Robert Harvey Vaughan was born in Manchester, England on 20 November 1894, although there is no identifiable record for his birth.
According to his marriage record, Vaughan’s parents were Harvey Vaughan, a bookkeeper, and Jane Barrow, a spinster, who were both wed in Liverpool in 1899, almost five years after Robert’s birth. Whilst the 1911 census states they had a child, that child does not appear with them on either that census or the previous one.
At sea from a young age, in April 1915 he was serving as waiter aboard the eastward-bound voyage of the Carpathia when that ship rescued the survivors of the Titanic.
In the early hours of 15 April Vaughan had been in his bunk chatting to his mates but was ready to turn in to sleep. Drifting off, he was awakened by a few tugs at his bedsheets, accompanied by a voice telling him to get up and get dressed—asking what was the matter he and his bunkmates were told that their ship, Carpathia, had struck an iceberg. Alarmed, Vaughan looked out of a porthole but saw that the ship was making headway as normal and he deduced that there was zero indication of any danger and that there had been a mistake.
Heading up top he was met by one of his superiors who told him to help prepare blankets on the deck and then to prepare the dining rooms to receive passengers. After the crew had made suitable preparations, they were all gathered in the main saloon and told of what had happened—that the Titanic was in danger and that they were heading to assist her. He recalled passing several large icefields on the starboard bow on their way.
The first sight Vaughan recalled of seeing anything to do with the Titanic was a green lantern in one of the lifeboats; as some of the frail crafts appeared he also stated that there were subdued cheers from the survivors.
Positioned in the second class dining saloon, Vaughan helped receive the survivors filing in. One woman, a foreigner who he identified as “an Italian,” was in hysterics and, via an interpreter among the Carpathia crew, it was discovered that she was missing her two children. One child was soon located but the other was still missing; following an extensive search, the other child was found in a hot press (airing cupboard), placed there to help the child revive from the cold.
He also recalled how two members of the Titanic’s orchestra, Brailey and Bricoux, had served with him aboard the Carpathia in previous voyages, leaving that ship to join Titanic and both jesting “well steward, we will soon be on a decent ship with decent grub,” both men apparently having been consistent grumblers about the quality of Carpathia’s food.
In August 1912 he emigrated as a passenger aboard the Tunisian, bound for a new life in Perth, Ontario where he would work for over 35 years in a textile company as a carder.
He was married in July 1913 to Mary Jane Beatty (b. 1890) and raised a family. He served in the Canadian Army during WWI and became a widower in 1939 when Mary Jane passed away. He remarried to Hazel McIntyre (1912-1975), with whom he raised more children.
Robert Vaughan in 1955
(Ottawa Journal, 31 December 1955)
Interviewed in 1955, Vaughan recalled that despite leaving Carpathia for a new life, when he heard of her sinking in 1918 he “felt that I had lost a chum.”
Robert Vaughan died in Perth, Ontario on 7 November 1978 and was buried in the nearby Elmwood Cemetery.