Miss Clear Annie Cameron was born in Pendleton, Salford, Lancashire, England on 8 March 1877.
She was the daughter of Harry Arthur Cameron (1846-1899) and Annie Chiles (b. 1845). Her father, a tailor, hailed from Leek in Staffordshire whilst her mother was from Kemberton in Shropshire. They were married in Warwickshire in 1870 and besides Clear had three other children.
Clear's siblings were: Earnest (1870-1945), Janet Gertrude (1873-1914) and Nie (1883-1972, later Mrs Joseph Stewart Graham). Her sister Janet, known as Gert, was married in 1898 to Edward James Dowding, a post office inspector, and had two surviving children: Gertrude Ella (b. 1908) and Arthur Edward "Ted" (b. 1910). Janet and her family lived in Bournemouth, Hampshire.
Clear appears on the 1881 census with her family living at 73 London Road in Buxton, Derbyshire. Her parents were still at the same address on the 1891 census but Clear was listed elsewhere as a house servant at 117 London Road, Buxton. By the time of the 1911 census she was working as a housemaid at 46 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, London, the home of Colonel Henry Hugh Oldham and his wife Ella Frances Emma, née Pigou. Colonel Oldham was invested as a Commander, Royal Victorian Order (C.V.O.).
Clear Cameron (right) with Nellie Walcroft
(Ted and Dinah Dowding Collection, Courtesy of Gavin Bell)
By 1912, even though Clear was relatively comfortable by those days' standards, owning her own motorcar at one point, she decided that life in England was not enough and she and her friend Nellie Wallcroft decided to emigrated to the USA where there were more opportunities. Initially booked on another liner for their crossing, the coal strike forced their passage to Titanic which they boarded at Southampton on 10 April 1912 as second class passengers (joint ticket number 13528 which cost £21). Whilst aboard it seems that Clear and Nellie were acquainted with the West family, among others.
On the night of the sinking Clear and Nellie went to bed at around 10.30pm. Feeling especially tired that evening she soon fell asleep but was awakened by Nellie exclaiming "Clear, what's that!?" Clear dismissed her but Nellie insisted that she had nearly been thrown from her bunk; soon the two ladies realised that the engines had stopped. Clear, however, was indifferent and lay down again to sleep when she heard a man's voice shouting something about an iceberg. This encouraged her to get up and dressed and she instructed Nellie to do the same. As they were preparing themselves a steward came to their door, advising them to get up on deck.
Arriving on the boat deck Clear and Nellie saw two young officers running around shouting orders. They got into a boat (lifeboat 14) and during the fragile craft's descent to the ocean Clear described the scene of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe brandishing his pistol to deter "immigrant men" from jumping into their boat from the passing decks. When the lifeboat was about two miles from Titanic Clear described the ship breaking in two. She later helped row the boat during the night.
Following her rescue by Carpathia she described the generosity of those on that ship but lamented over the cramped conditions. She also expressed disgust at how many men from first class had survived over women and children and was critical of the actions of the Duff-Gordons and Ismay.
Arriving in New York Clear and Nellie were met by the latter's sister and brother-in-law, Mr and Mrs Carl Land. Clear soon found work as a maid with a Mrs Nelson Henry of 59 West 9th Street, whom she described as "Society Lady". Mrs Henry was the wife of General Nelson H. Henry and was the leader of the Women's Relief Committee and she remained in her employ for around six months. She never acclimatised to New York, finding it overly expensive, and could not get accustomed to the ways of her new home. She would describe New York as "one of the dirtiest, rottenest holes on earth" but later joked with her sister that she might return to England with a black husband, Clear being amazed at the number of African-Americans living in New York and who she found to be very affable. She later worked for a Mrs McCawley in Haverford, Pennsylvania, a city which she found much more to her liking.
She corresponded with her sister Janet frequently whilst in the USA, the last letter dated 18 October 1913. Janet died on 28 March 1914 and her widower Edward was remarried towards the end of the year to Milly Tucker; he died in 1967 aged 94. Janet's children always grew up wondering what had become of their Aunt Clear. Ted uncovered nineteen letters from Clear and Nellie Walcroft in his father's attic in the 1990s and soon made it his mission to determine what became of her. He lived in Thurso, Scotland with his wife Dinah and died in 2001 without knowing whatever happened to Clear.
Clear had married in Philadelphia on 29 April 1914 to Ernest William Francis, an English butler over a decade her junior. Having never enjoyed her experience much in America, Clear and her husband left the USA in December 1914 aboard the Baltic, arriving in Liverpool on New Year's day. The couple settled in Surrey, living in Worcester Park for many years, but had no children. It is not certain if Clear and Nellie Walcroft maintained contact.
In later years Clear was afflicted with senility and spent her last days in a nursing home in Woking, Surrey. She died on 2 February 1962 aged 84 and was cremated with her ashes being scattered across the Keats Garden in the Woking St. John Crematorium, Surrey.
Her widower Ernest died less than a year after her. He passed away on 17 September 1962 aged 71.
Philip Gowan, USA
Ted & Dinah Dowding, UK
Diana Thebaud-Nicholson, USA
Hermann Söldner, Germany
William Wojcik, Canada
Caithness Courier, Thurso.
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer At Port Of Arrival (Date: 18th-19th June 1912, Ship: Carpathia) - National Archives, NWCTB 85 T715 Vol 4183
Articles and Stories
Maidenhead Advertiser (1912)