Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Titanic: Who was the man in drag who survived?

The pearl penknife, recovered from the body of Edmund Stone, victim of the Titanic disaster
The Service ForD "E" deck key, belonging to First Class Steward, Edmund Stone, victim of the Titanic disaster
A seven of clubs card is shown as part of the artifacts collection at a warehouse in Atlanta, Friday, Aug 15, 2008. The 5,500-piece collection contains almost everything recovered from the wreckage of the RMS Titanic, which has sat 2.5 miles below the surface of the Atlantic ocean since the boat sank on April 15, 1912.

Although the popular legend about men dressing up as women to escape was mostly just that, a legend, there was one character, known as the Coward, who pops up in Titanic literature.

Logan Marshall in his 1912 book, The Sinking of the Titanic, described a man in woman’s clothing sneaking onto a lifeboat, adding: “His identity is not yet known, though it will be in good time”.

There are a couple of possible miscreants: one was Daniel Buckley, a 21-year-old third class passenger from Ireland who climbed into boat 13 with a mixed group, including male passengers, firemen and sailors. He later said Mrs Astor saw him crying and threw her shawl over him. Fifth Officer Lowe, who had a tendency to describe anyone he disapproved of as Italian, saw somebody suspiciously dressed like a woman in boat 14.

This may have been Edward Ryan, an Irishman in third class. Ryan’s published account stated that he saved himself and a woman by climbing down a rope into a lifeboat.

But he wrote to his parents, saying: “I had a towel round my neck...I wore my waterproof overcoat. I then walked very stiff past the officers... they didn’t notice me. They thought I was a woman.”

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