Mrs William Rice (Margaret Norton) was born at Glasses Lane in Athlone, Co Westmeath, Ireland on 5 October 1872.1
Coming from a Roman Catholic family, she was the daughter of James Norton (b. 1819), a railway official, and Mary Carty (b. 1848) who had married around 1869.
Her known siblings were: Michael (b. circa 1871), Patrick (b. circa 1873), James (b. 3 Feb 1877) and George (b. 3 Oct 1879).
From at least the early 1870s the Norton family lived at Glasses Lane in Athlone; her mother died there on 13 January 1885 as a result of tuberculosis.
Margaret was married in St Mary's Church, Athlone on 18 June 1898 to an Englishman from Surrey, William Rice (b. circa 1876), a soldier and the son of a fishmonger; his address was stated as the military barracks in Athlone whilst Margaret was described as a "factory girl" whose address was Glasses Lane.
The couple made their home at North Gate Street, Athlone and whilst there welcomed their first child, William James who arrived on 13 April 1899. The child lived less than two months and died on 31 May 1899; he had swallowed his pacifier four days previous and never recovered, dying after a series of convulsions.
The sorrowing couple made their first leap and made their home in London and whilst there, in 1902, another son arrived, Albert. Their stay in Britain proved short-lived and at the beginning of 1903 they made plans to cross the Atlantic.
In March (?) 1903 the family of three arrived in Montréal, Québec and were to become four later in the year when another child arrived on 30 November 1903, George. They made their way west and settled in Ontario where William Rice worked as a clerk, first at Carleton Place and later in Toronto. Whilst there another two sons were born, Eric (b. 24 August 1905) and Arthur (b. 18 August 1907).
The entire family crossed into the USA from Canada in January 1909 and Margaret gave her contact as her brother Michael Norton in Athlone; she was described as standing at 5' 5" and with brown hair and eyes. Her husband William was described as a steam fitter standing at 5' 9" and with a light complexion and fair hair and blue eyes. They made their home in Spokane, Washington and whilst there their youngest child was born, Francis (b. 13 September 1909).
Her husband worked at the Great Northern tracks at Hillyard; he was crushed by an engine on 24 January 1910 and later died at the Sacred Heart Hospital. He was buried at Fairmount Cemetery, Spokane where later Titanic victim John H. Chapman worked as a cemetery labourer. It has even been speculated that Chapman himself might have dug Rice's grave.
Margaret and her children appear on the 1910 US census living at 435 Sheridan Street, Hillyard, Spokane; with a payout she received from the railroad company as recompense for her husband's death Margaret and her sons soon returned to Ireland where they still had relatives and they appear on the 1911 census living at Castle Street in Athlone with her young niece, Sligo-born Kathleen Norton, the daughter of her brother Michael.
With perhaps the stay in Ireland not intended to be permanent the family soon made plans to return to Spokane, possibly convinced to do so by several others from their locality who would be making a crossing of the Atlantic aboard the Titanic.
Other people from in or around Athlone that Margaret and her sons would be travelling with included: former Glasses Lane neighbour Eugene Daly, Bridget Mulvihill, Margaret Daly and Bridget Henry. She and her sons travelled under ticket number 382652 which had cost £29, 2s, 6d and they boarded Titanic at Queenstown as third class passengers.
On the night of the sinking Bridget Mulvihill reported that she saw Mrs Rice stood on either the boat deck or A-deck, clutching her youngest son to her breast and with the other boys holding on to her skirts. The entire family was lost in the sinking and only Mrs Rice's body (#12) was recovered by the Mackay Bennett and identified:
NO. 12. - FEMALE. - ESTIMATED AGE 40. - HAIR. DARK.
CLOTHING - Black velvet coat; jacket and skirt; blue cardigan; black apron; black boots and stockings.
EFFECTS - Wedding ring; keeper, and another gold; locket and photo; one jet one bead Necklace; gold brooch in bag; £3 in gold; £4 in Irish notes; gold broach; plain gold wag earrings; charm round neck; B. V. M. ; false teeth in upper jaw; £10 note; box pills.
PROBABLY THIRD CLASS
12 Female - Height, 5 ft. 5 in.; Weight, 140 lbs.
She was identified as Roman Catholic by her rosary and as Margaret Rice by her box of pills prescribed on 9 April 1912. She was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
© Bob Knuckle, Canada