By Michael Dupuis

Thanks to wireless telegraphy, in the early hours of April 15,1912, the world learned the catastrophic news that the White Star's giant luxury liner Titanic had struck an iceberg on its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage and in less than three hours plunged bow first to a dark and watery grave. After the Cunard liner Carpathia arrived at the scene of the disaster and rescued survivors from Titanic's lifeboats, subsequent Marconigrams were equally calamitous: less than a third of the doomed ship's 2,200 passengers and crew had been saved.

The 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic will take place on April 15, 2012. Thanks to journalist Alan Hustak (Titanic The Canadian Story, 1998) it has been established that there were 130 Canada bound passengers on the White Star liner. However, not as well known is that nine of these passengers indicated Vancouver, British Columbia as their destination. As well, one Titanic passenger, Charles Melville Hays, had a significant connection to British Columbia. What was the fate of Hays and the nine West-coast-bound first, second and third class voyagers?

First Class Passengers

Countess of Rothes

The most famous and richest of the Vancouver bound first class passengers was Lucy Noel Martha, the Countess of Rothes. Born into a wealthy family, her father was a prosperous landowner who kept homes in London, the English countryside, and in France. In 1900 Lucy married Norman Evelyn Leslie (the 19th Earl of Rothes). In early 1912 Norman crossed the Atlantic to investigate business opportunities in the United States and then travel throughout North America. On April 10 thirty-three year-old Countess Rothes boarded  Titanic in Southampton, together with her maid, Roberta Maioni, and her thirty year-old cousin, Miss Gladys Cherry. After the ship collided with the iceberg, Lucy, Cherry, and Maioni were put into Lifeboat Number 8 and rescued several hours later by the Cunard liner Carpathia. Although originally planning to meet her husband in Vancouver, Countess Rothes was instead reunited with him in New York when Carpathia docked on April 18. Lucy died in England in 1956,  at the age of seventy-seven.

Miss Roberta Maioni

Born in Norfolk, England in 1892, Roberta Elizabeth "Cissy" Maioni was the Countess of Rothes' personal maid. Although Ciss was rescued from Lifeboat Number 8, her surname was incorrectly spelled Maloney in the initial list of survivors provided to the public in New York, and so her family in Surrey, England believed she had died in the disaster. It took three weeks for White Star officials to confirm nineteen year-old Maioni had indeed survived. She died in a nursing home in England in 1963, at the age of seventy-one.

Thomas McCaffry

Thomas Francis McCaffry was born in Trois Rivieres, Quebec on February 5, 1866. He had a lengthy career with the Union Bank of Canada, eventually opening the Vancouver branch of the bank in 1907. On January 20, 1912 McCaffry and fellow bachelor and Winnipeg real estate broker John Hugo Ross sailed on Franconia for a lengthy vacation in the Middle East and Europe. Neither McCaffry nor Ross survived the sinking of Titanic. McCaffry's body was subsequently recovered by the Canadian cable steamer Mackay-Bennett and identified by the monogram "T.C.Mc" embroidered on his underwear. His body was transported to Montreal and buried in Notre Dame Des Neiges Cemetery.

Edward Colley

Edward Pomeroy Colley was born into a wealthy Irish family on April 15, 1875. He became a civil engineer and shared a Dublin mansion with his older brother George. During the Alaska Gold Rush Edward opened up a mining brokerage firm in Vancouver and made a considerable fortune in mining stocks. With business interests on both sides of the Atlantic, he maintained both a Dublin residence and a home in the affluent Vancouver neighbourhood of English Bay. During Christmas 1911 he had been in Ireland but in March booked passage on Titanic to return to a consulting job with British Columbia industrialist James Dunsmuir. Pomeroy died in the disaster, on his thirty-seventh birthday, and his body was never recovered.

