Mrs Elizabeth Nye was born in Folkestone, Kent, England on 27 May 1882.
She was the third of seven and eldest surviving child of Thomas Ingram Ramell (1854-1915) and Elizabeth Ann Griffiths (1854-1947); her father was born in Lambeth, London and had come to Folkestone in the early 1870s where he began a career as a coach painter and also served as a Salvation Army bandsman. He married local girl Elizabeth Griffiths in 1877.
Elizabeth's siblings were: Frederick Thomas Ingram (1878-1879), Amy Elizabeth (1879-1881), Edith Amy (b. 1885), Beatrice May (b. 1888), Florence Alma (b. 1891) and Winifred Rose (b. 1894).
The year prior to Elizabeth's birth her parents and sister Amy were recorded on the 1881 census residing at 6 Folly Cottages, Folkestone. By the time of the 1891 census 8-year-old schoolgirl Elizabeth was living with her family at 42 St John's Street in the same town. At the same address by the time of the following census in 1901, 18-year-old Elizabeth was by then a dressmaker.
Elizabeth went on to have a series of misfortunes; an attack of appendicitis nearly ended her young life and then, her first sweetheart, an unidentified man, was killed when he was washed off the Folkestone Harbour Pier and drowned. She was married on 26 December 1904 to Edward Ernest Nye (b. 1880), a railway labourer originally from the village of Stone in Oxney, near Folkestone; he was the son of shepherd William Dunsler Nye and his wife Ann Luckhurst. Edward and Elizabeth's only child, Maisie Elizabeth, was born in early 1906 but died after less than a year of life.
Elizabeth and Edward later left Britain and settled in New York around 1907 1; they appeared on the 1910 census as boarders at 62 Perry Street, Manhattan and Edward was described as a janitor and Elizabeth still as a dressmaker. She worked in the uniform department of New York's Salvation Army.
Edward Nye, who by then worked as a night watchman, died aged 30 on 22 May 1911; he was buried in Kensico Cemetery. The young widow Elizabeth returned to her family in England to mourn, the family home then being 64 Dover Road, Folkestone.
"Her life has been full of sad and trying experiences. Her first sweetheart was washed off the [Folkestone] Harbour Pier and drowned. She married a few years later, but had the misfortune to lose her two children [sic] by death, and also her husband. - The Folkestone Herald, 4 May 1912
For her return to New York Elizabeth had originally been scheduled to travel aboard Philadelphia but the ongoing coal strike altered those arrangements and her passage was changed instead to Titanic's maiden voyage. She boarded the ship at Southampton on 10 April 1912 (ticket number 29395 whch cost £10, 10s) and shared a cabin (F33) with three other English women, Amelia Lemore, Amelia Brown and Selina Cook.
Mrs Nye recounted the events of 14/15 April in a letter to her parents which was reprinted in the Folkestone Herald on 4 May 1912:
We were all in bed on Sunday night at about 11.30, when we felt an awful jerk, and the boat grazed something along its side, and the sea seemed to splash right over the deck. The men in the next cabin slipped on their coats and ran up to see what it was, and came and told us the ship had run into an iceberg nearly as large as herself. ''Most of the people went back to bed again, but then came an order 'get up and put something warm on, put on a lifebelt and come on deck.' So I got one underskirt on and a skirt, and stockings, and shoes and coat, and ran up to find a lifebelt, because there were only three in our berth for four of us. A boy from the next cabin stole one from ours, but he went down with it poor boy. We did not have time to go back to our cabins again to get anything, and we did not dream it was serious. I thought I should get back to get more clothes on and get a few other things, but we were put into the lifeboats, and pushed off at once.
Mrs Nye escaped in lifeboat 11 and spoke of the scene once the boat had been lowered:
When we got away from the ship we could understand the hurry and the order to get half a mile away as soon as possible. For the Titanic was half in the water. We watched the port holes go under until half the ship, only the back half, stuck up. Then the lights went out, and the boilers burst and blew up. There was a sickening roar like hundreds of lions, and we heard no more but THE MOANING AND SHOUTING for help from the hundreds of men and a few women who went down with her. There were not enough boats for so many people.
She went on to describe the lack of provisions in the lifeboat and crewmen burning ropes to attract other boats; she attributed the safety of the survivors to the clear night and calm sea and, of course, the arrival of Carpathia:
They lowered bags for the babies to pull them up, and we sat on a kind of swing and were drawn up by a rope to safety. They have been most kind to us. Led us one by one to the dining room, and gave us brandy. I drank half a glass of brandy down without water. We were all perished, and it put life into us. The ship is, of course, filled with its own passengers, But they found places for us all to sleep, but none of us slept well after going through such A HORRIBLE NIGHTMARE This ship stood right over the place where the Titanic went down, and picked us up.
Mrs Nye recalled the heartbreaking scenes of dozens of widows aboard the rescue ship:
We are told that the SS Baltic picked up about fifty men, and the poor women here are hoping their husbands are among the fifty. It is supposed there are 160 more widows through this wreck, and most of them have children. It was so heart breaking to see and hear them crying for their husbands. We were all gathered together, and our names taken for the newspapers. Of course, they cannot tell how many are dead, but we have on this ship only two hundred crew out of 910 and 500 passengers out of 2,000. I am amongst the fortunate, for God has spared my life when I was so near death again. I have lost everything I had on board. The only thing I saved was my watch Dad gave me eleven years ago. But all my treasures and clothes and some money have gone. I have only the scanty clothes that I stand up in, including my big coat, which has been a blessing.
Elizabeth was met in New York by members of the Salvation Army who took care of her and fellow Salvationist Rhoda Abbott; the latter was reportedly travelling in uniform and was hospitalised for the effects of her exposure. Elizabeth was also affected by exposure, requiring an operation, and she was later awarded $200 by the American Red Cross.
Case number 343. (English).
Widow, suffered from exposure, which later necessitated an operation. ($200).
Elizabeth remained in New York and was remarried to Englishman George Darby (b. 23 September 1883), a native of Cannock, Staffordshire and a fellow Salvationist. Together they had a son, George Ray, who was born on 30 March 1915.
The family made their home in the Bronx, appearing on the 1920 through 1940 census records as residents of 2706 Heath Avenue in that borough and Elizabeth and George continued to serve with the Salvation Army, she attaining the rank of Colonel. In May 1920 Elizabeth returned home to visit her family, sailing board the Lapland and made at least one more trip back to Britain. Her 1920 passport described her as standing at 5' 9½", with dark brown hair, hazel eyes and with a medium-fair complexion, a plump face and with a high and broad forehead.
Elizabeth died in Asbury Park, Monmouth, New Jersey on 22 November 1963 aged 81 and was buried in Kensico Cemetery, Westchester, New York. Her husband George outlived her by five years and died 7 May 1968. Their son George died in Bergen, New Jersey on 7 November 1979.
Colonel and Mrs Darby and their son George
Elizabeth with her son George
(© Jack Dalton, UK)