Albert Dick wasn’t ready to settle down. By age 30, he and his brother had opened a string of businesses in Alberta, Canada, and Albert used his spare time to pursue his interests in poker and beautiful women.
Then he met a stunningly attractive 16-year-old, named Vera Gillespie. Vera had all the right family connections, and Albert viewed her as a potential business asset. They were married in May 1911 in Calgary, but postponed their European honeymoon until the end of the year. For their return trip, Albert booked two first class tickets on the great Titanic. They boarded with several cases of new furniture, purchased in London for their new home in Calgary.
At their first dinner on board, a handsome 20-year-old steward from Southampton named Reginald Jones attended their table. Vera struck up a conversation with him about the ship and the food. Annoyed, Albert told Vera she was not to fraternize with the wait staff and accused her of flirting. But Vera continued to speak with Reginald during the meal and whenever she encountered him during the voyage.
On Sunday, April 14, Albert and Vera were invited to dine with Thomas Andrews, Titanic’s main designer. Following dinner, they took a short walk on deck but soon went to their cabin, due to the cold air. The temperature had dropped that evening from 55 to 34 degrees, an indication the ship was entering an ice field.
The couple retired to bed but argued about Vera’s flirting and Albert’s gambling. A noise “like a thunderclap” interrupted them. They were still wondering what could have caused it when someone knocked on their door. It was Reginald Jones. He urged them to dress warmly, bring their lifebelts, and report to the boat deck. He told Albert they may need to board the lifeboats as a precaution.
Passengers strolling near lifeboats on board Titanic
They ran into Thomas Andrews, who led them immediately to Lifeboat 3. Reginald Jones was once again at their service, and helped a frantic Vera aboard. He told her, "Put your life jacket on, Ma'am. It's the latest thing this season." When no other women would board the lifeboat, Albert was allowed on along with other men, including ten firemen. Still only half full, Lifeboat 3 was lowered to the ocean’s surface. Albert and Vera would never forget all the horror that followed as Titanic sank and hundreds of voices moaned for help in the frigid north Atlantic.
Aboard the rescue ship Carpathia, Vera inquired about the friends they’d made on the ship, including Reginald Jones and Thomas Andrews. She was shocked to learn they had both perished. She claimed she and her husband would not have survived if it hadn’t been for their acquaintance with the steward and his kind actions.
Albert and Vera soon returned home to Calgary. Vera studied singing, and had some success in Calgary. Albert, like other men who survived the sinking, was hounded by reporters for years, who questioned his actions on securing a seat in a lifeboat. Patronage declined at one of his businesses, the Hotel Alexandria, so he sold it. In a magazine interview, he stated, “Previously I thought of nothing but money. The Titanic cured me of that. Since then I have been happier than I ever was before.”
The Dick’s had one daughter, Gilda, and one grandson, who is still living. Albert died in 1970, and Vera in 1973.
Plaque commemorating the Albert Dick business block in Calgary
Photo credits: Alan Hustak