Marshall DrewIn His Own Words


Apr 11, 2001
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Marshall Drew was one of those characters once met,- never forgotten. He was a great photographer, artist (who loved painting abstracts), calligrapher, historian, Civil War buff, teacher and origami master. He was also an 8 year old survivor of the Titanic. It amused him to see his name listed on the Roll of the Dead in some 1912 memorial editions. "Like any kid, when I rolled out of that canvas sack on board Carpathia, and heard about doughnuts and cocoa down in the diningroom- I took off!" He had spent a cold night wrapped up in the long skirts down in the bottom of lifeboat #11. He was a short, quick, slightly precocious child- a real observer with tremendous eye for visual detail. He was left motherless as a tiny newborn and was shipped around to family by a grieving father. Marshall's father had a family stonecarving business in Greenport, Long Island, NY. He had come to Westerly, Rhode Island for the famous blue granite and had met a Miss Brines and married her. Marshall crossed on Olympic in the fall of 1911 with Aunt Lulu and Uncle Jim Drew. The photograph already posted on ET under Michael Findlay's bio comes from the original on my fireplace-it is Marshall at age 7 just leaving for England ,1911. He stayed with Grandma Drew in Cornwall-he recalled ,one day, the big fireplace and hearthseats where one could look up the chimney and see stars during the daytime. He became my painting teacher in 1982. There is so much to say about Marshall, and I will do so in an article later. Tonight I wanted to share his last letter- written before he died in 1986. I had asked him to do two things for me-a calligraphy of the Hardy poem, Convergence of the Twain-Lines on the Loss of the Titanic, and to write all he could remember about the night the great ship went down. Much heartened by the positive response to the Smith Letters, I am bold to offer the complete text of Marshall's letter here for you. I had granted permission for its use in DESTINATION DISASTER and it was in some measure reproduced along with my portrait. This is the complete transcript, written in his unmistakable hand in black ink on a lined yellow legal-size pad. It is transcribed as written.

My Uncle Jim/James Vivian Drew/ and Aunt Lulu and I went to Cornwall, England in the fall of 1911. My father and his brothers were Cornish. We went to Cornwall to visit with grandma Drew and other relatives.The oddity here is that we crossed on the Olympic-sister ship to the Titanic.As we were returning anyway I assume my Uncle Jim decided on the Titanic-maiden voyage with all the hoopla!
Before we pulled away from Southampton we second class passengers were permitted to go up on the bridge. We were permitted to see the gymnasium.
On the deck on the way back we had a full view of the Titanic's suction causing the New York liner to break hawsers and swing out into the stream causing a delay until tug boats secured the New York back to her moorings. As many know this event was later viewed as an evil-omen.
At 11:40 p.m. April 14th when the Titanic struck the iceberg I was in bed. However, for whatever reason I was awake and remember the jolt and cessation of motion.
A steward knocked on the stateroom door and directed us to get dressed, put on live-preservers,and go to the boat deck-which we did.There was a watertight compartment door next to our stateroom. As we left it was closed.
I remember the steward as we passed was trying to arouse passengers who had locked themselves in for the night. Elevators were not running. We walked up to the boat deck. All was calm and orderly.An officer was in charge."Women and children" first as he directed No. 11 to be filled
There were many tearful fairwells as-like us and Uncle Jim said, "Good-bye."Waiting on deck before this I could hear the ship's orchestra playing somewhere off toward first class.Lifeboat No.11 was near the stern. I will never forget that as I looked over my right shoulder steerage was blacked out. It made an impression I never forgot. Now I know from reading that lifeboat No.11 was the only lifeboat filled to capacity.The lowering of the lifeboats-seventy feet to the sea- was perilous. Davits, ropes,-nothing worked properly so that first one end of the lifeboat tilted up and then far down. I think it was the only time I was scared.
Lifeboats pulled some distance away from the sinking Titanic afraid of what suction might do. I am always annoyed at artist's depiction of the sinking Titanic. I've never seen one that came anywhere near the truth. There might have been the slightest ocean swell but! it was dead calm.Stars there may have been but the blackness of the night was so intense one could not see anything like a horizon.As row by row of the porthole lights of the Titanic sank into the sea this was about all one could see. When the Titanic upended to sink all was blacked out until the tons of machinery crashed to the bow. This sounded like an explosion which of course it was not.As this happened the hundreds and hundreds of people were thrown into the sea. It isn't likely I would ever forget the screams of these people as they perished in water said to be 28 degrees. The reader will have to understand that at this point of my life was being brought up as a typical British kid. You were not allowed to cry. You were a little "man".So! As a cool kid I lay down in the bottom of the lifeboat and went to sleep. When I awoke it was broad daylight as we approached Carpathia. Looking around over the gunwale it seemed to me like the Arctic. Icebergs of huge size ringed the horizon 360 degrees./

*When Marshall reached New York, he and Aunt Lu were taken to a hotel. There he sat on the bottom step while the adults were discussing the events. Having no pencil handy, he had a piece of scrap paper and a common pin and picked out in little holes the outline of the sinking ship while listening to the adults. He also commented on something I never read elsewhere before. Between funnel 3 and 4 there was so much deck clutter that passage was impossible between them- they had to walk around. He went on to become a remarkable man- a story for another night.
 

Phillip Gowan

Member
Apr 10, 2001
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Shelley,
Thanks for sharing--am always interested in minute details such as the above. Question: Who did Marshall marry? I have a number of documents on him including his will, death certificate, and obituary but none mentions his spouse--in fact the estate was left to Chris Wible (his grandson) with little mention of any other family members even though his daughter and other grandchildren survived him.

Thanks,
Phil
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Phil- GOOD question- he NEVER mentioned his wife except to say they agreed amicably to part company- I can ask one his friends. Chris is in Maine now (with his son Andrew and wife). Another grandson lives in nearby Groton and came to the memorial service and headstone dedication in Riverbend. This may take me a week to find out. /S. Who knows where daughter Betty got to- Philly the last I heard.
 
Apr 16, 2001
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Shelley,

Betty Drew's work was featured in an art expo here in Manhattan last month. She was mentioned as living in Greenwich Village. I thought she was living in Hoboken, New Jersey.

I remember Marshall saying that his wife was from New York also, and that they met while he was a teacher at the Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood, Queens. I do not know if she also taught at the school as Marshall never revealed her name.

Mike
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Yes-this is a mystery- I will ask some of Marshall's old cronies down at the restaurant. Glad to hear Betty is doing well- is she using her maiden name?/ Maybe we can locate the Groton grandson while you are here./s.
 

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