There were several newlywed couples on board Titanic when she sailed from Queenstown (now Cobh, Ireland) in April of 1912. These are couples who married shortly before Titanic sailed, there were no couples married while Titanic was at sea. This article will introduce you to a few of them.
First up, John and Nellie Snyder, who were travelling in first class. When Titanic sailed John was just 24 and Nellie 23. The couple was offered seats in lifeboat number 7, ensuring their survival. The Snyder’s had a long and happy life, raising one girl and two boys. John died 47 years later from a massive heart attack. Nellie lived another 24 years and died at the age of 94.
The Bishop’s, Helen and Dickinson, where another first class newlywed couple. They were returning to their home in Southwest Michigan from a four-month European honeymoon. The Bishop’s were the fourth newlywed couple in lifeboat 7. Dickinson a wealthy, 24-year-old, widower had married the 19-year-old daughter of a family, which owned a company that manufactured an early version of the easy chair. Unfortunately, the Bishop’s lost their first son two days after he was born in December 1912. They divorced in 1916, Helen dying of a cerebral hemorrhage (from a fall) two months later. Dickinson of a stroke in 1961.
Edward and Ethel Beane were a second class newlywed couple. Edward had immigrated to New York City. After several years he returned to England to marry Ethel and they sailed on Titanic. The Beane’s lost all of their money and wedding gifts when the great ship sank. Edward helped Ethel in lifeboat 13, but he stepped back when he was told, “Sorry, sir only women.” After the lifeboat reached the water, Edward saw it was only about half filled, so he dove into the water and swam for the lifeboat. His bride of one month was the person who pulled him into the lifeboat.
John Chapman, 37, and Lizzie Chapman, 29, were on their honeymoon after being married on December 26, 1911. John was also not allowed on a lifeboat. Lizzie turned to a friend and said, “ Goodbye Mrs. Richards, if John cannot go I will not go.” The couple died together. John’s body was later found and his effects returned to the family. Lizzie was never found.
There were many other newlywed couples (some say as many as 20), a few of them are:
Neal and Eileen McNamee (both lost)
John J. and Madeline Astor (Madeline survived)
Victor and Maria Castellana (Maria survived)
Lucian and Eloise Smith (Eloise survived)
Over the course of more than two decades, the one Titanic story that has intrigued me more than any other is the story of another honeymoon couple. I cannot tell you their names, I cannot tell you anything about their lives or how they died, I cannot even tell you if they survived. I can tell you how they spent their time on board Titanic. This story came to me from a Titanic survivor. There was a newly wedded couple immigrating to America to start a new life. The couple did not have enough money for them both to travel in second class, so the new groom bought a second-class ticket for his wife, and a third-class ticket for himself. The couple were frequently spotted at a gate separating second and third class passengers. They would talk and hold hands through the gate.
This story has been one I have returned to many times over the years, always searching for the identity of the mystery couple and their story. Where were they from? Where were they going? Had he gone ahead for a few years to make a new life, and then return for his bride, as so many men did in those days? What were their names? Did she step back from a lifeboat when he was refused admission? Did they even find each other after Titanic struck the iceberg?
Maybe this couple is my enigma, the one Titanic mystery to elude me. And maybe that is as it should be. I always take a reasoned, logical, scientific approach to life, particularly to research. I approach things very unemotionally; search for the last scraps of evidence, then painstakingly applying logic to arrive at the best possible analysis, always aware that emotion is my worst enemy when trying to arrive at facts. So, to some my romantic nature may seem odd and incongruous with this other side of my personality. But, it is the romantic side of my nature that has decided it does not want to know the truth behind this couple; if they survived, how they survived (if either of them did), or even if they ever existed at all.
In my mind (and heart), they can be whatever I need them to be at the time. The loving couple, who defying all odds, found each other in the chaos of the sinking Titanic and survive together, boarding a lifeboat arm in arm. I can have her weeping in a lifeboat at the loss of her husband as he swims to her side and is pulled into the lifeboat. I can have them finding each other only to arrive at the boat deck after all the lifeboats are gone. Maybe she refuses a seat in a lifeboat because her groom is denied a seat, and they die together. Or, he could have picked her up and forced her into a lifeboat (with or without the aid of one of Titanic’s crew) against her wishes, before he stepped back and died with the other men. No matter my fancy of the moment, if one survives without the other, my imagination always has the survivor living out a long life forsaking all others for the love that was lost. My favorite though has them living a long, joyful, fruitful life together; dying within a year of each other leaving children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to mourn a couple who held hands where ever they went, always.
The engineer and research part of my personality will never give up the chase, and will continue to track down any lead that will finally resolve this issue. But, I do not think my quest will be pursued with the same gusto it once was. I think this is one battle my romantic side has finally won. I think this is one story where the unknown is the greater story. In my mind they stand for all the “if only” and “should have been” tragedies of that great ship. In my mind, they are standing at the gate, holding hands through bars that will never separate their love for each other. Maybe, just maybe, that is how this story should end.
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