Sunday, February 15, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 88 - Our Babe

Today I was over the moon when I sat down to watch a documentary air on CBC's Land and Sea. The producer and writer of the documentary is none other than my cousin Julianne MacLean's husband, Stephen MacLean.

WOO HOO!! Bravo, Stephen!!

Here's the write-up for the episode:

The sinking of Titanic is probably the most famous marine disaster in the world. Fifteen hundred people lost their lives when the majestic ocean liner struck an iceberg. One body recovered from the frigid waters became a symbol of the tragedy and the horrible loss of life. It was a young boy, a baby really, less than two years old. He was called the Unknown Child because he could not be identified.

The Unknown Child was buried in Halifax with other Titanic victims and only now has the mystery been solved.

Modern science has made it possible to prove who the Unknown Child was. He now has a family and a name.
-, Titanic Child

For my latest effort in my found poetry series, I've crafted a poem from several sources, telling the story of one of the tiniest of Titanic's victims. The sources include Lardner heads grisly task after Titanic disaster, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, The Search For the Dead, and Tracing the Tribe: The Jewish Genealogy Blog.

Having grown up in Halifax, the last resting place for many of the Titanic victims, I can say the shock never wears off as you approach the grave of the Unknown Child and see the continuous gifts, toys and flowers laid at the base of this granite marker. 97 years later, locals and visitors alike stop at the grave and pay their respects to this baby lost to the sea.

Photo by maritzburgmerle

Our Babe

The MacKay-Bennett
Commissioned with a grisly role
Her task
To retrieve as many bodies of the
1,517 passengers who perished
Before the Gulf stream
Swept them away

Captain Frederick Harold Lardner
His crew
Double wages. Captain gave his crew
The chance to sign off
Without penalty
No one took advantage

She left Halifax, Nova Scotia
Stocked with ice
Embalmers’ instruments
Wednesday April 17
While the Carpathia headed for Pier 54
New York to land the
705 survivors from Titanic

306 of Titanic's victims
Of the 1517 Titanic victims
Were found by Mackay-Bennett's crew

The little body floated up
Alongside the searchers' boat
It was tenderly brought aboard

The sight of this little form
Face upwards
On the deep
Brought tears to the eyes of the
Hardy sailor men

His entry in the ledger
Simply stated: "No identification. No effects."

He was one of two children found
The only child that had not suffered
Great trauma to his body
Even the toughest of crew members
Wept openly over the discovery
Of Titanic's smallest of victims

Reports of mob scenes in New York
Overwhelming the White Star Line
And Cunard Line offices

The Halifax Police
And two detectives boarded the
Body-recovery Mackay Bennett at the
Harbour entrance
Securing it. They docked
At the Naval Dockyard
Protected by the just-created Canadian navy
By a large contingent of the Dominion Police
Forerunners of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Brought in from Ottawa

The bodies
Personal effects
Guarded by the small Halifax Police department
Bolstered by army soldiers
24 hours a day

Nearly 200
Little piles of clothing
Neatly tied up by the
Ship’s company of the Mackay-Bennett

Clarence Northover
Halifax Police Department Sergeant
Helped guard the bodies
And belongings
Clothing was burned
To stop souvenir hunters
He was too emotional when he
Saw the little pair of
Brown leather shoes
Fourteen centimeters long
And didn’t have the heart to burn them

CLOTHING - Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; petticoat; flannel garment; pink woolen singlet; brown shoes and stockings.
No marks whatever.
Probably third class

Prior to his funeral
The White Star Line had been
Inundated with offers
To sponsor the child's funeral costs
Only one request was granted

That request came from
Captain Lardner and his
Crew of the Mackay-Bennett

The burials began
On Friday, May 3rd, 1912
At all three cemeteries
As sad as all of these funerals were
No amount of mourning could
Surpass the following day

Saturday was the day
The funeral of the unidentified
Little boy found
By the Mackay-Bennett's crew
Hundreds of mourners
From Halifax and surrounding area
Packed St. George's Anglican Church
To pay their last respects to this
Little unknown victim

Six of her crew members carried
His little white coffin
Covered in flowers
To the hearse
For burial
At Fairview Cemetery

The young boy was laid to rest
With the other casualties
From Titanic. His tombstone
Made of granite
Bears the inscription:

"Erected to the memory of an
Unknown child
Whose remains were recovered
After the disaster to the Titanic,
April 15th, 1912"

In the years following the
The Mackay-Bennett's crew would
Reveal many stories of those
Horrifying days in the North Atlantic. However
There was one victim
The crew
Even years after the
Had a difficult time

When no relatives came
To claim the shoes
Police Sergeant Clarence Northover
Placed them in his desk drawer
At the police station and there
They remained for the next six years
Until he retired
In 1918

When she visited Halifax
For a math conference in the 1980's
Carol Goodwin found time to stop by
The grave of the young Titanic passenger
Known simply as the Unknown Child

"I remember standing there
Having a very spiritual feeling.
I wished my grandmother was there."

