Yeovil People

marion 'Marie' Wright

Survivor of the Titanic disaster

 

Marion Wright, known as Marie, was born on 26 May 1885 at Bridport, Dorset. She was the seventh of the ten children of District Insurance Inspector Thomas Wright (1848-1930).

Thomas' first eight children were by his first wife, Jane née Taylor (1851-1888) - Ethel (1873-1874), Evelyn Taylor (1875-1942), Reginald (1879-1946), Helen (1880-1894), Ernest (1882-1974), Percy Compton (1884-1954), Marie, and Bertram (1887-1962). All the children before Marie were born at Uppingham, Rutland. In 1884-5 the family moved to Bridport, Dorset, where both Marie and Bertram were born.

Jane died in 1888 and on 21 September 1898, at Charlton Marshall, Dorset, Thomas married Ada Frances Huntley (1864-1927), sixteen years his junior. Thomas and Ada were to have a further three children, all born in Reading, Berkshire; Dorothy Huntley (1901-1956), Gladys Huntley (1902-1974) and Marjorie Huntley (1904-2000).

In the 1901 census, Thomas and Ada together with four of the children, including 15-year old Marie, were listed at 41 College Road, Reading. Some time after 1904, the family moved to Yeovil, where Thomas and Ada would remain for the rest of their lives. By 1911 Marion was living at Heathville, The Park.

The top photograph of Marie was taken by Witcomb & Son, while she was living in Yeovil. The lower photograph is of Marie on her wedding day.

While living in Yeovil, Marie met and fell in love with Arthur Woolcott (1879-1961). Arthur emigrated to Cottage Grove, Oregon, United States, in 1907, and Marie travelled to join him in the United States where they would get married. As a consequence, Marie set off for America, as a second class passenger, aboard the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage.

After leaving Southampton on 10 April 1912, Titanic called at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland before heading west to New York. On 14 April, four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm ship's time. The collision caused the hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard (right) side and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea; she could only survive four flooding. Meanwhile, passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats; Marie was put into lifeboat No 9. This was one of only 20 lifeboats on board the Titanic; these could only accommodate 1,178 people, despite there were over 2,200 people on board.

Rescue for the survivors arrived in the form of RMS Carpathia, although she did not reach the lifeboats until 4 am, one hour and forty minutes after Titanic sank to the bottom of the sea, and the rescue continued until the last lifeboat was collected at 8:30 am.

Marie was rescued by the RMS Carpathia. In the Carpathia's Passenger List of 1912, Marie was noted as a single female, place of origin Yeovil, port of departure recorded as "Rescued from shipwrecked Titanic". The Carpathia arrived in New York, New York, on 18 April 1912.

In its edition of 19 April 1912, the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette reported "Miss Marion Wright, of the Park, Yeovil, was going out to be married in America to Mr Woolcott, son of Mr J Woolcott, of West Park."

Just five days after her horrific ordeal, Marie married Arthur Woolcott at St Christopher's Chapel in New York City, New York, USA, on 20 April 1912. In its edition of 23 April 1912, the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette reported "She lost her trousseau and wedding gifts, but the Women's Relief Committee, hearing of the romance, quickly provided her with a fresh trousseau."

Marie and Arthur set up home in Silk Creek, just outside Cottage Grove, where Arthur was a fruit farmer. Arthur and Marie were to have three sons; John Wright (1913-1996), Robert G (b1921) and T Russell, know as Russ (1923-2007).

Arthur died on 3 November 1961 at Cottage Grove, Oregon, aged 81. Marie died at Cottage Grove on 4 July 1965, aged 80.

 

Many thanks to Cathy Bellavita of the Cottage Grove Museum, Oregon, USA, for pointing me in the direction of Marion's story.

 

Letters from a Titanic Survivor...

The following are extracts from several letters sent by Marion Wright to her parents, before and after the Titanic disaster. The original letters are held in the collections of the Royal Museums, Greenwich.

 

 

16 March 1912

My dear Father... the boat sails on April 10th, I shall only have three weeks from next Wed... I find the Titanic is a new White Star Liner & Apr 10th is her maiden voyage, so perhaps that accounts for my having the exclusive use of the 2 berthed room, although I shouldn't wonder under the present conditions if I don't have a berth-mate after all, as I see the boat for March 28th is cancelled..."

 

April 1912 "On Board RMS Titanic"

Dearest Dad... We are very late so far, about 3 hours behind, we had a very near collision with the American Line boat New York which delayed us over an hour. Instead of arriving at Cherbourg at 5 o'c we did not get there till 7 o'c & after, & consequently shall be late all through. I am told we shall probably get into New York, provided all goes well late Tuesday night which means we shall land early Wednesday morning. It is lovely on the water, except for the smell of new paint. Everything is very comfortable on board, the food is splendid, so far I have had 3 meals... The vessel doesn't seem a bit crowded & there are dozens of tables empty in the dining saloon."

