Author Archive

Joseph Bell exchanges letters with J Bruce Ismay

July 25, 2019

Letter to Mr J Bruce Ismay from Joseph Bell at sea aboard R.M.S. Olympic on June 14th 1911:


“In reply to your enquiry regarding visitors to Engine Rooms, I beg to state that three gentlemen have been in Engine Room during the passage from Southampton all by Mr Blake’s instruction, viz Mr Van Eldon and two gentlemen connected with a French Steamship Company, whose names I do not remember, but whom Mr Blake said had been sent to him by Mr Willett Bruce.

 Another gentleman presented himself this morning saying Mr Currie had instructed him to come to me; I refused him permission on his verbal statement.

 Your instructions’ shall be strictly obeyed”.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

J . Bell, Chief Engineer


 Letter from Mr J Bruce Ismay to Joseph Bell:

 “It came to my knowledge that some people had been down in the Engine Room during the passage from Southampton to Cherbourg. I therefore wrote to Mr Bell in regard thereto, and herewith enclose you his reply. I am sure you will share my surprise that Willett Bruce and Mr Blake should feel themselves justified in giving permission to the gentleman named to visit the Engine Room, and I shall be glad if you will ask them for their explanation for so doing”.


TITANIC Survivor Ella White’s walking stick sells for c.£50000

July 24, 2019

Mrs. White made her way during the chaos of that fateful April 15, 1912 evening into a lifeboat carrying her black enamelled  walking stick complete with an amber coloured bakelite battery illuminated crown.

Walter Lord, in his landmark book A Night To Remember, wrote, “Mrs. J. Stuart (Ella) White didn’t help row No. 8, but she appointed herself a sort of signalman. She had a cane with a built-in electric light, and during most of the night she waved it fiercely about attempting to signal rescue ships.” Mrs. White was a star witness in court hearings that followed where newspapers recounted her tale of the illuminated walking stick (cane). Remarkably, that walking stick remained with her family, which now, more than a century later, has consigned it to Guernsey’s for sale.

Mrs. Ella White boarded the Titanic as a first class passenger in Cherbourg, France on April 10, 1912. A New Yorker, White had been travelling through Europe and was headed back to New York by way of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. During her European travels, she injured her foot causing her to use a cane to support her balance. Unforeseen to her, this cane would serve a historically valiant and fortuitous purpose beyond aiding her injury.

Mrs. White boarded the ship and retreated to her first-class apartment on deck C where she stayed with Miss Young (a close friend accompanying White on the journey) and her maid and did not vacate until the collision. On the night of April 14, 1912, as Mrs. White was resting in bed, she felt a slight tremor, which she describes as follows: “There did not seem to me that there was any very great impact at all. It was just as though we went over about a thousand marbles. There was nothing terrifying about it at all.” Mrs. White who was seated in her bed on deck C of the Titanic at this fateful moment was not roused by any ship officer or crew member alerting her to the collision. Despite a rather nonchalant reaction, Mrs. White, Miss Young, her maid, and manservant all departed from their first class apartment to the upper deck of the ship.

Upon White’s arrival to the upper deck, she noted it was populated with passengers who were simply standing around waiting to know the result of the collision. It was not until Captain Smith came by and ordered the passengers to put on life preservers that the situation was communicated to White and her fellow passengers. However, the magnitude of the impending disaster was far from comprehensible at that moment. White recalled men causally smoking cigarettes, husband and wives bidding farewell with the notion that they would be reunited shortly, and sea captains reminding passengers boarding lifeboats to keep their passes as it would be their ticket of re-entry to the Titanic.

Ella White was fortunate enough to be on the top deck of the boat, the sole place of departure of lifeboats. She along with her maid and Miss Young all boarded into lifeboat 8, the second boat to depart from the Titanic into the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. In total, lifeboat 8 contained twenty-two women and four men. The men were assigned the role of oarsman and instructed by the sea captains to row to the light in the distance, drop off the passengers, and row back as soon as possible. Mrs. White remarks that their incompetency resulted in Miss Young and other women having to take over the role of operating the lifeboat.

The members of lifeboat 8, only one of which had any extensive experience operating a boat, indefatigably oared towards the light in the distance for three-quarters of an hour. After this time, the distance between the distant light and the lifeboat did not seem to be lessening by any substantial measure. Unsure if the light they were headed for, the Carpathia, was moving away from them or venturing towards them, the group lost confidence in finding safety there. The group in lifeboat 8 suggested the journey to the distant light seemed daunting and a return to the Titanic could provide for the rescue of a greater number of people.

