TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Titanic Articles: Biography of Mary Kezziah Roberts

By Colin Brittain

 

I have looked for a family descendant of Mary Kezziah Roberts, a survivor of the ill fated Titanic just two years before the loss of the Rohilla. The story of the Rohilla never ceases to amaze me and following the release of my book (Buy here) I have gotten letters and emails from people related in one way or another to the loss of the hospital ship. I also get emails sometimes with a general enquiry but sometimes with something specific leading to a new development.

F Roberts.tifReceiving an email from Mandy, a great great granddaughter of Mary Kezziah Roberts, the stewardess that had survived the sinking of the Titanic enthused me and we have both enjoyed exchanging information with each other allowing me the unique opportunity of learning more. The information has led me to a photograph of Mary Kezziah Roberts along with other stewardesses that survived the Titanic's loss. Usually when the Rohilla is discussed either personally or in publications there is often a mention of a stewardess that survived the Titanic, but I felt that it would be nice to explain a little more about Mary Kezziah Roberts and I have also enclosed some photographs which might prove interesting.

Mary Kezia Humphreys was born in Liverpool on Wednesday 19th October 1870. Aged 26 she married David Roberts on the 2nd December 1896, strangely her marriage certificate has her age listed as 24 and bearing a middle name of "Dooley?" Their only son Francis was born two years later on the 9th April and followed his father's footsteps as an electrical engineer. They also had three daughters, Keziah Norah (1901), Daisy Bell (1906), and Kathleen with research yet to identify when she was born.

Stewardesses in Plymouth.jpgAged 42, Mary Kezziah Roberts signed onto the Titanic at Southampton on the 6th April 1912 listing her address as 9 Chestnut Grove, Nottingham. Before joining the Titanic as a member of the victualling crew her previous ship had been the Adriatic II. The Adriatic II was the last of White Star Line's turn of the century "Big Four", and the only one of the four which was never 'the world's largest ship'. This ship, the second to bear the same name, was built by Harland and Wolff, Belfast, and launched in 1906 (coincidentally the same year as the Rohilla). Adriatic II made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 8th May 1907, but her return was to Southampton, as the White Star Line moved its principal terminal there. Adriatic made White Star Line's first Southampton departure on the 5th June.

During the loss of the Titanic, Mary Kezziah Roberts was placed into lifeboat 11 or 16 and later picked up by the Carpathia before finally disembarking at the Titanic's intended destination of New York on Thursday 18th April 1912. Although not easy I have been fortunate enough to find a photograph of stewardesses that had survived the loss of the Titanic which includes Mary Kezziah Roberts.

Back home, Mary 's family waited anxiously for news of her status, the Nottingham Daily Express carried the following on Thursday the 18th April;

A NOTTINGHAM STEWARDESS

Mrs. M. K. Roberts , one of the stewardesses, is the wife of the principal of the West Bridgford Motor Company, 9, Chestnut Grove, West Bridgford, and has been in the service of the White Star Line for some years. She was recently transferred to the Titanic and was at home with her husband and family only a few weeks ago for a brief stay prior to proceeding to Southampton. It is understood that Mr. Roberts has not yet received any official communication in regard to the matter. He has, of course, dispatched messages in request of information, but it is not probable that any definite reply will be obtained before Friday. The case is rendered all the more painful by the fact that there are five children, the oldest of whom is 13 and the youngest three years of age.

This was followed by another short piece on Saturday 20th April which read;

WEST BRIDGFORD LADY SAFE

Mr. Roberts of 9 Chestnut Grove, West Bridgford , whose wife was a stewardess on the Titanic, has received a cablegram announcing that she is safe.

NOTE : Research indicates only four children, also at the time of the Titanic's loss Francis as the eldest child was 14, Norah 11 and Daisy 6 years of age, therefore if the newspaper is correct the three year could possibly be Kathleen ?

Despite surviving the Titanic Mary Kezziah Roberts continued her career as a stewardess, leaving Southampton just six weeks later engaged on the Majestic I for the remainder of 1912. Extracts from the Registrar General Agreements ( Certificate of Discharge ) show the Majestic I as departing from Southampton on the 22nd May, 12th June, 24th July, 14th August and the 4th September.

In 1914 Mary Kezziah Roberts boarded the ill fated Rohilla miraculously surviving that tragedy too being brought ashore by the Whitby No 2 lifeboat " John Fielden " on its first run to the wrecked vessel. The survivor of two great sea disasters, Keziah declared that of the two catastrophes the sinking of the Rohilla was the worse to endure. It is likely that in surviving the loss of the Titanic Mary Kezziah Roberts was put aboard the ships lifeboat in what may have been cold but fairly settled sea conditions. In complete contrast to the circumstances surrounding the Rohilla where the survivors had to endure horrendous gale conditions and the ship slowly breaking apart. One would have thought that having survived two major maritime losses that she might have chosen another career.

Mary Kezziah Roberts served her last commission on another Harland and Wolff vessel, the SS Rajputan , official number 146361. Embarking in London on the 14th February 1929 the Rajputan was bound for Bombay where Mary Kezziah Roberts was discharged on the 8th March the same year.

I have a copy of a small letter from Norah Keziah Mathews (nee Roberts ) in which she contacted the BBC about the telegrams she had confirming her mother's survival after the loss of the Titanic and the Rohilla. The letter was typewritten when Norah was 64 and mentions how she was 11 years of age when her mother embarked on the Titanic, there is a brief mention of a book her mother wrote, though to date no - one has yet found any more information that might lead us to it.

Mary Kezziah Roberts passed away aged 62 on the 2nd January in 1932, a year before her husband David Roberts who died in a motorcycle accident, they are buried together in the church of St Mary the Virgin Church, London Road, Ewell, Epsom, Surrey. They left behind four children Frank ( Francis ), Keziah Norah , Daisy Bell and Kathleen .

Within the confines of the church there lies a memorial reading;

In memory of Mary Keziah Roberts 1870 - 1932 David Roberts

1875 - 1933 and

Daisy Bell Roberts 1906 - 2003. Keziah Norah Matthews

( Roberts ) 1901 - 1984.

The 1901 Census shows them living in Ashburton Derby, 3 Histon Street .

 

David , Mary , Frank ( Francis ) Kathleen , Kezia

 

 

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