THE EMPRESS OF IRELAND – and how we almost never made it into the world.


My younger sister Heather is the family historian.  I always check my dates with her.  Today she E-mailed me that she had mistakenly given the wrong year for our grand-parents immigration to Canada.


They sailed on the Empress of Ireland July 1913.


It was a ship of Edwardian splendor – for the first class passengers.


Originally they planned to sail on the Titantic in 1912.  Their passage  on the fateful maiden voyage of the Titantic was cancelled.   Grandmother was experiencing a difficult pregnancy and was unable to travel.


In 1914, a year after my grandparents sailed on her,  the Empress of Ireland was rammed in dense fog by the Norwegian collie, Storstad.  She sunk fourteen minutes later in the St. Lawrence River.  1,014 souls, passengers and crew,  died in the worst maritime disaster in Canadian history.

More lives than were lost when the  Empress of Ireland went down,  than in the sinking of the Titanic.

Fate intervened. My grandparents made a safe ocean voyage, and  consequently we made it into the world.


27 thoughts on “THE EMPRESS OF IRELAND – and how we almost never made it into the world.

    • Then Jo Nell they had to travel by steam train half way across Canada with four children.
      My sister is really into family history. On my Father’s side she has traced back – in a direct line – to the 1200’s. It has been more difficult with my Mother’s side of the family. V.

  1. Gosh, as a Norwegian I feel like I should apologize. What a terrible catastrophe, and what grace that your grandparents were delivered from the fate of the Titanic.

    BTW–last night I started The Girl in the Green Glass Mirror–and I’m hooked. It’s just my kind of tale! Art, romance, mystery, suffering, renewal, and England.

    • Oh dear … no don’t feel that way. It was a terrible accident in pea soup weather. Even though the Empress of Ireland was supposed to be very safe – double bulk heads and after Titanic there were enough life boats it happened so fast that there were only a little over 400 survivors. V.

    • My sister Heather, along with her son who is an IT chap are passionately interested in genealogy. They have traced my Father’s family – in a straight line – back to the l2th century. They lived in both France and England. In England their village was called Drayton Bassett. V.

      • We’ve back as far as Charlemagne on my mother’s side …need to get into some Scottish records /border with England records for my dad’s….hey – would be better to go there in person to the castle and chat with people, right? Sigh. Maybe someday

  2. What interesting history! I am so glad fate intervened and they made a safe voyage, I cannot imagine my life without Virginia!!! My though, you do come from good stock! We have our own sea passage tonight to Malta, even though it is a short one, I hope it is without event!

    • Your journey sounds fascinating. Something about an overnight sea voyage sounds rather romantic. I went rummaging in my fabric cupboard and found some Malta lace I had tucked away. Years ago my son’s father was stationed in Malta and bought some home for his Mother. Which I then inherited. I wonder if lace making is still being done in Malta. V.

      • I shall venture out on a search of ladies sitting about in a plaza, near the fountain creating beautiful lace whilst chatting about the prior days events and report back to you.

  3. Gosh, what a story, were your grandparents Irish? They would probably have sailed from Cobh, County Cork, then known as Queenstown, it was also the last place the Titanic called to.

    • Joan, my grandparents were Londoners. My grandmother born in the sound of Bow Bells. My Grandfather was in the merchant navy and had traveled the world. It must have been heart breaking to leave London. He was coming to employment in Prince Albert, something he didn’t have at that time in London. V.

  4. Great photos and story to go with them. It’s amazing that your grandparents had not one, but two chances to perish, and missed both. This is wonderful family history to pass along. ~James

    • We would hearing these stories as children, but it wasn’t until we became adults that we fully understood them. I do remember thinking of my grandparents saying goodbye knowing they would never see their family ever again. Virginia

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