Friday 30 May 2014

Empress of Ireland - Cause of the Disaster




Empress of Ireland Enquiry

In the House of Commons at Ottawa on Saturday Mr. Borden, the Premier, read messages of condolence with the families of those who were lost in the wreck of the Empress of Ireland from the King and Queen, Queen Alexandra, the Duke of Connaught, Prince Alexander of Teck, Princess Louise Duchess of Argyll, Mr. Lewis Harcourt, and Mr. Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand, on behalf of the Government and people of that Dominion.

Mr. Borden, replying to the last message, expressed Canada's sympathy with the New Zealanders who were bereaved by the disaster.

It is announced, says Reuter, that the Government will immediately introduce legislation to authorise the appointment of a specially constituted Commission of three members to investigate the wreck. The Imperial Government will be asked to appoint one Commissioner, while the Canadian Government will be asked to appoint two Judges with experience in Admiralty cases.

A representative of the Board of Trade left London for Ottawa yesterday morning to confer and co-operate with the Canadian authorities in connection with the inquiry.


A telegram received at the International Headquarters of the Salvation Army states that the following bodies have been recovered -- Mrs. Commissioner Rees (not Commissioner Rees as previously reported), Colonel Maidment, Brigadier Potter, Major Findlay, Mrs. Major Simcoe, Adjutant Harry Green and daughter, Adjutant and Mrs. Sannagan, Adjutant and Mrs. Deebow, Captain Guido Whatmore, and Mrs. Staff Captain Morris.

The statement cabled from Montreal that Major Morris had carried Commissioner Rees upon his back is a mistake.

General Both has received, the following message from the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company -- "Although satisfied that the terrible accident was due to causes beyond our control, the company's officers are filled with sorrow that there should have been such a serious loss of life, including so many members of your Army, among the passengers travelling under our control, the company's' officers are filled with sorrow that there should have been such a serious loss of life, including so many members of your Army, among the passengers travelling under our auspices. Be assured that you have my most sincere sympathy. -- Shaughnessy."

The Mayor of Toronto has also cabled -- "Toronto sorrows with you."

It was stated at the Salvation Army Headquarters to-day that Commissioner M'Kie, who left for Canada, on Saturday, would superintend the burial of fine bodies of the Salvationists. Up to the present only thirteen bodies out of 171 have been found. They hoped the survivors would be able to renew the journey and attend the International Congress.

Toronto, Saturday. -- Outside the Salvation Army Temple here a scene, tragic in its sadness, was witnessed yesterday. The list of the known survivors of the army delegates was read out, the twenty-two names having been telephoned direct from Rimouski to Colonel Rees, of the Toronto headquarters. On the steps of the building on the side walk, and inside the main doors crowds gathered to hear the list read. Hopes were high when the names were first read, but when so many were found to be missing from the 165 who left aboard the Empress of Ireland the scene was heartrending. There were no loud outbursts of grief, but eyes were filled with tears, and handkerchiefs were in every hand. Those who derived comfort from the fact that friends were saved tried to console the less fortunate. Even the hope raised by the officer who read out the list could not change the sadness of these, as once before hopes raised were destroyed a short time later when the report that all were saved was found to be false. Upstairs in the private offices women who had relatives on board the ship waited to the last moment, and before they went away the news was broken that loved ones were among the missing.


Montreal, Saturday. -- The disaster will be felt with particular keenness in practically every city and town of importance in Canada. Commencing in Montreal, with a list of twenty one passengers, those aboard came from every city clear through to Vancouver. Toronto had the largest representation, with a list of close on 150, chiefly composed of members of the Salvation Army and their friends. Vancouver, too, had a large list of passengers on board.


