Agnes’s memories of the ‘Coward of the Titanic’

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AMID all the commemorations of the disaster that befell the Titanic 100 years ago this weekend, one Rugby woman has particularly strong memories of one of those involved.

Agnes Thwaite is perhaps the town’s last connection with the doomed ship. She was born in Rugby in 1913 - 17 months after the calamity that claimed 1,500 lives. But she went on to forge a close connection with the ship’s owner - and still remembers him well at the age of 99.

“He was a very lonely man, spending many hours sitting alone in the park,” she recalls of Bruce Ismay, whose decision to desert the ship while women and children were still aboard led to him being described as “The Coward of the Titanic” and “Brute Ismay”.

Agnes grew up in Dunchurch, where she attended school. She wanted to go into service, and when aged 14 did so with the Adnitts, a family of drapers. who lived at 26 Regent Place, Rugby.

But she longed for the bright lights of London - and applying through an agency she secured a job in the kitchen of the sister of Bruce Ismay. It was not long before the Ismays invited Agnes to work for them as a cook and scullery maid.

She said: “I remember he used to order a cottage loaf with the bottom cut off and baked in the oven - we never knew what he did with it.

“He would never come into the kitchen - he always had his meal sent up to his room.”

The Ismays owned a villa at Galway in Ireland and spent June until September in Galway, taking the kitchen staff too. Agnes said: “It was wonderful.

“The Ismays were very kind we were allowed to use their private beach and a little boat.”

Agnes married the First Footman Angus Thwaite who she had known for a long time. “When we had our first baby, Mr Ismay bought the pram,” she said.

The couple eventually moved to Coventry living in Kersley.

Agnes moved into Willowbrook in 2000. She loves art and paints landscapes. “When I went to the optician,” she said, “he told me I was the age of a 65-year-old and had the eyesight of a 30 year old.”

Agnes now lives at a care home run by Coventry care provider The ExtraCare Charitable Trust, Willowbrook in Canley - but her time with the Ismays has left a strong impression.

She said: “Because he took a spare place on the lifeboat, many said he should have gone down with Captain Smith. But the Ismays did have their own circle of people who remained loyal.”