Skip to the Content

Media Release
May 19, 2016
Halifax, NS

Empress of Ireland - Canada’s Titanic
Commemoration at Pier 21

Discover the story of one of Canada’s worst ship disasters

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is delighted to welcome Dr. John Willis, as part of their Beneath the Waves Lecture Series. Join Dr. Willis on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 7 p.m. as he explores the Empress of Ireland shipwreck.

Carrying tens of thousands of passengers between Canada and Great Britain in the early years of the 20th century, Empress of Ireland was considered to be one of the finest ships in the Canadian Pacific Railway fleet. In the early morning of May 29, 1914, on the fog-bound St. Lawrence River, RMS Empress of Ireland was hit broadside by a coal ship, the Storstad. The ocean liner went down in less than 15 minutes.

With the 102nd anniversary of the wreck approaching, the Museum will commemorate the tragedy with a free guided tour of Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland, musical performance from the Salvation Army Band and a lecture by Dr. John Willis.

Quick Facts

  • A special Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland guided tour with curator Dan Conlin will start at 6 p.m.
  • Dr. John Willis is a Curator at the Canadian Museum of History.
  • Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland features 81 rare objects from the wreck including a newly discovered artifact, pyjamas, worn by passenger John Langley as he crawled out of the porthole to survive the sinking. Members of Mr. Langley’s family will be in attendance to commemorate the anniversary.
  • Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland is on display at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 until November 2016.
  • Many members of the Canadian Salvation Army church were travelling aboard Empress of Ireland including a large band. Only 33 of the 167 Salvation Army members survived the sinking.


"The sinking of the Empress of Ireland was the greatest maritime disaster in Canadian history, a human tragedy of unspeakable proportions. The ship went down when the economy was booming. The story fell by the wayside but has more recently been revived. In today’s era of global markets, travel and migration, we can sympathize with the notion that ships make history. The Empress, which brought 100,000 newcomers to our shores, is a powerful reminder of how many of us got here, what we did afterwards and what we are becoming. It is a starting point for the voyage between past and present."

- Dr. John Willis, Curator of Economic History, Canadian Museum of History

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. John Willis, chief Curator of Canada’s Titanic- The Empress of Ireland to the Museum as part of our Beneath the Waves Lecture Series and to commemorate the 102nd anniversary. This event will be a wonderful opportunity for our community to learn more about the tragic story of Empress of Ireland and the importance it played in Canada’s early 20th century immigration story"

- Marie Chapman, CEO, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

This event is open to media. Please contact Stéphanie Comeau in advance to schedule interviews with the keynote speaker. Dr. John Willis and family members of Mr. Langley are also available for media interviews prior to the event.

Media Contact

Stéphanie Comeau
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
(902) 425-7770 ext. 264