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Further Selsey links to Empress of Ireland disaster

The doomed  Empress of Ireland PPP-140522-162752006

The doomed Empress of Ireland PPP-140522-162752006

IT WAS the maritime disaster no-one remembered, but now all that is starting to change.

The sinking of the Empress of Ireland passenger ferry in 1914 caused the deaths of 1,024 people within a matter of minutes.

Mansfield Steede, 78, of Landseer Drive, Selsey, contacted the Observer in May as the 100-year anniversary of the disaster approached.

His grandfather was the chief operating officer on the ship, who lost his life while cutting lifeboats free to save as many passengers as possible.

Mr Steede’s father tried to get people to remember the tragedy in the years afterwards, but with the outbreak of the first world war just weeks later, the ship’s sinking was eclipsed in history.

Sailing from Quebec to Liverpool, the Canadian Pacific ferry sank after it was struck by another ship in thick fog.

Hundreds of passengers lost their lives, many of whom were returning home to Liverpool.

Mr Steede succeeded in getting a memorial service to take place in Liverpool on May 29, which hundreds of people attended.

While there, he met the descendants of many people with a connection to the ferry.

However, an Observer article published on May 29 has seen him contacted by someone a little closer to home.

Shirley Gilmore, 80, of Vincent Road, Selsey, contacted Mr Steede after reading the article.

Her great-aunt Nellie Jones was a passenger, travelling back to Liverpool to marry her fiancé when the ferry went down – one of hundreds to lose their lives.

Mrs Gilmore spent her life knowing she had a connection to the Empress of Ireland and had a shock when she read the article.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said.

She immediately looked up 
Mr Steede in the phone book.

“I had always been sort of interested in what went on before,” she said, adding she told Mr Steede: “We’ve got something in common.”

She was not the only one in Selsey, Chris Bond also contacted Mr Steede. He had a cousin in Canada writing a book on the incident. Mr Steede said he was delighted with the response when he returned from Liverpool.

“I just couldn’t take it in,” he said. “I thought in a place like Selsey, which is a small place, that there’s somebody who’s actually been involved the same as me with the ship.

“And then for Chris Bond to come up as well – that was the icing on top of the cake.The article certainly had 
an impact.”

Mr Steede has been told 
the tragedy will never be forgotten again.

“The next thing is to try to get a memorial erected to it,” he said.

“I’m just hoping that as each year goes by, it gets bigger and more people will get involved.”

 

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