An Unknown Child

"An Unknown Child"

Six days after the Titanic sunk a young child's body was found floating in the water. It came floating up to the small boats of the sailors from the Mackay-Bennett pulling in bodies. It was the 4th one, so became known as "Body #4".

The Mackay-Bennett was a cable ship, laying communication cables and it was hired by the White Star Lines for recovering bodies. There were so many that two other ships were hired later.

When the body was unclaimed, the sailors all chipped in for a casket with a medallion and the erection of a large tombstone with the inscription "An Unknown Child". The toddler was originally thought to be Gosta Palsson, whose mother was buried nearby in the same Titanic cemetery.

In Halifax the police officer guarding the bodies at the makeshift morgue at Halifax's Curling Rink was supposed to burn all the victim's clothes but could not bring himself to burn the small shoes of body #4 and saved them in a draw. Many years later his grandchildren returned the shoes and they are now on display at the Maritime Museum in Halifax.

Over the years the grave of the "Unknown Child" came to represent all the children who perished in the Titanic disaster.

In In 2000 a number of families requested DNA testing of some of the victims in the Halifax cemetery and in 2001, researchers at Lakeland University in Ontario were granted permission to exhume the bodies and extended the testing to include Body #4.

From checking the original passenger manifest which gave details of children, and checking against those young bodies which were identified, they concluded that the body could have been one of only four children, Gosta Paulson, Eino Panula, Eugene Rice or Sidney Goodwin.

In 2002 it was announced that Body #4 was Eino Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish boy who had died along with his parents and four brothers.

A couple of years later the research team then received new dental evidence suggesting the child was near the age of two. Advances in DNA technology allowed them to conduct further tests and their doubts were confirmed - the DNA did not match the Panula family.

Sidney Leslie Goodwin was finally identified as being "The Unknown Child" in 2007 and relatives of the family held a graveside service in Halifax on the 6th of August of 2008. The band was invited by Carol Goroff to attend but we were unable to go but sent the song across on CD to be played after the service.

See "The Goroffs"


Dark dark night, cold cold sea, Dark dark night, cold cold sea,
Where are all my family, why have they left me?
I still hear their voices call, I hear them in my head,
“Daddy when will we be there?” that is what they said,
Dark dark night,
and I must sleep,
cold cold sea,
and I must sleep.

Floating on the sea, for six whole days from when the ship they said could not be sunk, went down.
Rescued from the sea, too late for life and no-one there to tell the waiting world, your name.
The hands that came to pull you up, they placed their coins into a passing cup,
So the world would not forget how you came here,
A final place for you to rest, a marker stone, the very best, Carved with the simple words - ”An Unknown Child”.

And so you came to lie, in a Fairview Lawn while family and friends all thought you lost, at sea.
And it came to be, you represented fifty three young lives that all were drowned, that night.
Your small brown shoes, compassion saved, returned by children of another age,
But still they gave no clues to who you were,
For those that tried to find your name, a never-ending guessing game,
And so you would remain - ”An Unknown Child”.

You traveled on the ocean for a new life across the sea, along with those who loved and held you dear.
But this became a dream that was not meant to be,
A journey that would end, in fear.
The arrogance of men conspired to take you to your fate,
An innocent, a consequence of those who could not wait,
When will we be there?

The years have passed on by, and in that time technology has shaped the world we know, today.
They came to where you lie, with tiny clues from family that spanned the years from then to now.
At first they called you by another name, misidentified, unknown again,
And so you had to wait for six more years.
Then they came again, dispelled their doubts, revealed your name
No Longer to be called - ”An Unknown Child”.

Dark dark night, cold cold sea, Dark dark night, cold cold sea,
Sidney Leslie Goodwin now you’re back with family.

©Sackful of Sovereigns March 2007.