In 2002, the child was
Erroneously identified
As 13-month-old Eino Panula
Based on ambiguous
DNA analysis
Forensic odontology
On several teeth
In the grave in 2000

Suspicions were aroused

The child’s shoes
Held by the Maritime Museum in Halifax
Found to be too large
For a 13-month-old

Forensic genealogist
Colleen Fitzpatrick was called in
Following initial tests
On another boy's

"I had to go up the family tree
And down the tree," she said.
A third test showed
A mutation in the
Maternal DNA

An exact match
To a living relative
On the boy’s mother’s side

Last year
DNA tests revealed
The unknown child
Is actually Sidney Leslie Goodwin

The 19-month-old English boy's
Entire immediate family
Died when the Titanic
Sank in the North Atlantic in 1912

Carol Goodwin organized a
Memorial service at the grave
In Halifax’s Fairview Lawn Cemetery
Carol Goodwin now knows
The boy in the grave belongs to her

Sidney Leslie Goodwin

Birth: Sep. 9, 1910
Death: Apr. 15, 1912


Julia Phillips Smith said...

In one of the strange and wonderful ironies of life, my dad was a huge Titanic fan and brought me to see the Titanic graves. He now rests in the very cemetery where the Titanic passengers also rest - Fairview Cemetery. He had no idea he would end up there when he took me to see the Titanic graves.

Annette Gallant said...

I watched the documentary yesterday and it was very moving. I'm glad they figured out who the child was, but my heart also went out to the family of the other child, especially after they were told it wasn't their ancestor after all.

Btw, CBC has a link to it on their site, for those who'd like to see it.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Yes, just click on the link I have to 'Titanic Child' and it takes you right to the episode.

Kelly Boyce said...

Great post Julia. I love the Titanic stuff. Its always so intriging and sad. I wish I had known about the documentary.

anthonynorth said...

That was a marvellous and informative post.

totomai said...

really really informative post. and the poem about the passengers is really an eye-opening. i really feel sad about the 2 yr old child.

but nature is still powerful than us...

Anonymous said...

There is just something so chilling to the Titanic story...and amazing about the child, finally being able to rest.

Such a wonderful post, but I must say that the photo of the shoes just stopped me in my tracks...forced me to reread your poem...which was a good thing, in the end! ;)

SandyCarlson said...

Heart-rending. I remember watching the movie version of Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember." Gripping and horrifying. If that had been my child, I would want to die, too.

Your work is wonderful.

Amy Ruttan said...

Shouldn't have read it. I'm too hormonal to think of a baby dying. *sniff*

Still beautiful.

Unknown said...

This sounds like a great documentary - I'm going to check out CBC for the link.

I've always had a fascination with the Titanic story!

Linda Jacobs said...

Just fascinating! I couldn't stop reading. There is so much we don't know abuot that tragic event. This brought a lump to my throat.

Danny Wise said...

Very informative post, enjoyed reading this right down to the conclusion!

Tumblewords: said...

Fascinating. Great post - I'll follow the link. Your words are surely well tuned.

Anonymous said...

We all know about the Titanic - We dont't know all about it. Now I know a lot more. Thanks.

John E. Tran said...

Very docu-poetic. I enjoyed reading it. I'll definitely follow the link to that episode.

Travis Cody said...

I watch most documentaries I come across about Titanic. I can't really say why. It's such a compelling story.

I'll be on the watch for this one.

floreta said...

what a fascinating piece! the titanic has always interested me greatly. i read a memoir by violet jessop, a survivor. it's a great read!

Anonymous said...

Lovely poem, Julia - and I always think of your dad when I drive by the Titanic cemetary. I look over and wonder what he's up to :)

Sherri B. said...

What an informative post...I never knew of the Unknown Child. Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating information. It was very touching to read!

Julianne MacLean said...

Hi Julia,

Wow! I just read your entire poem, it was really moving. It took me months to research these points you hit on so perfectly. Thanks for your interest in the Unknown Child and our doc.

Steve MacLean
Producer, Land and Sea Episode on Titanic's Unknown Child.