May 16, 1907|
|Died||May 15, 1995
St. Catharines, Ontario
Grace Hanagan Martyn (May 16, 1907 – May 15, 1995) was the youngest and last survivor of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland on May 29, 1914. She was one of four children (out of the 138 children on board) who survived the sinking of the Empress of Ireland.
Edith Grace Hanagan was born in Oshawa, Ont., on May 16, 1907 and was the daughter of Edward James and Edith Emily (Collishaw) Hanagan. Later she moved with her parents to Toronto because her father was the bandmaster of the Salvation Army.
Empress of Ireland
With her parents
On May 28, 1914, Grace's father was taking her and her mother along with other Salvation Army members (like the Evans family, Staff Captain Meyers, Mr. and Mrs. Maidment, the Leader of the Salvation Army Commissioner David Rees and his family, and others) on the Empress of Ireland that would take them from Quebec City to Liverpool, England for the third International Congress, following which there would be a holiday for their family. Meanwhile, her father conducted the orchestra on the ship in the afternoon. And as they did at 4:27 in the afternoon, they started to set sail. When they started Grace and her father’s boss Commissioner David Rees’s son Harold went on a tour of the ship. To her it was beautiful like a lovely hotel and she was quite thrilled with it. After that she and her parents went to dinner in the ship's second class dining room at 7:00 and then they prepared to turn in for the night. Grace refused to sleep in a berth that was next to a porthole as she believed this would be "where the water will come in", the memory of the sinking of the “Titanic” that sank two years earlier, still fresh in everyone’s mind.
Surviving the sinking
Grace's premonition was correct because on that very night she and her parents were woken up by a noise that sounded like a firecracker (to her.) They didn’t know what it was until Edward said that it was the pilot coming for the mail then they didn’t bother about it. But then somebody came into their cabin and told them to get out because the Empress of Ireland is sinking. So Grace and her parents ran out as they were, and they finally got out on the deck. On deck they ran into Ensign Ernest Pugmire, Edward asked for Pugmire's overcoat so he can rap it around Grace, so he gave it to them. They were close to some stairs, but the ship was listing so quickly that they could hardly climb. So they sat on the high part of the railing of the stairs along with the Evans family until the ship went down and the three of them were thrown into the water. Grace went under the water twice until she finally got a hold of a piece of wreckage. She then lost sight of her parents in the panicking crowd in the water. A few minutes later Grace saw a couple of lifeboats and she called for help. One crowded boat came over and the people in the lifeboat pulled Grace in. In the lifeboat, Grace lost consciousness, and woke up in a bed on the Storstad (the ship that collided with the Empress and it woke her and her parents up), asking for her mother.
Loss of her Parents
Grace was then taken to a Hospital in Rimouski. And then the next day the hospital arranged for a train to take her and some other survivors back to Toronto, with Mrs. Atwell (another survivor) watching over her. Before she went to the hospital, an officer promised to find her mother, and Grace clung to that promise even after showing her father's dead body in Toronto Mortuary. She still thought her mother will still come but she never did. In a year Grace assumed that her mother was really dead.
After the Sinking
Following the death of her parents, Grace lived with her grandparents, uncle, and aunt; her uncle became her legal guardian. Every year on the anniversary of the sinking she went to Toronto to place a wreath at a cemetery monument honoring the Empress victims, but mostly her parents. She even had a photo of her taken with nine other Salvation Army members that survived the sinking, (Thomas and Margaret Greenaway, David MacAmmond, Ernest Green, Rufus Spooner, Alfred Keith, Mary Atwell, and Frank and Henrietta Brooks) in 1934 And missed only two years. When she grew older she married Maurice Martyn, became Grace Martyn, had one son and settled in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. In 1992, she was reported to be in the Toronto area, and attending Highland Road Baptist Church. But even after all of those years, she still felt close to her parents in the water before they were killed. And she still had nightmares over the tragedy, because ever since she survived the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, a tap of water running in the bathtub would frighten her into terrible shivers and once again experience the panic of going down in the water. She didn’t talk about the disaster unless somebody brought up the subject. Except for one time at school, when she did a composition about the Empress.
