Empress of Ireland

crowd of people on ship's deck

Photograph of emigrants on the Empress of Ireland from a postcard dated July 1911 from the Maritime Archives| collection, reference PR 478.

See highlights from the display in the object gallery|.

Two years after the Titanic disaster, Liverpool suffered another major shipping tragedy. This was the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in May 1914.

The Empress of Ireland and her sister, the Empress of Britain, were important ships. They were the first passenger liners to be built especially for the Canadian Pacific Line’s growing emigrant trade from Liverpool to Canada. The two Empresses provided a weekly service from Liverpool, starting in May and June 1906. Larger, faster and more comfortable than their rivals, they soon became the most popular ships on this route.

The Empress of Ireland disaster

Tragedy struck the Empress of Ireland on 29 May 1914 at about 2.30am, soon after she left Quebec, Canada. Most of her 1054 passengers and 413 crew were asleep. In thick fog in the St Lawrence River, the Norwegian collier Storstad collided with her. The liner sank in less than fifteen minutes. More than 1,000 people lost their lives within four miles of the shore.

The loss of the ‘Forgotten Empress’ has always been overshadowed by the Titanic and Lusitania disasters. However, more passengers (840) died on the Empress than on either Lusitania (791), or Titanic (817). 172 crew, mainly from the Liverpool area, also died.

Collection highlights

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