 

16 April 1912 "On Board SS Carpathia"

Dearest Dad & all I love... How I can express in a letter the time I have had since I said goodbye I don't know but thank God I am saved and alive to write you a few lines... I didn't go to my berth till after 11pm & that was about an hour before we were in a life boat on the ocean. It was terrible & is terrible and I don't think I will ever ever forget it. I had been in bed about 10 minutes when I heard a terrific crash which shook the whole vessel & the engines stopped dead. I put on my dressing gown and thick coat and met my friend going on deck to also find out the reason of the crash etc. I was met on deck by a gentleman to whom I had often talked and he said "an iceberg has struck us but there is no danger". It was so cold and had been all afternoon, just freezing, and one or two people had remarked "we are in the region of icebergs". This one they said was towering right above the vessel. These [the clothes she was wearing] with my ring, gold chain bracelet, 2 silver bracelets, engagement ring & another small ring comprise my "all" that it saved, but I am saved and for that I am thankful.

The Titanic struck the iceberg about 11.45 and by 12.15 we're a boat load including myself and several more people... The number of saved on this boat [the Carpathia] number about 700, the rest nearly 2000 must have gone down with the Titanic, my heart aches to think of it... when we got into the boats, we were in ours from 12 o'clock till 6.30am, it didn't seem so long, the dawn seemed to come so very quickly, and oh how glad we were to see this Cunard boat, and to be on her almost too good to be true, everybody has been so kind, all the passengers have been giving us clothes, and the officers and crew have given us every attention for which we are all truly thankful. The Titanic must have had her bottom taken nearly away from the 1st Class to the Steerage for she went down gradually, bit by bit, it was awful to watch her but worse still to see the crowds of people on board still when she broke in two, which she did a few moments before she sank, going down with a huge explosion. Oh the cries of the people left on board was heart rending.

I don't know how far out our boat was from the Titanic as she sank, but we kept asking our men to row further away and they did, and when she went down they pulled as hard & then after seeing lots of boats round us they drifted and rested as much as they could... with the dawn, when it was bitterly cold in consequence of icebergs all round which we had been watching, we saw this boat [the Carpathia] and the men rowed as hard as they could. We sighted her 3.30 and got to her in two hours. There were 35 on our boat and only six men who could pull an oar. I longed to take one but we were so crowded you could scarcely move. Our life belts were a 'God send' to us they kept our lungs so warm and supported us. I have just heard that 710 have been saved, 220 firsts, 120 seconds, 160 3rds and 210 crew. What a few when you think there were thousands on board.

April 18th - Today we hope to arrive in New York, about 8pm... Two nights I have slept in a 4 berth room in the Sailor's quarters which they have kindly given up to the ladies of the 2nd Class... I believe as far as can be made out there are about 150 widows on board, some with children and some with none.

 

24 April 1912 "On the train to Chicago"

The Relief Committee consisting of ladies were so good to me, to which we were sent by the White Star people. They gave me all sorts of clothing and money to the value of 225 dollars (£47) out of their own purses & the White Star had already given me a 1st Class
R[ail]way ticket, including sleeper, from N. York to [word illegible - Chicago??]. They also advised to put in a claim for lost baggage... It has been very sad losing all I had, wedding presents & everything I had worked so hard at, but these are nothing in comparison to all the lives that were lost. I am fortunate & thankful to be amongst the saved & to be so well into the bargain.

I was married in a new blouse and skirt, the latter given me by the Clothes Committee on the docks, who also gave me handkerchiefs, stockings, combinations, vest & comb. It was on landing that I had these. It was on Saturday that I had an almost complete trousseau given me.

 

19 June 1912, Cottage Grove, Oregon, USA

Dear Dad... one [letter] is from the Red Cross Emergency Relief Committee... it is a Titanic Relief Committee, & this week, after filling up a long form, which went about 10 days ago, I received a cheque for $275 - £80 of our money. Another Relief Fund wrote me from New York last week, & I had to fill in another form of some length so I don't know what I shall get from this one; as you say monetary matters will prove better than when I left England, but money won't buy me the love given with my wedding presents, nor those things which were Mother's & which I valued more than I would like to say.

 

 

 

For details of Harry Spinner, who went down with the Titanic - click here.

 

gallery

 


Courtesy of the Cottage Grove Museum, Oregon

Marie's photograph, taken by Witcomb & Son.

 

Marion Wright's name in the Outward Passenger List of the RMS Titanic, 1912.

 

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912. Marie was on board.

 

Partially flooded with ice-cold seawater, one of Titanic's collapsible lifeboats approaches RMS Carpathia at 7:15 am on 15 April 1912.

 

Marion Wright's name in the Crew Records of RMS Titanic, indicating passengers who survived or were missing, in which it is noted that she was saved.

 

Marie and Arthur photographed in 1955, just a few days after her 70th birthday.

 

... and outside the home of their son, Robert, around the same time.