Connection with other Empress Survivors
At 78 years old and feeling pretty well despite a number of heart attacks in recent years, Grace believed there were other survivors from the Empress that were still alive. One of them was Ron Fergusin, the wireless operator on the Empress of Ireland. She got in touch with him on Christmas in 1985 when he was living in or near Chelmsford, England, at 91 years old.
Grace also kept in contact with some other survivors and Salvation Army members until they died. She remained very involved with the Empress of Ireland throughout her life. And she was never portrayed as a celebrity after the tragedy. “Nor would I want to be,” she says.
Grace Hanagan Martyn died in St. Catharines, Ontario, just one day before her 88th birthday and two weeks before the 1995 memorial service.
- Empress of Ireland sinking living history for woman. Calgary Herald, May 26, 1985, (p. E8).
- Archives of Ontario. Registrations of Births and Stillbirths – 1869-1913. MS 929, reels 1-245. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario
- Ontario Register of Births
- Knowles, H. and Caldwell, D. (2003) The Empress of Ireland: An Essay. Northern Atlantic Dive Expeditions, Inc.
- Two movies where Grace had some interviews of her experience on the Empress of Ireland. http://fashionation.tv/the-last-voyage-of-the-empress/ (The Last Voyage of the Empress - Part 1 of 5 on Vimeo) and, http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/economy-business/transport/empress-of-ireland-sinks-in-the-st-lawrence.html (1914: Empress of Ireland sinks in the St. Lawrence - CBC)
- Weekly World News. http://books.google.com/books?id=pvMDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA59&dq=empress+of+ireland+weekly+world+news&hl=en#v=onepage&q=empress%20of%20ireland%20weekly%20world%20news&f=false, (Weekly World News Sep 19, 2005) page 58-59, http://books.google.com/books?id=yvADAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA37&dq=empress+of+ireland+weekly+world+news&hl=en#v=onepage&q=empress%20of%20ireland%20weekly%20world%20news&f=false, (Weekly World News Oct 6, 1998) page 36-37, or http://books.google.com/books?id=Su4DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA47&dq=empress+of+ireland+weekly+world+news&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false (Weekly World News Sep 21, 1993) page 46-47.
- Where Grace tells her story on the Empress of Ireland http://www.empress2014.ca/seclangen/prttprsnlt.html (Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014), http://titanicfan1000.deviantart.com/art/The-Empress-of-Ireland-243325629 (The Empress of Ireland by ~Titanicfan1000 on deviantART), and http://books.google.com/books?id=moAQgQWX5-4C&pg=PA28&dq=grace+hanagan&hl=en#v=onepage&q=grace%20hanagan&f=false (Losing the Empress: A Personal Journey) It also shows a picture of her and 9 other survivors on page 214.))
- Shows that Grace is the last survivor, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Empress_of_Ireland (RMS Empress of Ireland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) and http://www.peterboroughtempleband.com/history--pictures.html (History & Pictures - Salvation Army Peterborough Temple Band)
- Show that Grace did married and had a son, http://www.sacollectables.com/empress.html (Salvation Army Collectables - The Empress Of Ireland)
- Guestbook archives
http://www.sea-viewdiving.com/shipwreck_info/empress_home/guestbookarchive.htm (Empress of Ireland - Guest Book Archive - Sea-View Diving) and http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-170389.html (Empress of Ireland survivor [Archive] - ScubaBoard) and http://www.sea-viewdiving.com/shipwreck_info/empress_home/empbook/empressguests.htm (Empress of Ireland - Guestbook - Sea-View Diving) it tells that the Evans family was with Grace and her parents when the ship was ready to plunge.
- Encyclopedia Titanica http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/33551/124965.html?1212009517 (Child Survivors - Encyclopedia Titanica) and http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/33551/66437.html?1056018674 (Empress Passengers & a list - Encyclopedia Titanica)
- Google News http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7HZkAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_X4NAAAAIBAJ&pg=2299,2882308&dq=empress+of+ireland+grace+hanagan&hl=en (Empress of Ireland sinking living history for woman) tells who raised Grace after losing her parents in the sinking, tells where she was born, and having connection with other Empress survivors.
- Internet Archives https://archive.org/stream/war-cry-1914_06_13M/1914_06_13M#page/n3/mode/1up tells that Ernest Pugmire gave his overcoat to Grace.