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.”