Titanic Tale as told to an Ellis Island immigrant

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Jul 12, 2003
I am currently reading a book containing interviews with Ellis island immigrants. One of the interviews involves a Titanic memory that I thought I would share.

The immigrant's name was Vera Winston and came to Ellis island in 1922 on the S.S. Cedric. She talks about life where she lived up to age 11 in Liverpool, what it was like on the crossing to Ellis Island and her life here in America.

This is the direct quote from the book by Vera Winston..."I had a fear the ship would sink like the Titanic. My father had a brother who lived in Belfast, and he worked on the Titanic when it was being built in England. And he had said that he wrote on the interior boards of the Titanic slurs like "Down with the Pope" and that sort of thing. And that "God punished it. That's why it sank." I prayed there were no slurs on the boards of the Cedric.

Just thought this was interesting.
Aug 15, 2005
Darwen, United Kingdom
That 'Down with the Pope' line probably originates from Titanic's hull number, 390904, which as a mirror reflection, with the application of a lot of imagination, reads 'NO POPE'.
Just thought you'd be interested...
Regards, Ryan.

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
Hello, Ryan---

If you search the board, you'll find that "No Pope" is a myth. There was no number 390904 associated with Titanic in any way.

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
The interesting question is when did the immigrant tell the story? The "NO POPE" story was evidently known in Belfast before the 1950s, but it seems to have been unknown elsewhere. Walter Lord mentioned it in The Night Lives On (page 27) in 1986. He received letters about it after publishing A Night to Remember. Eaton and Haas repeated the tale in Titanic: Destination Disaster (page 56) in 1987.

Does anybody know of the story being widely publicised before 1986? I've speculated that the tale originated with a story of anti-Catholic slogans being written on the ship. The number story may have been a later embellishment. If the immigrant's story was told before the 1950s, and therefore doesn't derive from the books mentioned, it may give a hint of the origins of the "NO POPE" tale.

Bob Godfrey

Nov 22, 2002
Nothing really new to add, but this might be of interest. Bill MacQuitty, while working with Walter Lord on the film version of ANTR in the late '50s, placed ads in Belfast newspapers asking for recollections of Titanic. Here, verbatim, is one of the replies he received - possibly the same letter that Lord was referring to, or another from the same source:

"In your quest for information about the Titanic. I wonder if you were told that the Orange men employed in the Belfast ship yard cursed the Pope with Every Rivet they put in the Titanic and her registered number 390904 when read from the back of the paper it was put on was NO POPE. With this so called unsinkable ship the Curse of Almighty God fell on Her and I wonder what they said when they Heard that the Band played Nearer My God to Thee as she sank."

MacQuitty grew up in Belfast and had watched the ship launched, but it was the first he'd heard of this particular tale.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
Sounds like some sort of local folklore to me. The sort of thing that has an uncertain provenance but which takes on a life of it's own once it gets out. I wonder who or what that source was and what his sources were?
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