South Australians onboard the final voyage of the Titanic

April 30, 2017|Posted in: Maritime History

I had a bit of a surprise when I visited the cemetery at the Aldinga Uniting Church recently. I had gone there to photograph the Star of Greece memorial there.

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Star of Greece memorial

(Taken by Steve Reynolds)

I found a couple of graves in the name of McRae near the memorial. What caught my eye was a headstone for the McRae family with a reference to the Titanic.

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The headstone for the McRae family

(with a reference to the Titanic)

(Taken by Steve Reynolds)

I have some distant relatives by that name (only via marriage). The inscription on the headstone suggested that an Alan McRae had died on the Titanic when she sank on 15th April 1912. As a shipwreck enthusiast, I’ve always felt a close affinity to the wreck of the Titanic.

Titanic Exhibition

Titanic

I took some photos of the two McRae plots that I had seen at the cemetery so that I could study the details on the headstones back at home. I copied the details from my photos on to some paper and discussed the matter with one of my relatives from the McRae family. She didn’t know of any family connection with any McRae’s from around Aldinga at all. One of the Christian names from a headstone was familiar but she didn’t believe that it was her father’s uncle by that name.

Regardless of the discussion, I ‘Googled’ the name of Alan McRae to try to find out more about him. I discovered that there were some South Australians aboard the Titanic when she sank in 1912. They were Evelyn Marsden, Charles Dahl and an Arthur McRae (NOT an Alan McRae though). Evelyn survived the sinking, whereas her parents didn’t. According to the 2012 web page found at http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/ipad/passage-to-history/news-story/d87b16a4f59c5f6df24d0cf3736f03c7 , “Two South Australians who were aboard the Titanic when it sank 100 years ago lived to tell the tale.”

According to the web page, Arthur McRae from Adelaide, however, died in the disaster. He studied engineering in Sydney and was travelling to Canada aboard the Titanic to see friends. The above-mentioned web page goes on to say, “At a cemetery in Aldinga there is a headstone marking the resting place of Alan McRae (no relation to Arthur) with the memorial “Alan 1889-1912 (missing SS Titanic)”. However, no Alan McRae was listed as a passenger or crew on the ship.”

This revelation but a dampener on my research, but at least I now knew that there were some South Australians onboard the Titanic. I still wonder what had happened to Alan McRae though. If he wasn’t registered as a passenger on the Titanic, what is the confusion regarding his apparent death in 1912?

The web page at http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/ipad/passage-to-history/news-story/d87b16a4f59c5f6df24d0cf3736f03c7 said that both Charles Dahl and Evelyn Marsden survived the Titanic. It says that Dahl “was born in Norway in 1866 but moved to Adelaide to work as a joiner in 1882. He was a third-class passenger on the Titanic, travelling to the US to visit his mother. After the sinking, it is believed he came back to Australia to live, although perhaps not in Adelaide. He died in Norway in 1933.”

The web page also says that Evelyn Marsden left Hoyleton in the SA’s Mid-North to explore the world from the decks of some of the world’s most magnificent ocean liners as a ship’s stewardess. She was one of about 700 survivors out of more than 2,200 people onboard when the Titanic struck an iceberg. She helped to row lifeboat No.16 to the Carpathia, the ship which took many survivors to New York.

A doctor called William James was Evelyn’s fiancé. He was also meant to be on the Titanic until a last-minute change of roster altered that. Evelyn and William later married and returned to live in Australia.

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

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