Recollections of Titanic Survivor Edmond Ryan

Notes by survivor Edward Ryan recently found and transcribed

Atlantic Daily Bulletin

I JOINED the ship at Queenstown, County Cork and had to go out in a tender, about three miles I think, to get on board the ship. The tender looked like a match stick alongside the great liner. A big door opened in her side, and a gangway was put out so we could all get on board. We were shown to our berths, and then taken to see the dining room. A little later we were shown where to get life belts and some of the other life saving gear. None of us ever thought that we would soon be needing it. We soon got used to the ship, and finding our way about, but some of us often got lost trying to find our way back to our cabins after having a look round the deck. it was like going into a strange city.

I had no friends on board, but soon made some, and we had a good time on board dancing, and singing and all kinds of amusements. There was a ships log hung up near the dining room entrance, and we used to read the record of every days run. The last entry I remember seeing was 'A Calm Sea 22 knots Icebergs Ahead'. We didn't take very much notice of this, none of us had ever seen an iceberg before.

I was interested in the ship and I wanted a peep in the engine room, I managed to get to know one of the engineers when he was off duty, I asked him if I could see the engines and he let me go halfway down a ladder. I was surprised to see such a mass of machinery with all the dials and gauges. On Sunday afternoon we had some games, and on the Sunday night we had a concert in the dining room, about 300 of us attended and there were some very good turns. Then bed time and for some this was to be their last sleep.

The other two men in my cabin went to bed about 11 pm and were soon fast asleep, I was still up and trying to clean my pipe as it was stopped up, I was looking for a piece of wire but could not find any, at this moment the ship struck the iceberg, the next thing I remember was someone knocking on all the cabin doors as stewards came round shouting, ''All Up On deck with Lifesaving jackets On''.

I woke the men sharing my cabin and told them I thought the ship had struck something, but they didn't take any notice and went back to sleep. I Never saw them again.

I went up on deck and it seemed a very long way up all the ladders and stairs, I found hundreds of people there, and nobody seemed to know what had happened, the ships sirens started to blow and distress rockets lit up the sky.

I stayed on the deck for about half an hour, then I thought of my belongings including £300 cash in my cabin. I went down with the intention of getting my money, but the first look down the bottom ladder I could see the water halfway up the stairs leading down to my cabin. I went back on the deck again and I told a sailor what I had seen, he told me not to tell anybody as there might be a panic. I managed to get to the boat deck although this was really barred to Third Class Passengers. I heard the order to lower some of the boats.

Women and Children First Some of the women did not want to get in the boats as they said the water was such a long way down and another reason was they did not want to leave their husbands.

The sailors had quite a job getting the boats lowered, as some of the ropes in the blocks were very tight, with them being new. All the men passengers could do was just to watch. When the last boat was lowered things looked very grim, Everybody near me started praying.

There were still about 1,500 people on board including women and children, the Titanic was sinking fast now and the deck was at a steep angle. Some men started to climb up the ropes supporting the masts, and everyone was making for the highest part of the ship. At this time there was some panic among the people, everybody knew there was little chance of being saved. I looked over the side of the ship and could hear people shouting around the stern of the ship. I left the boat deck and went down to the main deck, and then back to the stern, where I had heard people shouting there were a few people on this part of the ship. There was a woman looking down over the stern, and she had been looking down at a boat for a long time. There was a rope hanging down nearby. I said to her 'It's only a matter of time now before the ship sinks', and I said 'I'll wind the rope round myself and you can take hold of the part of the rope above me and we'll try to slide down to the boat below'.

We could just see the boat and we could hear the people, the distance down from the stern to the boat was about 30 feet, we came down gently and landed in the middle of the boat, both of our hands were bleeding and I landed on a woman's shinbone and I think I took away the skin but she didn't seem to mind. The lifeboat it appeared had left the boat deck half an hour before, the reason why they hadn't got far away from the ship was that the sailor in charge had hurt his arm, but we pulled away about a 100 yards before the ship sank. I found I still had my pipe in my pocket, so I scraped around in my pocket lining for some tobacco dust and lit up. This seemed to offend one of the first class woman passengers in the boat, because she asked me not to smoke, possibly she thought I was acting too unconcerned, but the truth of the matter was I was scared stiff and so was every man and woman on board. At this time there seemed to be 100's of people jumping overboard some with lifejackets on and some without.

