Watkins Glen remembers the Titanic
WATKINS GLEN—Descendants of three people who were aboard the Titanic and enthusiasts of the history of the “unsinkable ship” gathered in Watkins Glen this past weekend to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of its sinking.
The Titanic Festival committee held several events throughout the county, with the main event being a dinner featuring the last first class meal served on the Titanic before it sank. All of the 260 tickets to that event were sold out by the Tuesday before the dinner. Descendants of Titanic passengers were invited to the area and at some events even spoke.
Thomas Barrett Leary, godson of Watkins Glen resident Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild who survived the Titanic, spoke at the dinner and at an event earlier on Saturday at the Watkins Glen elementary school. Elizabeth was born in 1858, the ninth of 11 children. When she lived in New York City she worked for and eventually married Martin Rothschild. Leary said that Elizabeth and Martin were of different religions, which at the time meant such a marriage was discouraged. However, Leary said his aunt Lizzie was “not remotely afraid to be unconventional.”
While Elizabeth died in 1943, Leary said he remembers her well. He himself was born in 1931. He added that he was named after Elizabeth’s brother.
Leary told the audience of nearly 40 people that Elizabeth ended up in lifeboat number six with “the unsinkable Molly Brown,” another passenger aboard the Titanic. He explained that Elizabeth boarded the lifeboats early on in the crash with the iceberg, when few passengers noticed the impact or importance of escaping the ship. Leary said because of that, the lifeboats were sent out with many empty seats. He added that because of their rank and the adage of “women and children first,” the first class female passengers were put in boats first. Leary said that of all the first class women, only four never survived or were not accounted for.
Another relative of Elizabeth, James W. Barrett Jr., also spoke briefly. He said his father knew Elizabeth, adding that she helped put James the senior through medical school. Barrett added his father even attended to Elizabeth for a time. Barrett and Leary ended up meeting each other for the first time the night before the dinner, April 13, 2012.
Several relatives for Frederick William Blainey Shellard, a third class passenger on the Titanic, were also present. Bill Campbell was the speaker for that family. He said Frederick, their grandfather, never made it off the ship, nor was his body recovered. Campbell explained that Frederick went back and forth between the U.S. and England, eventually immigrating to the U.S. and starting a family. However, in 1911 he returned to England to visit family and conduct some business. Campbell said Frederick was involved in a painting business in his new home of Troy, N.Y. Frederick’s return voyage home from England was unfortunately on the Titanic though.
John Pulos, one of the Titanic Festival organizers and former owner of Chef’s Diner in Montour Falls, explained that because of the four restaurants on the ship, third class passengers actually ate better than people of that class would have on other ships at that time. Pulos said the first and second class passengers ate food made in the same kitchen, so the second class passengers ate food of a higher quality as well.