The R.M.S. Empress of Ireland Community
Forgotten Tragedy by Grimsby Lincoln News
Shedding light on a forgotten tragedy Stoney Creek man pens book on Empress of Ireland by Amanda Moore/Staff Photo
Ian Kinder author of "A Tale of Two Sisters/The History of the Atlantic Empresses"
Stoney Creek author Ian Kinder details the life of the Empress of Ireland from construction to collision in the book called A Tale of Two Sisters: The History of the Atlantic Empresses. Grimsby Lincoln News By Amanda Moore STONEY CREEK — While it's one of the most tragic marine tragedies to have occurred in this country, ask most people about the Empress of Ireland and they will look at you with confusion.
While most people know about the tragedy of the Titanic, fewer know the tale of Empress, which sunk in the St. Lawrence River 100 years ago. It took just 14 minutes for the ship to sink, claiming 1,012 lives — including one Niagara resident, Miss C. Miller of St. Catharines. A Stoney Creek man is setting out to change that with a book he released just two months before the 100th anniversary of the marine tragedy.
Ian Kinder was just 14 when he first learned of the Canadian Pacific Steamship and is never surprised to hear people say they are unfamiliar with the 1914 tragedy.
"This was Canada's Titanic, yet when you ask people outright if they have ever heard of the Empress, most people haven't," said Kinder, who along with the help of partner Penny Vermeulen, self-published The Tale of Two Sisters: The History of the Atlantic Empresses. "This is Canadian history. It's something that should be remembered."
Kinder's account is detail oriented, following the story from construction and career to collision and aftermath. To tell the whole story, Kinder looks at three other ships — the Empress of Britain, Helvetia and Storstad. The Empress of Britan and Helvetia collided in much the same manner at the Empress of Ireland and Storstad — yet only one resulted in a mass loss of life. Kinder's book also points a finger at a different culprit for the 1914 tragedy.
"Everyone always blames the Storstad," said Kinder, who has spent years researching the ship and took only one to write it all down.
The Storstad was a tough ship. It was 400-feet long with an Isherwood frame and could glide through ice.
Kinder is of the belief that the Empress was at fault, despite what an inquiry ruled. "I firmly believe the accident was caused by both vessels not just the Storstad," said Kinder, who doubts Captain Henry George Kendall was able to completely stop the Empress of Ireland in the patch of fog on that fateful night on the St. Lawrence River. Captain Kendall was negligent for not preparing his ship in closing all the watertight doors and portholes which cause the Empress of Ireland to rapidly sink. "This is the untold story."
Fourteen minutes after the two ships collided, the Empress was on her way down to the bottom of the river, taking more than 1,012 lives with her. What followed was an 11-day hearing that eventually ruled Storstad was to blame for the marine tragedy.
Kinder's book also highlights the life and times of Captian James Anderson Murray, who captained the Empress of Ireland from Feb. 21 to April 24, 1914. Murray, whose great-grandson lived in Grimsby until a few years ago, was captain of the Empress of Britain when it collided with Helvetia on July 27, 1912. Murray was killed when the SS Mont-Blanc, loaded with wartime explosives, collided with a Norwegian vessel off the coast of Halifax. Murray was one of three naval officers who knew about the deadly munitions aboard Mont-Blanc and was attempting to sound the alarm when the ship exploded. More than 1,900 people were killed and more than 9,000 were injured.
A Tale of Two Sisters also features rare and unseen images, photographic illustration of the 1914 collision and deck drawings of the Empress of Ireland, designed by Kinder.