Hello my dedicated followers and you stray googlers. Here is a new edition of my Titanic story…..sent out to Independent today – fingers crossed this one makes it into the Weekend Magazine
Edith Nile Peacock was 26 when she drowned on Titanic. She is a relation of my husbands’ family but her story had faded into oblivion with no living person knew she existed until two years ago, when my son Charlie inherited a book on Titanic. Like lots of children in Ireland today Charlie is half-Irish half-Cornish, he is in second class in Maynooth Educate Together.
I remember vividly my father straining forwards towards the Pye wooden panelled TV to hear every word Kenneth More uttered in ‘A Night to Remember’ on UTV on a cold March night in 1974. I remember my fathers’ face full of pride as he watched Titanic launched in Belfast, and saw him wipe away a rare tear at the sinking of that spectacular ship at the end of the movie. So when my father passed away and gave his Titanic book to my son- I was delighted Charlie Boy would have something to remember Granda Charlie by. As my son flicked through the pages and told us how many boilers, bulk-heads and lifeboats were on board, we listened half-heartedly and nodded in the right places. But then he said there was a woman from Cornwall, Charlie Boy read aloud ‘Edith Nile Peacock was from Carnkie in Cornwall’, and as we all listened to that one phrase, suddenly the story of Edith began to capture us, and we saw that first picture of her on a small oval portrait in the middle of that page.
Edith Nile was a miner’s daughter, born into a two bedroom granite cottage to a family of eleven children in 1886. She was brought up in Carnkie, a small village in Cornwall. She worked locally and met a quiet, considerate young man named Benjamin Peacock. He was in the Merchant Navy, as were his two brothers – Robert and Ernest. Within a few years of courtship Benjamin and Edith married in Cornwall, and a daughter Treastall was born there in 1909. They moved to London briefly before settling in Southampton. In 1911 when the census was completed, Edith was registered as having one living child, one dead child and being pregnant again.
On leaving the Navy Benjamin decided to take his chances in America. He went ahead of his wife and settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He told her he would send for them when he had saved enough money. A new baby Alfie was born to Edith on the 8th of September, and the following April Benjamin sent the money for Edith and the children’s fares. Edith booked them all onto Titanic.
There are two versions of what happened on that fateful night. One is that a crew-man was helping Edith into the lifeboat and he was holding Alfie, tragically the baby slipped from his grasp and fell into the icy waters – Edith and her daughter jumped in to save the baby. Another version is that they remained on-board, as spaces in the lifeboats were severely restricted for Third Class passengers, and they went down with the ship.
My husband is Robert Mitchell, he grew up right beside Carnkie in Cornwall and his Grandfather was Alfred Nile, a nephew to Edith. Robert didn’t know he had any relations on Titanic, but his mother started to remember talk of a vague relative, but had thought it was just a hear-say or a rumour. As we researched more of Edith she became a real person for us, and she was given a second chance to tell her story to a new generation.
When Titanic Artefacts Exhibition came to Dublin in 2010, Robert and Charlie Boy went to the event. At the beginning they got a Boarding Card and after they made their way through the exhibition, they stopped at the original bell from Titanic and checked to see which passenger they each had. Robert said a shiver ran up his spine and he read that Charlie had Edith Nile Peacocks’ boarding card. When Robert Ballard (who discovered Titanic on the sea bed) heard this, he introduced himself to Robert and Charlie Boy and was amazed at the co-incidence.
Our coincidences didn’t end there -Charlie Boy sits beside Liam at school and his dad is an architect. Charlie was telling Liam about Edith Nile Peacock, and Liam told him his dad was designing Titanic Belfast’s new building. I got speaking to Liam’s Dad and I subsequently emailed him all the information we had on Edith. We found out there was no family members listed for her.
So now are invited as part of Edith Nile Peacocks family to the opening of Titanic Belfast in March. More importantly we have been asked to be part of a group of people who will sail out to the mouth of Cobh harbour, to lay a wreath on 14th April this year, to commemorate those lost on Titanic. We will remember Edith for the first time in over six decades, thanks to Granda Charlie and Charlie Boy, the stories of Edith and her two young children can at last be remembered and a silent prayer said for them.