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When The Titanic Sank Irish Family Mrs Rice and Her 5 Sons Died

Updated on September 28, 2020
viking305 profile image

L.M.Reid is an Irish writer who has published many history articles online and in magazines.

A sketch of the Titanic sinking by Willy Stower in 1912.
A sketch of the Titanic sinking by Willy Stower in 1912. | Source

This Irish Family Died on The Titanic

Margaret Rice and her five young children were on The Titanic when it sank. They all died. Only the body of Mrs Rice was recovered for burial. She was thirty nine years old and a widow as she stood on the Pier in Queenstown on Thursday 11th April 1912.

With her were her five sons; Albert who was ten, George eight, Eric seven, Arthur four and Eugene who was two and a half years old. Of the 2,223 People on Board only 706 Survived.

Irish immigrants at Queenstown in Ireland

They waited on Scotts Quay along with over one hundred other Irish immigrants to board the two small boats, PS Ireland and PS America that would take them out to the ship. Margaret Rice had paid the White Star Line for 3rd class tickets for herself and her five young sons. Margaret and her children were on their way to Spokane in Washington, America.

They had been in Ireland for nearly two years and were now ready to board the Titanic for their trip home. Neither Margaret nor any of the other Irish passengers had any idea what was to happen to them only a few days later when the Titanic hit an iceberg at 11.40 pm on Sunday night 14th April. The White Star Line had built the luxury liner with all the new and up to date safety regulations in place.

'Unsinkable' Titanic

But only a few hours later at 2.20 am on Monday morning 15th April 1912 the Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Only forty four of the passengers who boarded the ship at Queenstown would survive the journey. Margaret and her five young sons would also die that terrible night.

Margaret Rice and her 5 sons died when The Titanic sank
Margaret Rice and her 5 sons died when The Titanic sank | Source

Margaret Rice Got Married in Ireland

Margaret Rice was not the typical Irish immigrant that waited on the quay that day. Margaret Norton was born in Athlone, Co Westmeath in Ireland on the 6th October 1872. As a young child she had taken the trip across the Atlantic Ocean with her family and they had settled in Canada. It was here that she met and fell in love with William Rice

Moving to Ireland

When she was nineteen they moved to Margaret’s old town of Athlone, Co Westmeath in Ireland. They got married there and had a son. They settled into life in Ireland until the sudden death of their baby left them heartbroken. The Young Child had Choked on his Pacifier.

William and Margaret decided that they would move back to Montreal in Canada. There William Rice got a job with the Grand Trunk Railway as a shipping clerk. By 1909 William and Margaret had four young sons when they decided to move to Spokane, Washington in America. Their fifth son Eugene was born in October of that year.

William Rice

William was now working as a machinist for the Great Northern Railway. But in 1910 William Rice was dead after an accident at work. He was buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Spokane. The plot cost Margaret five dollars.

A Widow with Five Young Sons

She received compensation for the death of her husband of three hundred dollars from an insurance policy from Great Northern Railway. With this money she bought a house in Spokane and a headstone for Williams’s grave. She had her husband’s body in Fairmount Cemetery re-buried on 15thApril 1910 to a more expensive plot at the cemetery.

As she stood there at her husband’s new grave she could have no idea that this very same day two years later she and her five children would also all be dead. Margaret was now a widow with five young children

The grieving Margaret was left alone with her sons in Washington so decided to move back to Athlone with her children for a while after the second funeral of William. The family lived in Castle Street in Athlone in rented rooms. Eventually at the beginning of 1912 Margaret decided it was time to go home to Spokane, Washington with the children.

She was able to buy the 3rd class tickets for the Titanic in her hometown of Athlone. They cost her twenty nine pounds, two shillings and sixpence for the whole family.

Huge Ocean Liner

This was the ship’s maiden voyage. The Titanic had left Southampton in England on Wednesday the 10th April with her first passengers on board. That same evening the ship had arrived at Cherbourg in France and picked up more passengers.

