Titanic & Karori Cemetery

14th April 2023 marks the 111th anniversary of RMS Titanic striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. There were no known New Zealanders on Titanic but we have found a small link to a grave at Karori Cemetery …

Elizabeth Budding was born in 1857 at Rouen, France to Welsh parents. She married Edmund Williams, a tailor, in 1882 and their children were born in London into a busy family tailoring business where Elizabeth also worked. Elizabeth was widowed in 1905 and in about 1910 emigrated to Wellington to be near her daughter Amy (b. 1882) who had married William Riggin, caretaker of Wellington College.

Her fifth son, Charles (b. 1888) started working as a ballboy at Prince’s Club before turning professional as a rackets player. He became the school racket coach at Harrow School. He became world champion aged 22 when he defeated J. Jamsetji of Bombay.

Charles boarded the Titanic as a second class passenger at a cost of £13. His intended destination was Harvard College to play USA champion, Jack Soutar.

On the night of April 14th, Charles had been playing on the racket court and was in the smoking room when the iceberg struck. After the Titanic sank, he was originally reported as “missing”. The newspapers may have mixed him up with Charles Duane Williams, another passenger who did drown. He was finally announced as rescued in New Zealand newspapers on 22nd April.

According to an account in ‘The Press’, Charles who was wearing a lifebelt jumped overboard and floated for a few minutes before he was picked up from a lifeboat. He also reported to Lloyds that Captain Smith swam up to the lifeboat with a baby in his arms (there is no evidence that this happened). He stood for nine hours in a small boat with water up to his knees. Eventually they were rescued by the RMS Carpathia.

In August 1912, King George visited Harrow School, and while there congratulated Charles on his escape from the Titanic.

Charles resided in the USA from 1924, married and had six children. He died in Chicago in 1935, aged 47. He is buried in Rosehill Cemetery.

Elizabeth married George Cloake in 1916 and she died in 1932, aged 74.

Public 3/C/2

Thanks to this website for inspiring us to search for a Karori Cemetery connection:

Charles Williams & Jack Soutar
RMS Titanic
Elizabeth William’s headstone