12.

This lifeboat would succeed in the rescue of survivors on the capsized Collapsible B. And one of those survivors was Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

Lightoller’s coat was white with ice. And so Elizabeth Mellinger, who was still barefoot, removed her wool cape and placed it on Lightoller’s shoulders. Elizabeth then took his hands and rubbed them between her own to do what she could to warm him.

Once on board Carpathia, Elizabeth’s hypothermia finally caused her to pass out. And so she was removed to the infirmary to treat the frostbite in her feet.

Madeleine had been hauled up on deck separately from Elizabeth. By the time she settled, her mother had already been taken away. By people Madeleine did not know, who did not know Elizabeth or anything about her daughter.

Madeleine proceeded to wander the decks, calling out her mother’s name through tears. This desperation was later seized upon by newspapers as a the pitch-perfect embodiment of Titanic’s sorrow.

Elizabeth and Madeleine eventually found each other later that day. And then Second Officer Lightoller found them, too.

He wanted to give Elizabeth a token, to thank her for her kindness to him during the rescue. But he lamented that all he had on him was his “little tin whistle,” that he had used to call for help, balancing on the back of Collapsible B in the dark.

But that was more than enough for Elizabeth Mellinger. And so she accepted it gladly.

And all her life, Officer Lightoller’s whistle was one of Elizabeth’s most coveted possessions. When she died in 1962, Madeleine was responsible for bestowing it upon another in accordance with her mother’s last wishes.

And the giftee was Walter Lord, famed Titanic historian.

“The whistle has a curious pitch,” Lord told Madeline during a phone conversation, mentioning this only in passing.

    “What do you mean?” Madeline asked.

    “It’s not the sort of sound I would have expected it to make,” Lord replied. Sensing, then, that something was wrong on the other end of the line, he tried to explain further just how pleased he was to have Lightoller’s whistle. “And, of course,” he added, “the first thing I did was to blow it.”

    “Oh, no,” Madeline said. “We had never blown the whistle, Mother or I—and in fact no one has—in all the years we owned it. And always, always, we believed Lightoller should have been the last one to do so.”

Walter Lord claimed he had no idea about the sanctity of the whistle, but it did not matter. Madeleine reportedly did not speak to him again for 7 years.

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“My! I Wish I Could Go Out There Sometimes!”: Titanic’s Elevators

"My! I Wish I Could Go Out There Sometimes!": Titanic's Elevators

The Titanic was the last word in luxury, equipped with elite amenities and thoughtful details. And among its many novel components, a particular technology often goes unacknowledged: the elevators.

All in all, they were pretty nifty contraptions and certainly enjoyed by the passengers. Lawrence Beesley mused upon as much in his account, which was published only two months after the sinking of Titanic.

Perhaps nothing gave one a greater impression of the size of the ship than to take the lift from the top and drop slowly down past the different floors, discharging and taking in passengers just as in a large hotel.

© "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic," by Lawrence Beesley. 1912.

Titanic was neither the first nor the only passenger vessel to include this particular convenience. But it was among the few.

They were designed, of course, to surpass all others in the simple feat of exceptional customer experience. In fact, the White Star Line boasted the following in their promotional materials while expressing lavish awe for the First-Class Grand Staircase.

Looking over the balustrade, we see the stairs descending to many floors below, and on turning aside we find we may be spared the labor of mounting or descending stairs by entering one of the smoothly-gliding elevators which best us quickly to any other of the numerous floors of the ship we may wish to visit.

Titanic was outfitted with four passenger elevators: three available to First-Class passengers, and the remaining one for those in Second Class. In conjunction, the ship was staffed with a total of four Lift Attendants, one responsible for each passenger elevator. 

The position of List Attendant was categorized as Victualling Crew. The Victualling Department was made up of 421 people tasked with all manners of service provided to those on board the ship, from foodstuffs to linens to barber services to bathroom cleaning. And of course, elevator services.

