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Islington’s Titanic story revealed

PUBLISHED: 19:17 15 April 2012 | UPDATED: 20:17 15 April 2012

The Titanic sank 100 years ago Pic: Press Association

The Titanic sank 100 years ago Pic: Press Association

PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Titanic, subject of the most famous naval disaster in history, sank beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean 100 years ago this week.

Today (Sunday) is the centenary of the tragic date, which has been marked in various ways around the world.

Thanks to myriad re-tellings from the 1955 film A Night to Remember, the James Cameron’s star-studded 1997 blockbuster, the story of the Titanic is familiar.

Less well known are Islington’s connections with the fallen leviathan – Ernest Price, from Grove Road, Holloway, was a barman on the ship and died when it went down.

William Penny, born in Islington, perished on board while working as an assistant steward and one the booking agents, Mr Boulton, had offices on Upper Holloway Road.

But most interesting of all is the tale of the Coutts family, from Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, whom boarded the ill-fated vessel and all survived.

Reporter Jon Dean and Mark Aston, manager of Islington Local history Centre, trawled the online resource Encyclopedia Titanica to bring you their story:

The Coutts family were separated when the father William Coutts moved to New York as an engraver. By 1912, he had saved enough money to send to his family so they could join him.

His wife Winnie, and her sons William and Neville, bought third class tickets for the princely sum of £15 18s and boarded the Titanic bound for Brooklyn.

On the night the great ship hit the iceberg, Mrs Coutts awoke to commotion outside her cabin.

She woke and dressed her sleepy children – but could only find two lifebelts.

Giving these to her sons, they headed out, but soon got lost amid the chaos outside.

Luckily a kind crewman gave her his lifebelt and pointed her in a different direction where they found lifeboat two.

But the officer in charge refused to let William on board, claiming he looked too old in his straw hat. Eventually, Mrs Coutts persuaded him to let the nine-year-old pass.

All three survived the tragedy – they were among only 178 third class passengers to do so (around 25 per cent).

Mrs Coutts died in 1960, aged 84 – she never liked to talk about her experiences on the Titanic.

Neville died in Florida in 1977, aged 78 and William died in 1957 in Ohio, aged 55.

Mark Aston, manager of the Islington Local History centre, said: “It was obviously such a tragedy when it happened, but to have these Islington connections, and the fact they survived, is really something.

“They dreamed of a new life in New York, but the memories of the Titanic probably stayed with Mrs Coutts all her life.”


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