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Willie Leeks

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Willie Leeks. He was an infant whose mother Annie (nee Handley) had died 13 February 1914 in Galt, Ontario, aged about 37, and he was accompanied by the Burrows family on his way to grandparents in England. His father was William Leeks, a cotton cloth finisher, born around 1875. Both parents were natives of Openshaw, Lancashire. He had at least two older sisters, Louise, born about 1898 at Bradford, Lancashire, and Alice, born about 1900 at Manchester, England, and the family was Presbyterian. He travelled together with Burrows, William Thomas P. and his family on the Empress of Ireland. According to the Canadian Pacific Railway, his body was identified.

Peter Engberg-Klarström

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Arvid Ekqvist

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Here you can find some of the persons that most likely have survived the collision of the Empress of Ireland in 1914. My Granfather’s brother can be found on the right hand side in this picture. The one with the light gray jacket. He was called Arvid Ekqvist, born in Finland. The Empress of Ireland did sink with a lot of casualties, as we know. Amongst them were also over 90 Finnish immigrants travelling back from America to Europe. Only 21 of these Finnish persons were able to survive. Arvid Ekqvist, brother of my grandfather was amongst them. The story tells, that he had been floating on a piece of wood almost two days until he was saved. Anyhow, he did return to Europe on a ship called Alsatian.

Riitta Ruuskanen / Siikainen, Finland

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Annie Emma Jane Rampling

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Annie was born to George and Elizabeth Rampling in Lowestoft, Suffolk in 1871. She married George Ernest Cook in Hull, Yorkshire during late 1891. A son, Reginald was born around 1893 and the family moved to Winton in Bournemouth. In 1911 the family (including a daughter, Lily, and another son) emigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where they lived at 4755 Commercial Street. In early 1914, Annie was informed that her mother was ill and decided to make the long journey back to England to see her, travelling as a 2nd class passenger on the Empress of Ireland.

The Empress of Ireland was struck by a Norwegian collier on its second night of the voyage and sank, with 1012 lives lost. Annie was one of the lucky survivors, unlike other ladies she did not stop to dress and headed for the deck immediately. As the ship capsized, she hung from the rails hoping to balance there until finding a nearby lifeboat. However, the ship lurched and threw her into the sea, where she was pulled into one of the lifeboats that managed to get away safely.

Annie was returned by train to Toronto and then back to Vancouver - I don't know if she ever got to see her ailing mother Elizabeth, who died in 1917.

Annie died in Vancouver, on the 26th of February 1964.

Reg Mayhew / St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England, U.K.

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Miss Alma Assafrey

missing imageMiss Alma Assafrey was born in 1888 in Glasgow, Scotland, where her father, an immigrant from Russia, owned candy stores and tearooms and had started Scotland’s very first chocolate factory.

Miss Assafrey, a talented artist, studied drawing and painting at Glasgow’s renowned School of Art. In 1913, she became engaged to one of her teachers, Alexander J. Musgrove, who, at 31, had just been chosen as founding principal of the new School of Art in Winnipeg. He took up his position on June 27, 1913. Miss Assafrey joined him in Winnipeg in April or early May 1914. However, for some reason, she decided to return home. She died in the wreck of the Empress of Ireland on May 29. Mr. Musgrove travelled to Rimouski to identify his fiancée, who is now buried in the Craigton Cemetery in Glasgow, Scotland.

Valentine Watson Rodger / London, Ontario, Canada

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George Clement Richards and Sarah Street Richards

missing imageGeorge Clement Richards and Sarah Street Richards perished in the sinking of the Empress of Ireland on May 29, 1914, along with a niece, Mrs. M. Gray, and her young daughter, Mary.

The Richardses were prominent citizen of Terre Haute, Indiana, USA. The group was traveling to Liverpool and then on to Sheffield, where the Richardses had lived prior to emigrating to the United States.

Violet, the youngest daughter of George and Sarah, married Chester A. Filson, and they also lived in Terre Haute. Their only daughter, Florence V. Filson, was a good friend of her cousin Mary Gray. Ironically, Florence had been invited to travel with the group, but for reasons no longer known decided not to go. Unfortunately the travelers had originally intended to leave a week earlier, but had been detained by a family emergency.

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After the disaster, two of George and Sarah’s sons went to Rimouski to attempt to identify victims from their family. During the following two weeks, they were only able to identify Sarah. The day after the brothers left to return home with the body of their mother, workers thought they had identified little Mary, but when the body was received in Terre Haute, the child was not theirs. George was found in mid-July, but we have not yet been able to ascertain if the two Grays were ever found.

Florence, the granddaughter of George and Sarah, went on to complete college and begin a career as a history and English teacher. In 1939, she married Gus Holbrook Carroll of York, South Carolina, and they lived in the Chicago area. They had two children: Sarah Florence and Gus Filson.

Gus Carroll / Los Gatos, California, USA

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Tilly Anna (Sigurdson) Peturson, Hannes Peturson

missing imageEach year as the anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland approaches, I think of sending you a photograph of my grandparents (Amma and Afi), who were aboard the ship when it sank. Finally I am doing just that. Enclosed please find a copy of the photograph that was taken of Tilly Anna (Sigurdson) Peturson and Hannes Peturson as they were leaving Winnipeg to sail on the Empress of Ireland.

Amma Tilly was born on April 13, 1887, and died on February 3, 1971. Afi Hannes was born on April 10, 1880, and died on June 9, 1961. They were both of Icelandic origin and were on their way to Iceland with the intention of possibly living there. Unfortunately, my Amma did not share the story of how they were rescued; she would only say that she could swim while Afi couldn’t. She also said they were taken to the nearest town, outfitted with clothing and sent back to Winnipeg on the train. They never went to Iceland.

Tilly and Hannes had one daughter, Una Maria, my mother.

Marcia Brierley / Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Annie Dargue and Overend Brown

Two of these passengers on the Empress of Ireland, Annie Dargue and Overend Brown, from Kenora, Ontario, were travelling in second class cabins on their way to England to be married in the bride’s home country.