The Titanic arrived at Queenstown in Cork Ireland at 12.00pm on Thursday 11th April. All the passengers were aboard by 1.30 pm as the Titanic left Ireland and sailed towards New York in America.

The Titanic at Southampton in 1912
The Titanic at Southampton in 1912 | Source

Eye Witness Account

There is an eyewitness account from another 3rd class passenger who did survive the sinking of the Titanic and who saw Margaret Rice on board ship that night. When the ship was sinking and there was mayhem and panic everywhere Bertha Mulvihill saw Margaret and her children.

According to Bertha, Margaret was sitting down in a corridor holding onto her youngest son on her lap, two and a half year old Eugene. Her other four young sons, Albert, George, Eric and Arthur were all huddled around her.

There were over eight hundred 3rd class passengers who were in this terrible situation in the hours leading up the sinking of the Titanic. Margaret Rice and her sons, Albert who was ten, George eight, Eric seven, Arthur four and Eugene two and a half years old all died on the 15th April 1912 as the Titanic split in two and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.

The Class System On Board

As Margaret and her sons, Albert, George, Eric, Arthur and baby Eugene settled down on the Titanic for the journey to America none of them could have ever have imagined the horror that was to happen to them on board the Titanic just a few days later.

Life on board the new White Star Line ship the Titanic lived up to its name as a luxury liner. Even though Margaret and her family were in 3rd class it was comfortable and they would have had plenty of activities to do and places to explore on the enormous ship. From that Thursday and for the next three days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday they would have enjoyed the journey.

1st Class Passengers

First class passengers on board the Titanic all enjoyed the best of everything on the ship that money could buy. Each of the first class cabins had their own bathrooms which was a first on any luxury liner at the time. These passengers also had their own areas on deck and within the ship. There were 325 first class passengers on board the Titanic.

The deck of the Titanic
The deck of the Titanic | Source

2nd Class Passengers

The second class passengers were treated nearly as well. They too had their own areas of the ship which was also fitted out with luxurious furniture. Their cabins and designated areas on board were still very well created for space and comfort. There were 285 second class passengers on board the Titanic

3rd Class Passengers

Third class passengers had bought the cheapest tickets available. But they too had a lot more room on board the Titanic that other ships had so far provided. The food served was also good and varied in the 3rd class dining room. There were 803 third class passengers on board the Titanic.

Class Distinction in 1912

In 1912 each person accepted their station in life so the passengers found nothing odd about the division and segregation of people on board the Titanic. This was normal in the early 1900’s as class distinction was very much observed all over the world. But what was not normal was that more men women and children would die for the sole reason that they happened to be 3rd class passengers that night on the Titanic on 15th April 1912.

Another contributing factor for so many deaths of women and children in the third class area was the accommodation arrangements. Unlike the 1st and 2nd class areas the men were separated from the women and children at night by sleeping in different areas of the Titanic. The men had shared cabins on the bow of the ship and the women and children at the stern.

The Titanic Hits The Iceberg

It was eleven forty on Sunday night when the Titanic hit the iceberg. The third class passengers were told there was nothing to worry about and to stay in their cabins. When they asked what had happened the ship’s crew explained there was a slight problem and it would be fixed soon.

At this early stage most of passengers went back to their cabins confident in the news they had just heard. Because the iceberg hit the Titanic so late on Sunday night most of the 3rd class passengers would have been asleep. This meant that all the women and children would have been separated from the men.

Mothers had to cope with their children on their own. Margaret was a widow but other families with children were left to fend for themselves too until the men and husbands were able to get from the bow side of the ship to the stern side where they had been sleeping.

It was impossible for Margaret to help all five children. The 3rd class passengers found that when they tried to escape the lower decks by moving upwards towards the second and first class areas where the life boats were they were confronted by stewards who refused to let them through.

They were told to wait until they were told it was alright to move up. At first they accepted this because that is the way it was in 1912. The lower classes had to yield to the higher classes in every facet of life.

