A poignant 100-year-old portrait of an Athlone mother and her five sons who all perished on the Titanic will go under the hammer in Dublin next month.
The historic photograph of Margaret Rice, neé Norton, who originally hailed from Connolly Street, Athlone, and her five sons ranging in age from ten years of age to just two, is believed to have been taken in late 1911 or early 1912 at a local studio prior to their departure for America. Tragically, the entire family later perished in the infamous Titanic disaster on April 15, 1912.
Mealy's Auctioneers in Dublin said that the photo had been kept by the woman's relatives and passed down through the generations. It is being reluctantly sold by a descendant still living in Athlone and is expected to fetch up to €1,500 at auction.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent this week, auctioneer George F. Mealy, who is handling the sale, explains that the widowed Mrs Rice, had returned to Ireland in 1910 after her husband William died in a rail accident and she received an insurance settlement of £300. In the 1911 census she is listed as living at rented accommodation with her family at 9 Castle Street, Athlone.
Then 39, she also described herself as a retired American widow.
"This is the original photo from the period. It seems to have been meant as keepsake or a present to her family left behind before they went back to America," George F. Mealy of Mealy's Rare Books pointed out this week.
In 1912, Margaret decided to return to Washington and booked the passage on the Titanic for herself and sons Albert, George, Eric, Arthur and Eugene. Her third class ticket number was 382652, costing £29.
The Athlone native embarked for the ill-fated voyage at Queenstown, now Cobh in Co Cork, but poignantly, never made it back to the land of opportunity when the ship hit an iceberg and the so-called unsinkable Titanic capsized and the entire family were lost at sea.
Margaret's body was later recovered by a cable-laying ship, and she was identified through a box of pills on her person purchased at an Athlone pharmacy. She is buried at Mount Olivet cemetery. However, the bodies of her children were never recovered.
The sale of the portrait is scheduled to take place in the Berkeley Court Hotel, Dublin, on December 14 next.