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When the Titanic Sank Mrs Rice and her 5 Children Died

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

The 2 Tenders that brought passengers to the Titanic ship at Queenstown in Ireland.

The 2 Tenders that brought passengers to the Titanic ship at Queenstown in Ireland.

Mrs. Rice and Her 5 Sons 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 123 passengers that boarded in Ireland only 40 of them 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.

The '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. Margaret and her five young sons would die that terrible night.

Irish mother Margaret Rice and her 5 sons all died when The Titanic sank.

Irish mother Margaret Rice and her 5 sons all died when The Titanic sank.

Margaret Rice was Married in Ireland

Margaret Norton was born in Athlone, Co Westmeath in Ireland on the 6th October 1872. When she was nineteen she met William Rice and they got married 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 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 last son Eugene was born in October of that year.

William Rice

William was now working 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.

She received a substantial amount of compensation for the death of her husband from Great Northern Railway. 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.

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. 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 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 leaving Queenstown with Mrs Rice and her 5 sons on board.

The Titanic leaving Queenstown with Mrs Rice and her 5 sons on board.

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 were huddled around her.

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 places to explore on the enormous ship. 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. These passengers also had their own areas on deck and within the ship. There were 325 first class passengers on board the Titanic.

The Titanic at Southampton in 1912

The Titanic at Southampton in 1912

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.

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 with young children would have been asleep. It was impossible for Margaret to help all five children.

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.

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

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

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 twenty three passengers who boarded the Titanic at Queenstown that Thursday afternoon on 11th April 1912 only forty 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. 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.

Other Titanic Articles by L.M.Reid

Sources

Mrs Margaret Rice - Encyclopedia Titanica

The Athlone Titanic six who never came home.by Deirdre Verney. The Westmeath Independent November 23, 2011

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.

Spokane Chronicle, Spokane, Washington. 08 May 1912, Wed -

27 Aug 1912,

Titanic Belfast Museum

Southampton's Titanic Story

Titanic Experience Cobh

Nova Scotia Museum Halifax

Titanic Historical Society Museum

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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