107 #26: Alice Cleaver, nursemaid to a family in first class, had previously been convicted of killing her own child

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FALSE. However, due to an unfortunate coincidence of names, this story has persisted, probably partly because of its connection with the sad story of the Allison family, whose daughter, Helen Loraine Allison, was the only child on Titanic in either First or Second class to be lost.

The Titanic passenger and Allison family nursemaid was Alice Catherine Cleaver, who apparently led an otherwise blameless life, going on to marry and have children of her own after the Titanic disaster. But Alice Mary Cleaver, who was not on the Titanic and had no connection with Alice Catherine Cleaver, other than their shared Christian and surnames, was convicted of murder in 1909 for throwing her baby under a train. Her sentence was commuted from the death penalty to imprisonment, as was common in such cases, before the crime of infanticide was defined as a separate offence by the Infanticide Act of 1922. Alice Mary Cleaver died of tuberculosis in 1915.

There is some mystery as to exactly what happened on Titanic regarding the nursemaid Alice Catherine Cleaver and the Allison family. She has sometimes been blamed for her actions in taking the Allisons’ son, Trevor, away in a lifeboat without letting the rest of the Allison family know, thereby causing them to keep looking for Trevor unnecessarily. This resulted in the death of the rest of the family, including their other child, Loraine. One version is that she helped Mrs Bess Allison to dress and tried to persuade her to come on deck, but Bess became hysterical and wouldn’t go. Alice then took her charge, Trevor (it seems she was appointed to look after Trevor only, because he had been ill), and went into Second Class to round up the rest of the family’s servants, before entering a lifeboat with Trevor. No-one will ever know exactly what happened, but Major Peuchen, who knew the family, said that Bess had got out of her lifeboat with Loraine after being told that her husband was boarding a boat on the other side of the ship. When she got there, Mr Allison was nowhere in sight, and meanwhile the boat she had been in was gone. There are several conflicting reports, however. Major Peuchen also thought that she was ‘hustled into one of the collapsible lifeboats’ when she failed to find her husband, and that she was last seen ‘toppling out of the half- swamped boat’ (probably Collapsible A, although Peuchen had left Titanic earlier in the evening in lifeboat Number 6). Nursemaid Alice Cleaver did not realise until the next day that the rest of the Allison family had not survived, and its likely she simply acted to make sure Trevor was safe, assuming that the Allisons knew where Trevor was and that Mr Allison would look after his wife and Loraine. A report in the press after the disaster said that the Allisons were last seen on the promenade deck, smiling.

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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