Throughout history, there have been numerous disasters at sea, but out of those tragedies, one stands out-the sinking of HMS Titanic. On April 14th, 1912, this floating city of light was taken by the Atlantic ocean, as the cold waters produced an iceberg large enough to tear holes in the iron side of this infamous ship, leading to the death of almost 2000 men, women and children. On a ship of thousands, only 706 survived the ships' death. The fantastical nature of its sinking and the remarkably ironic nature of her passing has made Titanic one of the most famous ships not only in her time but also, in time immemorial. However, what makes this sinking so poignant is the passengers on board whose lives were changed forever when Titanic sank beneath them. Their stories are still being discovered today, from the glittering lives of the first-class elites such as John-Jacob Aster to the harrowing losses experienced by 3rd class families in the village of Argyle. In Birmingham, such loss was also felt, with three passengers in particular, becoming an incredible example of why so many boarded this ship, coming from every walk of life, both in privilege and in poverty.
Days before the ship set sail, three people visited the US consulate in Birmingham to buy their tickets onto Titanic. 1st class passenger Edward Hipkins, 2nd Class passengers Mr and Mrs Marshall and 3rd class passenger, William-Henry Allen. All of them were hoping for the same thing- a new life in the land of dreams and opportunity.
For Edward, the voyage aboard Titanic would have been an exciting one. A successful businessman in the heart of Birmingham's' Jewellery Quarter, he had made his mint through building within the Soho foundry factories which supported the economic boom caused by processes including silver-plating being commercialised to the general public. As the money flowed in, Edward saw his business gain interest from clients across Britain, and in 1912, was contacted by the US government to open up a new factory in Milwaukee and begin building trade routes between the two countries. It was an incredible offer and one that could not be missed- so why not travel in style toward an opportunity which would afford such experiences as those provided to first-class passengers on board Titanic?
As Edward and William waited to buy their tickets, they might have come across a particularly nervous man and women- Mr and Mrs Marshall. Outwardly a honeymooning couple on a once in a lifetime trip, the furtive pair was anything but blissfully married- instead they were eloping. Running away from a wife and child in Worcester, Henry Morely (aka Mr Marshall) had fallen in love with one of his employees, a young shop girl who had helped out on the floors of his sweet shop chain, and begun a passionate affair with her which left his wife and child estranged from his side. Wanting to start a new life with Kate, Henry had proposed they escape to America and start a new life there as man and wife, leaving anyone who knew them and the nature of their relationship far behind. Travelling from Birmingham to London, and staying in The Savoy as they toasted their new life in style, the couple lavished themselves excessively on everything from new clothes to jewellery, with Henry purchasing for Kate a stunning sapphire and diamond necklace to signify the change from 3rd class worker, to the 2nd class wife of a successful businessman.
William's decision to join the ques for tickets on Titanic was one made in hope for a better quality of life. Unlike Edward, Henry and Kate he didn't have money to fall back on- in fact, the majority of his savings were about to be spent on a ticket onboard titanic. Like many 3rd class passengers, William gambled everything he had in the hopes of a better life in America, fleeing from job shortages in Birmingham that had near enough lost him any kind of livelihood. With an uncle already moved over to New York, the plan was to stay with him as William found work and earned enough of a living to bring his wife over to America and settle there permanently.
Sadly out of these four passengers, only one survived- Kate. With the order to only board women and children onto the lifeboats, crewmen on Titanic were forced to leave behind the majority of male passengers, positing they would be strong enough to swim out to the lifeboats once the Titanic sunk beneath them. The tragedy was that even if Edward, Henry or William could've made it to the boats, they would have succumbed to the freezing temperatures well before they began paddling towards safety. Out of the thousands that went into the water only a lucky few were pulled out alive, lifeboat 14 being the only one to come back for those lost in the ocean. Remarkably, an artefact belonging to William was recovered- a waistcoat with his initials sewn into the label.
Although Kate was lucky to survive the sinking, her life afterwards was not a happy one. After losing Henry, she arrived in America penniless, the only thing remaining of her time with him being the necklace he had gifted her before their ill-fated voyage. Having not been married properly to him, Henry's will left everything to his brother instead, as to name Kate as a claimant would have made obvious the affair between them both. Without those funds to support her, Kate was forced to return home only days after arriving in New York and went to live with her parents in Worcester, in disgrace. Worse still, after arriving in America Kate realised she was pregnant by Henry and had had a child out of wedlock. In the 1900s such instances were severely frowned upon in Britain, seen as a sinful act within a devoutly Christian society. The scandal it caused for Kate was too much, and so she left her new baby girl, Ellen, with her parents and fled to London in the hopes of escaping her past. Years later, Kate remarried and brought Ellen back to live with her husband and children, but the family didn't work out. Ellen had lived without her mother for years of her life and did not know much about the woman who had left her as a baby. Despite the scandal surrounding her birth, Ellens' grandparents had been a loving mother and father to her and had doted upon her, providing a good education and a comfortable life. Moving in with Kate was a difficult transition, and Ellen went onto experiencing severe mental and physical abuse at the hands of Kate, who thought Ellen had become too high in her time spent with grandparents. Using Ellen as means to release the trauma of Titanic, eventually, Kates' husband committed her to an asylum when he found her attempting to commit suicide by drinking cleaning acid. Living estranged from each other, Kate died alone in her 60s, haunted by the loss of Henry and all that had passed between them in those last moments together aboard Titanic.