After the sinking of the Titanic the MacKay-Bennet ship was designated along with others for the rescue of the corpses of the shipwreck. Amongst all of them, it was the one which came back with most of the dead.
Many bodies were buried by the sea after the identification when possible, while 209 victims were taken to the closest harbour in Halifax. 150 of those, unclaimed by the families, were buried in the Titanic dedicated cemetery.
Still 40 corpres were still not identifiable. Many of those were damaged by the sinking but one was found in perfect conditions and profoundly struck the ship crew and renamed “corpse #4”
It was the one of a child, approximately 2 years old. The youngest amongst the shipwreck victims, who appeared as if he was just sleeping, still with his little clothes and shoes on. The ship crew of the MacKay Bennet paid for the funeral and the coffin of the little kid who became the symbol of the 50 dead kids in the Titanic failure.
By examining the garments it was immediately evident that the little child was a passenger of the third class
Below: the shoes of the child
Clarence Northover, sergeant of the Halifax police followed the instructions to burn the garments of the victims but he did not have the bravery to get rid of the pair of shoes of the child, and kept them in a drawer of his desk. At his own dead, the sergeant’s nephew gave them to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic of Halifax, where they are still exhibited.
For many years the unknown baby boy and his little shoes remained in the visitors mind who wanted to give him a name
In 2000 two Canadian historians obtained the authorisation to exhume the little body remains to carry out some DNA tests; in 2001 they collected part of the bones and some teeth. It began a work of research of the relatives of the young boy, with the attempt to identify him and put a name on his nameless gravestone.
Below: the grave of the unknown child. Picture by Christopher Sibley shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
Amongst the many names in the Titanic lists they singled out 5 possible candidates, yet 3 were immediately discarded due to their too young age for the teeth found and for the unmatching DNA.
There were 2 candidates left:
Eina Panula, Finnish of 13 months and Sidney Goodwin, English of 19 months
In 2002 the choice fell on Eina but the shoes 14 cm long (5.5 inches) seemed too long for a 13 months old baby.
Further DNA exams from the 2011 confirmed that for 98% that body belonged to Sidney Goodwin. Eina’s body was never found as well as none of his family.
Below: Sidney Goodwin in 1911
Sidney Goodwin was travelling on the Titanic with his parents and 5 siblings. None of them survived and apparently none of their body was rescued and recognised.
They were about to move to America because the uncle, living around the Niagara Falls had called his brother for a job. The family had booked the trip on the New York ship but, because of a strike, the ship was belated and they got transferred to the Titanic.
Below: the whole family of Sidney Goodwin, entirely gone with the ship
There is no information about their journey, probably the family had been divided once on board: father and the three sons in a cabin and mother, two daughter and the small Sidney in another (one each side, bow and stern). Considering that the cabins in third class were divided according to gender, it is likely that the couple and the children have been kept apart during the disaster without the chance of spending the last moments together.
Many passengers of the third class managed to reach the ship deck when all the lifeboats were already on the sea
When Ballard found the Titanic in 1985, there was no body found inside. All the organic remains such as bones, clothes and wood where gone. Amongst those, the only ones left where the shoes. The tannic acid employed for the tanning procedure of the leather made the shoes resistant to the marine microorganisms.
Many pairs of shoes were found and strangely many of them were next to each other, leaving the researchers unaware on what kind of circumstances might have occurred in those very dramatic last moments.
Some people such as Ballard believe that the bodies were disappeared but the shoes were a sign of presence of a victim. Others instead believe that almost each victim was wearing a life jacket so the bodies could not be sunk with the ship but simply got lost with the water steams and then eventually sunk elsewhere far away. According to that theory, the shoes come from the luggages which back then were often made of fabric and not of leather.
Personally I believe that Ballard was right and that many bodies, stuck within the metal sheets of the ship, went all the way down with the Titanic.
The shoes of the little Sidney Goodwin endured a different destiny. Still on the feet of the victims, they pushed the researchers to give a name to its owner and after 100 years from the wreck, they allowed to discover the tragic history of his family.