Editor’s note: We received the following letter from a generous reader, Mr. Robert Dalby. It is a copy of a letter sent to his grandmother, Mabel Dalby, by a passenger on the Cunard liner Carpathia, since famous as the ship that rescued the Titanic survivors on the night of 15th April, 1912. The writer was a young woman on her honeymoon, preoccupied with thoughts of her new husband and of her wedding gifts, who found herself in the midst of the historic tragedy:
Dear old Mab–
Upon going to my stateroom after the ship broke loose from New York dock, I was handed your cards to me, the card to Hutch, and the letter to me. Golly they tasted good! Your old same old, old same Mab to tuck inside the envelope a dainty remembrance for me. That dear little Madiera handkerchief! You may rest pretty secure on the point that it will never be laundried in some horrid foreign hotel, where it can be rubbed to death and yours truly not at hand to say, “no.” You would be surprised to see how Hutch appreciated his card too. He thought it pretty good. Of course you show your old self when you express regret that you are unable to go into Chicago and purchase for me everything in sight for my trip. It is just as well for both of us, this once, that you couldn’t because I had to boil down my belongings to the very lowest point in order to get all in the quarters Hutch provided me. He wanted to start out loosely loaded in order to have accommodations for cards, trinkets and souvenirs as we go along. Not a bad idea either.
Ah Mab my dear pendant! It is this.–Black with diamonds. Shaded stone is opal. Clusters of threes around edge left white are whole pearls. The whole thing is set in platinum. The triangle at the top is the link for the chain to run through and on it are three diamonds. I am crazy for you to see it. I had to leave it and my engagement ring in Hutch’s safe deposit box as I feared harm might come to them, besides, the worry over there would wear me out. I hated beyond all reason to leave them behind, especially the pendant as you know how crazy a girl is over something new.
Hutch’s club gave us a set of sterling silver, beautiful, consisting of.–
1 doz Knives
1 doz Forks
1 doz small spoons
1 doz soup spoons
1/2″ table spoons
all matched. Plain Colonial pattern. Got two different $50.00 making a jolly $100. Got a cut glass punch bowl & stand from Papa’s business associates, wonderfully beautiful. Got large sterling tea, coffee, sugar, cream and bowl set from business friend of Hutch’s in Pgh. Got mahogany tray over two feet long from Katharine Deene; drop light from Dunnie; linens, several odd sets of spoons & forks, water color picture, Copley print, 1 1/2 doz. Madiera napkins & lunch cloth, brass candelabra, copper mission coffee & tea set, odd dippers (4), quilts, salad forks, and smaller things I love dearly but which I haven’t time to relate. People must love me after all, for folks sent me things who didn’t even know the exact date.
We dined at the Waldorf-Astoria in N.Y. also at Murray’s. Sailed 11th and when not 1200 miles had the mission of picking up the survivors of the ill-fated “Titanic” thrust upon us. The horror of it all! The suffering and the guilt when those poor people were on board was terrible. Of course some of our plans had to be changed because we are late returning to New York, but we were all very glad to be able to serve the poor grief stricken people in our humble way. And talk about a honeymoon! I hardly saw my new found lord from Sunday to Thursday as we gave up our stateroom altogether that the two extra berths might be made up in it to accommodate four shipwrecked people. While we went into quarters with a man and his wife who sat at our table from St. Louis. Everyone doubled up. You don’t know how funny it was to sleep with that couple in the other half of the tiny room. We women turned in first in the two lowers and then the men came in after we drew our curtains. They rose first and dressed up and got out and then we tackled it, us two women. No one dreams we are newlyweds and we tell them we have been married over two years. You see we have gone together for so many years all the froth and goo-goo is absent which helps us run the bluff. One dear old man, a judge from Adams, Mass., asked me yesterday, when talking about his young son seven years of age, whether we had any children. Honest! Well I said a weak “no” and knocked on wood. Ah me!
The honeymoon dearie has been badly eaten into by this horrible experience of which you have read in the papers. It has taken the spirits out of me, and taken the beauty out of the sea. It is now a foe rather than nature’s beauty.
Good bye you old faithful soul, I love you as much as ever, which is pretty near a whole lot. Love to all. Hope wee Gordon is better.
April 24, 1912
SPREADING THE CHEDDAR AROUND
We found Claire Hopley’s article about Cheddar cheese most interesting (February/March 2000), but we note an omission relative to cheddar-producing regions in the U.S.
Only Vermont, New York, and Wisconsin are mentioned, but some of the best cheddar we have found is produced in our own state of Oregon, in Tillamook County. I have sent this cheddar to relatives who live in the milk-producing area of Minnesota, and they advise me that they’ve never tasted anything as good.
ROCK OF AGES
In the February/March issue I read with interest and joy Dana Huntley’s informative article on England’s “Grand” canyon (Cheddar Gorge, page 20) and was surprised, having read his church and music credentials, that his article did not include brief mention of the famous “sheltering rock.”
In 1770 a cleric of the Church of England, the Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady was attending pastoral duties, travelling through the Cheddar Gorge trail on foot when a violent storm erupted. The cleric did what any sensible traveller would do; take refuge in the nearest rock crevice and wait out the storm. Evidently it was a long and fierce storm that became quite frightening, but as thunder rumbled through the canyon the cleric remained dry and spiritually awed by this force of nature. So much so, he was inspired to write the most beloved and immortal lines, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me/Let me hide myself in thee.”
Not high on the tourist list, but for those who wish to visit the site (and maybe take shelter) there is a plaque on the rock. You may need to check with the locals for the exact location.
East Walpole, Massachusetts
Editor’s note: Our thanks to the several readers who wrote to us about Augustus Toplady’s inspirational experience. For reasons of space, it’s unfortunately not always possible to mention some of the notable historical anecdotes connected to the places we write about in the magazine. Coincidently, however, Mr. Huntley shared this same story with a group of BRITISH HERITAGE readers which he lead on a tour through Cheddar Gorge in the autumn of 1998. According to Dana, the exact spot where Toplady took shelter from the storm is near Burrington, a half-dozen miles north of the Gorge on the B3134.