Annie and Overend never reached their destination. Both were lost in the sinking. At this special time in our history, it seems fitting to remember them. But, first, I had to learn something about them. I began my research with the online sites specific to the Empress of Ireland. I then went to the accessible government records, documents, photos and family trees on the ancestry.com/ca network, followed by MyHeritage, Newspaper archives and findmypast.uk.com; and, finally through contact with two researchers both of whom are who great grandnieces of Annie Dargue and who knew nothing of the Empress of Ireland and their own connections to it. Annie Dargue was born Annie Isabella Barrass in Bishop Wearmouth Parish, Durham, England to William Barrass and Annie Lashley. She had several brothers and sisters but Annie appears to have been the only one who came to Canada. She married Joseph Dargue in June, 1891. They had two children but a record has been located for only one, Marion, born about 1896.

They moved to Canada, but no ship or passenger records have yet been located and I have found no other record until 1907-the year of Joseph’s death. Family history says Joseph came to Ontario to teach. He, Annie and Marion were likely in Kenora before 1907 for he seemed to have been well established in the community. A newspaper article (probably from one of the Kenora newspapers) reported the events of Joseph’s death. Apparently, Joseph was working with the CPR in Kenora at the time but had taught at “an Indian mission up the river” before coming to Kenora. On November 29, 1907, he was crushed between two cars while crossing the tracks to go to the office in the roundhouse. He left behind his wife and two children, but no names were given. The article also said he was a member of the Masons and had been well known and well liked in the Kenora area. Joseph Dargue is buried in the Lake of the Woods cemetery in the Hilly Haven Block. I have unknowingly passed his grave every time I visit the graves of my Davis ancestors who are buried nearby. I shall say hello to him next time I am home.

No other record of Annie or her children has been located, until the mention of Annie’s death on the Empress of Ireland. The passenger and crew list was reported in several papers across Canada and the United States. An article in the Winnipeg Free Press of June 4th indicated that Annie’s two sisters-in-law from Winnipeg, [Joseph’s sisters, Hannah Patterson and Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, both of whom also lived for a time in Kenora with their families] were travelling with Mrs. Dargue’s daughter, Marion, to Quebec to identify the body and arrange for the funeral. It is here that mention was made of the relationship between Annie and Overend Brown and the purpose of their sailing. The last information I located for the Dargue family was in the 1916 census in which Marion, age 20, is living in Winnipeg with her Kirkpatrick relatives.

Unfortunately, I was not as successful in my search for Overend Brown. An article in the Kenora Miner and News identified him as a an employee of the CPR, a popular young man, and a great elocutionist who had, just the week before entered his youth group in a local contest. I feel a closeness to him and to Annie, Joseph and Marion. We are all connected to Kenora. The research has made me live with them and come to know them, even if just a little. Joseph probably walked down the same streets in Kenora as I did as a child half a century later; Overend might have stopped into the Kenricia for a cup of tea; or Annie might have posted a letter at the Post office to send to her family back in England. Perhaps Marion attended Central School and studied in the same classrooms as I. She might even have waved at the trains as they passed through the town, and, perhaps the engineers waved back. They might have known my own ancestors, or the grandparents and great grandparents of those who still live in Kenora. Yes, I feel a connection to them. As a family researcher, it is a privilege I respect and treasure; but, because of the circumstances of this search, I also feel a sadness.

Thus, I write this so Annie and Overend are remembered, and the tragedies that affected their lives or brought about their deaths, still matter. They have not been forgotten on this 100th anniversary of the final journey of the Empress of Ireland.

Susan Brazeau / Kenora, Ontario, Canada

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Samuel Furniss

missing imageSamuel Furniss was my wife Jill’s grandfather and was a survivor of the Empress of Ireland disaster.

Samuel George Furniss was born in 1878 in the lovely Derbyshire village of Ashford-in-the-Water. The son of a long line of farmers, he left Ashford in the 1890s for Manchester where he worked as a butcher. Here in 1906 he married his first wife, Rachel, and in the years that followed 2 children were born. By 1911, the family had moved back to Derbyshire and Samuel was in business in Great Longstone – again as a butcher. Sometime after this the family moved again – back to Sam’s home village of Ashford where they took on the village pub, the Bull’s Head, which still stands in the centre of the village.

In 1913, whilst living here, tragedy struck: Rachel contracted scarlet fever and died four days later at the age of 29. Samuel was left with two young children to look after and provide for. Within six months, the situation resolved itself somewhat for Samuel: he married his children’s teacher Dorothy Essex in March 1914. A month after the wedding, on 14th April 1914, Sam left England for Canada aboard the Empress of Britain. The intention, we think, was that he would find work and that his children and new wife would follow later. However all did not go to plan and Sam was only in Canada for 6 weeks before he boarded the Empress of Ireland for the return journey to Liverpool. A contemporary newspaper report states that he returned “for health reasons”, but within the family, the story is that he ran out of money! Whatever the reason for his return to England, Samuel boarded the Empress of Ireland 28th May 1914 on its fateful last voyage. A contemporary news report, which follows, tells of Sam’s escape and return home.

After his Canadian adventure, Sam turned to farming in several locations in Derbyshire and Cheshire. With his second wife, Dorothy, he had a further five children. Samuel died in 1961, aged 83.

Geoff Roberts / High Peak, England

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Susannah Caroline Grafton

missing imageMy husband's great grandmother, Susannah Caroline Grafton, known as Cary to her friends, was aboard the Empress of Ireland in May 1914, in second class. She was born 1835 in Bethnal Green, London, into a silk weaving family. After the early death in 1884 of her husband, Henry John Grafton, a cabinet carver, the widowed Mrs. Grafton, aged 50, emigrated to Canada in 1885-86 with her daughter and three sons.

They eventually took up land and settled on Bowen Island off the B.C. coast. Mrs. Grafton, Will, Tom, David and Susy were early pioneers on Bowen, where they farmed, logged, and fished. Mrs. Grafton was a member of the Salvation Army and considered a kind and neighbourly woman.

In 1914, when she was 78 years old, Mrs. Grafton started back to England for the first time in nearly 30 years to visit her sister still back in London. She became one of the more than 1000 passengers who went down with the ship. Mrs. Grafton's body was never recovered.

