On February 14th, 1912, John Gill, age 24, a Second Class passenger aboard the R.M.S. Titanic, wed his sweetheart Sarah Hodder. John had been living in Wisconsin for some years and missing his native country England, corresponded with friends and family, and in doing so fell hopelessly in love with Sarah, his many romantic postcards to his lady love reflect his feelings. He moved back to Clevedon, England, acquired a respectable position as the Reverend Braithwaite’s chauffer. Then on Valentine’s Day, he fulfilled his dream of love by marrying his precious Sarah.
John always one to plan ahead had realized that although deeply devoted to his Mother England, opportunities were plenty in the U.S. and decided to travel back to his adopted country to establish a new homestead for his new bride and himself. It was hard for him to leave Sarah; after all they were newly married, but wanting the best for their future, girded himself for the long separation and boarded The Titanic in Southampton on the morning of April 10th, 1912. He had arrived too late to board the beautiful ship the night before and was forced to spend the night in the back of a taxi carriage, in fact John woke with a start that morning having slept so heavily the night before he nearly missed boarding the doomed liner. But he did not “miss the boat”, he indeed boarded and with it he mailed his last bit of correspondence to Sarah, commented he had never seen such a “big ship”.
On the two month anniversary of the newlywed’s marriage, John Gill went down with the ship. On April 23rd his body was recovered by the Makay-Bennett, his body was numbered 155 and he was buried at sea on April 24th.
Correspondence between White Star Line and Sarah Gill was perceived as perfunctory at best. Personal effects were returned, a gold watch and chain, a small pocket comb and knife, $43.00 and change, his keys and gold ring, his wedding ring. Sarah desperately wanted John shipped home to her, but alas The Makay-Bennett had already assigned his body to the deep, and she would have been unable to wire the twenty pounds required for shipment or burial in Halifax.
Cold, a cold death, a cold burial, and a cold response to a young widow who never remarried. Because of this traumatic turn in events, Sarah refused or could not speak for twenty years after the incident, only after tumbling down a flight of stairs did Sarah emerge from her long silence.
The John Gill display at the Titanic Museum is one of our strongest groupings of artifacts, and it’s also one of our saddest stories. With so many heartbreaking stories, John and Sarah’s story has always been one that stands out in my mind. Especially this past Valentine’s Day at the museum.
We had a number of wedding vow renewals and two of these couples were actually celebrating their wedding anniversary with a vow renewal on The Grande Staircase. Many couples do decide to wed on this well known holiday celebrating romance, it’s not uncommon, and in fact it’s really quite charming. What is unusual is this last Sunday, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, one of our couples not only were celebrating their anniversary by renewing their wedding vows on The Grande Staircase, their names were John and Sarah.