Poignant memento: Family died in 'Titanic' disaster

A REMARKABLE photograph of a widowed Irish mother and her five young sons who perished in the Titanic disaster is to be sold …

A REMARKABLE photograph of a widowed Irish mother and her five young sons who perished in the Titanicdisaster is to be sold at auction next month.

Margaret Rice (39), a widow, and her sons Albert (10), George (8), Eric (7), Arthur (4) and Eugene (2), who lived in Athlone, Co Westmeath, all died when the infamous ship sank in the north Atlantic in April 1912.

Mealy’s auctioneers said the 100-year-old photograph had been kept by the woman’s extended family and passed down through generations. It is being reluctantly sold by a descendant still living in Athlone.

The photograph is believed to have been commissioned by Mrs Rice from a local photographer – possibly as a keepsake for relatives before she and her sons departed for what they hoped would be a better life in America.


Auctioneer George F Mealy described the sepia-tinted photograph, in a gold-painted frame decorated with scrolling shamrock, as a “poignant memento”, noting that one of the boys was dressed in an Edwardian sailor’s outfit.

He said it was a difficult item to value but he had assigned it an estimate of between €1,000 and €1,500 ahead of the auction in Dublin on December 14th (in the D4Berkeley hotel in Ballsbridge).

Mrs Rice was born Margaret Norton in Athlone in October 1872. She moved to Canada at an early age when her parents emigrated there. At the age of 19 she married William Rice, a shipping clerk with a railway firm, and they lived in Montreal.

In 1909, they moved to Spokane in the US state of Washington but, shortly afterwards, her husband died in a rail accident. The widowed Mrs Rice received an insurance settlement which enabled her, the following year, to return home to Ireland. She worked as a housekeeper and, according to the 1911 census, lived in rented accommodation with her sons at Castle Street, Athlone.

However she decided to return to the US and booked a passage on the Titanicin a third-class cabin for £29 2s 6d.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques