Encyclopedia Titanica

Lillian Winifred Bentham

Lillian Winifred Bentham
Lillian Winifred Bentham

Miss Lillian Winifred Bentham was born in Holley, Murray, Orleans, New York on 23 July 1892.

She was the daughter of Henry Bentham (b. 1860) and Mary Jane Smith (b. 1865), both natives of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. She had three known siblings: Annie Lillian Wilhelmina (b. 1 April 1884 in Guernsey, d.1970), Walter Henry (b. 20 March 1886 in Guernsey) and Daisy Gertrude (b. 3 June 1888, d. 2 March 1904).

Annie, Lillian's older sister, was left to live with her aunt Annie Watson (Henry Bentham’s sister) on the island of Guernsey when her parents emigrated to America in 1891. They would later move to the mainland settling in Walworth.

Annie Dawson Annie Dawson
Lillian's older sister Annie Dawson
(Courtesy of Jonathan Price)

Lillian's family appear on the 1891 Channel Island census living at Tower Lane in St Peter Port, Guernsey.1 They emigrated later that year and settled in Murray, Orleans, New York where Lillian was born the following year. The family appeared on the 1900 and 1910 census records living in Murray township.

Lillian had been one of a party of 11 visiting the Channel Islands. The group included her godfather William Douton, Peter and Lillian Renouf, Clifford Jefferys, Ernest Jefferys, Albert Denbuoy and Emily Rugg. Whilst she was away her family moved to Rochester, Monroe, New York.

When Lillian came over to England she stayed with her, now married sister, Annie Dawson in Brixton for a short while.

Lillian boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger for her return to New York. She held ticket number 28404 which cost £13.

After the collision on 14 April 1912 Lillian did not think the Titanic would sink even though she knew that the passengers were being taken off in lifeboats. Only when one of her party, Albert Denbuoy, rushed to her stateroom and told her to hurry on deck did she accept the seriousness of the situation. Miss Bentham was rescued in lifeboat 12 and she recalled seeing the ship break in two as it sank. Her lifeboat later assisted the men who had managed to stay alive by balancing atop the overturned collapsible lifeboat B:

"I helped the seamen pull those 20 men into our boat, which already had more than 30 in it. We had to pile them on the bottom of the boat, like so many sacks of flour, because they were unable to do anything to help themselves. The boat was very much overloaded when the task was finished."

She would later console a freezing Cecil Fitzpatrick, an Irish crewman rescued from the overturned collapsible. She wrapped her fur coat around the young man, probably saving his life. In gratitude for her help, Cecil gave Lillian a Scout whistle from his belt. He had blown it all night in an effort to call another boat to their aid. 

Upon reaching New York aboard Carpathia, her mother could not come to meet her as her brother had contracted Typhoid fever, but eight friends did come, among them the widow of William Douton.

Lillian Bentham, c. 1950s
(Courtesy of Craig Sopin, USA)

Lillian continued to live with her family in Rochester and appears there on the 1915 census. She was married on 1 September 1917 to John Smellie Black (b. 5 May 1890), a native of Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland but the couple would have no children. They continued to live in Rochester for the rest of their lives and Lillian would later give several interviews in local media regarding her experiences.

Lillian was widowed on 28 June 1971. She herself passed away on 15 December 1977.


  1. In the 1891 census, older sister Annie appears living with Thomas and Annie Watson at Amballes Road, Guernsey which suggests she was already been settled with the other family by this time.  Family members recall that Annie refused to go with the family to America when they emigrated in 1891 but it may simply be because she had been living with Thomas and Annie since she was very small and regarded them as her parents. They moved to the mainland sometime in the late 1890s and settled in Southwark. When Thomas died Annie Watson and her daughter Joy (known as Ivy), lived with Annie and Harry Dawson after their marriage on 18th June 1902.

Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Miss Lillian Winifred Bentham
Age: 19 years 8 months and 23 days (Female)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Single
Last Residence: at 11 Kay Terrace Rochester, New York, United States
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 28404, £13
Rescued (boat 12)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Thursday 15th December 1977 aged 85 years
Buried: Hillside Cemetery, Holley, New York, United States

Linked Biographies

Page Options

Watch this page

Improve this Biography

If you have any corrections or something to add please  get in touch

References and Sources

Times-Tribune (Rochester, N.Y.), 1962, 50 Years After: A Memory of the Titanic. Note: Age given as 17.
Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), 15 April 1931, Rochester Woman Tells of Titanic Sinking in 1912.
Albion Advertiser, 7 April 1999, Tale of Holley's Titanic survivor vivid after 87 years
Orleans Hub (2015) Titanic survivor’s family is thankful for new grave marker in Holley 

Newspaper Articles

Guernsey Evening Press Titanic survivors Renouf, Bentham and Rugg
New York Times (19 April 1912) ROCHESTER GIRL IS SAVED
Bristol Times and Mirror (27 April 1912) Bentham was sleeping soundly
Democrat and Chronicle (15 April 1931) ROCHESTER WOMAN TELLS OF TITANIC SINKING IN 1912
Rosemary Mossien Times-Tribune (1962) 50 Years After: A Memory of the Titanic
Lillian bentham, only Rochesterian who is a survivor of tragedy


Rochester Post Express (1912) Lillian Bentham

Documents and Certificates

1891 Census (England)
(1912) Contract Ticket List, White Star Line (Southampton, Queenstown), National Archives, London; BT27/776,780


Lillian W. Bentham General information
1900, 1910 US Federal Census
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, New York; NWCTB-85-T715-Vol. 4183.
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. John A. Pulos

    John A. Pulos said:

    I am doing some research on Lillian Bentham for my latest Titanic dinner (Titanic VII) - think that I read that she may have a surviving relative - does anyone have any information??? John Pulos

  2. Emily J. DeFilipps

    Emily J. DeFilipps said:

    Lillian Bentham has a nephew, I believe, in the Rochester, NY area. His last name is Black(her married name) and his first name may be Donald. She never had any children of her own. She lived in the town of Holley just west of Rochester where I now live. While she was in Europe before heading home on the Titanic her mother moved to Rochester. When the movie Titanic came out I recall a piece in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about her and this nephew was interviewed. It was a while ago but I'm assuming he is still living. There is a listing for a Donald Black in the Rochester... Read full post

  3. Jason D. Tiller

    Jason D. Tiller said:

    Lillian also has a great niece that lives in the same house that Lillian lived in. This past Sunday, I went to Rochester and met Jill Carlier. We visited the home to take a picture, but not only that we met the relative! She welcomed us into her home and showed us original local newspapers with the Titanic disaster on the front pages, that her great aunt had kept. Jill or I had not seen most of the newspapers, so it was great! She is a very friendly lady to talk to and we were really surprised to meet her. As far as the nephew goes, she doesn't have any information on him. As soon as... Read full post

  4. Arne Mjåland

    Arne Mjåland said:

    According to the obituary about Lillian W. Black (The Times Union) she died at her nephew Donald Bentham mentioned above. Also is mentioned Richard O. Connors book "Down to Eternity" where it is told how Mrs Black won the special apprehension of her fellow passengers in the lifeboat. Is O. Connor s book available somewhere? Obituary was from December 19 1977.

  5. Mike Poirier

    Mike Poirier said:

    Arne try bookfinder.com

  6. Frazer

    Frazer said:

    I know this is a long time after the post began

 Reply  Watch Thread


Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Phillip Gowan, USA
Jonathan Price
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Craig Sopin, USA