February 26, 1914
Today has been the most amazing day of my life. I’ve experienced so much today. Looking back on all of it, it feels like I’ve been through a great whirlwind, as it seems like it all happened so fast.
Brynne had no memory of the Titanic’s launch, and the Britannic’s launch, unfortunately, was only going to offer abbreviated insight into what the former was like. Counter to White Star tradition, where each launch was cause for great celebration, Britannic would be launched with no huge crowds, no great fanfare, no celebratory luncheons or dinners.
Nonetheless, Brynne was at the yard the morning of February 26th to see the giant ship take to the water for the first time. She’d been working on this ship for nearly two years. She’d done a little work on other ships, but Britannic had occupied the bulk of her time, and she knew she wouldn’t feel right if she missed its launch, even if she did happen to be 8 1/2 months pregnant.
With all the new additions and improvements made in comparison to the Titanic, the Britannic ended up being approximately 50,000 tons, making it the largest British ocean liner and the largest of the Olympic-class liners. There were quite a few distinctions between the Britannic and her older sisters, and Brynne’s influence was all over them, which included a hair salon for women, a children’s playroom, a second-class gym, and a manicurist’s room. When construction was completed, the Britannic would have room for 790 first-class passengers, 836 second-class, and 953 third-class, not to mention 950 crew.
Brynne sat in a small grandstand alongside a few notables who’d been invited to witness the informal launch event. All the senior designers and architects from Harland and Wolff and White Star were there, as well as their families. Executives from each of the companies were there, too. No one from the general public had been formally invited, but they were free to take a spot along the dock to watch if they wished, and some did, despite the substantial chill in the air.
Ismay, flanked by Tom and Lord Pirrie on one side and Carlisle on the other, stood at a podium near the edge of the dock, close to the bow of the Britannic. Every now and then, Tom looked over his shoulder at Brynne. He hated that she was out here in this cold in her condition, but when she’d expressed her desire to be present at the launch, he knew better than to argue, for it would be a futile act with her. When the woman set her mind to something, there was no undoing it unless she wanted it undone. He turned back to face the ship.
At 11:00 a.m., the first signal was given. A red rocket fired into the sky, indicating that the launch was about to begin. Pirrie and Ismay made a few brief remarks, and then another rocket raced upward at 11:15. Workers knocked the support timbers free beneath the hull of the ship and quickly leaped out of the way as the hull began its slid down the slipway into the River Lagan. After an 81- second journey, the Britannic was floating for the very first time.
It was then that Brynne felt the first pain. She hadn’t been feeling well all morning, but that was nothing new for her. She’d been dealing with discomfort on a regular basis since beginning the final stage of her pregnancy. This past month had been almost as bad as the first in terms of how she felt physically, which was why she didn’t think much of it when she felt the onset of dull pain in her abdomen. She pushed any thoughts of pain aside as she clapped and cheered, watching with everyone else as the Britannic settled into the river.
When the pain didn’t subside but instead grew in intensity, Brynne still didn’t think too much of it, though it was starting to become significantly uncomfortable for her. She was already sitting down, and that usually helped ease these kinds of pains when they came upon her. Short of lying down, she didn’t know what else she could do at the moment to alleviate the pain. Luckily, after a few moments of increasing distress, the pain subsided a little but still didn’t go away completely. As Harland and Wolff tugs pulled the Britannic into the fitting out basin, and audience members began to rise and move about, Brynne decided it was the perfect opportunity to make a polite exit. Perhaps it was the cold air or the excitement that was amplifying her pain. Whatever it was, she didn’t feel well. Before she moved to get up, she closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, trying to will herself to feel better.
Brynne had stopped going to the firm when she’d entered her third trimester. Instead, as part of a compromise between them, Tom had agreed to let Brynne continue her work on plans for the Britannic at home, and he hired a full-time, live-in nurse to look after her health and see to it that her needs were sufficiently taken care of while he was away during the day. It was a good system, one that they both agreed they could continue using after the baby was born.
With the assistance of Nurse Emily Patrick, Brynne rose slowly from her seat. As she did, the pain increased, so much so that she could barely summon the stength to remain standing and had to rely heavily on Miss Patrick for support.
