SECOND CLASS PASSENGER FATHER THOMAS R. BYLES
Second class passenger Father Thomas R. Byles was born in Yorkshire on February 26, 1870, under the name Roussel Davids Byles. He was the eldest of the seven children born to Louisa Davids and Alfred Holden Byles, a businessman and congregational minister from a Protestant family. Though he was raised Protestant, Father Byles struggled with his faith, and while attending school in Oxford, England he converted to Catholicism. He graduated in 1894 and furthered his studies throughout various stops in Europe. Five years later Father Byles traveled to Rome and studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1902, taking the name of Thomas. Three years later he moved to Ongar, Essex where he made the St. Helen church his home.
One of Father Byles’ younger siblings, William, also converted to Catholicism but moved to America. It was there that he met and fell in love with Katherine Russell of Brooklyn, NY. It was for this reason that Father Byles was traveling on Titanic, as he was to officiate their wedding ceremony on the Sunday after his arrival.
While on board the Ship, Father Byles offered Sunday mass to second and third class passengers and in the aftermath of Titanic hitting the iceberg, he offered confession and prayers. It’s been said that he refused a seat on the lifeboats in order to assist others and offer continued prayers for those left on board. Sadly, this would be his fate and he would not make it to New York to attend his brother’s wedding. William and Katherine’s ceremony was not postponed, and they were married by another priest. However, immediately following their wedding they changed into mourning clothes to attend a requiem mass for Father Byles. His home church honored him by placing a door and stained glass window in memory of their priest.