Charles Hays

Charles Melville Hays was born at Rock Island, Indiana, on May 16, 1856. In 1881 he married Clara Gregg. They had four daughters. In 1896 Hays became general manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. He eventually convinced Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Liberal government of the need for a second Canadian transcontinental railway. The Pacific terminus of this new railway - the Western section of which was to be called the Grand Trunk Pacific - was to be Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Hays founded the city in March 1910 naming it after Prince Rupert of the Rhine. His plans for the location included berthing facilities for large passenger ships and development of a major tourism industry. In 1911 the Grand Trunk Pacific was in serious financial difficulty and in early 1912 Hays voyaged to England to raise money for the enterprise. On April 10 Hays, together with his wife Clara, his daughter Orian, and broker son-in-law Thornton Davidson, boarded Titanic at Southampton. Charles' return to Canada was precipitated by concerns over the health of another daughter and the April 26 grand opening in Ottawa of the Grand Trunk's flagship hotel Chateau Laurier.

The Hays entourage on Titanic were guests of Bruce Ismay, the White Star Line's chairman and managing director. Although Clara and Orian survived the foundering of Titanic on April 15, Charles and son-in-law Thornton both perished. Hays' body was recovered at sea by the Minia on April 26 and returned to Halifax where it was subsequently sent to Montreal for burial in Mount Royal Cemetery. With Hays' death plans for Prince Rupert as the Grand Trunk Pacific's terminus ended. The town of Melville, Saskatchewan and Hays in Alberta are both named after him. His legacy remains to this day in Prince Rupert: a statue is erected in his honour; Charles Hays Secondary School bears his name; and Mount Hays on Kaien Island overlooks the city.

Second Class Passengers

Miss Hilda Slayter

Hilda Mary Slayter was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 5, 1882. The daughter of a doctor, she left home at twenty to study music in Italy with the goal of becoming a professional singer. However, by age twenty-seven she realized that this career was not attainable and  began a search for a suitable husband. While in England she met Harry Reginald Dunbar Lacon of Ottley, the son of a British MP and baron, Sir Edmund Henry Knowles Lacon of Ottley. Hilda and Harry became engaged when he was living on Denman Island in British Columbia. While shopping for her wedding trousseau in Europe in the spring of 1912 she booked passage on Titanic and boarded the ship in Queenstown on April 11. Although Hilda lost all of her valuable trousseau, she survived the sinking and was rescued in Lifeboat Number 13. Hilda and Harry were married on Denman Island on June 1, 1912. Their son, Reginald William Lacon, served in World War II as a naval commander and earned the Distinguished Service Cross. Hilda died of cancer on April 12, 1965, at age eighty-three.

Robert Norman

In March 1912 twenty-eight-year-old electrical engineer Robert Douglas Norman resigned his job with AEG Electric in Glasgow, Scotland and booked passage on Titanic. After landing in New York he was planning to travel to Vancouver to visit his brother. Robert died in the sinking. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. Included in his personal effects was a pocket watch in a gold open-faced case and a diary. His body was buried in Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

William Gillespie

Thirty-four year-old law clerk William Henry Gillespie boarded Titanic in Southampton. His last residence in the British Isles was "Coffee Palace" Abbeyleix, County Laois, Ireland. Gillespie died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

Third Class Passengers

Mirko Dika

Seventeen year-old Mirko Dika was one of twenty-one Croatians who boarded Titanic. Like many of the young male third class passengers, he was a labourer. Dika died in the sinking and his body was never recovered.

Jakob Johanson

Jakob Alfred Johanson was born on June 11, 1877, in Bonas, Nykarleby on the Finnish West coast. In 1896 he emigrated to the United States, ending up in Alaska, where he successfully prospected for gold. In 1901 he married Anna, who gave birth to four children in America. In 1907 the Johanson family returned to Munsala, Finland, to farm. After several years Jakob decided to return to North America, and after establishing a new home have his wife and children follow. He booked passage on Titanic as one of fifty-five third class Finns and Finnish-Americans. Although his official destination was Vancouver, it is believed that he was headed for either Olympia, Washington, or California. He died in the sinking and his body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. His personal effects included a diary, gold watch and chain, and $264 in banknotes. Johanson was buried in Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax.  

Michael Dupuis is a retired history teacher now living in Victoria. He has written for history journals and magazines in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. His most recent work related to Titanic can be found in The Titanic Commutator "Women Reporters And The Titanic Story" (October 2011), and Chapter 7 "Canadian Journalists in New York" in Paul Heyer's TITANIC Century Media, Myth, and the Making of a Cultural Icon (April 2012) Michael can be contacted at  michaeldupuis@shaw.ca