Survival and Despair In One Photograph
This is Marjorie Lottie Collyer, age 8, of Bishopstoke, Hampshire, England.
From the same photograph, this is Marjorie’s mother, Charlotte Collyer, age 30 also of Bishopstoke, Hampshire, England.
Both survived the sinking of the Titanic.
The utter despair in Charlotte Collyer’s eyes are apparent as she looks away from the photographer. Daughter Marjorie with her youthful eyes, stares hauntingly straight into the lens of the camera. The unknown future had to weigh heavily on these two survivors minds.
There is something strikingly modern in Marjorie’s face and expression. She looks so similar to so many children you see today.
Here is the entire photograph of Charlotte and Marjorie Collyer sitting together in June 1912.
Harvey Collyer, Charlotte’s husband and Marjorie’s father, went down with the Titanic, one of over 1,500 people who perished on April 15, 1912.
Harvey Collyer had sold his grocery business and the family was headed from England to New York aboard the Titanic and then on to Idaho where he intended to start a fruit farm. Harvey also hoped a change of climate would help his wife’s fragile health. When the Titanic sank, Harvey was holding all of the family’s savings in his wallet.
After being rescued by the Carpathia, mother and daughter stayed briefly in New York and then made their way out to Idaho. Charlotte was determined to follow through on her husband’s dream of beginning anew in America.
Charlotte was paid for her first-hand account of the sinking of the Titanic by the San Francisco Call newspaper. Her description of the sinking is considered one of the most graphic and touching among all the survivors who told their stories. Soon donations poured in to the newspaper to help support mother and daughter.
But after a short time in Idaho, reality hit Charlotte. Even with the encouragement and support of old friends she knew from England who greeted her when she arrived out west, Charlotte could not make a go of it. Charlotte wrote an open letter published in the San Francisco Call to all those who had tried to help her.
My Dear American Friends:
My heart is too full of gratitude for all the kindness and sympathy and generous help you have showered on me and my little daughter for me to begin to tell you even a part of what I feel. The greatest comfort to me in my sorrow, my greatest support in the struggle I have made to carry out my husband’s wishes and to make a home for myself and Marjorie in this wonderful land, have been the way that God’s love for us has been revealed to me in the loving welcome and aid received from all the dear friends my story has made for us.
I do not feel able to tell you in detail how I was at last compelled to give up my cherished plans and to return to England. I must leave that task to another.
But I could not bear to have one of you feel that I am ungrateful or unappreciative of your goodness. It is only that the experiences I have been through have left me without the necessary strength to make the fight alone. In my dead husband’s name, and Marjorie’s, and from my heart, I thank you all.
New York, June 8, 1912
Charlotte and Marjorie Collyer returned to England. The San Francisco Call’s fund for the Collyer’s relief came to $2,182.
Charlotte later remarried and hoped for brighter days for herself and Marjorie. Unfortunately, Charlotte Collyer’s health never improved and she died of tuberculosis on November 28, 1916. Charlotte’s stepfather died in 1919. An uncle took care of Marjorie after she was orphaned.
Marjorie Collyer married Roy Dutton in 1927. They had a child who died in infancy. Husband Roy died in 1943 at the age of 41. Marjorie soldiered on working as a receptionist in a doctor’s office, but she never remarried.
Marjorie corresponded with Titanic historian and author Walter Lord. Marjorie wrote in 1955, “My father was drowned taking our worldly wealth with him, as in those days people were not as bank-minded as they are now. Since that time I have been blessed with bad luck and often wonder if it will ever give me a break, but it just seems to be my lot… I think my name was published at the time as having been drowned.”
Marjorie suffered a stroke in the 1960s and was then unable to care for herself and moved into a nursing home. Marjorie Collyer Dutton’s life of “bad luck” ended when she passed away at the age of 61 on February 26, 1965.