Miss Marion Wright was born on 26 May 1885, likely in Reading, Berkshire, the daughter of Thomas Wright and Jane Taylor. She moved to live in Yeovil, Somerset with her family when very young. Her widowed father, a farmer, remarried in the late 1880's to a Miss Huntley and Marion spent her young years as carer to her three stepsisters. In 1912 she was living at The Park, Yeovil.
In the late 1900's on a visit to her friend who lived at West Park in Yeovil she first met Arthur Woolcott who was later to become her husband. He had originally gone to America in 1907 and worked as a draughtsman but had had the opportunity to purchase an 80-acre fruit farm in partnership with a friend in in the Willamette valley near Cottage Grove, Oregon. He latterly had the chance to buyout that friend and had come back to England to raise the necessary funds. The farm was his by 1910. After much correspondence between Marion and Arthur their engagement was announced and it was arranged that the wedding should take place in America.
She boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger (ticket number 220844, £13 10s). She shared a starboard cabin with Mrs Bessie Watt and her daughter Miss Bertha Watt of Aberdeen. She also made friends with Kate Buss of Sittingbourne, Kent. And came to know Alfred Pain from Canada. It turned out they had mutual friends in Somerset.
On the evening of 14 April Marion sang solos of Lead Kindly Light and There is a Green Hill Far Away at a hymn service presided over by Rev Ernest Carter.
Marion described the collision as like a "huge crash of glass" followed by the stopping of the engines, which alarmed her more, "the stopping of the engines on an ocean liners creates such a calm, such a painful silence, that it inspires passengers that something is not exactly right."
Sources differ over her next actions, she went on deck with either Kate Buss and Douglas Norman and / or Bessie Watt. She was assured there was no danger but the large throng of passengers hurriedly putting their lifebelts on told a different story. Marion said it was impossible to see what was happening at one end of the deck from the other and she was surprised when she heard an officer call out "any more ladies". She went over and was able to get into a boat, she estimated there were about 35 people on board. She also recalled that it was Alfred Pain who had found her and guided her to lifeboat 9.
Miss Wright watched the liner sink and claimed to have heard the band play Nearer My God to Thee. In the boat besides herself and the other women were six men including two crew members, she said the boat could have held at least fifteen more.
At around 6.30 the boat tied up alongside the Carpathia and the occupants clambered on board. She described the generosity of the crew of the Carpathia and the amusement the latter gained from seeing the survivors in their "queer clothes."
In a letter written on the Carpathia she said
' It was terrible and is terrible and I don't think I'll ever forget it. I was met on deck by a gentleman to whom I had often talked and he said an iceberg had struck us but there was no danger. The 'Titanic' must have had her bottom nearly taken away by the iceberg, from the first class to the steerage, for she went down gradually, bit by bit. When she broke in two, which she did a few moments before she sunk, going down with a huge explosion, the cries of the people left on board were heart-rending.'
Arthur Woolcott only heard of the disaster as he was en route to New York to meet Marion, he learned that she had survived but missed her at the dockside when Carpathia berthed. He asked at some local hospitals and was eventually led to the home of Mr and Mrs Henry Milne, No. 20, West 128th Street. He went to the door to ask for help and Marion answered. Thus reunited they soon arranged to marry, however the ordeal had evidently taken its toll on Marion for she was described as thoroughly exhausted as she stepped off the train in Cottage Grove, to start her new life as Mrs Marion Wright Woolcott. She stayed at the home of Mr Curtis Viatch to recuperate.
On the 25 April she wrote to her family in Yeovil,
'After all I have gone through I shall be very glad to be in my new home and I don't think I shall ever want to cross the ocean again just yet awhile. It has been sad losing all I had, wedding presents and everything I had worked so hard at, but they are nothing in comparison to all the lives that were lost.'
Later Marion would tell her story to a local church group and at the end she was presented with a silver purse by her new Cottage Grove neighbours. The evening ended with these words from the Rev. Sutcliffe (in response to derogatory remarks made by a Eugene, Oregon official about Mrs Woolcott's new residence):
'Mrs Woolcott will find one year in Cottage Grove as good as a century in Eugene or an eternity at the bottom of the sea.'
In Oregon they successfully ran their farmstead but never raised enough money to return to England. Her survival led to a 53-year marriage, three sons, John, Russ and Bob and eight grandchildren.
Marion's husband, Arthur died in 1961 and Marion on 4 July 1965 aged 80.
In a corner of the Cottage Grove museum there is a memorial to its adopted daughter's involvement in the most famous sea voyage ever made. Both Marion and Arthur are buried in the cemetery in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
Bob Knuckle, Canada
Oregon Health Division Standard Certificate Of Death
Letter from Marion Woolcott (née Wright) to Mrs Albert Pain (28 May 1912)
Cottage Grove Sentinel, 25th April, 2nd May, 9th May, 14th May 1912
Judith Geller (1998) Titanic: Women and Children First. Haynes. ISBN 1 85260 594 4
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
Articles and Stories
Washington Herald (1912)
East Kent Gazette (1965)
Reading Observer (1912)
Hamilton Spectator (1912)