Myths and facts linking Aberdeen to the Titanic tragedy


“A Northeast Man Lost at Sea” wasn’t P&J’s headline when news of the sinking of the Titanic broke 110 years ago.

Where the story began no one knows for sure, but it has gone through history and been told so many times that most people now accept it as fact.

However, the northeast has many links to the disaster, some as unimaginable as the plunge of the “unsinkable” ocean liner into the icy depths on April 14 and 15, 1912.

The Titanic set out from Southampton on her maiden voyage in April 1912.

The Titanic disappeared to the bottom of the Atlantic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York with the loss of 1,500 souls.

The Titanic began to sink bow first, but it only had lifeboats for half the people, and women and children priority rules meant more men lost their lives.

It was 2:20 a.m. the next morning, two hours and 40 minutes after hitting the iceberg, that the sinking rate suddenly increased, with Titanic’s foredeck plunging underwater.

The sea poured in through every hatch and there was a terrible noise as the ship began to break in two.

None of the ships that picked up Titanic’s distress signals were able to reach her before she left, and just over 700 people lived to tell the tale.

How did news of the Titanic break in Aberdeen?

Granite City’s first report of the disaster appeared in the April 15 Evening Express, under the headlines: “World’s Largest Ocean Liner Sinking – Collision with Iceberg – Passengers Taking Ships”.

The P&J headlines that greeted readers on April 16 read: “Mid-Atlantic Disaster.” Titanic sunk by iceberg. 1,683 lives lost; 675 saved. Steamer race to rescue’.

Wide and in-depth coverage of the tragedy considered the dangers of navigating ships in an iceberg-strewn Atlantic, raised questions about the
The Titanic Assurance, and included a detailed history and lavish descriptions of the ship – but no mention of a ‘man from the northeast’.

It wasn’t until days later, when more information about the disaster emerged, that the P&J was able to tell its readers about the fate of the people from the northeast on board.

A P&J report on the disaster.

The most likely explanation behind the myth surrounding the title is that it dates back to this moment, a few days after the tragedy, when a news bulletin outside a store stated: “Titanic Last: NE man dead”.

The victims in this area were James Fraser, 28, a third junior assistant engineer from Torry who sank with the ship, leaving a wife and two young children; Elgin man James Smith, 39, who was a fourth junior engineer; and Thomas McCawley, 34, an Aberdeen-born gym steward who then resided in Southampton.

His gymnasium was next to the lifesaving station, and many passengers entered the gymnasium to try to warm up before being evacuated.

He kept many people calm and helped fit them with life preservers.

The ‘Money Boat’ and the hero Gourdon

Two second class passengers, Bessie Watt and her daughter Bertha, from Aberdeen, survived the sinking and were pulled from lifeboat number nine by the crew of the Carpathia.

They finally landed in New York on April 18. Bertha, who was 12 at the time of the disaster, lived to be 93.

Having survived the sinking of the Titanic, the behavior of two northeastern aristocrats was to haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, an Olympic fencer whose baronial seat was the Maryculter House Hotel on the outskirts of Aberdeen, was traveling with his wife, Lucy, who was a successful fashion designer with salons in New York, Paris and Chicago .

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife have been widely criticized following the tragedy.
Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife have been widely criticized following the tragedy.

The lifeboat crew was instructed to let women and children board first and only allow berths to men if there were spare seats.

Sir Cosmo, Lucy and their secretary managed to secure three out of 12 seats occupied in a 40 capacity lifeboat.

This led to a major scandal and the wealthy couple quickly became a popular tabloid topic, with allegations that Sir Cosmo had bribed the crew to get away faster, rather than returning to rescue the others. .

The press eventually dubbed it the “Money Boat”.

The only passengers to take part in the inquest hearings, they were later cleared of any wrongdoing, but Lady Duff-Gordon went on to say that her husband, who was also a Sheriff and Magistrate in Kincardineshire, was heartbroken by the negative coverage. For the rest of his life.

The survivors huddled in the boat for warmth until they were rescued by the Carpathia two hours later.

John Cargil.
“The Sergeant”: Gourdon man John Cargill received a medal for his participation in the rescue effort.

John Cargill, from Gourdon in Aberdeenshire, was part of the crew of the Carpathia and received a bronze medal from the Titanic for his part in the operation.

Armed only with sacks of coal, Mr Cargill, 19, worked through the night to snatch men, women and children from the sea, using sacks of coal to bring babies to safety.

Mr Cargill served in World War I with The Black Watch and returned to sea in World War II with the Royal Navy Reserve.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal after single-handedly extinguishing a fire aboard a minesweeper.

He and his wife Mary raised three sons and a daughter in Gourdon, where everyone knew him by his nickname: “the Sergeant”.

After the war, he returned to the sea as a fisherman.

Many survivors made their way to Mr. Cargill’s doorstep in later life to thank the man who saved their lives, and after his death in 1981 the medal was passed on to his grandson. son.

The man who sank the Titanic dies in Aberdeen

What happened to the sailor who was the last at the helm before the sinking of the Titanic?

Robert Hitchens was the man at the wheel when the cursed liner hit the iceberg, before the quartermaster escaped the ship at the helm of Lifeboat 6.

Hitchens refused to return to the sinking site to search for survivors.

This sparked a row with Denver millionaire Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown who urged them to back off and threatened to throw him overboard.

Robert Hitchens became a scapegoat after surviving the Titanic disaster.
Robert Hitchens became a scapegoat after surviving the Titanic disaster.

His life took a downward spiral after returning home to Southampton.

He and his wife separated and he was later imprisoned for the attempted murder of a work associate.

While in Parkhurst Prison he managed to reconcile with his wife before she died of a brain tumor in March 1940 and just six months later Hitchens died of heart failure on board of the English Trader, waiting to unload grain at the Port of Aberdeen.

Hitchens was buried in Trinity Cemetery near Pittodrie.

The official cause of death has been recorded as heart failure, although his family believe he died of a broken heart.

He was 58 years old.

More like this:

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[Myths and facts linking Aberdeen to Titanic tragedy]

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