Mrs. Edward Howley (Rose)

Rose Howley, 42, was returning home aboard Lusitania after visiting her niece, Mrs. Leary, in New Rochelle, New York, United States in the weeks before the sinking.  Rose survived the Lusitania sinking and rescued Edith Williams.  Rose made sure that Edith was taken care of when they reached Queenstown. Rose was a stern, but caring, woman.  She was a devout Christian and would bless each room in her house with Holy Water during thunderstorms. Rose had been concerned about the German submarine threat.  She made inquiries and was assured that the ship would not meet with any trouble.  During the trip she also became acquainted with the Williams family, including little Edith Williams. On the day of the disaster, when Ireland was in sight, Rose remarked, "Look at the green hills of Ireland. God save Ireland."  In unison, many of the Irish on board broke into song, singing, "God save Ireland" and "The Land of the West." Rose and another woman were walking along the deck that afternoon when they heard a tremendous explosion and felt something strike the side of the ship.  Rose and her friend quickly made for the bow, but the passengers all around them tumbled around the deck and knocked over the two women. "Be quiet;" Rose shouted, "better be drowned than killed on board." Rose and her friend reached the area where the sailors were launching the lifeboats.  She appealed to the officer behind her, whom she recognized as the captain.  He replied, "You must do what you can for yourself. Go into that room and get a lifebelt." A man just coming out of the cabins put a lifebelt round Rose's neck.  Rose did not want to join in the mob rushing to the lifeboats.  Around her, people were saying, "She's sinking fast." Rose turned to her companion and asked, "Well what are we going to do?" "I don't know," was all her companion could answer. Rose then replied, "Well let us stand here and die together." At that moment, Rose saw a rope hanging over the ship's side.  As people jumped overboard, she seized the rope and slid down into the sea.  Lusitania was sinking rapidly.  As soon as Rose reached the water there was a big explosion, perhaps from the ship's boilers exploding.  People were blown into the air. By the time Lusitania disappeared, Rose had lost her companion.  The suction from the ship dragged Rose under, but her lifebelt pulled her to the surface.  Looking around, she saw people all around her struggling and calling for help. Rose was dragged under for a second time, and when she came up again she touched an upturned boat.  On top, two or three men were already clinging to the keel.  Rose appealed for help from them and they encouraged her to keep her hold.  One of the men eventually managed to pull her partly into the boat. Rose was trying to get a firm hold on the upturned boat when she felt a tugging sensation. She saw that a child was tugging on her dress. Only after pulling the child onto the upturned boat with the assistance of some of the men, did Rose recognize the child as Edith Williams. Edith was in an exhausted state, and one of the men on the boat rubbed her until he was sure Edith had been revived. They were on the boat for four hours before they were rescued. In Queenstown, Edith would ask, “Where’s mother? Where’s baby?” not yet knowing that she and Edward were the only members of the family to survive. None of the rest of the Williamses were either recovered or identified. The survivors were taken to hotels, and when the American Counsel inquired if any American citizens were present, Rose Howley told him that Edith had been born in New Jersey. The counsel took charge of Edith, and on Saturday morning, a woman from Cork relieved him. Edith and Edward would be sent on their way to Manchester to be reunited with their father. Some time after the disaster, an attempt was made to reunite Rose Howley and Edith. Rose, however, said that she had only done her duty as a Christian and was not a hero, and did not see the need for such a get together and would not participate. Rose died on December 23, 1945 in Yorkshire, England, at age 79. Contributors: Jim Kalafus Michael Poirier References: Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget : Part 1 ET Research. <>

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