Curator's Choice: William Blair on a signed photo of a Titanic passenger in Ulster

William Blair interviewed by Ben Miller | 20 June 2011
A photo of a man in a suit staring into the camera
Curator's Choice: In His Own Words…William Blair, Head of Human History for National Museums Northern Ireland, talks about his favourite object – a signed photo of a third-class passenger on the Titanic.

“My favourite object is a poignant, signed photograph of a third class passenger. It takes you to the heart of the tragedy of Titanic.

The photograph shows Rosa Abbot, who was travelling with her sons Rossmore (who was 16) and Eugene (who was 13).

An image of a black and white photo of a Victorian woman
Rosa Abbott was the only female passenger to be rescued from the water© National Museums Northern Ireland 2011
She was born in England, and settled with her husband in Providence, Rhode Island in the United States, but they separated in 1911.  She then returned to England, but her sons did not settle and so they were returning to Providence on board Titanic.

The family ended up in the water when the ship sank and Rosa Abbott was pulled into collapsible lifeboat A.  She was the only female passenger to be rescued from the water.

She later transferred to collapsible lifeboat B, but suffered leg injuries from the ice cold sea.  Tragically, her sons did not survive. 

The reverse of this photograph is inscribed, ‘To dear Mrs Lessman, in remembrance of the SS Titanic. April 15th 1912 Rosa Abbott, Survivor.’  Mrs Lessman was a passenger on board Carpathia when that ship rescued Titanic survivors.

The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum holds unique collections relating to the Titanic and its wider context within the White Star Line fleet.  Objects like this highlight the human stories associated with Titanic’s actual voyage.

This photograph was one of a number of collections acquired last year to ensure that we reflect all the dimensions to Titanic’s compelling story in our new exhibition and related publications.  It’s a wonderful photograph that conveys the strength of character of this remarkable survivor.”

  • The photograph is currently on display alongside more than 500 objects in TITANICa: The Exhibition in the Museum’s Transport Galleries.

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