She is seated at the front of this 1898 portrait, aged 62, with her children Tom, Susy and Will around her.

Jill Grafton / Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada

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Ted Hanagan

missing imageMy great-uncle, Ted Hanagan, was the bandmaster of the Salavation Army band on the Empress of Ireland. He and his wife Edith drowned in the sinking. They left behind their small daughter, Grace Hanagan, who was raised by the parents of my father, Herbert Hanagan, on Oakwood Avenue in Toronto, I think.

As a little boy, I grew up calling Grace my aunt even though she was my second cousin. Every year until her death in the 1990s, Grace placed a wreath at the Empress of Ireland cenotaph in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.

As far as I know, I am the last of Grace Hanagan's family involved with the Salvation Army. I haven't married and have no children. I'm 61.

Dennis Hanagan / Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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James and Pricilla Grigg

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missing image James and Pricilla Grigg were my great-grandparents. They were passengers aboard the Empress of Ireland and were both lost in the disaster. I have attached a digital copy of a postcard they mailed to their eldest son, Oliver, on the night the boat sank. The card is dated May 28, 1914, and the postmark from “Quebec P.O.” confirms this date. The second postmark is from Chilliwack, BC, where the postcard was received on June 2, 1914. It is my understanding that the mail was picked up from the Empress of Ireland in the early evening of May 28. The ship sank just after 2:00 a.m., so this is a piece of the last batch of mail ever to leave the boat. Interestingly, I have not come across this particular photograph of the ship among the other published postcards of the Empress of Ireland. I know other copies must exist, but I think it is a rarer image.

I have typed out the written words on the postcard below:


Quebec May 28th, 1914

Dear Son & family,
Just a line. This is a picture of the ship we are sailing on today for Liverpool.
I hope you are all well. We have had a good time so far. [Not] seeding here yet,
has been cold [and] today.
I will write again when we reach England. Quebec is
an ancient city and [we] saw the old walls and Battle fields.

From your loving father and mother, yours


Before my father passed away in 2011, he published his memoirs, which included the "family" story surrounding the sinking of the ship and the death of his grandparents as recounted to him by his father, who was 14 years old at the time.

Laurence Grigg / Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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Thomas Corrigan

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My name is Sean O'Hagan. My grandfather, Thomas Corrigan, was a seaman on the Empress of Ireland.

He was born in Dundalk, Ireland, in 1871 and spent much of his life serving on many different ships sailing out of Liverpool, England. He was married to a Scottish woman called Jane Kirk, and together they had five children. Legend has it that Thomas, a first-rate swimmer, died after saving a young lad who was a neighbour of his from Liverpool on board the Empress of Ireland. He was forty-two years old.

Sean O'Hagan / Dundal, Ireland

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Nettie (Jane Etta Elizabeth) Beckstead

missing imageMy Great great aunt, Nettie (Jane Etta Elizabeth) Beckstead, was born October 5th 1871, near Morrisburg, Ontario. She was the ninth child of ten born to Joseph Hiram Beckstead and his wife Catherine Mallissa Munro. The Beckstead family was among the first European Settlers to build their homes in Eastern Ontario. Nettie devoted her life to helping others, especially working with young women and children. Her career of 23 years with the Salvation Army began in 1891. Nettie spent much of her career working in Rescue Homes in Montana, Hamilton Ontario and later at the Salvation Army Institute in Montreal. In 1913, Nettie was among the Graduating Nurses at Grace Hospital in Winnipeg Manitoba. In 1914, Nettie worked as Assistant Matron responsible for the day nurses. In a twist of fate, Nettie stepped in for her superior, Mrs. L. Payne, to attend the 4th Annual Salvation Army International Congress.

May 22, 1914, Nettie wrote to her brother Austin, “I have been looking forward to my visit home this summer – had no thought whatever of going anywhere but Morrisburg & Montreal – but circumstances have taken an entirely different course, through Mrs. Payne’s illness – She has been dangerously ill. We thought for a time it was going bad with her but after ten weeks we had her out to the table with us last night. … She was the one who was going to take this English trip – (the chosen delegate) but now it has fallen to my lot- and I have to represent the Grace Hospital at this wonderful International Congress in London England. They will meet from all over the world. I leave Winnipeg Sunday May 24th. Leave Toronto with the party that sails by the S.S. Empress of Ireland from Quebec on the 28th. But on my return journey I am going to try to stay over night with you. As I shall have to see you.” Your loving sister, Nettie.

Nettie left behind an older sister, Ellen Dillon and five brothers, Robert, William, Alfred, Austin and Perry along with a large network of nieces and nephews. They spent weeks searching with hope and then trying to find her body which was one of the many claimed forever by the sea.

Thousands of Salvation Army delegates carried on in London, England at the International Congress. At Albert Hall, a ceremony was held for the delegates and white sashes were placed over the chairs left empty by the people who never arrived.

Cynthia Young / Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Jean-Baptiste Pouliot

missing imageOur grandfather, Jean-Baptiste Pouliot, who was 44 at the time, was the captain of the Lady Evelyn, which transported mail from Pointe-au-Père to the maritime provinces to be loaded on transatlantic steamers. His boat and the Eureka were the two vessels called to the scene when the Empress of Ireland sank.

On the night of May 29, 1914, he received the terrible news from the Pointe-au-Père radio operator. He immediately stoked the boilers and cast off.

When he arrived on the scene, there were bodies everywhere and many people fighting to stay alive in the water. Back and forth to Rimouski he went, ferrying about 338 survivors and many bodies recovered with the aid of his crew.

We have never forgotten this tragedy. At our grandparents' cottage in Saint-Jean, Ile d'Orléans, there is a life ring from the Empress of Ireland hanging on the wall, a sad reminder of that tragic night.

What happened around that life ring during the sinking? One can only imagine the desperate struggles to take hold of it.

