Winnipeggers Lost on the Titanic

Winnipeggers Lost on the Titanic

by George Siamandas

Six Winnipeggers were lost including realtor Mark Fortune and son Charles Fortune, Thompson Beattie, Hugo Ross, JJ Borebank, and George Graham. The most tragic loss was that of Mark Fortune and his son Charles.

Mark Fortune became a wealthy real estate man who had come to Winnipeg in 1874 at age 27. He made his “fortune” in early Winnipeg real estate by promoting what was then just a muddy trail: Portage Ave. Increasingly a man contributing to the growth of Winnipeg, Fortune served as an alderman in 1880. Later in 1903 he was a founding member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange and served as its president in 1906. Fortune was known for his honesty and moral standards and for his love of his family. Just months prior to their big trip they had just built a beautiful family home at 393 Wellington Cresc.

The family had spent 1911-1912 in Egypt and Europe and were planning to come back on another ship at the end of April. But Fortune was home-sick and was anxious to return to their elegant new home in which they had only lived a few months before their European trip. They had to be persuaded to return early and he did so by booking first class passage on the Titanic. On the trip were 6 members of the family. Mark and Charles waited on the deck as the life boats filled with women and children. Fortune’s 3 daughters and Mrs Fortune are reported to have watched the great ship go down from lifeboat no 10. 705 people survived. Mary, Ethel, Alice and Mabel made it safely to New York. Their mansion at 393 Wellington Cresc is still standing today and was converted into several luxury condominiums by Kathleen Richardson about ten years ago.

Five of the six men lost were active in Winnipeg’s real estate industry. Hugo Ross after whom a Fort Rouge street is named was in the real estate business. He lived in the Roslyn Apts. Thompson Beattie was also a real estate man who had come to Winnipeg in 1910 and went into business with Winnipeg mayor RD Waugh. JJ Borebank was another real estate man that became successful developing land in River Heights. George Graham was an Eatons manager who was returning from a buying tour in England.

There are as many stories of Winnipeggers who also sailed on the Titanic but failed to do so. For example Mrs Suckling had pleaded with her husband to sail with their friends the Fortunes but John Suckling favoured the slower ships. Similarly Grain Exchange member Alexander Hargraft and his wife were going to sail with Hugo Ross. But Hargraft’s wife became ill so they had left England on an earlier ship.

Apparently Harold Cottam, the wireless operator on the Carpathia moved to Winnipeg to live with his uncle on Toronto St. And Carpathia St. in River Heights was named after the rescue ship in 1913. After the loss of these Winnipeggers (five of whom were in real estate), the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange furnished a 16 bed ward at the Children’s hospital in memory of their members Ross, Beattie and Fortune.

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