The Story of Mrs Rice and 5 Sons Who Died on The Titanic
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.
Mrs Rice and her Sons
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.
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.
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 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.
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 Children of Titanic- In their Memory
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.
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.
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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.
Route Titanic Took on her Maiden Voyage
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.
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 home.by 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