One of the last and perhaps, most miraculous, survivors of the Halifax Explosion has died.
Annie Welsh, also known as Ashpan Annie, passed away in a Halifax seniors residence over the weekend. She was 95.
“She was a great survivor. She was a really courageous person,” said Janet Kitz, a local historian and author of the 1988 book Shattered City. “Rain, hail or snow she would always come to Fort Needham (for the annual memorial).”
At first the survivors were shy about telling stories about the explosion, Kitz said. “But when they got together, I think it was a bit of a relief to talk and realize they were very special.”
Welsh was only 23 months old at the time of the 1917 explosion, when the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc collided with the Norwegian ship Imo.
Welsh’s mother and four-year-old brother were at the window when it blew, levelling their house on Richmond Street. Her mother and brother died, and everything was destroyed except for the stove.
“I was blown into the ashpan and thank God for that, I wasn’t burned, but I have a bad burn on my side and on my head,” Welsh said back in 2005.
She was discovered 26 hours later, in the middle of an icy post-blast blizzard. Pte. Benjamin Henneberry found the baby underneath an ashpan.
Welsh was later recovered by her grandmother and aunt while they walked through the Pine Hill Convalescent Hospital, when the then-two-year-old began crying out as they passed by.
Welsh endured a battle with colon cancer and lived in the North End. She loved to swim and in January of 2007 she received a lifetime membership at Needham Pool, where she swam three times a week.
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