Pierre Gagnon & Marc Lussier /
Quebec City, Québec, Canada

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George Copplin

missing imageMy grandfather, George Copplin, was born in Liverpool, England, in 1895. Like a lot of the young men his age, he found employment working on the ships that sailed from Liverpool at the time. From what he said, he was on his shift on the upper decks the night of the accident. I believe that he was helping to evacuate the ship when he was thrown into the water. The main thing I remember him saying was that the water was so cold, and he was in it for so long, that he suffered almost total hearing loss in his left ear. I understand he was picked up by one of the rescue vessels.

He continued his employment on the ships and saw service in the British Merchant Navy during WWI transporting troops and equipment all around the world. After the war, he worked on ships transporting troops back to Australia, where he met his future wife, Doris, and her family. Although he returned to Liverpool in the late 1910s or early 1920s and took up a new career as a bricklayer, he immigrated to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and married in 1922. George and Doris had two children, William and Ida, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He passed away in Sydney in 1971.

Stephen Copplin / Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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Ernest William Aldridge

missing imageHere we are a hundred years after the death of Ernest William Aldridge, and we are still honoring his short life. God knew that his family would someday have the opportunity to tell how his life goes on—through generations.

Ernest emigrated from England in April 1907 with his bride, Charlotte. They, along with a ship full of Salvation Army members and their families, came to Canada to begin the work in the Toronto area.

Ernest was a master carpenter by trade, and this trait has lived on in the men of the family. He was a musician: he played the piano, violin, trombone, and whatever instrument he could get his hands on. This musical trait also lives on through generations, including in his great-great-great-grandchildren.

Ernest was the first Bandmaster at the Salvation Army Earlscourt Citadel and later became part of the first Canadian Staff Band. His love for God and playing in the Band helped him as he boarded the Empress of Ireland that May 1914, leaving behind his wife of seven years and three young children. The Band was going to the International Congress in London.

We know that as they left Quebec City that Thursday, he was doing what he loved best: playing songs with the Staff Band. One of the last songs that they played was God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again. This song seemed to be such a fitting finale to his home-going!

Ernest was only thirty years old when he died, but he has generations of family members all over Canada and the USA. Although Ernest is gone in body, we, his family, are passing along the story not only of his life but also of his faith in God!

Virginia (Aldridge) Passmore / Barnesville, Georgia, USA

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Will Clark, Lavinia Simpson Clark, Nellie Clark

missing imageMy grandfather, Will Clark, his wife, Lavinia Simpson Clark, and their daughter, Nellie Clark, recent immigrants from Yorkshire, England, had settled in Toronto. When the International Conference of the Salvation Army arose, it was seen as an opportunity for the family to return to England to visit Lavinia’s relatives and to attend the conference. Will, however, was unable to get the time off work. It was decided that Lavinia and Nellie (age 9) would travel on ahead and Will would join them later. Second class tickets were purchased for passage on the Empress of Ireland.

Will accompanied his family from Toronto to Montreal by train. They said their good-byes, and Will made the return trip to Toronto. Upon his arrival at Union Station, Will was greeted by the newspaper headlines "Empress of Ireland Sunk in the Gulf of St. Lawrence". He immediately boarded a train and returned to Montreal in hopes of finding that his family had been rescued. Alas, both Lavinia and Nellie had drowned. Their bodies were not recovered. Grief-stricken, Will returned to Toronto.

Will went on to marry again. He and his wife had a daughter and a son (my father), eight grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. Will lived an active life, working well into his eighties, and died at the age of 89. This story has been a treasured part of our family history. Many of us have read about it, researched it and followed the news about the recovery of artifacts from the sunken liner. We are all aware that when plans are made, life can often take a tragic turn and that, but for this tragedy, none of us would be here today.

It is with great respect that my husband and I will attend the 100-year memorial in Rimouski. Submitted by Donna (Clark) Parker on behalf of the Clark family and its descendants.

Donna (Clark) Parker / Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

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Delamont family

missing imageAs promised, I am writing to you about the Delamont family, who were members of the group of Salvationists travelling to England on the Empress of Ireland to attend the international Congress.

My grandfather John, grandmother Seraphine, uncles Leonard & Arthur, and my aunt Lizzie were among the 3rd class passengers.

The following was reported in the Toronto Sunday World- June 2, 1914:

“Having taken a number of ocean voyages when a young man, Bandsman Delamont said that when he heard the warning signal, he realized at once something of a most serious character had occurred. He awakened his two sons, who were with him, and, hurrying into some clothes, told the two young men to place lifebelts about themselves and make their way with all haste to the deck.

He then left them and ran to the cabin of his wife and daughter. The door was locked. It was necessary to break it open by throwing his weight against it. The three made their way to the deck which by this time was on such an awful slant that it was with great difficulty they managed to climb on to the port side of the vessel.

Just a short time before the vessel sank, their son Leonard crawled along the side of the ship to them and it was while on the upturned side of the vessel that he unfastened the life belt he was wearing and placed it about his mother. Feeling the vessel rapidly sinking, the son kissed his mother goodbye and jumping off into the water swam off into the darkness, to never again be seen alive.

Almost immediately after, with a hissing and gurgling, and to the screams of the hundreds still on board, the vessel sank into the river.

When he arose to the surface again, Delamont could see nothing of his wife and daughter. Being unable to swim he did not think he had long to live. He was a stout man, and, while not a swimmer, he was able to float until he found a piece of wreckage.

missing imagemissing imageHe drifted within hailing distance of one of the rescue boats and cried out for help, but, they paid no attention to him. Remarkable though, his wife and daughter were clinging to an upturned boat not far from where he was, and, hearing his call, recognized his voice. They immediately called out to him and he made his way over to them and clung alongside the upturned boat with them.

After a long wait, they were finally taken aboard another of the rescue boats, and by it taken to the Lady Evelyn. It was after 4 a.m., showing they had been in the water for over two hours.

That mother and daughter found each other in the water after drifting for nearly an hour is little short of a miracle. The young woman’s hair had been torn from her head by one of the drowning victims. A short time after they came upon the upturned boat. The women were clad in only their night clothes.

The story of Arthur Delamont is that on reaching the deck, he could see no sign of the family and sprang into the water and swam away from the ship. After drifting about for about an hour and a half, he was finally picked up by one of the rescue boats. It was some time after landing, that he learned of the rescue of his parents and sister and later met them. The momentary rejoicing at being saved was turned to sadness when it was ascertained that the other son was among the missing.

