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The unheard story of Amy and the Titanic

Saturday, October 8, 2011
Artist impression of the sinking of the Titanic.

Last month the world commemorated an air bound terrorist attack of one decade before, 9/11. Next year, 2012 commemorates a maritime tragedy of immense proportions. There is another side to the coin. Amy Pollard was a Guyanese infant who lost her English mother Elizabeth, in Guyana, at the age of one. The year was 1872. Her father William Branch Pollard, was from Demerara, but his ancestors had migrated to, and lived continuously in Barbados from the early 1600’s. William’s father was Barbadian. The Pollards’ ancient origins were Cornwall, England. Amy’s maternal English aunt was Hannah, nee Blackley, the barren wife of the “prince of shipbuilders,” illustrious William Imrie.

Along with his partner, a Belfast Irishman—Robert Ismay, many famous sea vessels, including the Titanic, came into being. For practical reasons, Amy would be parented by her aunt and uncle in England, from the age of two years; two parents are better than one. Before their deaths, Amy’s uncle and aunt formally adopted her. William Imrie died a few years before the Titanic’s disastrous maiden voyage in 1912. The entire estate of the Imrie family had been bestowed upon their only heir, Amy. She, now among the half dozen wealthiest women in Britain, joined the Franciscan order of nuns as a poor Clare, in 1910. Upon joining, she gave the Imrie mansion to that order. These nuns individually can own nothing.

The Imries’ half share in White Star Shipping became soluble after the Titanic affair, and Amy’s wealth built Saint Mary of the Angels Roman Catholic Church in Liverpool. This edifice is known internationally as the Vatican outside of Rome. Its exquisite works of art are rivalled only by the Vatican. In 1917 the church was completed, its entire cost having been financed by this Guyanese nun. She had inherited a massive fortune, but gave it all to the cause of bringing Rome to England. The poorer class of Englishman could now afford to see exquisite religious artistry at home. This artistry could also be viewed by the wealthier class, who might otherwise have to risk life and limb travelling by ship and train to the Vatican.

Amy would later become the Mother Abbess of Sclerder Abbey in Cornwall, England. She died and was buried there in 1944. Herein spans the burial lands of her paternal ancestors, those born before 1599, forefathers of the West Indian Pollards. And so, she takes her heavenly rest reposing beside them. From the earlier days of her 10th generation forefather, Colonel Hugh Pollard of Kings’ Nympton, Cornwall, the third son of whom, William Chichester Pollard migrated to Barbados via the interim isles of Bermuda (1616), this particular lineage of Pollards had become firmly rooted in the British West Indies. The motherland, England, most certainly received one of her very precious colonial gifts in the person of Amy. While Belfast’s masterpiece, the Titanic, ‘sleeps’ on the mighty Atlantic’s floor bed, Cornwall’s finest dust had been returned to the rich soil from where it was originally drawn.


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