The R.M.S. Empress of Ireland Community
Crossing the Atlantic
This was an interesting letter that I received from a gentlemen from Alberta whose mother, Joyce Thompson had actually had travelled aboard the Empress of Ireland as a 1st class passenger. Her mother Edith Thompson was going to Canada to rejoin her husband who had left a year earlier for Edmonton Alberta. In May of 1912 Edith was pregnant with a fourth child and she had three children with her, Joyce was five years old and had been born on March 15th, 1907, Margaret was the eldest sister and had been born on May 20th, 1905 and finally there was 2 year old Philip who had been born on March 10th, 1910.
Joyce was only 5 years old when she had travelled aboard the Empress of Ireland but she wrote her memoir called "Grandma Remembers", in 1984. It gives us a nice insight on how life was aboard the Empress of Ireland only after a few weeks after the sinking of the R.M.S.Titanic and how it played on the mind of the passengers.
This had not been an easy trip for Edith, Philip her youngest son was an adventurous run-away and he kept disappearing; Edith finally attached a placard on his back of his shirt with the notice "Please return to cabin 50." so eventually he came back to us unharmed. Nancy, of course, was only 10 months old and needed a lot of care that Margaret and I could not help with, and mother was sea-sick for most of the ten day voyage but the passengers and crew were very kind and helpful.
Edith remembered everyone excitedly looking for icebergs like those that sank the "Titanic", but she thought they were called "ice birds" and asked the steward, "What do you do with the birds when you catch them?"
The first sight of land after ten days at sea was exciting. We were told it was "Newfoundland," but we didn't "land" there; we sailed on down the St. Lawrence River. After landing Quebec City, Edith and her family boarded the colony train cars which had uncomfortable beds and meals cooked on a small stove at one end of the car. The trip to Edmonton was the long and tiresome journey, Edith was train-sick most of the time, but she manage to supply Margaret and Phil with books, pencils and crayons to keep us occupied. Once again fellow-travellers were very helpful.
At last, tired, grubby and hungry, they had gotten off the train in Edmonton. There had been a strange man with a big mustache who came up and hugged and kissed Edith and then he had tried to hug the children too. They were reluctant, and said in chorus "Mother, who's that man?" Edith, with her face aglow and her eyes like stars said "Why don't you know? It's Father!" Later, Edith insisted the mustache had to go and it did! And so it was, but we had to take some time to feel at home with him after the long year without him.
Mr. Gould mother passed away in 2006 at age 99. In the early 2000s their family were all excited when they were able to watch his mother in an interview on CBC TV to re-tell her Empress of Ireland experiences.
Permission to reprint by Ross Gould