Titanic’s elevators, as well as those installed on her elder sister Olympic, were designed and installed by R. Waygood Co., an established and international firm that was headquartered in London. The Otis Elevator Company has claim to those bragging rights today, however, owing to the fact that it merged with R. Waygood in 1914.

The lifts were electric in operation, but not in any modern sense of the word. There were no buttons to be pushed, and no door that automatically closed. They were, in essence, manual—powered by electricity but controlled by hand. The Lift Attendant was responsible for controling a lever which decided the direction of the lift. It took a bit of finesse to ensure a jostle-free ride from start to end, and skill to operate the lift so that it stopped at the desired deck with its gate perfectly aligned to the floor onto which the passengers would alight.

The ship’s four steam-powered engines generated thousands of amps of 100-watt electricity, which catered not only to the elevators, but also to equipment on the Bridge, deck cranes, loudspeakers, kitchen equipment, fans, and heaters—and, of course, the approximately 10,000 incandescent lightbulbs in use on board.

It is reported that each elevator’s capacity was 10 people at a time, including the Lift Attendant therein.

The Grand Staircase of the RMS Olympic from the Boat Deck, circa 1911. Taken by William H. Rau. The First-Class Elevators were immediately in front of the Grand Staircase on A Deck.


The three First-Class lifts were tucked into a taut and tidy row just forward of the famed Grand Staircase on A Deck. Their course ran all the way down to E Deck. A curious design choice, considering the athletic amenities exclusively available to First-Class passengers occupied lower decks than the lifts could achieve. By terminating on E Deck, First-Class passengers found themselves one deck above the Swimming Bath and adjacent Turkish Baths of F Deck, and two decks too soon to access the Squash Court on G Deck. Lift passengers wishing to access those facilities would need to take leave of the elevators at the last available floor, and then proceed to take the stairs.

These gilded lifts, unlike the walled-off box elevators of today, were open-faced cages. They were designed in the Empire style, their frames trimmed with carved wood and accented ornate wrought-iron gates. They were outfitted with individual light fixtures and inviting sofas for passengers to make use of on their arduous vertical journeys.

The First-Class lifts were staffed by William Carney, who was the oldest of the Lift Attendants at 31 years old, as well as Frederick Blades and Alfred John Moffett King, who were 17 and 18, respectively.

Second-Class Entrance on RMS Olympic. The elevator sign is visible. Taken by Bedford Lemere & Co, 1911.


The sole Second-Class elevator could be found aft, alongside the main staircase; it ran from Boat Deck to F Deck. It skipped A Deck entirely, however, because A Deck was exclusively accessible to First-Class passengers. This elevator was operated by Reginald Pacey, who was 17.

Reginald had never been employed on a ship before.

Lawrence Beesley, one of the very few Second-Class men to survive the disaster, wrote the following of young Mr. Pacey in his recollections.

He was quite young,—not more than sixteen, I think,—a bright-eyed, handsome boy, with a love for the sea and the games on deck and the view over the ocean—and he did not get any of them. One day, as he put me out of his lift and saw through the vestibule windows a game of deck quoits in progress, he said, in a wistful tone, "My! I wish I could go out there sometimes!" I wished he could, too, and made a jesting offer to take charge of his lift for an hour while he went out to watch the game; but he smilingly shook his head and dropped down in answer to an imperative ring from below.

Lawrence also wrote that he didn’t believe Reginald was on duty with his lift on the night of the disaster, but he was sure that had the boy been on duty, he would have offered his passengers nothing but a kind smile, even as he knew the ship was sinking. 

“I wonder where the lift-boy was that night,” Lawrence Beesley wrote. “I would have been glad to find him in our boat, or on the Carpathia when we took count of the saved.”

 Reginald Pacey, along with the three Lift Attendants Carney, Blades, and King, all were killed in the sinking of Titanic.

While the bodies of William Carney and Alfred John Moffett King were identified during the Mackay-Bennett’s recovery efforts, both Reginald Percy and Frederick Blades were lost.

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