Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tragedy marked in city

Museum exhibit cites disaster's local victims

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It was the upgrade of a lifetime -- Leonard Hickman was given three second-class tickets on the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic as compensation after his trip to Manitoba with his entire family was cancelled due to a coal strike.

Hickman and his brothers died in the epic sinking a century ago today, but their connection to Manitoba is stamped in history. In Neepawa, the only Titanic memorial in Western Canada pays tribute to the brothers.

This is just one of the stories featured in Titanic: The Manitoba Connection, at the Manitoba Museum to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking. Using scenes from the James Cameron film Titanic, the presentation tells the stories of 13 Manitobans and 16 immigrants to the province on board the ill-fated ship.

"Some passengers on board helped build our city," said museum animator Dan Gowryluk.

There was Mark Fortune, who owned an important parcel of land from Portage Avenue to the Assiniboine River and John James Borebank, who subdivided River Heights.

Another part of Manitoba's Titanic connection is also on display -- large panels of the Manitoba Free Press front pages line the room. One page, dated April 19, 1912, has the headline: Titanic sank as band played 'Nearer my God to thee' -- 1,601 lives lost. Another, on April 24, 1912, included a hand-drawn diagram showing how the ship sank in stages by the hour.

Winnipeg's landmark Walker Theatre, now the Burton Cummings Theatre, was the venue of many benefit concerts for those affected by the disaster.

Benjamin Hart brought his family to Winnipeg so he could open a drugstore. He was survived by his wife, Esther, and seven-year-old daughter, Eva, who became a strong critic of the disaster, decrying the lack of lifeboats.

Eva's story is shown in Cameron's film when a father hands over his little girl to be put in a lifeboat, saying, "Hold Mummy's hand and be a good girl." Legally, there were enough lifeboats on the Titanic, but not enough for the number of people on board.

"The British law said you only needed enough for 962 people," said Gowryluk. He said the Titanic had enough lifeboats to hold more than 1,000, but not that many survived.

It's the scope of the disaster that has held the interest of Roy and Amy Bridgeman since they learned about it in school. Now in their early 30s, the couple brought their three children to the exhibit to experience the history.

"It's important to make it more real for them," said Roy Bridgeman, whose son Quinn, 10, already knew about a Canadian connection, but not the Manitoba part.

daniella.ponticelli@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2012 A3

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