Hi Everyone, here is a first draft of a feature I am writing of discovering Robert had ancestors drowned on the Titanic – hope you like it? It will be amended and edited – but here is the first draft.
A Titanic story never heard before. (first draft)
I grew up in the shadow of Samson and Goliath. In Northern Ireland we were quietly proud of our engineering history and I grew up knowing lots about the Titanic. One of my first memories was anticipating ‘A Night to Remember’, it was on Ulster Television on a cold March night when I was 8. I grew up on a farm, and I know you are thinking ‘Little House on the Prairie’ – well think more ‘Angela’s Ashes’ – no central heating, no inside toilet and sharp, cutting winds. We were outside in the hay-shed pulping potatoes for the cows, it was hard work and went on for at least two hours every night. We sorted the cold hard potatoes to make a bovine brunch the following day. On that particular night in March, long before Sky+ was conceived, we were working flat-out to be finished in time for the Kenneth More classic film.
I remember my Father’s face, full of pride as he watched Titanic launched from the slip in Belfast, and saw him wipe away rare tears later at the sinking of that spectacular ship. So when my father passed away and gave his Titanic book to his name-sake, my son- I was delighted Charlie Boy would have something to remember Granddad 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 I think the right places. But then he said there was a woman from Cornwall – he had stumbled upon Edith Nile Peacock.
We saw that first picture of Edith on a small oval portrait in the middle of that page. Charlie Boy asked did my husband did he know Carnkie in Cornwall? Slowly we began to unravel the story of Edith.
Edith Nile, was a miner’s daughter born in into a family of eleven children in 1886. She was born in Carnkie a small village between Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall. She worked locally and met a quiet, considerate young man named Benjamin Peacock. He was a sailor in the Royal 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 Illogan in 1909. They moved to London briefly and settled in Southampton. In 1911, when the census was completed, Edith was registered as having one living child and one dead child. At the time of the census in April 1911, she was pregnant again.
Benjamin had left the Navy and decided to take his chances in Elizabeth, New Jersey, he went ahead of his wife and told her he would send for them when he had saved sufficient money. In September 8th, Edith’s new baby was born – Alfie. Benjamin sent the money for the fares in early April 2012. Edith booked herself and her three-year old daughter and her seven month son onto Titanic. There are two versions of what happened on that fateful night. One is that a crewman was helping Edith into the lifeboat and was holding Alfie, but tragically the baby slipped from his grasp and Alfie fell into the icy waters – Edith and then her daughter jumped in to save the baby. I have read of the crewman recounted this story over the years after his survival, but sadly ended up losing his mind and being hospitalised permanently in a mental health institution. Another version is that they remained on board, as spaces in the lifeboats were severely restricted, and they went down with the ship. Whichever is true what a terrible fate.
Benjamin visited the White Star Steamship offices at dawn in New York on the morning after the tragedy. There were lists of those on The Carpathia, which had been radioed through from the rescue ship itself. But some survivors were so traumatized, the crew of The Carpathia were aware their list was not definitive. Relatives were desperate as they waited on the quays in New York – the local paper (The Elizabeth Daily Journal) said that Benjamin was a gaunt figure on the quays, his friends’ in Elizabeth feared for his mental health. His situation was further compounded as he feared his brothers – Robert and Ernest – had boarded Titanic at the last moment.
On the passenger lists that were first circulated, Edith and her children were not named as boarding Titanic, so Benjamin hoped that for some reason his family had missed the liner. When the ship arrived and his family were not on board, he was crushed.
He had arrived in Elizabeth, New Jersey one year and one day before the Titanic sank. He rented a room in a boarding house in Broad Street, owned by a Mrs Town. Benjamin told her, he sent his wife’s passage money a little more than a week before and hoped that his wife did not receive it in time to embark, but he was certain his brothers sailed and were on the lost steamship.
By 16th May, it was confirmed that his family were on Titanic and were lost. On the same day he received a letter from his mother, saying that his brothers had missed the boat and were alive and well in England.
Benjamin returned to work and told his landlady that he hoped his work and routine would help ease his huge loss.
When I read my Fathers wide range of Titanic books, I never noticed Edith Nile Peacock. My Mother-in-Law was Yvonne Nile before she was married, her dad was named Alfie Nile. She was never sure why that name was chosen. She thought someone belonging to the family who had perished on Titanic, she was unsure who it was, or indeed if that was true. Edith is Charlie’s Great, Great, Great Aunt.
Edith Nile Peacock came to life from our son Charlie who was just six at the time. He saw a picture of someone from Cornwall, and knowing he was half Cornish was intrigued. They say you only live on, in the memories of your grandchildren, but now Edith has now come back to life for us.
When Titanic Artefacts Exhibition came to Dublin in 2010, my husband and Charlie Boy went to the event. At the beginning you get a Boarding Card and after you make your way though the exhibition, you can check if your ‘adopted’ passenger survived or died. As Robert and Charlie Boy made their way to the end, and read their Boarding Cards – Charlie had Edith Nile Peacock. When Robert Ballard who discovered the Titanic, heard this, he introduced himself to Robert and Charlie Boy and was amazed at the co-incidence. He gave Charlie some free books and gave him a huge selection of Boarding cards with real passengers details on them.
My son Charlie 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 working on Titanic Belfast’s new building. I got speaking to Liam’s Dad and as a fellow Northerner (Ireland) he was blessed he said, to be part of the team to build this new landmark building. He suggested we email him all the information we had on Edith as there was no information from any other family members on her.
So now, thanks to Charlie we have information on Edith in the new Titanic Belfast Exhibition, and fingers crossed we will get an invite to the grand opening of the new building in March 2012. They say when you have kids, you get so much back from them to counteract the sleepless nights, the colic and the endless nappies. It is true.
Charlie has taken all his memorabilia for ‘Show and Tell’ and has become a Titanic expert, within school, within our family and brought Edith’s story to hundreds of people.