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This is an undated file photo of the "Empress of Ireland". In May 29, 1914 The Canadian Pacific steamship, the Empress of Ireland, collided with a Norwegian freighter near Quebec, sinking in 14 minutes and killing 1,012 people. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
This is an undated file photo of the "Empress of Ireland". In May 29, 1914 The Canadian Pacific steamship, the Empress of Ireland, collided with a Norwegian freighter near Quebec, sinking in 14 minutes and killing 1,012 people. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Empress of Ireland, ‘Canada’s Titanic,’ finally getting its due after 100 years Add to ...

The ship also took many secrets to the riverbed and some believe it may have been cursed.

The Empress’s orange cat, Emmy, jumped off the vessel before it left Quebec City the day before the disaster. Someone caught her and brought her back to the ship, but she ran away a second time, leaving a litter of kittens behind, Grout said.

“Sailors regard that as a terrible omen,” he said of losing a ship’s cat.

A newspaper report also suggested the ship’s captain may have been cursed by a fugitive he helped authorities capture a few years earlier at Father Point, near the site of the Empress disaster.

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, who was later executed after being found guilty of killing his wife, is said to have cursed Capt. Henry George Kendall upon his capture by a Scotland Yard inspector. At the time, the men were aboard the Montrose liner, which Kendall had captained before the Empress.

Grout believes the Empress has received considerable recognition, even though it never had anything close to the Titanic’s Hollywood exposure.

“It doesn’t have the sort of nobility, let’s say, that the Titanic does, but there’s lots of reasons why we should be remembering the Empress,” he said.

“Not only because of the 1,000-plus people who lost their lives in less than 14 minutes. We need to remember the ship because of the contribution that it made, along with other ships of the period, to Canada’s social and economic development.”

Like the Titanic, the Empress had incredible stories of survival and tragedy.

Grout said a stoker working on the Empress had survived the Titanic sinking. That man, William Clark, found his way out of the Empress boiler room after the collision and reached safety once again.

Delamont’s sacrifice was featured on the front page of the Toronto World a few days after the disaster under the headline, Heroic Son Gave Life to Save His Mother.

“Feeling the vessel rapidly sinking, the son, a moment later, kissed his mother goodbye and jumping into the water swam off into the darkness to never again be seen alive,” said the article, published a few days after the sinking.

Delamont’s niece said she enjoys cruises and has participated in many mandatory lifeboat drills — none of which she feels would have been quick enough on the rapidly sinking Empress.

“Just think that that ship sunk in 14 minutes,” said Ivany. “I can’t imagine it.”

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