Lifeboats on Board

They were also told that there was no need to panic and there was lots of time to get to the lifeboats. None of the crew told the passengers that there was not enough lifeboats on board the Titanic to save everyone. The 3rd class passengers could soon see for themselves that the boat was sinking fast and their situation was becoming very dangerous.

This was because the 3rd class cabins and communal areas were in the lower decks of the ship and the water had steadily been rising there since the iceberg hit the Titanic. The barriers between the 1st and 2nd class areas had been opened very soon after the order came from Captain Smith that the passengers should proceed on deck to the lifeboats. The second class passengers were allowed to pass through the first class areas to get to the life boats.

Third Class Passengers

The third class passengers whose total amounted to more than half the passengers on board the sinking ship still had to wait. When they began to get aggressive and angry the stewards blocked them from entering the higher decks of the ship by locking the doors and barriers in the 3rd class corridors and walkways.

Margaret Rice had her five young children to get to the safety of the higher decks. She must have known that as she was alone with no one to help her that there was no possibility she could get herself and the children to safety.

Map of the position of the wreck of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean
Map of the position of the wreck of the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean | Source

A Body is Recovered

The body of Margaret Rice was recovered in the icy waters by the ship the Mackay Bennett. They were collecting the hundreds of bodies floating in the water. Each body was given a number as it was taken on board. Margaret’s body was given the number twelve. The bodies were then taken to Halifax in Canada were the process of identification started. The bodies of Margaret’s five sons were never recovered.

Margaret had a box of tablets on her which contained the information that they had been bought in a chemist shop on Church Street Athlone, Co Westmeath in Ireland on 9th April 1912. There was no name on the box though. Margaret’s shoes also had the name of the shop where she bought them, which was Parsons in Athlone.

Margaret Rice was buried on Friday 3rd May 1912 at the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Halifax Nova Scotia Canada along with other men, women and children who died on the 15th April 1912. It still took until 25th September that year to positively identify body number twelve as that of Margaret Rice.

The Grave of Margaret Rice
The Grave of Margaret Rice | Source

Memorial Stone for the Irish who Died

The story of the life and death of Margaret Rice and her five children will never be forgotten. Of the hundred and thirteen Irish passengers who boarded the Titanic at Queenstown that Thursday afternoon on 11th April 1912 only forty four of them survived the journey.

In 1998 a Memorial Stone was unveiled in Queenstown, now called Cobh, in Cork. This remembers all those passengers who left the Irish port in April 1912 and died on the Titanic. The picture in bronze on the Stone shows some of the Irish immigrants on the two small boats as they were ferried out to the Titanic. Margaret Rice and her five young sons are also depicted on the monument.

Memorial Stone in Canada

On 15th April 2009 a monument was erected in Spokane Cemetery at the Fairmount Memorial Gardens. This was to commemorate the deaths of Margaret Rice and her five young sons but also the deaths of three other residents from Spokane who died that night on the Titanic. By a very weird coincidence these three other people were also connected in a small way to Margaret’s husband William Rice.

John Chapman was working at the Spokane Cemetery when William Rice died. It was he who dug the grave. John Chapman was engaged to Sara Elizabeth Lawry who was still in England at the time. He went back to England and they got married there. They were on the Titanic because they were settling in Spokane Washington.

The journey was also their honeymoon and they paid for 2nd class tickets. Both John and Sara, known as Lizzie died that night as the Titanic sank. Only John Chapman’s body was recovered and he is buried in the same cemetery in Halifax Nova Scotia in Canada as Margaret Rice.

John’s new wife Lizzie was never found. But what was found on John’s body and intact was his pocket watch. It had stopped at 1.45am. As the Titanic did not sink until 2.20am the young couple could have decided to take their chance by jumping overboard and try to reach the only half full lifeboats. This is only speculation on my part though.

