Mr Harvey Collyer was born in West Horsley, Surrey, England on 26 November 1880 and he was baptised on 16 January 1881 in St Martin's Church in East Horsley.
He was the son of George Collyer (1850-1930), a gardener, and Ellen Nunns (1847-1919), both Surrey natives who had married in London on 3 July 1870. Their marriage produced eight children, with Harvey's siblings being: William (b. 1870), Bertha (b. 1872), Nelly (b. 1874), Walter (b. 1875), Fanny (b. 1878), Minnie Elizabeth (b. 1884), and his twin brother George (b. 1880).
Harvey first appears on the 1881 census as an infant whilst residing with his family at West Horlsey Place in West Horsley, Surrey. The family would have shifted to an address in East Horsley by the time of the following census and were resident in Leatherhead, Surrey at 1 Downside Cottages at the time of the 1901 census. Harvey was then described as an ironmonger's porter.
Harvey, who was afflicted with epilepsy, was heavily involved in his local church in Leatherhead, and he worked as a sexton there. It was perhaps through the church that he met his future wife, Charlotte Caroline Tate (b. 1881) who worked as a cook to the Reverend Sydney Sedgwick.
Harvey and Charlotte were married in St Mary and St Nicholas' Church in Leatherhead on 5 May 1905. Their respective addresses at the time were given as Church Walk and Hill Street, both in Leatherhead, and Harvey was described as a warehouseman. The couple had one child, a daughter, born in 1904 and whom they named Marjorie Lottie.
The family later moved to Bishopstoke, Hampshire, following the Reverend Sedgwick who had moved to his new Parish church there, St Mary's. Harvey would continue to work for the church as verger, on the church council and as a bell ringer and he also ran a grocery store in the town. His wife also continued to work at the church and the family were well respected within their community.
The family appeared on the 1911 census living at 82 Church Road in Bishopstoke, Hampshire and Harvey was then described as a grocer and sexton.
Friends of the family had gone to Payette, Idaho several years before and made a success of the fruit farm they bought there. They wrote glowing accounts of the climate to the Collyers and advised them to come seek their fortune in Idaho. The Collyers did not seriously consider the proposition until Mrs Collyer began having respiratory problems (she was afflicted with tuberculosis), at which point they decided to buy a farm in the same valley as their friends in America (Mrs Collyer later felt guilty that it was her own health problems that eventually caused the death of her husband).
|"The day before we were due to sail (our neighbours) made much of us, it seemed as if there must have been hundreds who called to bid us goodbye and in the afternoon members of the church arranged a surprise for my husband. They led him to a seat under the old tree in the churchyard and then some went up into the belfry and, in his honour, they rang all the chimes that they knew. It took more than an hour and he was very pleased. Somehow it makes me a little sad. They rand the old chimes as well as the gay ones and to me it was too much of a farewell ceremony." Charlotte Collyer (the Semi-Monthly Magazine) Read the full article|
The next morning the Collyers went to Southampton, where Mr Collyer drew from the bank the family's life savings (including the money from the sale of their store in Bishopstoke). He took the money in banknotes instead of a draft, and put the money in the inside breast pocket of his coat. In the Titanic's hold were the few personal possessions that the family had kept after the sale of their home -- which meant that everything the Collyers owned was on board the Titanic, which they boarded under joint ticket number 31921 which cost £26, 5s).
Harvey wrote to his parents as the ship approached Queenstown:
Titanic April 11th
My dear Mum and Dad
It don't seem possible we are out on the briny writing to you. Well dears so far we are having a delightful trip the weather is beautiful and the ship magnificent. We can't describe the tables it's like a floating town. I can tell you we do swank we shall miss it on the trains as we go third on them. You would not imagine you were on a ship. There is hardly any motion she is so large we have not felt sick yet we expect to get to Queenstown today so thought I would drop this with the mails. We had a fine send off from Southampton and Mrs S and the boys with others saw us off. We will post again at new York then when we get to Payette.
Lots of love don't worry about us. Ever your loving children
When the Titanic collided with the iceberg Harvey went up on deck to find out what had happened and he reported back to his wife: 'What do you think? We've struck an iceberg - a big one - but there's no danger. An officer told me so!'
The news would have roused Mrs Collyer, but the dinner that night had been too rich and she felt nauseous. So she just asked her husband if anybody seemed frightened, and when he said no, she lay back again in her bunk (Lord 1976).
Charlotte and Marjorie were rescued in lifeboat 14 but Harvey Collyer died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
His widow and daughter eventually returned to England where Mrs Collyer remarried before dying at a young age.
A memorial to Harvey was erected in St Marys Church, Bishopstoke. In the form of a magnificent notice board and umbrella stand that is well used and looked after to this day, the inscription reads:
'Sacred to the memory of Harvey Collyer who fell asleep April 15th 1912 Age 31 years "Jesus said come."'
References and Sources
Photo: Leatherhead Advertiser (Courtesy of Gavin Bell)
The Surrey Advertiser, 20 April 1912, Article
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
Christopher M. Wardlow (1997) Catching up with the Collyer's[sic], Atlantic Daily Bulletin, No 2., p.7
Articles and Stories
Surrey Advertiser and County Times (1912)