George Kemish was born in Shirley, Southampton, Hampshire, England on 29 October 1889. He was the son of George Kemish (b. 1863), a sawyer, and Emily Lomer (b. 1863), Southampton natives who had married in 1887.
George was one of seven children born to his parents, his known siblings being: Benjamin (b. 1887), Rose (b. 1893), Frederick (b. 1895), Lydia May (b. 1897) and William (b. 1911).
George first appears on the 1891 census when he and his family were living at Elgin Road, Millbrook, Southampton. The family would be living at 1 Grove Road, Shirley by the time of the 1901 census. By the time of the 1911 census George was described as a 21-year-old unmarried seaman and still living with his family, now at 238 Shirley Road, Freemantle, Southampton.
When he signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, George gave his address as 238 Shirley Road, (Southampton). His previous ship had been the Olympic and as a fireman he could expect to earn monthly wages of £6.
Following the collision with the iceberg, Kemish recalled being ordered down into the boiler rooms to draw the fires, a task which he later lamented was a difficult one. He described the scene:
...I saw one engineer slip and break his leg... We placed him in a pump room and did anything we could to help the other Engineers. Ship’s Carpenters were constantly taking soundings. They may have known, but no one else (except Skipper Smith), that things were going to happen...
Kemish later made his way up to the boat deck and described throwing deckchairs over the side to act as ballast. Whether or not George boarded lifeboat 9 from the lifeboat deck or promenade deck is not certain but he later described jumping from the starboard side, intent on grabbing boat 9's falls and lowering himself into the boat but missing and dropping into the water, later being hauled aboard.
After the disaster, Kemish continued serving at sea until the 1930's, serving whenever possible on coal-burning ships for health reasons and for a time worked as a fitter's mate1. He corresponded with Walter Lord, during the research for the book A Night to Remember.
George was married in Southampton in 1918 to Myrtle Ellaline Selifant (b. 1898 in Southampton) and the couple had four children: Benjamin (1924-2012), Anthony Richard (1925-1998), Peter (1927-1928) and Linda (b. 1939, later Mrs Michael Watkins).
George was widowed in 1959 and he himself passed away in Southampton on 6 February 1966.
- A December 1924 CR2 card records him as a trimmer on the Andes.
References and Sources
Southern Evening Echo, 14 April 1958, Article
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Daniel Allen Butler (1998) Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic
Gavin Bell, UK
Brian Ticehurst, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA
Articles and Stories
Southern Evening Echo (1958)