In the three days in which they were at Quebec, the father made five trips thru the dock sheds in which were the bodies of two hundred of the victims. The mother and son also searched long, but, in vain for Leonard Delamont. All this time Elizabeth Delamont was confined to the hospital, and, it was with difficulty that she lasted the train journey thru to Toronto. ”

June Ivany / Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada

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William Bray

missing imageA much-loved brother of my grandfather, William Bray, known affectionately as Willie, drowned on the Empress of Ireland at the age of 24. He was a humble kitchen porter.

I have only tonight discovered the name of the ship he crewed on, as my grandfather died back in 1971, and there was no written record of the vessel's name. I am so happy to have found the information in time to commemorate the centenary of the wreck and his death. Although I have no story to relate about his experience on board, I would like to share this photograph of him in his teens so that the anonymous name on the crew list has a face.

He was from a family of mariners, and his father was an officer on an industrial training ship, the Clio, moored in the Menai Straits, off Bangor, North Wales. Any information you have about his last resting place, whether or not his body was recovered, would be welcome.

Rosmond Kinsey Milner / London, U.K.

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Liisa Lydia Lampinen

My great-grandmother, Lmissing imageiisa Lydia Lampinen, born in 1840 in Rantsila, Finland, died on the Empress of Ireland.

She had been living in Calumet, Michigan, for 25 years with her only daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Gustav Lungi, and their 11 children, when she decided to return to Finland to care for her 90-year-old blind sister. She gave her life jacket to a young man knowing she would drown. Later, a member of that man's family went to the Lungis to express their gratitude.

She is buried in the Hermon Cemetery, casket no. 155. A few days before leaving, she took two of the granddaughters with her to have a photo taken.

Lois Funke / Ontonagon, Michigan, USA

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Pehr (Peter) Johnson Rask

missing imageMy great, great grandfather Pehr (Peter) Johnson Rask was born in the central Swedish highlands at Offerdahl in 1863, to Jon Persson Rask and Märit Andersdotter. He emigrated to the Canadian prairies, to present-day southeastern Saskatchewan, in 1893, and soon after married another native of his home district in Sweden, Brita Hanson. Together they would have seven children, three boys and four girls.

Pehr took up farming in his new land, as well as employing his skills as a stone mason in the erection of buildings in the area. He engaged in public affairs as a municipal councillor.

On the death of his brother, Anders, and to settle the estate, Pehr embarked on the Empress of Ireland, in third class, for what would have been his first return voyage to his native country.

Pehr died at 60 years of age in 1923, of abdominal cancer as an indirect result of the injuries he sustained during the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. His health would never permit him to make the return journey to his homeland. His wife, Brita, survived him by another decade.

The second-born of Pehr and Brita’s children was called Annie, later Mrs. J.A. McKinnon, who was 18 years of age at the time of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. She lived until the age of 85.

Nigel Molaro / Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

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Michael Mc Aleavey, Patrick Mc Aleavey

missing imageAccording to my dad, Michael McAleavey worked as a trimmer and was saved, although it is believed he couldn't swim. His cousin Patrick McAleavey who worked as a scullion was also saved. Both cousins were from Liverpool, as were many of the crew. As the story goes, they were sleeping when a steward alerted them that they were sinking by knocking on their cabins doors. Nobody knows who this crew member was, and my grandfather believes that he did not survive. This unknown heroic crew member helped save lives that night, when so many sadly perished whilst they were sleeping.

Claire Williams / Southport, Merseyside, U.K.

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Frank Ernest Abbott

missing imageFrank Ernest Abbott was born in Liverpool, England, in 1872. His father Joseph Abbott was the Principal of Wavertree Collegiate. Frank and his brother Arthur apprenticed in the drapery and millinery business.

In 1908, Frank immigrated to Canada with his wife Edith. Arthur followed soon after with his wife Carrie, and the brothers commenced a successful millinery business in Toronto, called Abbot Bros. They took turns travelling to Europe to research new styles and fabrics for their creations.

In 1914, it was, then 42 year old, Frank’s turn to take the trip, and he boarded the Empress of Ireland on May 28 at Quebec City, leaving at home his wife Edith and his little 3 year old Dorothy.

Frank is registered in the First Class Passenger list as F E Abbott. When the tragedy took place and the ship sank, Frank was able to save himself by swimming and grasping a piece of flotsam. He was picked up and safely taken to shore while still wearing his striped pajamas, which the family did preserve for several years before losing them in a fire.

Peter Wilson / Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

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Margaret et Thomas Greenaway

missing imageMy 2 sisters and I are the grandchildren of Thomas & Margaret Greenaway - survivors of the sinking. Margaret Ellen Dalzell married Thomas Hartley Greenaway, in Toronto, on 21 May 1914. Margaret had grown up on Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick and Tom had grown up in England. They were both members of the Salvation Army and were combining their honeymoon and a trip to the Salvation Army Congress in London. Tom and his brother Herbert Booth (Bert), our great uncle , also a survivor, were both members of the Salvation Army Staff Band.

I have a letter written by my grandmother to her new in-laws in England detailing their experiences.

Denise Reynolds / Oakville, Ontario, Canada


Read Margaret letter here.
(.pdf format)

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Albert Mullins and Samuel “Bowley” Barnes

missing imageAlbert Mullins and Samuel “Bowley” Barnes were boyhood friends in Wimborne , Dorset in the south of England. Both were keen and accomplished banjo players and performed together building a strong reputation for their act. In 1895 they established the musical instrument company Barnes & Mullins Ltd in Rathbone Place, London.

In 1901 they married the Piercy sisters on the same day in the same church, Albert marrying Kate and Bowley marrying Helen.

Barnes & Mullins quickly grew a successful and profitable company with Mullins being the salesman of the duo. In late 1912 Albert Mullins, along with his wife and daughter Eileen, set off on an around the world sales trip arriving in Perth Australia on the 31st December 1912. Their son “Dick” remained at home, probably due to schooling. Their passage, which was first class for the whole trip, indicates how well this working class lad was now doing.