As lifeboat 8 changed trajectories and sought to find other lifeboats, it proved to be a difficult venture, not due to the proximity of the other boats, but due to the inability to detect them. Unlike the boat in the distance, which was marked by a bright light, the lifeboats’ lamps were “absolutely worth nothing” according to Mrs. White, making the sea of the North Atlantic an impossibly dark place.

Mrs. Ella White had the solution to this problem in her hand. Her black wooden cane offered quite possibly the most luminous light amongst the eighteen lifeboats. She appointed herself as a sort of signalman for the lifeboat, and during most of the night, she waved it about, both helping and causing confusion. As the group in lifeboat 8 turned around and made their way back to the sinking ship, Mrs. Ella White’s cane lit the way amongst the darkness of night in the North Atlantic as the twenty-six members of the lifeboat witnessed the dreadful sinking of the Titanic.

Guernsey’s is honoured to offer this historic cane belonging to Mrs. Ella White in its upcoming Maritime auction. The historic significance of this seemingly banal item is unparalleled. To be equipped with such an instrument, a cane with an electric light, in a time of urgency on this storied evening, is remarkably fortuitous, only adding to the distinction of the item. The use of the cane in lifeboat 8 is recounted in innumerable accounts of the Titanic including Walter Lord’s well-known book A Night to Remember and Michael Davie’s Titanic: The Death and Life of a Legend, as well as Mrs. Ella White’s first-person narrations during the April 1912 hearings, conducted by a special subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee.

What an extraordinary survivors account!

[The Dimensions of the walking stick /  cane: 35″ long x 1.25″ in diameter]

Titanic USA Senate Inquiry Abstract

July 19, 2019

United States Senate Inquiry

Day 15

Affidavit of A. H. Weikman

APRIL 24, 1912.


I certify that my occupation on the Titanic was known as the saloon barber. I was sitting in my barber shop on Sunday night, April 14, 1912, at 11.40 p. m., when the collision occurred. I went forward to the steerage on “G” deck and saw one of the baggage-masters, and he told me that water was coming in the baggage room on the deck below. I think the baggageman’s name was Bessant. I then went upstairs and met Mr. Andrews, the “builder,” and he was giving instructions to get the steerage passengers “on deck.” I proceeded along “E” deck to my room on “C” deck. I went on the main deck and saw some ice laying there. Orders were given, “All hands to man the lifeboats, also to put on lifebelts.” Who gave the orders? “Mr. Dodd, second steward.”

I helped to launch the boats, and there seemed to be a shortage of women. When I was on “E” deck I met the captain returning from “G” deck, who had been there with Mr. Andrews, and the captain was on the bridge at that time. I did not think there was any danger. What happened after the orders were given? Instructions were given to get the passengers into lifebelts and get on deck from all the staterooms. Did you see Mr. Ismay? Yes. I saw Mr. Ismay helping to load the boats. Did you see him get in a boat? Yes; he got in along with Mr. Carter, because there were no women in the vicinity of the boat. This boat was the last to leave, to the best of my knowledge. The officer in charge ordered him into the boat. I think that Mr. Ismay was justified in getting in that boat at that time.

I was proceeding to launch the next boat when the ship suddenly sank at the bow and there was a rush of water that washed me overboard, and therefore human hands did not launch the boat. The men were trying to pull up the sides when the rush of water came, and that was the last moment it was possible to launch any more boats, because the ship was at an angle that it was impossible for anybody to remain on deck. State further what you know about the case. After I was washed overboard I started to swim, when there was a pile of ropes fell upon me, and I managed to get clear of these and started to swim for some dark object in the water. It was dark. This was about 1.50 a. m. toward the stern. How do you know it was 1.50 a. m.? Because my watch was stopped at that time by the water. Did you hear any noise? Yes; I was about 15 feet away from the ship when I heard a second explosion. What caused the explosion? I think the boilers blew up about in the middle of the ship. The explosion blew me along with a wall of water toward the dark object I was swimming to, which proved to be a bundle of deck chairs, which I managed to climb on. While on the chairs I heard terrible groans and cries coming from people in the water. Was it possible to help them? No; it was not. The lifeboats were too far away. Do you think if the lifeboats were nearer they could render any assistance? Yes; had the lifeboats remained close to the Titanic they could have take 10 to 15 or maybe 20 more passengers to each boat. There was a great number of people killed by the explosion, and there was a great number that managed to get far enough away that the explosion did not injure them, and these are the people that I think could have been saved had the lifeboats been close. Did you see the ship go down? I mean the Titanic. Yes; I was afloat on chairs about 100 feet away, looking toward the ship. I seen her sink. Did you feel any suction? No; but there was some waves come toward me caused by the ship going own, and not enough to knock me off of the chairs. How many lifeboats were there on the Titanic? About 18 or 20 and four collapsible boats, and the best equipment possible to put on a ship. Do you think there was enough lifeboats? No.

