The Feature was published today but not online as yet- so here it is from my word doc- the finished feature as I sent to the editor…..
Growing up in county Antrim I was always intrigued by Titanic, and knew the names of the iconic Samson and Goliath cranes from as far back as I can remember. One of my first memories of Titanic ‘A Night to Remember’, the first movie we had ever seen on television about the tragic ship. It was on Ulster Television on a cold March night in the mid-seventies when I was eight. I grew up on a farm and that particular night we were outside in the hay-shed pulping potatoes for the cows, it was hard work and went on for two hours every night. But that night the time flew past as we waited to see our city and our ship on television.
I remember my fathers’ face full of pride as he watched Titanic launched, 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 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 all 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 in into a family of eleven children in 1886. She was brought up in Carnkie, a small village in Cornwall in a two bedroom granite cottage. 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 in 1909. Within a few years they had moved to London, but finally settled 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 New Jersey, where he rented a room in a Boarding House run by a Mrs Town close to the train station in a town called Elizabeth. He worked in a factory and saved hard – details of him in the local paper at the time said he was a quiet conscientious man and was well-respected by his fellow workers. He told Mrs Town he was excited about his family arriving as baby Alfie had been born a few months after he left England.
Benjamin told Edith he would send for his family when he had saved enough money, and in early April he posted the money and 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 were in a lifeboat which capsized.
Benjamin was at the White Star Line offices in New York at 7am the morning after the tragedy. He feared his two brothers were also on Titanic as well. Edith and the children weren’t listed on the passenger list and he told his Landlady he lived in hope they had missed the ship. Sadly when the Carpathia arrived his family were not on it. He thought he had lost both his brothers and his wife and children. His story was covered extensively in the ‘Elizabeth Daily Journal’ – here is an extract from 23rd April 1912
“Benjamin Peacock, who lost his wife and two children in the Titanic disaster, returned to his work in the Public Service power house on South Avenue, Cranford, yesterday. He told his friends that his wife and two children had been placed in one of the lifeboats, which capsized.
Mr Peacock has not yet given up hope of finding his brothers who were also passengers on the ill-fated ship. Less than two weeks ago Mr Peacock told the men of how glad he would be to have his family with him and showed them a baby carriage for the baby and toys for the older girl. He had brought then from Elizabeth to show them to his fellow workmen.”
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 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, my husband 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 actual 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 Peacock. 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. He gave Charlie some free books and Boarding cards with real passenger’s details on them.
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, as there was no family members listed for her.
So now we are invited as part of Edith Nile Peacocks family to the opening of Titanic Belfast in March. We have told family and friends about Edith in the hope of keeping her story alive as we are the only living relatives she now has. On 14th April this year we will remember a young woman of 26, thousands of miles from home, on a brink of a new life in America, a woman who had lost one baby and was about to lose her family on Titanic.