The forward part of the ship was now all submerged, the water was up to the bottom of the first two funnels and people were climbing up the slippery deck to get clear of the water.

We had rowed away for about a 100 yards from the ship and then suddenly the stern rose high in the air, and then the ship went straight down. This was followed by two loud explosions there were 100's of people everywhere in the water, all floating in lifejackets where the ship had gone down. it was pitiful, mothers calling for their children and husbands, the brothers and sisters shouting for each other. This lasted for some time and then everything grew gradually quiet. We knew then about 1,500 people had lost their lives in the icy waters of the Atlantic.

It was a starry night and there was a calm sea, but there was a big swell on all the time. We saw several pieces of wreckage, including the keyboard of a big piano all floating about. This must have come from the Titanic after the two big explosions. We had to try to keep the boats head to the swell all the time as it would have been dangerous otherwise. We rowed all the time mainly to keep warm but with nothing to see only the sea and sky we did not know where we were rowing. Everyone got drenched with spray, and even the boat plug was leaking, and I had to stop this with a bit I tore from my shirt sleeve. After rowing about for some hours we saw a gleam of light very far away this light got brighter as time went on. When daylight came we could see the smoke from the funnel of a ship this ship was the Carpathia, and the most welcome sight we had ever seen. When she came nearer she stopped her engines and started to drift towards us.

She couldn't anchor as we were told afterwards that the sea was nine miles deep there.

We rowed to the ship for all we were worth, and at last got alongside.

Everybody cheered from the deck of the ship as we went on board. All of were then rigged out with warm dry clothes and shoes, even the Carpathia's passengers gave us some of their things, and let us have their berths. It was then on to New York.

That is my story of a night I shall never forget.

Facts: Mr. Edmond (Edward) Ryan boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (ticket number 383162 - the cost was £7 15s). His destination was the home of his sister, Mrs Bridget Welsh, who lived at Troy, New York. Although on the passenger list he had been listed as a general labourer, when he arrived in New York he gave his occupation as chauffeur.

(His entry in the The Emergency and Relief booklet by the American Red Cross, 1913). Case number 400. (Irish). Chauffeur, 24 years of age. ($100). On the night of the sinking Edward managed to board lifeboat 14 wearing a towel over his head, a fact which he freely conceded to his parents in a letter dated 6 May 1912. The letter reads:

"I stood on the Titanic and kept cool, although she was sinking fast. She had gone down about forty feet by now. The last boat was about being rowed away when I thought in a second if I could only pass out [i.e. get into the boat] I'd be all right. I had a towel round my neck. I just threw this over my head and left it hang in the back. I wore my waterproof overcoat. I then walked very stiff past the officers, who had declared they'd shoot the first man that dare pass out. They didn't notice me. They thought I was a woman. I grasped a girl who was standing by in despair, and jumped with her thirty feet into the boat."

Mr. Ryan moved back to England three years after the disaster and settled in Hull in 1916 where he worked for Rose, Downs and Thompson Ltd. He was married to Gertrude Annie, and together they had three children, Monica, Norman and Kathleen (who predeceased her father). He worked as a maintenance engineer and spent his final years in a retirement home in Pearson Park, Hull. He passed away in 1974 aged 86 years, and was buried in the Northern Cemetery, Hull.

Transcribed by Christopher M. Wardlow

This article first appeared in the Atlantic Daily Bulletin (2/2002), the Quarterly Journal of the British Titanic Society, it is reproduced by kind permission of the Editor.

Related Biographies:

Edward Ryan

Acknowledgements

Christopher M. Wardlow

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Brian Ticehurst

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