Do you know anything about the watertight doors? Yes; she had self-closing doors of the latest type, and they all worked, to the best of my knowledge. How fast was she going when she struck the iceberg? I think about 20 knots per hour. Mr. Ismay told me that she was limited to 75 revolutions several days before.

  1. H. WEIKMAN.

Subscribed and sworn to this 24th day of April, A. D. 1912.



Carlisle Library Leaflet Display

July 16, 2019



Carlisle City Library Joseph Bell Display

Carlisle Library Display

Cumbria’s Carlisle library, Globe Lane, have recently made a display [ image above] to mark the publication of a new tri-folded leaflet about Joseph Bell and the location of his memorial.

Joseph Bell was born in 1861, being named after both his grandfather and great grandfather.  He was educated initially at the Farlam village school and subsequently in Carlisle at Mr Harrison’s School, later to be known as Grosvenor College, located on the corner of Warwick Road and Warwick Square. There was accommodation for about 120 boys aged nine to eighteen. A staff of ten with regular visiting masters assisted the principle. The school’s last headmaster was Frank L Harrison. A serious fire in 1961 forced the school to relocate with the old school buildings being demolished in 1966.


Titanic Oil Painting

July 5, 2019

The oil painting is by George Fraser  a resident of Northiam, Southampton, in 1912.  The painting of Titanic is seen leaving the dock on her maiden voyage on April 10th 1912. The  painting was begun when the artist saw Titanic in Southampton, but the painting was not completed by him after the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic.

R.M.S. Titanic 1912

New Information Point for Memorial

May 31, 2019
Joseph Bell Info Point

The entry in the magazine ‘Cumbria Life’ June 2019 edition.

Memorial Information point

April 23, 2019

Joseph Bell was baptised in the church of St Thomas a Becket on the 4th of May 1861, and was named after both his grandfather and great-grandfather.

After Farlam village school he progressed to attending school in Carlisle. At age 15 he was apprenticed as an engine fitter at R & H Stephenson Company shipyard, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Having completed his apprenticeship in Newcastle, Joseph in 1883 entered the service of the Mercantile Marine sailing under the flag of the Liverpool & River Plate Steam Navigation Company for two years, then began his career with the White Star Line serving on some eighteen ships beginning with RMS Oceanic to RMS Titanic, covering the period from 1885 to his death in 1912.

The gravestone memorial in the old churchyard of St Thomas a Becket, Hallbankgate, is annotated with the following text:







“No greater love hath man than this. That a

man lay down his life for his friends”

info point [2]


Info point

107th Anniversary Titanic Sinking; Cobh remembers

April 10, 2019

On Sunday 14th April 2019, ceremonies will be held in Cobh to mark the 107th anniversary of the tragedy. The ceremonies, in the last port of call of the Titanic will remember all those who died when the ship sank, but in particular the passengers who boarded in Cobh. The ceremony which is an annual event organised by Cobh Tourism will start at 2.30pm.

For 2019 the proceedings will commence at the Titanic Memorial Garden at the east end of the Cobh waterfront, which overlooks the final anchorage of the Titanic. Here a ceremony of prayers and wreath laying will have musical honours provided by the Commodore Male Voice Choir. A wreath will be laid by the chairperson of Cobh Tourism, Jack Walsh, at the Glass Memorial wall which bears the names of the 123 Queenstown passengers.

Immediately afterwards (approx. 3.15pm) a Colour Party from the Cobh Branch O.N.E. will parade from the Old Town Hall at Lynch’s Quay to the Titanic Memorial in Pearse Square.

Here the names of the 79 passengers who boarded the Titanic in Cobh on 11th April 1912 and who perished in freezing waters of the North Atlantic less than four days later will be read out. Wreaths will then be placed at the Titanic Memorial in memory all those lost in the tragedy. The ceremonies will conclude with Cobh Confraternity Band’s rendition of the Last Post and Reveille.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Historical context

On 11th April 1912, Queenstown was the final port of call for the Titanic as she set out across the Atlantic on her maiden voyage. The 123 passengers boarding at Queenstown left from the White Star Line pier aboard the tenders Ireland and America which ferried them to the liner at anchor near Roche’s Point. Three were traveling first class, seven second class and the remainder steerage. Renowned photographer Fr. Frank Browne had traveled on the ship from Southampton and disembarked at Cobh. His photographs were the last taken on the Titanic.