The Mullins were in Sydney by early January and toured in Australia for over a year until leaving for Vancouver, where they arrived 5th March 1914.

Albert’s work kept him in Canada for nearly three months before it was time to eventually return to England. There is no doubt that Albert’s International sales drive had been a success. Evidence of this remains today by the number of enquiries the company receives from Australia and Canada as to the heritage and value of an old Barnes & Mullins banjo or mandolin.

Of course this trip was not to end well when Albert and his daughter Eileen lost their lives in the Empress of Ireland disaster.

Mrs Kate Mullins survived, she is understood to have sustained two broken legs. On the 12th June her sister Helen arrived in Quebec City with Kate’s son “Dick” to take her home.

The disaster effected both the Mullins family and Barnes family deeply. The two gentlemen had been the greatest of friends, as well as business partners, and this was demonstrated by Albert Mullins giving his son Dick the middle name of Bowley.

Kate Mullins never remarried but did live to the very good age of 89 until she passed away in 1964.

Brian Cleary / Managing Director Barnes and Mullins Ltd, London, England

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Sydney Charles Maidment, Harriett Peckham Maidment

missing imageThe five surviving children of my great-grandparents Sydney Charles Maidment and Harriett Peckham Maidment were orphaned when their parents died in the Empress of Ireland disaster. Their three oldest children, Violet Olga, Cornelia Ivy and Charles Bramwell, remained in Canada. Their two youngest children, Herbert Harold John and Gudrun Agnes, were returned to England three months after their parent’s deaths and raised in an orphanage there.

Descendants of Sydney and Harriett, in the interest of finding their roots, have been drawn to each other, along with other extended family members who have also succumbed to family history mania and contributed so much that we claim them as our own. We hope to gather as many as possible together in 2014 to honour Sydney and Harriett’s memory and to cement familial relationships and bonds that exist between us. We reside in Canada, the US, England, Spain and Australia. Modern technology and ancestral longings have brought us together.

Sharon Ferry / Michigan, USA

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Harold and Elsie South

missing imageHarold and Elsie South, perished on the Empress of Ireland. They were my brother Richard and I grandparents.

They were part of Laurence Irving's acting troupe, and indeed Harold was Actor/Manager for the company, and so quite an important member of this company.

Sadly they were lost with the ship and their bodies were never found. They left 3 small daughters in England, being cared for by relatives; our mother was the youngest. We want to pay our respects to Harold and Elsie and remember them on our mother's behalf. She felt their loss all her life.

Kay Toy / England

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Anna Flatekval Lone

missing imageThe young mother in the photo is my aunt, Anna Flatekval Lone. She had come to America from Voss, Norway, in 1907, to marry Hans Lone who had come earlier. They married in Minnesota, in March 1908. In 1910, they were living in Lansing, Iowa and raising their three children, Alic, Rene and Clara. Hans was a cement-worker.

In 1910, two of Anna’s brothers from Voss also came to Iowa: Alex and Erick. They changed their name from Flatekval to Knutson. Alex Knutson is my father. He got a job in the pearl button industry on the Mississippi River, in Lansing.

For some reason my aunt’s young family decided to travel back to Norway to be with the rest of their family, and it seems they were planning to stay there. Before leaving, they sold everything, sewed their money into Hans underwear and booked passage on the Empress of Ireland. Their tickets were in third class.

Their bodies were never found. My father Alex must have been devastated to get the message asking him to come to Rimouski to see if he could identify any of the recovered bodies. He could not.

Instead, my father decided to go back to Norway himself in the hope of making the tragic news easier for his family to bear. He stayed for a few months until it became dangerous to cross the Atlantic as WW I was beginning.

Helen Knutson Wurtzel / Wisconsin, USA

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James Faulkner, Mary "Ellen" Faulkner

missing imageJames Faulkner (born in 1858 in Willenhall, England) and Mary "Ellen" Faulkner (née Meredith, born in England) both died on the Empress of Ireland.

They were my great-grandparents. They came to Canada in 1907/08 and settled in London, Ontario. My mother said that they were returning to England to visit with family still there. I believe their son James, my grandfather, went to Quebec City to claim his mother's body, but I don't think his father's body was found. Mary Ellen is buried in London, Ontario.

Susan Cameron

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Frank Crossley

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My Grand-father, Frank Crossley (1891 - 1962), the youngest son of Fredrick Dodgson Crossley and Celia Hannah Mingay, was born in Longsight, England. Frank emmigrated to Canada by way of Empress of Ireland, arriving at Saint John, New Brunswick in February 1909.

In 1912, at Yorkton, Saskatchewan, he joined the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) and, with the exception of time served overseas during WW1, was in continuous service with the RNWMP until February, 1944.

Frank married Minnie Isobel Kennedy in Daysland, Alberta Dec 21, 1916. They had two children, Sidney Ross and Edith Alice. Frank married Edith Mary Hearn after the death of Minnie.

Alice Giddy / Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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Egildo and Carolina Braga

missing imageEgildo and Carolina Braga survived the tragic sinking of the Empress of Ireland, but their son Rino lost his life.

Enrichetta Braga (the couple's daughter, now 93) tells their story:

Egildo Braga landed at Ellis Island, New York, on December 27, 1908. The energetic 20-year-old worked as a miner in Eveleth. Egildo wanted to start a family, but he did not have the time or the opportunity to find a wife in his new homeland or to return to Italy, so he asked his family for help. Since many young men had gone abroad, there were lots of marriageable young women in Italy, and often, a photograph or a vague memory was enough to arrange a marriage. Some young women were married by proxy, but Carolina Braga, Egildo's cousin, chose to cross the Atlantic aboard the La Lorraine and arrived in New York on May 27, 1911. On June 3, 1911, Egildo and Carolina were married in Eveleth and began to plan for the future. They had a son, Rino, and everything was going well for them.

In May 1914, Egildo, Carolina and Rino were among the hundreds who boarded the Empress of Ireland in Quebec City bound for Liverpool. The destination was practical for northern Europeans, but not for Italians, who then had to travel another 1,250 kilometres. These people were travelling home to see their families. Many were also fleeing the bloody strikes plaguing the mining sector.

