The Lusitania Resource > People > Second Cabin (Second Class) Passenger List > Miss Crissy "Chrissie" Nicol Marshall Lizzie Stark Aitken

Miss Crissy "Chrissie" Nicol Marshall Lizzie Stark Aitken

Chrissie Aitken Second Cabin Passenger Saved
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Born Crissy Nicol Marshall Lizzie Stark Aitken 13 September 1899 Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Died 20 October 1992 (age 93) Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Age on Lusitania 16
Traveling with - James Aitken (father) - Jarvie Aitken (brother) - James Jarvie Aitken, Jr. (nephew)
Lifeboat starboard boat and collapsible
Citizenship British (Canada)
Residence Merritt, British Columbia, Canada
Spouse(s) George Scott Barnett (1932 - ?)
Chrissie Aitken (1899 - 1992), 16, was traveling aboard Lusitania with her father James Aitken, her brother Jarvie, and nephew James Jarvie, Jr. The family was originally booked to sail on the Cameronia but was transferred to Lusitania.  Chrissie was the only member of her party to survive the Lusitania disaster.

Youth and move to Canada


Born 13 September 1899 in Davidson’s Mains, Cramond, Edinburgh, Chrissie was the fifth and youngest child of James Aitken and Jessie Jarvie.  Her other siblings were Alexander (born 1880), James Jarvie (born 1883), William (born 1887), and John (born 1890). Chrissie's mother died in 1908 and her father James decided in 1912 to go to Canada, where one of her brothers, James Jarvie, was living.  Jarvie had married Grace Mackay Taylor, had a son named James Jarvie, Jr., and they lived in Merritt, British Columbia.  James and Chrissie arrived in Merritt in 1912. Jarvie's wife Grace died in 1914, and James and Jarvie decided to return to Scotland, bringing Chrissie and James Jarvie, Jr. with them.

Lusitania


The Aitkens bought tickets for the Cameronia from Chicago, Illinois before being informed of their transfer to the Lusitania upon arriving in New York City. Chrissie's accommodations in second cabin were with a stranger (Annie Richardson?), next door to her father, Jarvie, and James Jarvie Jr. The day of the sinking, Chrissie had taken lunch before the torpedoing.  She was in her room when the ship was hit.  She was not able to find her family during the sinking.  The following is her account:

LUSITANIA SURVIVOR - PEEBLESSHIRE FAMILY ON BOARD Surviving daughter's story

Miss Chrissie Aitken, who along with her father, brother, and the latter's two-year old son, was aboard the Lusitania, arrived yesterday at Davidson's Mains, where she was staying with Mr. W.M. Marshall, her uncle. She fears for her brother and his little boy, having yet heard nothing of them: but, unfortunately, no uncertainty surrounds the fate of her father, as before leaving Queenstown she was called to the melancholy duty of identifying his dead body.  Despite the terrible experiences through which she had passed and the additional shock of her father's death, Miss Aitken - who is only seventeen years of age - was able to tell her story with wonderful calmness and courage. "Just before the ship was struck", she said "we were all sitting at lunch, and as a girl friend was waiting for me I left the table before the others, and I never saw them again. I was in my cabin when the torpedo struck, and it seemed to hit a part of the boat near me. Instinctively I seemed to know we had been torpedoed, for it had been in all our minds right across the whole way, though it was treated mostly as a joke. We thought we got safely so far, all possible danger was past, but we made a terrible mistake. The smoke was already coming into my cabin, and I rushed above.  A great many people were running about, but others took it very quietly though they were lowering the boats. It was everybody for themselves and I rushed down to the saloon to get a lifebelt but the steward would not give me one saying I was to go downstairs for one. I was starting to go down as I had seen smoke in my cabin and I rushed up on deck again." After describing the scene on deck when hurried preparations were being made to get women and children into life boats, Miss Aitken said, "The women were very calm and the crew were just splendid. One of the crew noticed that I had not a belt and he took off his own and fastened it round me. The ship was dipping over to one side terribly, and after we got into the boat, and it was lowered, a remark made by one of the stewards made me think our boat was to be swamped like the one before it, and I jumped overboard. I don't remember anything then for a long time, but the lifeboat seems to have got away all right, for afterwards I saw some ladies who were in it, and they hadn't even got wet.  But a lot had happened before I regained consciousness. When next I remember anything I was floating amongst the wreckage, and the ship had gone. Everything seemed calm then, but I was a bit dazed and don't remember clearly. A little bit away there was an upturned boat and three men on it. I struggled to it and the men pulled me up. We stayed there for a time - I don't know how long, and then a collapsible boat took us off, and later a minesweeper took us into Queenstown." Although speaking with quiet restraint, Miss Aitken was naturally disinclined to give more details of her terrible experiences but it was easy to see that underneath her calmness there was a fearful memory. From what Miss Aitken says there is a conviction amongst the passengers that the torpedoes gave off some powerful gas on explosion, and the gases were for the purpose of suffocating anyone with whom they came into contact. She still has a feeling of suffocation, and states that many other passengers al made a similar complaint. Until about three years ago Miss Aitken lived with her father at Walkerburn, near Innerleithen where Mr Aitken was connected with the Tweed trade. Her brother, Jarvie Aitken, had settled in Merritt, British Columbia, and it was to join him that father and daughter went out three years ago. On the death of her brother's wife they decided to return to Scotland and had transferred from the Cameronia to the ill fated Lusitania. The friend of whom Miss Aitken spoke was from Abbeyhill, Edinburgh.  She never saw her again after the ship was struck.

[Newspaper source unidentified but possibly from The Scotsman.]

According to Ballard and Dunmore, others tried to convince her that her family was already safe in a lifeboat before she would leave, and that after she jumped from her lifeboat she was nearly sucked into what she believed was the hole in the side of the ship caused by the torpedo or internal blast (perhaps an open deck?) but was able to swim free. With only the dress she was wearing and the money in her pocket, she was able to take the train to finish the trip and arrived at her aunt and uncle's home in Edinburgh.  Her aunt and uncle had not known that the Aitkens were on the Lusitania until a newspaper reporter came to their door to say all the Aitkens were lost a few hours before Chrissie arrived.

Later life


Chrissie Aitken married George Scott Barnett in St Andrew’s Edinburgh in 1932.  She died in Newington, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 20 October 1992.

Related Pages


Chrissie Aitken's Story, by Oliver Russell
Contributors: Oliver Russell (great-nephew of Chrissie Aitken), UK Michael Poirier, USA References: Ballard, Dr. Robert D. and Spencer Dunmore.  Exploring the Lusitania.  Warner Books, 1995.

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