At 14, Ethel Clarke of Norwich, England wasn’t ready for marriage. But the thought of emigrating to America appealed to her, so when Edward Beane proposed and asked her to wait until he saved enough money, she said yes.
Edward, 27, crossed the Atlantic with his two brothers and obtained work as a bricklayer in New York, earning better wages than at his old construction job in England. He wrote to Ethel and came home to visit when he could, traveling in steerage to save money. After six years, he and Ethel had saved 500 dollars plus enough for two second class tickets on the Titanic to New York. They were married in Norwich, said goodbye to their families, and left for Southampton.
Edward and Ethel Beane in a 1930s photo
Edward and Ethel were in their cabin when the ship struck the iceberg. They didn’t think much of the jolt they felt until a woman in a nearby cabin came to tell them about the order to come to the boat deck with lifebelts, and to wear warm clothes. Edward urged Ethel to hurry and not worry about bringing any of their few valuables. Most of their savings was locked in the purser's office.
On the boat deck, Ethel was quickly ushered to Lifeboat 13 and had no time for more than a quick kiss from Edward. Three or four more passengers were loaded before it was launched, but Ethel lost sight of her husband. He would surely take another lifeboat, she thought.
Edward was indeed rescued, but the stories conflict of how it happened. He and Ethel told different versions of that night to reporters. In one, Edward stated he kept an eye on his wife’s lifeboat from the deck of the Titanic. Then, as the ship sank, he jumped and swam “for hours” until he reached it and was pulled aboard. The problem with this story is that a passenger in Lifeboat 13, Lawrence Beesley, wrote a detailed account of the entire night shortly afterward and never mentioned rescuing anyone from the water. Some passengers had wanted to return to help those in the water, but most refused, feeling their boat would be swamped.
Another version the Beane’s gave the press stated that Edward was picked up by another lifeboat and he didn’t find Ethel on the Carpathia until after it docked in New York. This seems unlikely, however, because great care was taken to compile accurate passenger lists and roll calls were taken to help passengers find each other.
It’s possible that Edward did jump aboard Lifeboat 13 at the last minute before launch, when no other women or children were available or willing to board. Like other male survivors, he probably encountered public ridicule for not being “a gentleman” and going down with the ship, and he and Ethel made up the other stories to ease his guilt.
Edward Beane is listed as a Lifeboat 13 passenger by Encyclopedia Titanica, one of the main sources I use in my research of the Titanic, and in several other written accounts.
Edward and Ethel with their two sons
The Beanes managed to make a new life in Rochester, New York, raised two sons, and vowed to never cross the ocean again. Edward died at the age of 67 and Ethel at the age of 90.
Beane family descendants in a replica of the Titanic wireless room