THE sinking of the Titanic is one of the most well-known historic events in the beginning of the 20th century.

But did you know that two Penarth residents lost their lives in the disaster?

With more than 2,200 people on board the ship when it sank on April 15, 1912, the story could be told from the perspective of each passenger.

The Titanic was built for the White Star Line in Belfast by Harland and Wolff between 1909 and 1911. Her displacement was 46,000 tons. Top speed was 23 knots. Maximum capacity was 3,300.

The Board of Trade (BOT) Regulations required that a ship of this size should have only 16 lifeboats, but the design was upgraded, and 20 lifeboats were provided. These would still only carry 1,200 (60 each), leaving more than 2,000 without immediate spaces.

However, the BOT expected that if a large vessel were to sink, it would take several hours during which another ship could get to her. The lifeboats would then still have time to transfer all passengers by doing more than two or three journeys between the two vessels.

She was registered in Liverpool as her home port. Upon her launch, she was known as the R.M.S. Titanic because there was a Post Office on board (Royal Mail Ship). The Captain was Edward John Smith.

Titanic left Southampton in her maiden voyage at 12 noon on Wednesday April 10th 1912. She called into Cherbourg, Northern France, and finally, Queenstown (now Cobh) in south west Ireland. She then set sail for New York.

About 2,228 passengers were now on board. These included millionaire John Jacob Astor and his wife, Industrialist Ben Guggenheim, and Denver millionaires Margaret Brown (later to be known as ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown’).

Four days later, Titanic was south of Newfoundland off Cape Race when an iceberg was spotted. The time was 11.40pm on Sunday April 14. Although the lifeboats had space for 1,200, only 705 got into them. At 2.20am, the ship sank. More than 1,500 souls were drowned. The Carpathia arrived at 4am, too late to save anyone in the sea.

News of the disaster was slow to come back. On Tuesday, April 16, 1912, two days after the loss, the Daily Mirror were still reporting the following:

"Everyone on board safe after collision with iceberg. The vessel was proceeding to Halifax (Nova Scotia) towed by the Allan Liner Virginian." All her passengers had by that time been taken aboard two of the liners that hurried to the scene in reply to the wireless message.

Another report read;

"Montreal - It is now confirmed here that the passengers have been safely transhipped to the Allan liner Parisian and the Cunarder Carpathia. The Virginian is still towing the Titanic towards Halifax."

The new wireless telegraph was held up as the savour of the day. The following day (Wednesday, April 17, 1912), the Daily Mirror reported that the Titanic had in fact sunk with the death toll of more than 1,300. They were also able to report the names of many survivors.

In the aftermath, there was a wave of sympathy for those left behind. Several national newspapers, as well as the Lord Mayor of London and the Lord Mayor of Southampton, collected and distributed donations given by the public.

However, the two residents of Penarth that had boarded the Titanic did not make it and drowned.

One of these was James Reed. James was born on December 27, 1893. His parents were James George Reed (1863-1916), a boiler maker and Edith (nee Thomas, b.1863, Carmarthen). His family moved to Inglenook, on the Sully Road, Penarth. His father continued to work as a boiler maker but also as a ship repairer.

By the age of 18, James was working as a butcher. He was also a regular Sunday school attendee at Trinity Methodist Church, on the corner of Stanwell Road and Woodland Place.

James had a health problem, possibly asthma. His family therefore decided to send him off to relatives who owned a farm in Winnipeg, Canada. His father booked him onto the Titanic with a third-class steerage ticket, number 362316. It cost £7 1s 5d (about £500 now). They both travelled by train on Tuesday, April 9, and stayed the night at the Platform Tavern, Town Quay, Southampton (later described as his ‘Last place of abode’) which is still there.

The following morning James boarded the ship and his father returned home to Penarth.

As a single man, James would have shared a cabin of up to 10 berths with other single men near the bow, probably on E or F deck. He had access to a social hall and Men’s Smoking Room on D Deck (the Saloon Deck), and to C Deck (the Promenade Deck).

The Titanic left harbour on April 10, 1912. The weather was cold and windy. Knowing that the ship would call into Ireland the following morning before crossing the Atlantic Ocean, James decided to write a short letter to his mother back in Penarth. It said:

April 10, 1912.

