Titanic in Southampton, April 1912
One hundred years ago, on April 15, the Titanic went down. It took three days for the ship that rescued the survivors, the Carpathia, to reach New York but when it did, there was media frenzy and 250 policemen had to be on hand to control the crowd and make sure that only family and friends of the survivors had access to them. In spite of that, the press got through, one even making it onto the Carpathia. The papers were full of the stories of the survivors and many of the tales surrounding the sinking of that magnificent ship were born.
One of the most enduring examples of the heroism that was seen the night of the loss was that the band played as the lifeboats were loaded in order to keep the passengers calm. It was reported that the band continued to play even as the ship went down. Interestingly, the first report of this came from Vera Dick, a Calgary woman, who had been on the Titanic returning from her honeymoon. In an interview, said to be “one of the most comprehensive and connected stories of the disaster,” Vera reported that “as the steamship went down, the band was up forward and we could faintly hear them start ‘Nearer my God to Thee’.” She continued, “There was no evidence of panic while we were on board and I first laughed at the idea of the Titanic sinking.” (The Morning Leader, April 19, 1912).
Vera’s husband, Albert (known as Bert) kept fairly quiet about the disaster until he reached Calgary. Then he gave his report to a reporter in New York and the interview was picked up by The Calgary Daily Herald (April 19, 1912). His report is essentially the same as Vera’s but he adds that while Vera was in her nightdress and kimono, he managed to get into his pants and jacket. He also had high praise for the crew, who maintained order in the face of mounting panic and stayed with the ship until the end.
Following the disaster, the few men who survived were looked on with suspicion. The rule at sea is ‘women and children first’ and, while most of the women and children (at least those in first and second class) were saved, it is often overlooked that a boatload of women and children would have been expected to need men to row the boats. Women, especially those in the privileged classes, were not encouraged to undertake vigorous physical exercise. It was for this reason, claimed Vera, that her husband was forced into the boat with her. Indeed, the reports of the survivors are filled with reports of crew members and other men taking charge of the lifeboats and rowing them away from the suction of the great liners’ sinking.
In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Dick, it was reported that the family of Frank Marshall, a carpenter living in the Riverside area of Calgary, were also on board. His wife and two children were initially reported missing but I can find no further information about them (and they aren’t listed on the passenger lists I have seen) Reports, sent through the company of Niblock and Tull, agents for White Star in Calgary, indicated that Kate Marshall was rescued. It appears, however, that Kate Marshall was travelling with her husband and was not related to Frank. Does anyone know about this family? I’d be interested to hear if they were on the ship or if this was a bit of a hoax.
If you'd like to read some of the news reports from the time of the event, you can check out our two subscription services "Toronto Star: Pages from the Past" and "Globe & Mail: Canada's Heritage from 1844" both of which are in our E-Library under "History and Genealogy." You can also check the newspapers at Our Future Our Past and the newspapers in Peel's Prairie Provinces.
Photo of Albert Dick from interview
Calgary Daily Herald, April 19, 1912