Titanic Centennial

Posted by Daniel on Mar 28, 2012 - 447 comments

It is impossible to ignore the upcoming 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912. Global is in the middle of airing a multi-episode television drama about the catastrophe and James Cameron's film epic of a few years ago is being re-issued in 3D. And I myself am in the middle of reading a fascinating new book, How to Survive the Titanic, by Frances Wilson, about the owner and survivor of the fated ship, J. Bruce Ismay.

What these other sources won't tell you is that there were nine BC-bound passengers on the ship, six of whom died following the mid-ocean collision with the iceberg. But the most famous victim with a local connection was Montreal resident Charles Melville Hays. Hays was president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which in 1912 was in the midst of laying a main line west from Winnipeg via Edmonton and Prince George to its Pacific terminus at Prince Rupert. Indeed, it is to Hays and the GTP that Prince Rupert owes its creation.

Hays had been in London trying to raise money for his troubled railway and was on his way home to preside at the official opening of the company's Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa when the supposedly unsinkable ship sank. On April 25, ten days after the disaster, work stopped all along the rail line in his memory. The next day his body was found floating at sea and was returned to Canada for burial in Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery.

The Grand Trunk Pacific was a financial disaster, thanks in part to some of Hays's decisions, and in 1919 it went bankrupt. Ultimately it was folded into the publicly-owned Canadian National system.

For information about the other BC related passengers on board the Titanic, see an article by Michael Dupuis here.