Among the first-class passengers in the ill-fated vessel was Mr. A. Hirst, of Birmingham, well known in Belfast. Yesterday, as his name had not appeared in the list of rescued, his friends mourned him as dead. But this morning his name is among the survivors with no worse results than a dislocated shoulder. Formerly he was the representative of Messrs. & Ball & Sons, of Birmingham, but for the past two years he has travelled for Messrs. Tonks, Ltd., of that city. For the past ten years he spent practically three months of each year in Belfast and during these visits he made a host of friends, who will all be glad to learn that they may hope to look on his pleasant and genial face again.


When the news of the foundering of the Empress of Ireland was first published it was rumoured that amongst the passengers was Mr. Frederick Dane, «f Toronto, Grand Master of the Province of Ontario West, and secretary to the Grand Orange Council of the World. It has, however, transpired that Mr. Dane left Canada earlier than he originally intended, and has just arrived in Glasgow by the Allan liner Grampian. Much gratification was expressed by his colleagues on learning of his safety. Mr. Dane is a Belfast man, and two years ago he was elected secretary of the Orange Council, familiarly known as the "Triennial Council."


Distinguished passengers who have not yet been accounted for, and who are known to have been in the liner, include --

Sir Henry Seton-Karr, the big game hunter.
Mr. Laurence Irving, the well-known actor.
Miss Mabel Hackney (Mrs. Laurence Irving).
Commissioner Rees, head of the Salvation Army in Canada, and Mrs. Rees.
Mr. W, Leonard Palmer, of the "Financial News," London.
Lieutenant-Colonel Bloomfield, Auckland, New Zealand, Mrs. Bloomfield, and Miss Bloomfield.
Mr. A. G. Maginnis, director of Messrs. Mappin & Webb.
Mr. A. B. Anderson, managing director of Ferranti, Ltd., Kingsway.
Mr. G. Bogue Smart, Department of Immigration.
Mr. A. Black, of the firm of J. R. Booth.


The chief Marconi operator at Father Point, who was called up by the sinking Empress of Ireland, is Mr. Whiteside, of Ballymena, County Antrim, Mr. Whiteside, who was formerly on duty at Sable Point, was also the first man at a land station to get the "S.O.S." from the sinking Titanic.

A Marconi operator at Rimouski gives the following account of the sinking of the liner -- The Empress of Ireland was rammed this morning at 1-45 by the Storstad twenty miles from Father Point. The Empress of Ireland sank within ten minutes. A "S.O.S." signal was sent out, and was received at Father Point. The Government steamer Eureka and the Lady Evelyn were despatched immediately to the distressed vessel's assistance.

The Empress of Ireland listed, and it was impossible to get out many boats. Captain Kendall was saved, being picked up on some wreckage by No. 3 lifeboat thirty minutes after the ship foundered. The assistant-purser, chief engineer, and chief steward were saved. The chief officer and purser are among the missing.


Among the earliest callers at the C.P.R. offices in London on Saturday was Mr. John Burns, who made inquiries on behalf of the King as to the number rescued from the Empress of Ireland. Mr. John Burns made frequent visits to the C.P.R. offices yesterday largely at the behest of his Majesty, who telegraphed the President of the Board of Trade desiring all particulars.

Late on Friday a telegram was received by Mr. Burns from Lord Stamfordham expressing his Majesty's deep sorrow and regret at the disaster, and expressing the sympathy of their Majesties with the relatives in their bereavement.

The following message was sent on Saturday to the King by the Canadian Pacific Railway -- "On behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway I may be permitted to thank your Majesty for your Majesty's most gracious expression of sympathy conveyed to us through the Right Hon. John Burns, with the friends and relatives of those who have lost their lives or who have suffered in the appalling disaster to the Empress of Ireland. -- (Signed) G. M'LATREN BROWN, European Manager."

The following is a copy of the telegram sent to Sir Thomas Shaughnessy at Montreal by the King: -- "In the appalling disaster which has befallen your company by the loss of the Empress of Ireland, in which, alas, so many lives have perished, I offer you my sincere sympathy." -- GEORGE R.I."

