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110 Years Since the Titanic Disaster: The People

If you are coming into this blog with no knowledge of the Titanic I would be very surprised given it has long been well covered in both history and pop culture BUT if that is you and you would like some more context, I recommend checking out my previous blog first! (Click Here)

These two blogs have been put together with pieces of history I compiled while still a "tween". I've tweaked the language slightly but otherwise they are just as I wrote them almost twenty years ago! This blog pays tribute to the stories of six women who were onboard the Titanic.

Story One:

Salini Yazbeck (Third Class Passenger)

Born on 15 July 1894 in Lebanon, Salini (aged 15) was married earlier in 1912 in Lebanon to Antoni Yazbeck who was 27 years.

Salini with her husband Antonio (Titanic Encyclopedia)

Antoni originally came from her village of Hardin in Lebanon however he had established a shoe-making business with his brother in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. He had returned to Lebanon to marry Salini and then travelled with her sister and her sisters’ children* back to the USA so they could reunite with their husband/father who had also migrated to the USA four years earlier.

The group, numbering 18 in total travelling from Lebanon, joined the ship in Cherbourg, France as third-class passengers.

During the sinking Salini lost her sister and husband, entering collapsible lifeboat C with her two young nephews (some reports state they were also separated from her). This lifeboat was the second-last to leave the Titanic, being lowered at around 2am. Titanic managing director J. Bruce Ismay escaped on this lifeboat however it is reported that when Salini’s husband attempted to enter the boat he was turned away.

In the early hours of the morning, she was re-united with her sister on the Carpathia where she discovered that her husband did not survive. Aged just 15 she was now a widow and of the original group of 18 it is thought that just Salini, her sister and nephews survived.

Once the ship arrived in New York Salini remained with her sister in quarantine for the rest of the month as the two young boys both developed measles. After this time, they were reunited with their parents who had already settled in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Two years later Salini re-married and went on to have twelve children with her new husband, Elias Decker. The family settled in Norfolk, Virginia and over the years Salini became well-known for surviving the Titanic. She died aged 71 on 10 March 1966.

*Aminah Mubarik (c. 1887), Jirjis Mubarik (27 November 1904) and Halim Mubarik (15 July 1907)

Story Two:

Katherine Gilnagh (Third Class Passenger)

Sixteen-year-old Katherine Gilnagh hailed from Cloonee, Ireland. She joined the Titanic in Queenstown and was headed for a new life in New York with her sister who was already living there.

Katherine (seated) pictured with her sister whom she reunited with in New York.

Onboard she shared a room with three other girls who all enjoyed the communal activities of third-class life. During the sinking all four attempted to make their way up to the deck but found their path blocked. They were eventually allowed to pass with other women and children after pressure from fellow male passengers wore down the overwhelmed crew.

With assistance from fellow passengers, she made her way to the boat deck and though she was initially denied entry to a boat she told the crew member that her sister was onboard so he let her board Lifeboat 16 which left the Titanic at 1:25am.

Katherine would go on to be married and have four children in Queens, New York. In her later years she became a well-known Titanic figure until her death, aged 76 on 1 March 1971.

Story Three:

Mary Sloan (First Class Stewardess)

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland May was 28 years of age (so she said)* when she boarded the Titanic as a stewardess. An established member of the White Star crew she was onboard the Olympic during its collision with the British cruiser HMS Hawke on 20 September 1911. Onboard the Titanic May was a first-class stewardess.

You know that scene in the movie Titanic where Thomas Andrews tells a stewardess to get to a lifeboat? That is based on the story of May. During the disaster he approached her and told her to prepare her passengers to board the lifeboats but not to start a panic.

Following his direction, she boarded a lifeboat at 1:25am and survived. She returned to Belfast in May and would eventually return to work as a stewardess but only for a short time. After eventually returning she remained financially comfortable until her death aged 86 on 28 February 1953.

*Later investigation into Mary proved that she was much older than she claimed! She would have been about 46 years of age when on board the Titanic.

Members of the Titanic's female surviving crew

Story Four:

Marion Wright (Second Class Passenger)

Twenty-six-year-old Marion Wright boarded the Titanic in Southampton as a second-class passenger. She was travelling to Cottage Grove, Oregon where she was to marry her finance Arthur Woolcott, a fruit farmer who had migrated in 1907.

