Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Sinking of An Empress

Empress of Ireland.jpg

Many of you know that I am a member of the Salvation Army. My family have been members going back 5 generations, to the early days in the late 1800s. 

Today (as well as being my birthday - scroll down to see my previous post) is the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland, an ocean liner that sank in the Saint Lawrence River following a collision with the Storstad, a Norwegian collier, in the early hours of 29 May 1914. 


Of the 1,477 persons on board the ship, the accident claimed the lives of 1,012. The number of deaths is the largest of any Canadian maritime accident in peacetime. (1,502 people lost their lives in the sinking of Titanic).


The passengers included 167 members of the Salvation Army, including the Territorial Commander for the Canada and members of the Canadian Staff Band, who were travelling to London for the first international conference.

My friend's grandfather was on the Empress of Ireland and survived. He became an Officer (pastor) in the Salvation Army because of the events that night. Previously, he was an accountant with an Insurance Company, but during the disaster, he promised that if he made it out alive, he would dedicate his life to God.


My great-grandfather was in the Peterborough Temple band, that was sent after the disaster to the conference to take the place of the Canadian Staff Band. At each performance, seats were set up in band formation,with white ribbons on each chair, in remembrance of the members of the Staff Band and the others who perished that night. 

This event is an important part of Canadian and Salvation Army history. As years pass, fewer and fewer people remember or even know of it. The last survivor passed away in 1995 at the age of 88. Each year, remembrance ceremonies are held in Quebec, near the site of the sinking, and the Salvation Army holds a remembrance ceremony at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, to remember all those who perished that night.  Next year, a special commemorative is being organized to mark the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland.



15 comments:

Melissa said...

Wow. I didn't know this! Thanks for sharing!!!

Jessi Fogan said...

I remembered this only in the vaguest way - remembering the ship's name. What a powerful image those empty ribboned chairs must have been. Thank you for sharing this, Ardyth!

Susan Raihala said...

How wonderful, Ardyth, that you would share this information and keep the memory alive.

Jill Norwood said...

The Salvation Army is such a wonderful organization Ardyth! How wonderful to have 5 generations involved! What an incredible legacy!

I was not aware of this maritime history!! Thank you so much for sharing! It is a piece of history that should be remembered and it is so good of you to help keep it alive.

Happy Birthday to you too my dear! Your cards always surprise and delight me with something special!

Happy Dance said...

How thoughtful of you to commemorate the RMS Empress on the anniversary of its tragic sinking. You must be very proud of your ggrandfather to have stepped up and gotten on a boat, and then to play in their stead. Just by retelling this to us in blogland, more people will pass this on, and the memory remains alive. Bless you for that. You're the best.
And HB2Y. Little hugs. Bev

Bonnie said...

I didn't know this. Thanks for sharing!

jintyoo7 said...

Happy Birthday, Ardyth :)

Thank you, for sharing such an interesting, albeit so poignant. I'm glad to hear of the annual remembrance ceremonies!

Geri said...

Thanks for sharing this important piece of Canadian history with us and your fitting tribute to the Salvation Army. I'm glad that you did because it helped me remember!

Anne said...

The Salvation Army are certainly a wonderful organisation and I am so pleased that they are thriving through your family! The news of the Empress is unfamiliar to me, (I am English) and I am indebted to you for bringing it to my attention. I shall pass your link on to others to view. God bless you and have a very happy Birthday!

alexandra s.m. said...

I had no idea. Thank You so much for sharing and I wish you a wonderful Birthday Ardyth!

mypapercraftworld said...

What an important event in your own family history, Ardyth, and in that of the Salvation Army ... one that merits your touching tribute to all those aboard the Empress. Anita :)

Barb Ghig said...

This is such a beautiful tribute, Ardyth! It's so nice to know that you and your family are so active in such a noble organization...I'm sure God will bless you in many ways for your service! Thanks so much for sharing this piece of history with us, too (especially those of us from the U.S., who wouldn't have known).

Gabby said...

Thanks for sharing this invaluable history that I was completely unaware of. The happiest of birthdays to you, Ardyth! :)

Barb Murphy said...

What an important part of Canadian history Ardyth...and I'm ashamed to say I knew nothing of it. Thank you for sharing it here. xx

Jacquie Southas said...

Thanks for sharing this Ardyth - born & raised on the west coast, I had never heard this story.