The Titanic wove such an intricate pattern of human emotions, the living tapestry is still haunting the world one hundred years later. The study of that tapestry humbles the average person and conveys obvious questions. What would I do in that particular situation? How would I handle those last few minutes of life?
Of course, as in any circumstance, our hearts bend to the youngest victims. The children of the Titanic. Most undoubtedly, these young sufferers clung to their mother’s long, woolen skirts, or were held in their father’s strong arms after being aroused from their warm beds. Sensing their parent’s fear, and all the commotion going on around them, they must have realized something had gone horribly wrong.
Fifty children perished that night. One from first class, and forty-nine from steerage.
The unidentified body of a male child, approximately two years of age, was recovered after the sinking and created a most sorrowful story. The Mackay-Bennett, a ship sent out for the gruesome duty of gathering as many of the dead victims of the Titanic as they could, picked up the tiny body floating in the freezing ocean. They noted his description thusly. No. 4 – Male – Estimated Age, 2 – hair, Fair. Clothing – Grey coat with fur on the collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; petticoat; flannel garment; pink woolen singlet; brown shoes and stockings. No marks whatever. Probably third class.
Referred to and buried as the unknown child, the crewmembers aboard the Mackay-Bennet were so disturbed by the site of the fair-haired child, they donated money so the little one would have a monument to mark his final resting place. His funeral was a large affair, with many tears. His burial represented, to all gathered, the lost lives of the many children aboard the doomed vessel. Along with the monument, a copper placard was gently placed in his coffin that read, “Our Babe.” To this day, toys and stuffed animals can be found clustered around his grave.
Through the years speculation rose to the identify of the young waif. With the advent of DNA testing, it was determined his remains should be exhumed and tested to finally answer the lingering question, Who is the unknown child? Not much remained in the mud-filled grave, but a small piece of the child’s arm was enough of a specimen to test. Incorrectly identified twice, researchers concurred in 2007, with 98% accuracy, that the remains are that of nineteen-month-old Sidney Leslie Goodwin of England.
The story of this child and his family’s tragic fate is an example of the third class passengers aboard the Titanic. Sidney’s father, Frederick, packed up his wife, Augusta, and six children, Lillian, 16; Charles, 14; William, 11; Jessie, 10; Harold, 9 and the baby of the family, Sidney, 19 months, for a move to New York from their home in England. A new power station was opening up, and according to Frederick’s brother, Thomas, who’d moved there previously, the plant was looking for skilled laborers.
All would have been fine for the family if it weren’t for a coal strike going on at the time. Their first choice of passage, a small steamer out of Southhampton, was cancelled after they had booked third-class tickets on it. In a twist of horrid fate, the trusting family was re-booked onto the RMS Titanic.
The exhilaration must have been insurmountable as the maiden voyage of the Titanic was a day anticipated by rich and poor alike. Many wealthy Americans timed their European vacations so they’d be returning home after booking passage on the largest moving object in the world. I personally come from a family with six children, similar to the ages of the Goodwin family in birth order, and I can only ascertain that this family behaved, as I’m sure mine would have at the beginning of an exciting adventure, like a pack of wild animals. They probably drove their parents insane with their youthful enthusiasm, running to and fro, and back and forth wanting to explore every inch of the ship they were allowed to see from their third class accommodations.
When the ship struck the ice burg this family, and many like them, being in third class, missed the chance of survival on board one of the too few lifeboats, and all perished. Many have used this family to prove false the speculation that a high number of the third class died because they didn’t understand English or the directions given them. Being that the Goodwins were from England, it laid to rest that theory.
The Goodwin family is just one small thread in the tapestry we call Titanic. They left their legacy in their youngest child, Sidney. For over one hundred years, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, have gathered at his grave to grieve not only him, but the other forty-nine or so children who lost their lives on that unfathomable night of horror.