“Oh, ma’am,” Miss Patrick began, “you’re not at all well.”
“I’m having some pain,” Brynne said. It was an understatement, Nurse Patrick knew. “It’s probably nothing but the cold weather, but in any case, I think we should return to the house,” Brynne added.
Both Brynne and Nurse Patrick scanned the crowd for Tom, but they couldn’t see him anywhere. Small groups of people had formed in several areas on the grounds, and neither Miss Patrick nor Brynne could make out Tom’s form in any of them.
“Eddie!” Brynne called out to a passing man. Edward Wilding immediately turned at the sound of his name, searching for the person who’d called to him. He spotted Brynne and walked over to her.
Wilding, a slightly built, balding man in his early 40s, was the firm’s senior architect under Tom and his right-hand man. “Brynne,” he said. His blue eyes were sparkling with pride at having launched another magnificent ship.
“Have you seen Tom?” Brynne asked him.
“No,” Wilding said. “I’m trying to find him now.”
“When you do, please tell him that I’m not feeling well and that Miss Patrick and I returned home,” Brynne said. It was only then that Wilding got the notion that all was not well with his colleague and boss’s wife.
Wilding nodded, his expression turning to one of concern. “Of course. Will you be all right for the trip home?”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” Brynne said. “Miss Patrick takes excellent care of me.”
As soon as Brynne and Miss Patrick arrived at the house, the nurse called out repeatedly to Sarah, who was inside the house. As Miss Patrick helped Brynne out of the automobile, the front door opened, and Sarah appeared in the front doorway of the house. She hurried toward the two women to assist Miss Patrick with Brynne.
“What’s happened, ma’am?” Sarah asked.
“We need to call Dr. Callahan,” Miss Patrick said.
Wilding had finally found Andrews. He was nowhere near where he’d been during the short ceremony, and he was surrounded by people congratulating him and asking him endless questions about the Britannic.
Tom spotted Wilding just beyond the edge of the crowd. He quickly, but politely, excused himself from the group and stepped away to meet Wilding.
“Ed, you’re a lifesaver,” Tom said. “They closed in right after the ceremony, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get away from them ever since.” He pulled his watch from his pocket. “Goodness, that was nearly half an hour ago,” he said. He closed his watch and placed it back in his pocket. “Have you seen Brynne? I hope she hasn’t been looking for me all this time?”
“I saw her while I was looking for you,” Wilding said. “She went home with her nurse. She said she wasn’t feeling well.”
“What?” Tom asked, the alarm rising in his voice.
“Honestly, she looked a noticeably unwell,” Wilding said.
“You’re in labor,” Dr. Callahan concluded. He’d arrived at Dunallon shortly after Nurse Patrick had sent for him and had promptly examined Brynne.
“I am?” Brynne asked. With the pain she’d experienced this morning, she’d known it wouldn’t be long, but she didn’t expect it to be today, right this minute. “Are you sure?”
“Quite,” Callahan confirmed. “Now, I need you to stay calm. There’s nothing to get upset about.”
“I … I thought it would be so different,” Brynne said. Despite Callahan’s best efforts, she was starting to panic. “I thought there would be so much more to it. Shouldn’t you be telling me to push or something?”
Callahan chuckled. “In time, my dear. We’ll get to that soon enough, but we musn’t rush it. You’re only in the very early stages at this point.” He patted Brynne’s hand reassuringly. “Don’t you worry, Mrs. Andrews. We’re going to take good care of you and your baby.”
Evelyn Marie Andrews was born February 26, 1914 at 6:10 p.m. at Dunallon to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Andrews, Jr. The new bundle of joy weighed a healthy 6 pounds, 2 ounces at birth. Both mother and child are reportedly in good health and spirits.
Thus read the birth announcement that appeared in the newspaper the following week. Brynne understood now that she had a new mission. This time, it wasn’t one handed down by COSI – it was one that had been handed down by fate. Her new mission? To be the absolute best mother to this little girl and the best wife to Tom that she could possibly be.