Miss Annie Caton was born in Clerkenwell, Middlesex, England on 12 February 1879.
She was the daughter of Charles George Caton (1849-1895) and Mary Ann Wheldon (1851-1923), both Middlesex-natives who had been married on 20 January 1872 and their marriage registered in Holborn.
Annie was one of twelve children born to her parents with ten living past infancy. Her siblings were: John Wheldon (b. 2 December 1872), Mary Ann (b. 3 June 1874), Elizabeth Emily (b. 13 December 1875), Charles William (b. 12 October 1877), Alice (b. 12 December 1879), William Robert (1882-1885), Herbert Frederick (b. 18 August 1884), William Gustave (b. 10 February 1886), Edith May (b. 13 June 1888), Wheldon Frederick (b. 1890) and Dorothy Ellen (1894-1894).
On the 1881 census Annie and her family were living at 19A Warren Street, Clerkenwell, Middlesex and her father was described as a fishing rod maker. In 1882, at the same address, she was listed as having been enrolled at the White Lion Street school for her primary education.
By the time of the 1891 census the family were living in Islington, Annie then described as a scholar and her father still in the same profession.
On the 1901 census Annie was living with her family—her father by then having passed on—at 297 Essex Road, Islington. By the time of the 1911 census Annie, spuriously giving her age as 28, was listed with her family living at 50 Highbury Hill, Islington. She was listed as unmarried and her profession as a massainere (masseuse).
When she signed-on to the Titanic on 9 April 1912 Miss Caton gave her address as 50 Highbury Hill, Islington. The Titanic was her first ship and as a Turkish Bath stewardess, she received monthly wages of £4 and worked alongside Maude Slocombe.
Miss Caton survived the sinking, some researchers placing her in lifeboat 11, but was not required to give evidence to either the British or American Inquiries into the sinking. She and numerous other female crew survivors were pictured together at Plymouth (note at foot).
During her crossing from the USA to Britain aboard the Lapland Miss Caton penned a letter to her brother Charles, then a resident of 56 Norman Road in St Leonard-on-Sea, Sussex; it was reprinted in the Hastings And St Leonards Observer on 4 May 1912:
The bitter experience is one that will last in my memory forever. We sailed on Wednesday, April 10th, and everything went splendidly.
On Sunday night we went to bed (my friend and I) about half-past ten. About eleven o'clock we were awakened by a terrible crash, and then an awful grating sound. We both jumped up and called out, and a gentleman came in and assured us there was no danger, and we were to get back to bed, and he would let us know if necessary. Well, we sat on the side of the beds until an officer came downstairs three at a time and cried out, "For God's sake, you two girls get up and put some warm things on, and lifebelts, and go on deck, unless you want to be sucked under."
Much to our alarm, the water was coming in on our floor. Then we went up, and all was perfect order. One officer calmly stopped me, took my lifebelt, and turned it, and tied it on me again, saying I had put it on wrongly. He patted me on the back, and told me not to be alarmed as they were only putting us in the lifeboats as a precaution.
But as we stood waiting for our boat we felt the ship shiver under our feet. After what seemed hours of waiting we were lowered in the boat with great difficulty as the ropes were stiff and we nearly turned turtle.
Then the pull from the ship--oh! How those boys worked to get clear of the suction. Just imagine us adrift on the ocean in a small boat in the dead of the night, no lamp, no water, no food and ice all around us, lumps knocking against us all the time. It was a nightmare, expecting every minute to meet death.
The last we saw and heard of the Titanic was our brave men standing with set faces waiting for the last. One officer called out "Now boys, remember you are English."
The bandsmen were kneeling and playing "Nearer my God, to Thee" and then the ship turned and hurled all those brave fellows to their death. The shrieks I heard will forever ring in my ears.
Well, we then drifted on and on, tossing up and down, and I cannot say how thankful we were when daylight came. After about eight hours we sighted the Carpathia and made for it, and when they picked us up we were in a half-frozen condition. The doctors attended to us all and rubbed a little life into our limbs, and wrapped us up in blankets and also gave us brandy. Everybody was very kind, but it was most awful to see the poor women crying out for husbands, sons, fathers and brothers who never came. Every man was in tears. It was heartrending. I pray to God I may never witness such another scene.
Annie continued a career at sea, later working on the Adriatic.
Just before the close of WWI in 1918 Annie, although unmarried, gave birth to a daughter, Annie Mary Constance; the father of this child is unknown.
Following the war Annie worked aboard the White Star Line's new flagship, the SS Majestic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 10 May 1922.
Returning to England briefly, she and her daughter boarded the Beltana in August 1924, bound for a new life in Australia. Their London address was stated as 7 Yerbury Road, Holloway.
She married shopkeeper William Richard Howland in Clarence Town, New South Wales in 1930 and they made their home at 55 Berner St, Merewether, Newcastle. Over the years Annie frequently gave interviews about her experiences on Titanic to the local media, describing how her memories were still very fresh despite the passage of time.
Widowed in 1944 Annie remained in Merewether. Following a battle with cancer, Annie died on 28 May 1947 in Merewether Newcastle, New South Wales. She was cremated and her ashes lie at Newcastle Memorial Park (section 6, position 5, formerly Beresfield Crematorium).
(Courtesy of Newcastle Memorial Park and Trevor Baxter)
Howland - and the relatives and friends of the late ANNIE HOWLAND, of 55 Berner-street, Merewether are informed that her remains were privately cremated at Beresfield Crematorium on Thursday, May 29, 1947. DAVID LLOYD, funeral director - Newcastle Morning Herald, 30 May 1947
Her estate was divided between her sister Mary Sorenson and daughter Mary Ann.
Annie's daughter Mary Ann, better known as Marie, was married in 1945, becoming Mrs Vernon Alfred Walsh. She worked as a teacher and was still living in Lang, New South Wales in 1980.
Annie's Certificate of Discharge was sold in auction at Christie's, London on 31 October 2002 for £6,463 ($10,075). A silver fob watch which had belonged to Annie was sold in auction by Bonhams, London in March 2005 for £1560.