Dear Ma,

I am writing a few lines now to post at Ireland to tell you not to forget my references, my one is in the marble vase on the mantelpiece in the drawing room. Dad and I had a trip to Southampton we didn’t get there till about half past ten in the night after changing about four times. The boat is rolling a bit already but it’s alright. I haven’t much to tell you now. If I got time, I’ll write home when we get to New York.


Tell Dad he didn’t give me back my pocket knife.

During the 2-hour stop at Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland on Thursday April 11th, the letter was taken ashore and posted.

After four days at sea, the Titanic hit the iceberg and sank. More than 1,500 people lost their lives. James was amongst them. He was just 19 years old.

The ships records describe the location of his death as ’41.16 Latitude, 50.14 Longitude’ with his cause of death as 'supposed drowned’.

Did James ever meet the only other person on the Titanic who was listed as coming from Penarth? We will never know. She was Mrs Annie Louise Meek. She was born Louisa Annie Rowley in January 1880 in Barton Regis, near Bristol to George Rowley (railway servant, 18311912) and Matilda Ann (nee Llewellyn, b. Narberth, 1848-1932).

In the 1880’s, the family moved to Cardiff and lived in the Wenallt area. By 1891, she was known as Annie and seemed to have changed her forenames around. In 1905, she moved to Whitchurch, Cardiff, where she obtained work as a cook for a family in Llandaff called Moore.

Aged 25, Annie married Howard Martin Meek in Cardiff. They came to live in Windsor Place, Penarth. Annie and Howard had two children, Edwin Howard, born in 1906 and Arthur Ninian born in 1910. Howard ran a small garage business and worked as a chauffeur.

In October 1911, Howard left Annie for another woman. Aged 31, Annie decided to seek work as a cook in New York, with the possibility that her two boys would follow her. She left them in the care of her elderly parents, Matilda and George Rowley, who were living across the road in Windsor Road.

Annie bought a third-class ticket (number 343095) at a cost of £8 1s 0d and travelled to Southampton. On the ship’s manifesto, she is listed as coming from England, and incorrectly named her husband as Thomas Meek. Annie would have been given a small cabin with up to six berths just for single woman in the rear of E or F Deck. She may have availed herself of the reading room for women or the social areas, both on D Deck (the Saloon Deck). Perhaps she took a walk on C Deck (the Promenade Deck).

She is recorded as having been drowned on April 15, 1912, along with more than 50 per cent of third class females. Curiously, the Register of Deceased Passengers records her nationally as ‘Irish’.

Annie’s mother Matilda and her husband, who were both in their 60’s then moved with their two grandchildren from Windsor Road, Penarth to Birchgrove, in Cardiff.

Annie’s brother, Albert V. Rowley, who lived at 83 Plassey Street, also persuaded the authorities to raise funds for his sister’s children.

The town clerk considered whether the two children should be placed in a home, but their grandmother Matilda refused.

The Mayor’s Office then attempted to claim liability for the children’s support from the White Star Line. The Town Clerk to the Mayor of Cardiff wrote to Ismay Imrie and Co. in Liverpool, the parent Company of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, the White Stars official name, Joseph Bruce Ismay, who survived the sinking and was vilified by the public for encouraging the Captain to increase speed despite possible dangers, was chair of the company. The company denied any permanent liability.

In response, the clerk pointed out that the British Board of Trade report into the accident written by Lord Mersey stated: "The loss of the Titanic was due to a collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated."

The clerk asked for the Company to state their grounds for denying liability. The case file ended there. How times have changed.

The Daily Telegraph, who were assisting the Mayor of London in raising funds for those left behind, eventually granted £50 (about £4,000 today) to the orphans, to be administered by the Mayor’s Office in Cardiff. Matilda received £1 a week until the funds were used up.

By the spring of 1913, Edwin and Arthur had moved with their grandparents back to Penarth and were living in Ludlow Street.

As a result of support from the Titanic Relief Fund, Annie Meek’s two children received a good education, with Edwin being education at the J. A. Gibbs School for boys in upper Penarth (also called Headlands).

The Penarth Times would like to thank Bruce Wallace, of Penarth, for this piece.