Marion Wright, Second Class Passenger

On board she shared a cabin with Bessie Watt and her daughter Bertha. She also made friends with the Rev. Ertnest Carter whom she provided with tablets for his cold.

On the night of the sinking, she performed a solo in the second-class dining saloon, “Lead Kindly Light” which Rev. Carter explains was written about a wrecked vessel in the Atlantic. Later in the evening she is woken by a fellow passenger and goes to see the commotion. They witness third class passengers appearing on a lower deck with their belongings, who are mocked by those around her. Eventually she returned to her room for warmer clothes.

By 1:20am she returned to the boat deck and after a call for more ladies she is pushed forward by fellow male passengers. She never said goodbye to any of the friends she had made as she assumed she would return to the ship later in the morning.

She escaped on lifeboat number nine.

Once in New York her finance had arrived to meet the ship, but the couple missed each other, and he spent time searching the local hospitals for her only to be reunited with her at the home of a local family where she had sought refuge the next day.

The couple were married on 20 April and had three sons. She died, aged 80, on 4 July 1965.

Story Five:

Rhoda Mary 'Rosa' Abbott (Third Class Passenger)

Rosa Abbott was the wife of former English boxing champion Stanton Abbott. In 1911 the couple had separated, and she became the sole provider for their two sons, Rossmore (aged 16) and Eugene (aged 13). At this time, she relocated them to England, where they made the crossing on the Olympic and settled with her mother.

Rhoda Mary "Rosa" Abbott

Unfortunately, the boys were homesick for Providence, Rhode Island where they had grown up so she booked passage for them to return to the USA on the Titanic.

As the ship was sinking the three remained on board after Rossmore was denied a seat in a lifeboat. With the ship sinking beneath them all three jumped into the freezing water.

Rosa made her way to Collapsible Lifeboat A which was swamped with others taking their chances in the water. She battled her way onto the boat where she stood in 35cm of freezing water for hours until another lifeboat arrived, and the survivors of Collapsible A were transferred to it. Three bodies were left onboard the lifeboat as it drifted away. Rosa was the only woman to jump from the Titanic and survive.

Sadly, her sons did not survive.

She would eventually re-marry and return to England where she died in London, aged 73 on 18 February 1946.

Story Six:

Helen Bishop

Helen Margaret Bishop and Frou-Frou (First Class Passenger)

Did you know that there were at least twelve dogs on the Titanic? This was in addition to a number of cats, birds and chickens! There may have been more dogs onboard but just twelve have been recorded by history. Sadly, only three dogs survived the sinking.

During the chaos of the disaster someone freed the dogs form their kennels in the bows of the ship. At least one passenger is said to have refused to leave the ship as she didn’t want to leave her dog behind but there is little evidence to suggest who this was, particularly as those dogs who survived did so with their owners on lifeboats.

One well-known story of an owner having to leave her dog was Helen Bishop who had to leave Frou-Frou, her Pekingese in her cabin. The dog reportedly tore Helen’s dress as she attempted to escape the disaster. The choice to leave Frou-Frou behind is interesting as Frou-Fro had remained in Helen’s cabin throughout the voyage to this point, her owner not letting the dog out of her sight.

Helen and her husband were amongst a number of couples to board Lifeboat 7 which was the first to leave the Titanic, so it is possible that they expected to return to the ship.

Frou-Frou is sometimes referred to as having been a toy poodle but either way he was acquired in Florence, Italy by 19-year-old Bishop recently, after it was discovered, she was pregnant. Her husband hadn’t wanted to the dog but acquiesced anyway and the dog made the voyage with them.

The couple would go on to suffer further tragedy after Helen gave birth to a baby boy who survived just a few days. The next year the couple were in a car accident that left Helen with severe brain damage. Her husband left her shortly afterwards and she died in 1916 after a fall.

The ship of dreams turned into a nightmare for all onboard, 1912 (National Geographic)

These are just a few of the tragic tales of the passengers and crew onboard of the Titanic but they are important to help remember this wasn't a faceless tragedy, even though it is now over a century ago.

I have one more quick piece on the Titanic coming very soon! This is a piece on the dogs who survived the Titanic, another story that is worth telling from the disaster.

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