News from the Macclesfield Courier and Herald of Saturday 15th May 1915.
Miss Agnes and Miss Evelyn Wild rescued from the Lusitania
Two Macclesfield Ladies’ Experiences
Two of the survivors were Macclesfield ladies named Miss Agnes and Miss Evelyn Norbury Wild, the second and youngest daughters of Mr J. H. Wild, designer and card cutter, late of “Brook Bank”, Chestergate, and now of Paterson, America. Mr. Wild and his family left the town some three years ago, and the two young ladies were about to spend a short time in this country and for this purpose they had embarked on the Lusitania. They embarked on the first of May, and had an uneventful voyage across the Atlantic until they came in sight of the Irish coast.
Miss Agnes Wild, seen by our representative on Monday morning at the Queen’s Hotel, Macclesfield, detailed her experiences as follows:
Throughout the voyage the threat of the Germans to blow up the Lusitania had been the common topic of discussion among the passengers, but no one seemed to take the matter seriously. Only half an hour before the thing actually occurred she was chatting with one of the officers and three of the engineers of the boat about the same matter, and they simply laughed at the idea of the vessel coming to any harm as they were then in sight of the Irish coast and steaming at the rate of 17 knots an hour. The sea was beautiful, bright and clear, and no one dreamed of anything untoward happening at that time. Shortly after conversing with the officers, the ladies referred to went down to the saloon to lunch, and whilst they were thus engaged they heard a tremendous explosion, which caused the ship to stop dead and give a kind of a stagger. When this occurred every one of the passengers seated at the tables looked at each other as if asking what it all meant, and then a cry went round that they had been torpedoed and this was the signal for a regular stampede towards the main stairway. The two sisters Wild were not far from the main stairway, but before they could reach it there was a wild rush which prevented anyone getting clear away. Miss Wild said that she heard someone say that the ship had been struck, and then the commotion became something awful, and those wedged in the crush about the main stairway could scarcely move. Fortunately she was acquainted with the stairway leading by a back way from the saloon along by the cabins to the main deck, and along this she dragged her sister, urging on her all the time to keep cool. Along the passages they did not meet a soul, and they were able to gain the main stairway a long way ahead of those who were in the saloon with them at the time the boat was struck. When they reached the stairway it was a scene of terrible confusion, where everybody was trying to get up first. By dint of struggling they managed to get up on to the main deck, and although only a few minutes had elapsed since the first alarm, the boat was beginning to list fearfully.
A MIRACULOUS ESCAPE
On reaching the deck they found that all the people were rushing towards the part that was the furthest from the water, but she saw that they were unable to get the boats into the water from that side, so she and her sister made for the lower side of the vessel, which at that time was very near to the water, and there they found that there were very few people. Amongst the few that were there was Mr. Ernest Cowper, a well-known American journalist, with whom they were acquainted. As there appeared to be no prospect of getting away from the boat at that side, Miss Wild dragged her sister towards the first-class deck, and as she did so the vessel gave a still greater list and she fell almost into the sea. She had just about given herself up as lost when she was rescued by a stoker, who was standing near, and she was put into a lifeboat, although she had no distinct recollection of it at the time. The next she remembered was that her sister was handed into the same boat, and that her sister was wearing a lifebelt. She had then time to notice that she had a lifebelt herself, but that did not matter, as she was safely in the boat by then.
JUST IN TIME
There were about 38 in the lifeboat, but there was no one in command, and the utmost confusion seemed to reign on the decks above. The vessel was then rapidly sinking, and when most of the other lifeboats had cleared away it seemed to strike someone in their boat that they were still attached to the vessel by means of the painter, which nobody had thought of cutting away. It was only at the last moment that someone in the boat seemed to have the presence of mind to cut away the rope which held them still bound to the Lusitania, and they just managed to get clear before she sank.
A QUARTER OF AN HOUR IN SINKING
Miss Wild said that there seemed to be considerable misapprehension as to the time which elapsed between the vessel being struck and sinking. As a matter of fact, she said, it was not more than a quarter of an hour. She said that she was wearing her wristlet watch at the time, and when the first shock was felt she looked at her watch and she did the same when the Lusitania settled down and sank, and she found there was exactly a quarter of an hour between the two times. Theirs was the last boat to leave the side of the ill-fated vessel, and as they cut away she could plainly see people clinging to the ropes at the stern of the vessel as she settled down, and their boat was only a very short distance away when the Lusitania heeled over and took a dive bow first into the depths.
HOW THEY WERE LANDED
The sea was perfectly calm at the time, and their boat hovered round the spot to try to rescue anyone they could see. They picked up one old lady about 75 years of age, who was being kept afloat by means of a lifebelt which she was wearing. They afterwards picked up several others, and then they began to row away. There were very few of those in the boat who were able to give any assistance with the rowing, and the sisters Wild both rendered assistance in this direction. After about three hours’ rowing, they came across an Irish fishing boat with four men aboard, and they took them in tow until they were picked up by the Government boat “Stormcock”, by which they were taken into Queenstown harbour. In Queenstown they saw many of the rescued who had been landed, and also many of the dead whose bodies had been recovered, and she said that it was a dreadful sight to see people visiting the morgue to identify the dead. After visiting the Cunard Offices and reporting themselves, they resumed their journey and landed in Macclesfield on Sunday night. They lost all their belongings, except the clothes they were attired in at the time the vessel was struck.
Agnes and Eveline were the daughters of Mary Elizabeth and James Higson Wild, a silk designer.
They were listed on the Macclesfield census in 1911, living at “Brook Bank”, 175 Chester Road, with their father and older sister Mabel, and travelled to New York from Liverpool with Mabel on the ‘Carmenia’ in May 1912, en route to Paterson in New Jersey, which has a close connection with Macclesfield through the silk industry.
When the Lusitania sank in 1915, Agnes Wild was about 20 years of age and Eveline about 24.
Evelyn testified at the Mersey Inquiry; her version of the events can be read online on the Lusitania Resource website.