Mary White Worthington’s Encounter with the Titanic Disaster

With the story of the RMS Titanic back in the public eye, many are continuing to reflect on this historic event over 110 years later. The global impact of the sinking of the Titanic is captured in the travel journal kept by one Frederick Countian and now preserved in the archives of Heritage Frederick. 

Mary White Worthington’s 1912 Travel Diary

Mary White Worthington was born on February 22, 1880, in Ijamsville to Nicholas and Alice Worthington. She lived in Adamstown for many years and spent the last years of her life in downtown Frederick before her death in 1972. In April 1912, Mary embarked on a nine-month tour of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, crossing the Atlantic at the same time as the Titanic disaster. Her journal recorded in real time her own perspective and emotions as well as those of others who were traveling abroad (and by ship!) in the days after the tragic sinking of the famous ocean liner.

Mary and her traveling companions departed from Boston on April 6, 1912 aboard the liner SS Cretic. After arriving in Gibraltar two days after the sinking of the Titanic, she wrote about the voyage in her diary and described the anxiety felt by other passengers on board: “At one time we sighted icebergs and felt the effect of them. We supposed we were in the neighborhood of the Titanic accident which happened while we were crossing.” Having experienced similar luxuries on the Cretic as passengers had enjoyed on the Titanic, Mary and her fellow passengers considered the thought of a similar fate befalling their voyage.

On board a train traveling to Naples, Mary met two Catholic priests from Pennsylvania. She played cards and conversed with the two men who shared their experience of being passengers aboard the RMS Carpathia the night of the sinking of the Titanic. One month after the disaster, Mary wrote “had luncheon on the train and met two Pennsylvania men, Mr. Burke and Mr. McCarthy. They had crossed on Carpathia, which rescued the Titanic survivors. We were interested to hear all the details.”

Rev. Henry P. Burke and Rev. Daniel McCarthy were aboard the Carpathia on a visit to Rome and the Holy Land. The Scranton Times reported that both men comforted traumatized survivors, even giving up their shared first-class state room to Titanic passengers. Burke and McCarthy slept on the floor of the Carpathia’s saloon while the ship returned to New York with the survivors. 

Mary’s travel journal goes on to describe her visits to Italy – where she saw works of art from the Renaissance – ancient cities in Egypt, Greece, and Israel, pre-revolution Russia, the Olympic Games in Stockholm, and the metropolitan cities of London and Paris. Her trip concluded with a visit with her brothers, Nicholas, Arthur, and Charles, who lived in South Africa where they owned an ice factory. Mary’s travel diary preserves the unique perspective of one Frederick County resident as she experienced one of the most famous historical events of the twentieth century. 

July 10, 2023 by Kayleigh Trischman, Heritage Frederick Intern