Souvenirs from the sinking of the Prince Edward Island Titanic


Last Thursday marked the sinking of the luxury liner Titanic off the coast of Canada in 1912 as it made its maiden voyage from Britain to New York.

More than 1,500 people died that fateful night after the allegedly unsinkable ship struck an iceberg.

Dutch Thompson is an award-winning historian and storyteller. He has published a book on the bygone era of Prince Edward Island. (Submitted by Dutch Thompson)

Adelaide Hamm was born in 1902 and raised on a farm in Bunbury (now part of Stratford), at a time when there were only six farms in Bunbury. She remembers the sinking of the Titanic and said the sinking was big news around the world for weeks.

“I remember hearing my parents read it in the newspaper, about the fall and all the people who were lost,” Hamm said.

My mother’s sister lived in London, and she was one of the old Queen Victoria’s seamstresses.– Gwen Powell Edwards

Enid Birch of Birchill and Summerside was 11 years old and said she remembers the news of what happened “clearly”.

“Word of mouth first” was where Birch said she had heard it, followed by newspaper articles. “Oh that was everyone’s speech, people were shocked, it was supposed to be unsinkable.”

Kathleen Cameron of Summerside was born in 1897 and was 15 when the Titanic sank. “Terrible disaster, just horrible,” she recalls.

Jennie MacLean of Port Hill and Summerside remembers a beautiful getaway by one of her neighbors, a Scottish woman who married a local man named Hugh Ellis. She had to cross the Titanic, MacLean said, but changed her mind.

“It was awful”

Gwen Powell was born in 1903, so she was 10 years old when her sister Annie Powell sailed the Titanic.

One of Gwen Powell Edwards’ sisters survived the sinking of the Titanic. Another sister moved to PEI. (Dutch Thompson)

She said she didn’t remember much, except that information about the incident was scarce.

“I was about 10 years old, and of course we weren’t allowed to read newspapers or listen to a conversation, mother and father never allowed us to do that,” she said. declared.

” It was dreadful. And a Sunday! , the only day of the week he did. ”

Gwen and Annie were two of 10 siblings – Gwen was the baby and lived the longest. Her older sister Edith was 26 years older than her.

Here’s the PEI connection: One of the Powell sisters, Alice, became a church missionary and met her husband Archie Birtwhistle in Western Canada where he was a Mounted Police officer. of the Northwest. They fell in love, got married and moved to Prince Edward Island. Archie became well known around Charlottetown as a colorful character, later nicknamed “The Chief” since he was a police chief for many years.

Wealthy employers aboard the Titanic

The Powells were not well off. Mr. Powell worked in a quarry and was also a farmer. Like so many rural British families, finding work was difficult, so children were often put into service – boys in the military, girls as servants such as butlers, gardeners and housekeepers for the upper classes.

The Titanic remains on the ocean floor off Newfoundland and Labrador, where it sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912. (NOAA / Institute for Exploration / University of Rhode Island)

Once a family member has established itself in the household of a well-to-do family, it often creates opportunities for other family members. And that’s what happened with the Powells.

“Oh, there was no work here, they all had to leave. My mother’s sister lived in London and she was one of the tailoring maids for the former Queen Victoria,” Gwen said. Her sister Edith was recruited, but didn’t like sewing, so Annie tried it on and liked it.

“And that’s how she became a maid” for a wealthy family traveling on the Titanic, Gwen said.

Child sent forward on a lifeboat

Annie survived the sinking but didn’t say much about it, Gwen said.

Gwen then married and became Gwen Edwards and lived in Kington, Herefordshire, England.

Adelaide Hamm grew up in Bunbury, which was then a very rural community, where Stratford is now located. She remembered that her parents had read aloud the newspaper about the sinking of the Titanic. (Dutch Thompson)

Annie said the Lord and the lady who employed her put her and their little girl in a lifeboat, but the couple drowned.

Annie continued her transatlantic trips serving various employers after the sinking, making the crossing 14 more times, Edwards said.

The eldest of the Powell children, Jack, fought in the Boer War and the First World War. Another brother fought in both world wars and received a medal for being the first British soldier to set foot in France during World War I.

Another brother went to the gold rush in the Yukon and was killed in a gold mine, and another went to New Zealand and made his fortune in sheep farming.

Halifax is 1,100 kilometers west of where the liner sank, and ships have been dispatched from Nova Scotia to retrieve the bodies.

Families came to claim the remains of loved ones, and funerals and memorial services followed for weeks. A total of 150 of the Titanic’s dead are buried in three Halifax cemeteries, and many of the ship’s artifacts can be seen today at the Maritime Museum on the waterfront.

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