Mrs William Coutts (Minnie Trainor)1 was born on 2 February 1876 in Ireland.2
Details about her early life are vague but she is believed to have been the daughter of Hugh Trainor (b. 1836), a farmer, and his wife Mary (b. 1841) and came from a Roman Catholic household in Co Monaghan.3
She was married in Kent, England in the Spring of 1902 to William Coutts (b. 20 June 1876) a gold and silver engraver and former soldier who hailed from Haddingtonshire (4), Scotland. Their first child, William Loch, was born in Chatham, Kent in 1902 and another son, Neville Leslie, was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire in 1908 and, by the time of the 1911 census, the family were living at 5 Knox Buildings, Caledonian Road, Islington, London.
In early 1912 William Coutts emigrated and after a while sent his wife enough money to book second class passage on a ship to join him at their new home, 143 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. She instead purchased third class tickets, hoping to save some money towards setting up their new home in America, and boarded Titanic with her two sons at Southampton on 10 April 1912 (ticket number C.A. 37671 which cost £15, 18s).
At the time of the collision Mrs Coutts had been asleep; the crash was slight but was enough to stir her. Not thinking much of it she lay awake for around 15 minutes in her bunk before getting up and dressed and leaving her cabin to see what the matter was. Everybody about her was rushing about albeit it in and orderly fashion and she overheard talk of lifeboats; many people were carrying all of their belongings. She instantly returned to the cabin where her children were and dressed them, tying lifebelts on them both. She looked around the cabin for a life vest for herself but could not find one and wasting no more time left the cabin with her boys in tow.
Minnie made her way to the communal areas of steerage but could not find any way of getting anywhere close to the lifeboats. When she had begun to give up hope a seaman came along and said "Hurry now, all women and children to the lifeboats..." and he led her to the boat deck. Arriving there she explained to the crewman that she had no lifebelt for herself; an unidentified American man overheard this conversation and stepped forward, raised his hat and removed his own lifebelt, giving it to her, saying "Take my life preserver, madam." He then patted the heads of her two young sons and asked "If I go down, please pray for me." In several later accounts she related that it was a crewman or officer who offered up a lifebelt after he brought her to his own cabin to fetch it before also asking that he be prayed for in the event he was lost.
Mrs Coutts and her sons escaped in lifeboat 2 which she described as filled with around 17 people. Despite the bitter cold, she related how she and her sons did not suffer as badly as others who were not dressed as warmly as they were.
Reunited with her husband, she and her sons settled in Dormont, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, her address on the 1930 census being 2615 Ocean Avenue. She was widowed in 1956 and later moved to Maplewood, New Jersey and lived at her son Neville's home, 38 South Pierson Road. She was still giving interviews about her experiences as late as 1957.
Minnie Coutts died at her home on 29 February 1960 aged 84. She was later cremated.
Articles and Stories
The Washington Post (1912)
Barbara Kharouf, USA (William Coutts daughter)
Mary Anne Lewis, USA
- Spelling of maiden name uncertain; variations include Trainer, Traynor and Treanor.
- Minnie claimed to have been born in Co Monaghan. On the 1911 census she stated her birthplace as Donagh which is a small village in Co Fermanagh and which sits close to the border with Co Monaghan, so it's possible Minnie and her family's movements between the two counties were fluid in her early life. In the 1930 US census she would claim to be born in Northern Ireland, a political territory that was non-existent at the time of her birth but which, when formed comprised of six Irish counties: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, excluding Monaghan.
- Possibly Killybreen (Coillidh Bhriain), a townland in north Monaghan close to the borders of counties Fermanagh, Armagh and Tyrone.
- Modern day Haddington, East Lothian
References and SourcesNewark Evening News, 29th February, 1960, Mrs Coutts Dies
State Department of Health of New Jersey Certificate of Death
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)