When the Storstad collided with the Empress of Ireland, Egildo awoke suddenly and ran to find out what had happened. "Carolina, sta li ca vos ù a vide." (Carolina, wait for me. I'm going to find out what's going on.) He returned right away to tell her, "Carolina, al funda!" (Carolina, the ship is sinking!)

The fog, the fear, the panicking crowd and little Rino all made for a tense situation, but apparently Egildo kept his head. He found a way to attach his son to his body and thought about how they could all get out. Carolina was afraid. They had put on life vests, but jumping into the black water was not easy. They were afraid of the swirling water around the sinking ship. Somehow, they managed to reach the deck. Egildo had to fight for all he was worth against a half-crazed man who was blocking the way with his suitcase!

Then they jumped into the water. Suddenly, Egildo realized that the impact of the water had torn Rino from him. While searching desperately for the boy, he lost sight of Carolina. She was injured when a beam hit her on the forehead. She sank into the freezing water, but struggled back up to the surface and clung to an overturned lifeboat.

Enrichetta had tears in her eyes while relating her father's story. Emotion overcame her father every time he spoke of the tragic event, which was often. For the rest of his life, he felt terribly guilty that he was unable to save Rino.

The survivors were transported to Rimouski, where the Bragas searched in vain for Rino's body among the corpses lined up for identification.

All they could do then was try to make peace with what had happened and return to Italy as soon as possible. Canadian Pacific gave them passage aboard the Corsican, which left for Liverpool on May 31, 1914, carrying the few Italians who had survived.

They had many memories of America, but few physical objects. A leather belt purchased with the miner's savings and a gold chain miraculously saved from the sinking: nothing more. They had lost everything, even their clothes. Carolina smiled as she told how, when she was rescued, she was wearing nothing but her night dress and covered herself with blanket upon blanket, "cuerta da la una cuerta insù".

Life went on, and Enrichetta Braga was born in 1920.

Enrichetta Braga / Italy
Interview: Ernesto Milani

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Jean-Baptiste Bélanger

Few people know that Jean-Baptiste Bélanger, Captain of the Eureka, was the first to arrive on the scene of the disaster. I suppose some people still on Earth will be happy to know the name of the person who saved their ancestors and that of the boat he used to save them. Born on January 1, 1852, Captain Jean-Baptiste Bélanger was 62 the day of the sinking.

According to a newspaper clipping preserved in a scrapbook created by Ada Bélanger (the Captain’s daughter and my grandmother Houde), Captain Bélanger saved the following passengers:

Passengers Saved

At 10:30 this morning, we received the following list of passengers saved by Captain J.-B. Bélanger and the steamer Eureka:

Bamford, Mark Parkinson
R.Holt, bedroom steward
Wrowen, Alex
Radley, boatswain’s mate
C. Coombs, cook [pantryman]
H. Reginald Morland (assistant steward)]
White Grey
Jos. Williams
E. Foster
A. Eliott, Baker
A. C. Ferguson
Mrs. R. Sims
Nesool Deolix
Spededon Novek Gadde
C. S. Sampson
Swan A. Johnson
O. S Murphy, Q.M.
T. Sprague, Duckworth, etc.
J. Satis. L.E.Donavan

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A. Williams
H. Clandon
P. Haran
Chas. R. Clark, first class passengers.

Also aboard the Eureka were the Empress’s Captain Kendall and two wireless operators.

Among the passengers was Mr. Walter S. Herxheimer, an Englishman from London who planned to open a branch of his silk shop at 551 Victoria Square in Montreal. Mr. Herxheimer, a multimillionaire known to many in Quebec City, was to have returned in six weeks to open his business.

Source: L’Événement, May 29, 1914.

Renée Houde / Montréal, Québec, Canada

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Désiré Paré

missing imageMy grandfather, Désiré Paré, was the station manager when the Empress of Ireland sank. At the time, the station building had another floor, and that's where the family lived.

All of the mail that was recovered from the ship was brought to my grandfather. My grandmother, Anna, was allowed to string up makeshift clotheslines in the basement to dry the letters out.

My father, André, who was 12 at the time, started a stamp collection with all of the stamps that fell off. The silver ingots that were recovered were also transferred to the station. They were loaded onto rail cars supervised by armed Canadian soldiers.

Pierre Paré / Rimouski, Québec, Canada


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Thomas McCready

missing imageI was born in Liverpool in 1944 and knew that my family had strong links with sea. Grandfather, Dad, his brother and two of my brothers were sailors. I never knew my grandfather as he died when I was only 3. After my retirement, I found out that Grandfather Thomas McCready had survived the tragedy of the Empress of Ireland in 1914.

He spent his working life as a ship’s stoker on some of the great coal burning liners. In fact he was involved in another shipwreck in 1929 aboard Celtic; a predecessor to Titanic. In total, he and grandmother had 13 children of whom 7 survived to have families of their own.

Thomas (Tom) McCready / Wilmslow, Cheshire, England

A stoker aboard the
Empress of Britain,
sister ship of the
Empress of Ireland.
Collection : David Saint-Pierre






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Ellen Berglund

missing imageMy grandmother was named Ellen Berglund. She came from Pitea, Sweden. She was on the Empress of Ireland's March 21st sailing from Liverpool. As far as I know she was headed to Canada to live and work with four of her brothers. She eventually went to work for the Hill family (Great Northern Railway) as a cook on their private rail car. She eventually made her way to Pebble Beach California and worked for that family. She met my grandfather in Carmel by the Sea, they were married and the rest is history. We are here, alive and well because my grandmother eventually made it safely to America in part due to that ship!

Markham Johnson / California, USA

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Thomas Clark

missing imageMy Mother and I attended the Empress of Ireland 90th celebration in Rimouski in 2004. After many years of looking and never finding anything regarding the Empress of Ireland, Marion Kelch was interviewed in an article regarding this 90th celebration. She had arranged for a group to attend the celebration. We were privileged to be a part of this.

My cousin Scott has suggested that I give you some more info regarding our ancestors journey . I spoke with my Mom (Mildred – 89 this year). This is her knowledge of what transpired.

