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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Search for husband sealed wife, daughter's fate

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When Hudson Allison arrived in Winnipeg from Montreal in 1905 to open his uncle's insurance bureaus, he quickly forged a strong friendship with prominent bachelors Thomson Beattie, Hugo Ross and Charles Fortune and their extended circle.

When he left two years later, none of them could have imagined fate would reunite them on the boat deck of the Titanic as the doomed ocean liner sank beneath them.

Hud, as he was known to friends and family, had come to Winnipeg at the height of a building boom that had made his new friends very wealthy. Commuting frequently to Montreal, he met his future bride, Bess, on a train in 1907.

Five years later, he took his wife and two young children with him to Britain, a business trip mixed with the pleasures of buying furniture for their new home in Westmount and heavy horses for his ranch adjacent to his boyhood farm near Chesterville, Ont.

The Allisons boarded the Titanic with old friends and dinner partners Maj. Arthur Peuchen and Markland Molson and bumped into his Winnipeg friends who were returning home after a two-month grand tour of Italy, the pyramids and the Aegean.

Their stories all ended badly.

Only Peuchen survived, saved by a deck officer who asked him to slide down a rope to help row an undermanned Lifeboat 6.

Charlie Fortune vanished with his father after they'd loaded his mother and sisters into a lifeboat.

Molson disappeared after setting off to swim to a ship estimated to be about 16 kilometres away.

Beattie had a chance, washed off the deck by a late wave and into Collapsible A. But his time in the cold water sealed his fate. He died from exposure before morning.

In sheer scope, the Andersson family, heading to a farm near Winnipeg, was singularly tragic. Sailing steerage class, the parents and their children, aged 2, 4, 6, 9 and 11 simply vanished beneath the waves.

But the loss of the Allisons was perhaps the most poignant. Bess and two-year-old Loraine were actually safely seated in Lifeboat 6 early in the evening. It was among the first three boats to be lowered, rowed by the Unsinkable Molly Brown, commanded by the sailor who was at the wheel when the Titanic hit the iceberg, and salvation to Peuchen.

"Mrs. Allison could have gotten away in perfect safety," he said later, "but she dragged Loraine out of the boat when she was told her husband was in another boat on the opposite side of the deck. Apparently, she reached the other side to find that Mr. Allison was not there."

The boat was gone by the time they returned.

Bess Allison was one of only four women sailing first class to die that night; Loraine, aged 2, was the only child in first or second class to perish.

All were doomed by their futile search for their missing infant, Trevor, after being separated from nursemaid Alice Cleaver in the early confusion, which soon became chaos, then finally panic.

As the end neared and the water rose, Hud and his family had no idea their 11-month-old son was bundled safely in Cleaver's arms in Lifeboat 11 floating nearby.

Only Hud's body was recovered. Dead at 30, he was buried in the family plot in Chesterville.

Trevor was raised by uncles but died at 18 from food poisoning and rests beside his father.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2012 J4

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