The Boxers on the Titanic

Dai Bowen and Leslie Williams couldn’t believe their luck. The young Welsh boxers had been chosen out of hundreds of contenders to travel to the United States to compete in a series of boxing contests. An American sports promoter, Frank Torreyson, had paid for their passage across the Atlantic on the Lusitania and would act as their manager. But Leslie, 24, couldn’t go until his new clothes arrived from the tailor. After all, clothing would be more expensive in America, and he would be gone a year. So, with new clothing and all the good wishes of their families and boxing enthusiasts across Wales, the pair were rebooked on another ship sailing a few days later, the Titanic.



Dai Bowen

leslie williams

leslie williams

Leslie Williams

David John “Dai” Bowen, 20, wrote to his mother on April 11, 1912, one day after Titanic left Southampton. He mailed the letter when the ship docked in Cherbourg, France.

“This is a lovely boat… she is like a floating palace, against you walk from one end of her to the other you are tired. We are landing in France the time I am writing you this, you don’t know whether she is moving or not for she goes very steady. Dear Mother, I hope that you won’t worry yourself about me, I can tell you that I am a lot better than I thought I would be, for we gets plenty of fun on board.”

He went on to tell his mother how good the food was, “but not as good as back home.”

The men traveled on one ticket as Third Class passengers, and planned to use the ship’s gymnasium to stay in shape for their American debuts. But the gym was reserved for First Class passengers only. Perhaps an exception was made for the two promising boxers.

When the Titanic struck an iceberg on the night of April 14 and sank, neither man survived. Dai Bowen’s body was not recovered. He was unmarried.

Leslie Williams’ body was recovered by the ship Mackay-Bennett and was buried at sea. He left behind a pregnant wife and young son. She eventually remarried and had several more children.

news after boxers die o n titanic

news after boxers die o n titanic

Newspaper article detailing benefit to take place to help the boxers' families after the sinking.

Photo credits:,

The Dream in Their Hearts - Titanic Honeymoons Part XIII

This post concludes our look at each of Titanic’s 13 honeymoon couples. They came from different countries, different walks of life, and had various reasons for sailing on Titanic. Some survived the sinking and were able to carry on with their lives. In some cases, the husband or wife lived but were forever separated from their spouse. Others went to their deaths together. They each had their own love story.

Sir Thomas Lipton grew up in Glasgow, Scotland and started the first Lipton’s grocery store there in 1870. By 1888, one store grew to 300. He then created the Lipton’s tea brand and established it across Europe and North America.

To young Neal McNamee, a new Lipton employee in Derry, Ireland, Sir Thomas was a hero. Neal planned to start his own business one day and became a dedicated, hard-working employee, soon earning a promotion to the London store in 1910. Then, when Eileen O’Leary applied for a cashier’s job at the store in nearby Salisbury, he was so taken with her charm and beauty that he soon began courting her. It wasn’t long before the two fell in love.


Eileen and Neal McNamee

Neal had been offered a position at Lipton’s new store in New York City, so when he proposed to Eileen, she knew she would need to leave her family behind. Also, Neal was Catholic and she was a committed Baptist. With interfaith marriage not being acceptable at the time, Eileen would need to convert to Catholicism. But she loved Neal, and the two had great dreams for the future. She accepted Neal's proposal, and the two were married in January, 1912. For their transportation to their new life in New York, Neal booked a small third class cabin on the new ship everyone was talking about, the RMS Titanic.

th (3)

One of Titanic's third class public rooms

Sir Thomas Lipton gave Neal a glowing letter of recommendation to present to the manager of his New York store. Eileen received her own letter from the mayor of Salisbury, thanking her for serving as a Sunday School teacher at her church and praising her fine character.

On April 10, the couple checked into their cabin and enjoyed the comfortable third class dining room and other public areas during the voyage. But no surviving witnesses recalled seeing them after the Titanic collided with the iceberg. Some stewards directed third class passengers toward the boat deck, others found it themselves, and many others waited in their cabins for instructions, due in part to language barriers. 


Third class menu from the last day aboard Titanic

Eileen’s body was found by the recovery ship Mackay-Bennett. She had apparently taken some time to dress in several layers of warm clothing and she still clung to her purse. It’s assumed she and Neal had reached the outer decks and were not stuck somewhere inside the ship. Neal’s body, however, was not found.

Today in a Salisbury park, a memorial plaque and bench pay tribute to these two young lives full of hope and dreams for their future together.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Titanic Honeymoons series of posts. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Next week, we’ll continue with another aspect of the great RMS Titanic.


When Time Stood Still - Titanic Honeymoons Part XI

John Chapman had worked alongside his father, a tenant farmer, for as long as he could. By age 31, he still hadn’t been able to save enough money to buy a small farm of his own and marry his sweetheart, Lizzie Lawry. Fed up with the fickle climate of Cornwall and frequent arguments with his father, John headed to Canada in 1906, hoping to earn a living and come back for Lizzie.

lizzie lawry's extended family

Lizzie Lawry (bottom right) with her extended family

After four years in Canada, John moved to the state of Washington and worked as a grave digger. Finally, in 1911, he returned to Cornwall, where he and Lizzie were married. She was 28, and John was 36. The couple decided to emigrate to Wisconsin where Lizzie’s brother had moved, so John booked two second class tickets on Titanic.

On board, the Chapmans met other families from Cornwall. After dinner on April 14, they participated in hymn singing in the dining room and had coffee and cookies, brought around by the stewards. Later, as they talked in bed, they felt a jolt. John checked with others in the corridor. When a steward instructed them to come on deck with their lifejackets, he stuffed Lizzie’s purse with their marriage certificate, baggage receipt, baggage insurance form, and all their money.

They reached the port side, where “Women and children only,” was the order given by Second Officer Charles Lightoller. Lizzie boarded a lifeboat, but when she realized John was not able to join her, she immediately climbed out, refusing to be separated from him. John held tight to Lizzie’s purse, and they were last seen clinging to railings as Titanic’s bow dipped below the icy waters of the north Atlantic.

The recovery ship, Mackay-Bennett, picked up John’s body, still clutching Lizzie’s purse. In his pocket was his watch, which had stopped at 1:45 am, approximately 35 minutes before the ship completely sank.  Lizzie’s body was never found.

john chapman marker

John Chapman's grave marker, Halifax, Nova Scotia

John’s pocket watch and other personal effects were given to his father, who passed them on to his nephew. The watch is now on display in the Maritime Museum, Cornwall.