Mr Escott Robert Phillips was born in Cardiff, South Wales in 1869. The son of Mr James P Phillips and Mrs Charlotte Phillips (née Parker).
The 1881 census shows the family living at 74 High Street, Ilfracombe, North Devon. The move south across the Bristol Channel may have, in part, been due to the fact that Robert's father had been in the Royal Navy. By the time of the 1891 census Robert had married Hannah Louisa Knight, also of Cardiff, at that time they were living at 85 High Street, Ilfracombe. It was at this address on 26 January 1891 that their only child, Alice Frances Louisa Phillips was born. Also living at that address were Robert's maternal grandparents, Mr Richard Parker and Mrs Mary Ann Parker. Robert had a variety of jobs in Ilfracombe including working for Thomas Harding a poulterer and fishmonger and for George Brightling Tester of the Royal Clarence Hotel.
By 1904 the family were living at 23 Westbourne Grove in Ilfracombe where they remained until shortly after his wife Louisa's untimely death through Tuberculosis. Following her death in the summer of 1911 and after correspondence with his brother William in America he decided that he and his daughter should also emigrate. A factory foreman job had been secured for him in New Brighton, Pennsylvania and it was to this destination they were to ultimately travel. They booked passage aboard SS Philadelphia but due to the coal strikes their passage was transferred to the Titanic. After spending a night in a Southampton hotel they embarked Titanic at 9.30am on Wednesday 10 April 1912. They were to travel second class, their joint ticket was numbered '2' and had cost them £21.
On the Thursday Robert wrote a short letter to his mother in Ilfracombe:
We called at Cherbourg last evening and shall be calling at Queenstown today - We have made some very nice friends on board. There is a gentleman and wife and 2 daughters that sit at the same table with us.
The family referred to by Robert were likely either the West family from Truro, Cornwall or the Herman family from Somerset.
Robert also sent a postcard to his friend Bill Squires in Ilfracombe which left the ship at Queenstown dated 11 April 1912. The message read:
Bill, Just a line to let you know we are all right up to now and having a jolly time. I wrote to Bill yesterday, if you will call in he will tell you what I have said. Kindest regards to you and the wife from one of the old school. R Phillips Alice has made friends with a gentleman and wife and two daughters that sit at the same table.
The original postcard is now an exhibit held by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, Holywood, Co Down, Northern Ireland.
Robert was lost in the sinking, aged 42, his daughter, Alice survived in lifeboat 12, aged 21.
References and Sources
British Census 1891
Exeter Flying Post
Western Morning News (photo: 19 April 1912)
The Ilfacombe Gazette
Steve Coombes, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Ron Rose, UK
Brian Ticehurst, UK
Articles and Stories
Western Morning News (1912)
Ilfracombe Gazette (1891)
Brooklyn Daily Times (1912)