"To realise what we passed through is impossible for anyone who was not on the ship. The hand of death was over us and as we floated out in the frail lifeboats, with no food or water, and as our thirst began to increase, the thought that we might not be picked up, and huddled up in this manner should die of starvation, made us beside ourselves, and as we prayed the smoke-stack of the Carpathia hove in sight …"
Practically two out of every three who sailed on the Titanic are now at the bottom of the ocean, and when I realise that I was one of the last twelve to leave the ship, I cannot help thinking what might have been.
The brave men who went down have left a memory in the hearts of every one of us survivors that will linger as long as we live. The ‘women first’ rule was carried out to the letter and those who had womenfolk on board devoted their time to getting the women in the small boats while they themselves were content to remain on deck.
A few men, including six Chinese, had hidden under the seats of the lifeboats and were carried out, according to the stories on the Carpathia on Monday night, but it is said that two of them were crushed to death by the weight thrown upon them. There were none of them in our boat.
Bridget was the fifth eldest of nine children who lived in a cottage with no bath or electricity. She occasionally went to school barefoot. Older siblings Mary and Michael emigrated to the United States, both settling in Glen Falls, where Mary became a domestic and her brother a fireman.
On discharge from hospital, a penniless Bridget was assisted by the American Red Cross, receiving $125. She worked as a domestic in Glen Falls for two years before moving to New York and becoming engaged by the wealthy Nicholls family.
She lodged a court claim against the Ocean Steam Navigation Company, owners of the Titanic, in the US District Court, southern district of New York, in company with numerous other litigants. Her claim was for $153 worth of lost personal effects, made up as follows:
"Three pairs high shoes, at $3.50 – $10.50; One lady’s suit, woollen consisting of coat and skirt, $25; Two suits union underwear, flannel $1 – $2; Three pairs woollen stockings, $.50 – $1.50; Three pairs half hose $.50 – $1.50; One lady’s hat with trimmings, $3; One toilet set consisting of brush, comb, soap, tooth brush, one bath towel, two plain towels, one silver soap case, one silver hair pin case and leather case for set – $5; One leather valise – $3.50; Two lady’s dresses, cotton, $3.50 – $7; One black dress, mixed goods, $28; Six white shirt waists, $1 – $6; Cash $25; One large steamer trunk, $10; Paid for medical attendance as result of the collision, $25. Total: $153."
In 1925 Bridget met the supervisor of the Nicholls’ summer estate on Howe Island in the St Lawrence river in Canada. She was 32, he was 40. They were married two days after the following Valentine’s Day at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, New York. She was now Mrs Bernard LaSha, and she adopted the first name Delia, a familiar name for Bridget. They settled in Gananoque, Ontario, where their first child, Mary, was born in September 1927. John Joseph arrived fourteen months later, and Rose Henrietta two years after that. Joan Margaret was born in 1931.
By 1929, Delia LaSha, Titanic survivor, had become a boat owner herself. Her husband ploughed his savings into a tour boat, named the Sun Dance, to take passengers around the islands of the St Lawrence. In the autumn of 1932 he suffered a seizure and on 29 March 1933 died aged 47, at the height of the Great Depression. A few months later, heart worn and suffering from shingles, his widow gave birth to their fifth child, who lived only a few days and was buried with his father.
Bridget could not face the water commerce business herself. She hired a man to operate the Sun Dance, which cut down on her own income, and she took up babysitting to try to make ends meet. In 1951, she suffered a stroke which severely impaired her speech and paralysed her right arm and leg. The boat was sold.
When the film Titanic was shown in the local cinema that same decade, Delia LaSha was guest of honour. Her daughter Mary Higgins recounted: ‘Mom became very emotional during the movie and at times kept shaking her head as if to say it didn’t happen that way. If able to speak, I am sure she would have had many comments to make.’
Three years later she was dead, having outlived her husband by twenty-three years.
According to her death certificate, she was born on 10 January 1893, and passed away on 24 January 1956, aged 63.
Profile taken from Senan Molony's book "The Irish Aboard the Titanic"
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