Titanic Exhibit in England

John Chapman’s watch is now on display at the Titanic Exhibit in Cornwall England. Charles Hays was a director of The Grand Trunk Railway which is the company that William Rice used to work for while he was in Canada.

Charles Hays and his family also live in Spokane. Charles was in England attending to Railway business. His wife Clara, his daughter and her husband also accompanied him on the trip. They were on their way home to Spokane Washington as 1st class passengers on the Titanic. Charles Hays died that night but his wife Clara, daughter and son in law all survived. His body was recovered and identified and he was buried in Montreal.

Fairmount Memorial Park

The Titanic Monument at Fairmount Memorial Park was erected behind William Rice’s grave. The front of the monument explains in writing engraved in granite the connection to the town and the sinking of the Titanic.

There is also a sketch of the pocket watch that belonged to John Chapman. The picture on the monument in Cobh, formally Queenstown of Margaret Rice and her children is also reproduced here.

The story of the sinking of the White Star Line’s new luxury ship the Titanic on 15th April 1912 still lives on. Even now after over a hundred years have passed since this tragedy people are still fascinated, curious and horrified by the events of that night.

1,517 People Died on the Titanic

Margaret Rice and her five young sons, Albert, George, Eric, Arthur and Eugene were only six of those people. The story of this young widow and her children will never be forgotten.


Mrs Margaret Rice - Encyclopedia Titanica

The Athlone Titanic six who never came Deirdre Verney. Independent

The Irish Aboard Titanic by Senan Molony

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord.

Discovering Titanic - The story of the most famous ship wreck by Ben Hubbard

On Board RMS Titanic : Memories of the Maiden Voyage by George Behe.

The Titanic Diaries by Anthony Cunningham.

Great Disasters : Great Catastrophes Of The Twentieth Century by John Canning.

Titanic: In A New Light by Dr Joseph MacInnis.

Titanic : The Tragic Story of the Ill-fated Ocean Liner by Rupert Matthews.

Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax by Alan Ruffman.

Titanic Belfast Museum

Southampton's Titanic Story

Titanic Experience Cobh

Nova Scotia Museum Halifax

Titanic Historical Society Museum


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    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      5 months ago from Ireland

      Hello Mary, yes she did manage to get up on the deck of the Titanic with all her children but just couldn't get into a lifeboat. It must have been horrendous for her knowing that all her sons and herself were going to die.

    • profile image

      Mary O'Shea 

      6 months ago

      Very,Very Sad. RIP

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      11 months ago from Ireland

      Hello Ann, your grandparents were very lucky not to have travelled on the Titanic. A lot of people and families had been transferred to the Titanic because of the coal strike.

    • profile image

      Ann Barrett Pike 

      11 months ago

      My grandparents were supposed to have travelled on the Titanic.My grandmother was expecting my dad but was too ill to travelled so travelled on a later ship. My dad was born in Braddock Pennsylvania USA on August 5th 1912. Thank God.

    • profile image

      Mo M La 

      17 months ago

      I am still trying to find a genealogy connection, Paula said that her grandfather was Margaret's brother, Is his name Michael Norton? From Athlone?

      Michael is listed as next of Kin along with Hanora Norton Stetson in Springfield MA USA when the two are notified of a sum of money. I haven't found any other siblings.

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      17 months ago from Ireland

      Hello Sandra, Yes it is a very sad story but at least they died together. The eye witness account said Mrs Rice had the baby on her lap and her other 4 sons close to her as they all huddled together in a corridor on the Titanic.

    • profile image

      Sandra Rice 

      19 months ago

      I did not know if there was anyone Name Rice on the titanic until now now I know that Margret and her Five Boys was on it

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      2 years ago from Ireland

      Hello Hanora, Workhouses were the last resort for the very poor in Ireland and England. A lot of families were starving and ended up there. The men, women and children were seperated and rarely did any of them come out of there alive. They were made to work very hard and given only enough food to barely survive.

