Miss Grace Marie MacFarquhar

Grace MacFarquhar (1898 - 1979), 16, was a United States national from Stratford, Connecticut, and second cabin passenger aboard Lusitania accompanying her mother, Jane MacFarquhar, to Burghead, Scotland. When the Lusitania was torpedoed on 7 May 1915, mother and daughter escaped the sinking ship and survived the disaster in a starboard lifeboat that was picked up by a British patrol boat. Grace was the youngest daughter of John and Jane MacFarquhar of Stratford, Connecticut. Her mother Jane was from Scotland, and her father repaired machinery. In 1915, Grace was accompanying her mother Jane to Burghead, Moray, Scotland, because Jane and inherited the family estate there at her father's death. Mr. Grant's will had also allowed Jane's stepmother the right to live at the estate while Mrs. Grant lived, but by 1915, Jane's stepmother was 83 years of age and in failing health, thus Jane and Grace would travel to Scotland to take care of financial and estate matters for when Mrs. Grant passed away. On 27 April 1915, the MacFarquhars booked second cabin passage on the Lusitania and planned to stay in Scotland for a yet undetermined time. The MacFarquhars departed for Europe on the Lusitania on 1 May 1915, and had an extremely pleasant voyage. The unease of war only set in as the Lusitania entered the war zone. Like many other passengers and crew, Jane and Grace were told and believed that the crew was fully prepared for any emergency, that nothing could harm the Lusitania, and that the British protection would escort them through the war zone. Accompanying them were happy passengers, the large number of babies and children on board as well as men and women as old as seventy. During the day they enjoyed games on the open-air decks and in the evenings they enjoyed concerts, making the dangers of the war the last thing on their minds. The specter of war reappeared when Jane saw the Lusitania's lifeboats swung out over the side of the ship on the morning of Thursday, 6 May. Jane asked about the boats and found that they were being swung out because regulations required them to be so, but she thought it strange that the boats had not been swung out as soon as they left New York and that the crew had waited until the ship had entered the danger zone to do so. The morning of Friday, 7 May, Jane and Grace spent the morning preparing for arrival, laying out the clothes they would need for disembarkation, has they had to have their trunks packed that day. At about 1 pm that day, Jane was standing on one of the upper decks, enjoying the view of the water and coast of Ireland on that clear day. At that time, she thought to herself, "Where is the spoken of danger? The end of the voyage is almost in view and we have had no sign of danger whatsoever.” Mother and daughter then went to lunch in the second cabin dining saloon. In Jane's words:
While seated at luncheon, my daughter by my side, I should think about 2:15, I suddenly heard a rumbling noise right underneath our table or so it appeared to me. The noise proved to be the torpedo striking the vessel. Instantly all passengers rose from the tables and made for the staircase as fast as they could. We were amongst the last to ascend...it was with difficulty that we reached the top of the three flights of stairs which led to the deck where the lifeboats were. Following the crowd to the high side of the vessel and seeing the large number of passengers all along trying to get to the boats, I said to my daughter “There is no chance of safety here, we must try to get to the low side”....it was dare or die. We made the attempt. At one point my daughter went slipping right down to the edge where she caught the iron railing--thus saving herself from landing in the water below. Meantime a steward called for me to go ahead while he assisted my daughter back to where I was. Next we had two first cabin saloons to pass through, which we did from chair to chair. On nearing the entrance which led to the lifeboats, an officer who stood there said “Ladies, stand where you are.” We obeyed and in almost a minute he told us to come right on. A lifeboat was right in front--almost full; another lifeboat, covered over, lay between. Climbing on top of the covered boat I saw one on the davit about three feet from the sinking vessel...there I made a spring, landing somehow in the lifeboat. I thought my daughter was following my example, but she was stopped, being assisted further back on the boat. The Lusitania had sunk so bad that our lifeboat, when lowered, had only a few feet to reach the water. The sailors had no sooner got the oars when a great cry came from the deck of the sinking vessel--“Row for your lives!” I gave one glance to see if it were really possible that the Lusitania was going down so soon. I quickly turned my head away. The sight was too terrible to see - a deck full of people sinking into the ocean- no fate for them save drowning. After our boat had been rowed out of danger I turned my head for a last glance. The stern was alone visible. It was crowded with people who seemed to make for the last piece of the wreck left above water, while others unsuccessful in their efforts to gain this temporary safe place, were falling over the side. All around were wreckage and human beings struggling for life. A number of hands were to be seen raised in a signal for help from the boats. Three of these were taken into our boat--all aged people. That was all our boat, with safety, could take on board. I think more were saved from the water than saved from the deck; so many boats were overturned in the lowering.
A British patrol boat eventually picked up the MacFarquhar’s boat, and they landed in Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, around 9 pm. Jane and Grace stayed in Scotland for more than three years before returning to Mr. MacFarquhar, and their home in Stratford, Connecticut, at the end of the war. Grace studied nursing in New York, though a "nervous condition" that Grace and her mother blamed on the Lusitania sinking delayed her nursing career, and graduated as a registered nurse from Metropolitan Hospital in 1924. John MacFarquhar, Jane's husband, was seriously injured in the summer of 1926 when an elevator motor he was repairing exploded at the Columbia Records manufacturing plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was burned on the face and neck and was hospitalized through September 1926. That Christmas, John suffered a massive heart attack in his work room, where Jane found him half an hour later. He died before reaching the hospital. Jane and Grace sued Columbia Records, blaming the decline in his health that led to his death on the injuries from the mechanical explosion. Their case was dismissed, then reinstated on appeal. If the MacFarquhars and Columbia Records reached a settlement, it was not reported in the newspapers. Jane and Grace lived through the 1930s in a small but cozy duplex in Stratford at 199-201 Hollister Street. One of Grace's arms was partially paralyzed, and Jane, then in her 70s, supported both of them by tilling her small vegetable garden at the home she “owned clear.” The MacFarquhars were in the newspapers again as part of a profile on the anniversary of the disaster, which may have exaggerated their poverty in the name of human interest, but published their last known public statements about the disaster, which still contained much bitterness all those years later. Jane died in 1942, at age 79 and was buried beside her husband in Union Cemetery in Stratford. Grace may have returned to nursing after her mother's death. A letter written by her brother, Colin, reveals that in the early 1970s, Grace was under the care of her niece, Mrs. Jane Peck, of Bristol, Connecticut. Jane died in New Britain, Connecticut on 9 February 1979, at age 80. Her body was returned to Stratford and buried beside her parents in Union Cemetery. Jane, John, and Grace all share a single headstone and is the first grave on the left after passing through the entrance.

Links of interest


Jane and Grace MacFarquhar at Lest We Forget – Encyclopedia Titanica

Contributors Cliff Barry, UK Jim Kalafus, USA Peter Kelly, Ireland Michael Poirier, USA References: Kalafus, Jim, Michael Poirier, Cliff Barry and Peter Kelly (2013) “Lest We Forget : The Lusitania.” Gare Maritime. (ref: #10962, accessed 27th April 2015 03:24:39 PM) URL : http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/lest-we-forget-the-lusitania.html

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