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Kitty Cantwell's Account

Sources: The Caribou Disaster and Other Short StoriesCassie Brown, Flanker Press, St. John's, Nf, 1996. A Winter's Tale, Cassie Brown, Flanker Press, St. John's, NF, 1976.

According to both sources, Kitty was rooming with Annie Dalton, a young woman from Western Bay going to New York to work in a clothing factory. Annie had become quite seasick during the voyage and had been up all night as a result. Kitty too was wide awake, but she was not ill, merely excited.

It was the continuous wailing of the ship's whistle that first informed Miss Cantwell that something was wrong, according to Winter's Tale. She roused her friend and the two hurriedly dressed and joined the crowd of anxious passengers.

In her original news article, Brown states that the two made their way to the fore of the ship. According to the novel, they indeed make it onto the deck, but Kitty subsequently passes out in terror and comes to on the roof of the smoking room on the boat deck, Annie still by her side.

The news article then states that a young man appeared next to them, upon whom Kitty appealed for help for her ill friend. He refuses and she loses sight of him in the waves. The two then strike out for the Marconi house but are separated by a large wave which swept Annie overboard.

The novel tells a slightly different story. In this version, Kitty tells Annie that she is going to strike out for the Marconi House. Annie says she is too weak, and Kitty goes alone. She climbs down the ladder and meets the young man. She pleads for help for her friend and is refused, and heads for the Marconi House alone.

Kitty arrives there on hands and knees. Both articles state that her initial plea for shelter is refused, but is eventually granted on the basis that she is a woman. The article stated that 32 other passengers were inside when she arrived. She spent 24 hours cramped into the tiny Marconi House. The roof started to split and leak and the door was ripped off by a wave. The doorway was partly covered up by tacking up a carpet. One person inside the room died ( Maloney ) so the men removed the body, which was then carried away by the sea. Kitty Cantwell was the first survivor to be rescued at 5.30am by Captain Perry of the Gordon C. 27 hours after the Florizel ran aground, she jumped from the foredeck into the small boat and the arms of the captain. Before being taken to the Gordon C. with Minnie Denief ( the only other female survivor ) she asked " am I safe now ", the reply from Captain Perry was " you are as safe now as if you were in God's pocket. Kitty Cantwell returned to St. John's where she married Michael MacDonald and had nine children. She would never see New York or set foot on a ship again. Mrs MacDonald who lived on Parade street St. John's died on August 20, 1973.

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