Thomas Clark was diagnosed with “consumption”. At that time, immigrants were required to return to their homeland in order to recuperate before returning to Canada. Accompanied by his Mother, Ellen Clark , they were set to sail back to England on the Empress of Ireland.

The day before Ellen and Thomas were to leave. a mirror fell off the wall and broke. My Grandmother, Maria (daughter of Ellen) was about 15 or perhaps 16 at the time. My Mother told us how superstitious Grandma (Maria) was, likely from the association with the “7 years bad luck” superstition and the events that happened within the next few days.

Upon arriving at the ship, as was the custom, Ellen was roomed with another lady and Thomas was roomed with another man as third class passengers. When the ship was struck by the Storstad, it was believed that it was where Thomas’s cabin was. Jolted awake by the ship being struck, Ellen’s roommate told her she would go up on deck and find out what happened. Needless to say, this woman survived and Ellen did not.

Their bodies were never recovered and their remains are at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River.

My Grandmother Maria faced hardships after losing her Mother. Her Father remarried a very mean woman, and Maria nearly died when she would not take care of her. Only with the help of her other brother she recuperated. She had fond memories of her brother Thomas and we have a small powder compact that he had given her. This is a treasure she cherished and passed on to my Mother.

Pam Matichuk /Alberta, Canada

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Ethel May Blakeburn

missing imageMy grandmother's aunt, Ethel May Blakeburn, was aboard the Empress of Ireland. She came to Canada from England; according to family lore, she came as a nanny for a family, accompanying them on their travel to Canada. She lived in Halifax for a number of months and was returning home to England aboard the Empress of Ireland. She was travelling third class; she did not survive. A newspaper article from the Halifax Chronicle Herald stated that she was well liked by all who knew her.

Lisa Terech /Ontario, Canada










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Georges Zuk

missing imageGeorge was one of the survivors of the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history. His wife Maria and their two children were among the 1,012 who perished when the Empress of Ireland was struck by the Storstad in the St. Lawrence River on May 29, 1914. He married his second wife Louise Anna Stypula and they had three children: Walter Zuk, Henry Zuk and Josephine Zuk Petersen. Walter was named after his half-brother Wladisaw and Josephine was named after her half-sister Josefa, both whom perished when the Empress of Ireland sank.

Connie Zuk Nisinger / USA

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Mrs. Mary (Parker) Dale and her young daughter Reta

missing imageHere is some information about Mrs. Mary (Parker) Dale and her young daughter Reta. They were travelling second class on the Empress of Ireland when it sank it May, 1914 and perished when it sank.

My great uncle Jack and Mary Dale emigrated to Canada from England sometime early in 1912. Jack Dale worked as a “joiner”,or carpenter, in Toronto. My grandmother and grandfather, Frank & Annie Dale were already living in Toronto at that time. Jack and Mary Dale were expecting their first child when they came across the Atlantic Ocean in 1912. Jack and Mary Dale’s daughter, Reta Betty Dale was born July 22nd, 1912 in Toronto.

Mary was going to England with her young daughter in May, 1914 to visit with her family likely in Derbyshire County, England. We know from our family history that Mary was also pregnant and expecting her second baby at the time of the sinking. Jack was still working in Toronto at the time, and was going to join them in England a bit later on to attend a family wedding.

Mary and her daughter (about 22 months old at time of sinking) were travelling in second class. We don’t know what happened to them as their bodies were never found.

My Great Uncle Jack, Mary’s husband, went to Quebec City after the sinking to look for her and their baby amongst the dead, but he could not find them. We were told that his hair went gray overnight because he was so grief stricken at the loss of his family. He later moved back to England and re-married but did not have any more children.

Anne Polewski / Ontario, Canada

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The Ainsworth family, Edith, Maud, Jack and Eric

I have always been aware of the tragedy of the Empress of Ireland as my grandma lost her mother and 3 younger siblings in the disaster. They were the Ainsworth family, Edith, Maud, Jack and Eric.

missing imageMy own mother sadly passed away recently and as I was looking through her belongings I found a postcard from my Great Grandma, Edith Ainsworth, sent to her family in Cleveland from on board the Empress of Ireland prior to setting sale for England. If you can make out the message it says "arrived all safe Toronto and Quebec, Mother (on board)". The date stamp reads Quebec PO May 28th 1914 9pm. I just thought you might find it interesting.

Hilary Hallas / England


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Martin Gill

I first visited Rimouski when I had completed some study in Baltimore Maryland in June 1991, and then I returned in 2004 for the 90th anniversary of the sinking. Since that all of our family, grandchildren and great children of Martin Gill, have been planning a trip for the 100th.

In 2009 we discovered cousins we never knew we had. These are grandchildren of Martin's sister Mary. Martin and Mary had emigrated to British Columbia in 1907, she 22 years and he 17.

Mary McDermott / Ireland

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William Horwood

missing imageMy grandfather, William Horwood, was Born October 11, 1880 in Coleford, Gloucestershire, England. He married Ruth Wicksey September 4, 1907. They had two children: Herbert Reginald Horwood and John Henry Horwood. I definitely will plan to attend the anniversary.

Standing Left to Right: Joseph Pugmire (minister), Ruth Wicksey, Bertram Pattendan (best friend of William—he also drowned on Empress). Front Row Left to Right: William Horwood and Catherine Wicksey (sister of Ruth).

Don Horwood / Alberta, Canada

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Joseph (Edward) Singer

missing imageMy Grandmother's half brother, Joseph (Edward) Singer (his father was actually called Edward Shortsinger, probably derived from Schwarzinger, from Bavaria, Germany via Northern Ireland - clock makers) lost his life while working as an assistant steward on the Empress of Ireland on the fateful night - at the age of 21. A few years earlier, in the 1911 census he was a tailor's apprentice in Liverpool.

A memorial stone was erected for him by his sister, Mary when her husband Harry Box died of TB in 1930 - she is also died of TB 3 years later and is also buried there but is not mentioned on the gravestone. It is at Allerton Cemetery, Liverpool.

Sue Shuttleworth / U.K.




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