His Majesty has also sent to the Duke of Connaught, the Governor-General of Canada, the following telegram -- "I am deeply grieved at the awful disaster to the Empress of Ireland, in which, alas! so many Canadians have lost their lives. The Queen and I assure you of our heartfelt sympathy with those who mourn for the loss of their relatives and friends." -- GEORGE R.I."

Queen Alexandra has sent the following cablegram to the Duke of Connaught -- "The terrible disaster that has occurred to the Atlantic liner Empress of Ireland in the St. Lawrence River grieves me more than I can say. Up to last night we had hoped in London that most, if not all, lives had been saved. But this morning I learn that the first sad report was too true, and that over one thousand people had been drowned. I wish to express to you my most intense sorrow at this awful catastrophe, and to beg of you kindly to see that my heartfelt sympathy may be conveyed to the relatives of all those who have perished. -- ALEXANDRA."


The King has subscribed £500 and the Queen £250 to the Mansion House Empress of Ireland Fund.


Paris, Saturday. -- The news of the disaster, which became known in Paris through the medium of the afternoon papers, caused widespread consternation. The offices of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company were almost immediately besieged by anxious inquirers, the majority of whom were British or American.

President Poincare, on being informed of the disaster, immediately sent a message of sympathy to King George.

M. Viviani, the Minister of Education, who is temporarily replacing the Minister of Marine, also sent a telegram to the First Lord of the Admiralty.


Quebec, Monday. -- Seventy-five bodies have been identified, amongst them, being the body of Sir H. Seton Karr, identification in this case being established by Mr. Elliott, the marine superintendent of the C.P.R. -- Central News.


There is much anxiety in Lisburn concerning the fate of Mr. John Scott, whose name appeared in the list of second-class passengers in the ill-fated Empress of Ireland. He belongs to Ravarnett, and has been in Canada for the past year and a half, having settled in Saskatchewan, where he had a farmstead, but he had recently disposed of it, and at the beginning of the present week Mr. Hall (managing clerk in Mr. J. D. Martins, auctioneer) received a letter from him stating he was returning home by the Empress of Ireland. There is a ray of hope that he is amongst the saved, as the name "Kingscott" is queried, and may be the two names joined -- King and Scott. The corrected list is awaited eagerly by his friends.


Ottawa, Monday. -- The Minister of Marine has received a cable from the Admiralty stating that the H.M.S. Essex has been placed at the disposal of the authorities to assist in the recovery of the bodies from the Empress of Ireland.

The steamer Glendele, under charter by the Dominion Coal Company, as was the Storstad grounded on Saturday near Father Point. She floated on the succeeding tide.

Montreal, Monday. -- A despatch from Father Point reports that the Grampian has picked up two of the boats of the Empress of Ireland. Both was empty.

An automobile patrol has been established along the coast.

Mr. S. Taunton, one of the executive officers of the Canadian Pacific, states that Captain Kendall has been exonerated by the Canadian Pacific of blame. -- Central News.

Quebec, Monday. -- Scores of the dead will undoubtedly have been buried before they can be identified. A pitiful scene occurred yesterday when two men claimed the body of a child as theirs. The case has been referred to the Mayor.

A party of five electrical engineers from Glasgow were on the Empress of Ireland. Four are believed to have been lost. They are -- James Rankin, Walter Scott, Albert Smith, H. Bryand, and J. Lockhart, and were formerly engaged at Fairfield Shipbuilding Yard. A telegram to Glasgow reports Smith saved. The passengers also included a party of nine, including William Russell, two daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren, for Lanarkshire.

The Press Association learns that the master of the Empress of Ireland was Captain Kendall, who was in charge of the steamer Montrose when Dr. Crippen, the Hilldrop Crescent murderer, was arrested. Captain Kendall only took charge of the Empress of Ireland on her outward voyage from Liverpool. He had been in the company's service about ten years.

This article originally appeared in The Witness 2 June 1914.


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