    • profile image

      Hanora Norton 

      2 years ago


      I am sorry but I not sure that living in a workhouse means? Is that like a tenement or a boarding house?

      I don't think we had workhouses as a term in America in 1900.


    • profile image

      Hanora Norton in Athlone 

      2 years ago

      Hanora Norton is listed as the mother of Mary Norton in Athlone in 1900, She is listed as living in the workhouse and was a domestic.

      Would most children be born at home in this timeframe?

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      2 years ago from Ireland

      Hello Rice, I am not sure what you mean. If you have a little bit of extra info then you can post it in this comment box.

      If you have new information that would be around 1000 words then it would be better if you wrote it in a new article and published it on your own Hubpages Account.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I am really new to this site, how and where would I post the info?

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      2 years ago from Ireland

      Hello Mo, It would be best if you wrote an article on the info you have gathered about Margaret Rice. Thanks for stopping by.

      Hello Jess, yes it is all very sad when you read about the families who died.

    • profile image

      Mo M La 

      2 years ago

      I have found info on a sibling of Margaret Norton Rice.

      She and Michael Norton received some money after Margaret's death settlement was determined.

      Is there a section on Hubpages for genealogy comments?


      Very sad that all of them passed.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Beautifully written my heart goes out to all those who perished and those who were left with just memories

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      6 years ago from Ireland

      Yes a very sad tale of these families and their fate on the Titanic

    • profile image

      Pat Rice 

      6 years ago

      I live in Belfast and only realised recently that this family of Rice's died on the Titanic thanks for this Pat

    • profile image

      Randall P. 

      8 years ago

      Paula, I have been reading up on the Titanic these past few days and your Great Aunt's sad story has really touched me. It's simply heart-wrenching. I watched a Titanic documentary the other night which noted that even the third-class accommodations were quite elaborate for the day. I am hoping that those last few days of Margaret's life were as happy and as comfortable as she had experienced in a couple of years. God bless her and her family.

    • profile image

      Paula Oldham 

      8 years ago

      Thank you Vanessa think how scary it must have been with 5 young children the sad thing for the family is not been able to retrieve their bodies and bury them with their family I always think how different our fami

      Y would have been if they had lived Margaret asked my grandfather to go back with him to America imagine I would not be here now strange feelin

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      Yes Paula it may be a hundred years ago but it has so many personal stories of death and loss, I do not think those who lost their lives on the Titanic will ever be forgotten. It is even more poignant when they were such close relatives.

      Everyone must have been terrified in third class, not knowing what was going on and being unable in some cases to get up on deck.

      Thank you Vanessa and Paula for taking the time to leave a comment.

    • profile image

      Paula Oldham 

      8 years ago

      This is my grandfathers sister Margaret rice such a sad loss for the family

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A very sad story

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      Yes Jack Belfast has a new Titanic Museum opening and from the publicity photos it looks worth going to see.

    • Jack White profile image

      Jack White 

      8 years ago from Ormeau Road, Belfast, Ireland

      Excellent hub!

      No doubt Belfast will make the most of the centenary.

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      Yes there will be lots of memorial services all over the world in April for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

      In Belfast, Cobh and Spokane, Canada. There is a new Titanic Museum opening in Belfast in April too.

      It was a long time ago but when you read about the personal stories and see the photos of the passengers it seems like it only just happened.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment 78goldwing.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent article. I live in the Spokane Valley & have just recently become aware of the several people who perished on the Titanic with Spokane area ties.

    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      8 years ago from Ireland

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment Jerome. Next April is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic so there will is a very big memorial service planned there.

    • profile image

      jerome mc cormick 

      8 years ago

      as i live in cobh i cant wait to look at the memorial and remember margaret and her children[ nov. 2011.]

    • Jaypyramid profile image


      9 years ago

      How sad that Margarets children were never found and she was buried alone.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Disturbing event. Nice memorializing of Margaret and her five sons.


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