In 2013 a Titanic Memorial Garden was opened in Cove Fort at the eastern end of Cobh Town. This secluded historic fort has spectacular views over Cork Harbour and overlooks the last anchorage of the Titanic. A Glass Memorial Wall within the garden has the names of the 123 passengers who boarded in Cobh and also a memorial stone to Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line who was travelling on the Titanic when it sank.

At the time Titanic was the largest and most luxurious liner afloat. At 882 feet long, 92 feet wide and weighing 46,000 tons it was powered by 29 coal-fired boilers which burned almost 700 tons of coal a day. Although it is dwarfed by today’s cruise liners it still ranks as one of the most famous and recognisable liners of all time. The facilities available to second class passengers were better than those of first class passengers on competing vessels. On this voyage there were over 2200 passengers and crew aboard. There were merely 1178 lifeboat spaces!

The RMS Titanic struck an iceberg shortly before midnight on 14th April 1912. Just over two hours of terror later the Titanic sank and almost 1500 people died in what is the most widely reported shipping disaster ever. Despite the freighter Californian being within 20 miles of the Titanic all night the ship’s radio operator was off duty and didn’t pick up the distress signals from the Titanic. The crew was therefore unaware of the unfolding disaster nearby. The first ship to arrive at the scene of the now sunk Titanic was the Cunard liner Carpathia. She picked up over 700 survivors and brought them to New York.

A year after the disaster, the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was held in London. The convention made rules requiring that every ship have lifeboat space for each person onboard and that ships maintain a continuous radio watch.

On 1st September 1985, the wreck of the Titanic was found lying upright in two sections approximately 400 miles south of Newfoundland at a depth of almost 13,000 feet. Subsequent exploration of the ship by manned and unmanned submarines under the direction of American and French scientists found no sign of the long gash thought to have been ripped in the ship’s hull by the iceberg. It seems that a series of thin gashes as well as the separation of joints in the ship’s hull allowing water to flood in.

A wreath was laid at the Joseph Bell headstone memorial, in the Old Churchyard of St Thomas a Becket, Hallbankgate,  to honour him and his fellow engineers on this 107th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic.



Titanic Riveters

March 1, 2019


One of the most basic components’ of the Titanic construction was the process of riveting, that took place in the Harland & Woolf shipyard in Belfast. The opportunity to do the work was a very haphazard affair, with the foreman making random choices in hiring the men for the day.

The pay for doing the job of riveting was based on the number of rivets that were hammered in. The effect of riveting was to fasten plates and beams together by hammering red-hot metal rivets into pre-drilled holes making a watertight connection.

Each riveting group was comprised of two riveters, one left-handed, one right-handed, one holder-on and a boy who was responsible for the heating of the rivets in the furnace.

The furnace boy would put five or six rivets in the fire from his bag of rivets; he would when the rivet had reached the right temperature throw the hot rivet to the holder-on who, on picking it up put it through the hole, ramming it through with a back-hammer.

The riveter drives it in with alternate blows on the outside of the shell that would fill up every hole with rivets. In the bulkheads the men would be bent almost double riveting heavy beams and plates. This was twice as hard as ordinary shell riveting. They had to work fast as the rivet had to be hammered in while it was red-hot. It was a very precarious procedure as men would be riveting up to 100 feet up and sometimes even higher. They would be working swinging hammers with only two small wooden planks as their support when bouncing around,. As they worked they had no guardrail provided in those days!

Eight Harland and Wolff workers were killed during the construction of the Titanic five of whom have been identified. In addition to the fatalities there were 28 serious accidents and 218 minor accidents recorded by the firm.




Dawpool the Sailing Ship

January 2, 2019


Lai Fong, active c.1870-c.1905; 'Dawpool'

Thomas Henry Ismay on the launch date of 1st January 1880 named his new ship Dawpool, which was the name of his country home Dawpool Manor, Thurstaston, Wirral, overlooking the Dee estuary. He was a very wealthy shipping tycoon and Dawpool Manor was an indication of that success. This stately home was demolished in 1927.

The ship had changes of ownership and name; German ownership – 1895 to 1905 and renamed Willkommen, also Norwegian ownership – 1905 to 1917 and again renamed Vestely. The Vestely was scuttled on the 22nd April 1917 off the North West coast of County Donegal, Ireland.

Dawpool : Ship number 130

Sailing Ship Built Belfast

Launch date 1 January 1880

Delivered 24th January 1880

Owner North Western Shipping Co

Weight 1697grt

BP Length 256 ft

Breadth 38 ft

Propulsion Sail

Official No 81323

Registered Liverpool

More information about the Dawpool can be had on the website: