What role did Alexander Montgomery Carlisle play in the Titanic story?
It must have been quite a lot. He joined Harland & Wolff in 1870 when he was 16 as an apprentice and became Chairman of the Managing Directors of Harland & Wolff in May 1907. He was at one time head of the drawing office and would have been involved with the design of Titanic. He was asked at the British Board of Enquiry if he had had any involvement with the designs of Olympic and Titanic. He replied that they were entirely designed practically by Lord Pirrie but the details, the decorations, the equipments and general arrangements came under him.
Carlisle went to Southampton to see Titanic leave on her maiden voyage with his friend
W. Stead on board, and when asked why he was not going too, he replied that he had not been asked!
Lord Pirrie had married Carlisle’s sister but being Lord Pirrie’s brother-in-law did not do Carlisle much good. Carlisle had an impulsive nature and decided to stand for Parliament for the West Belfast constituency in 1906. The seat was marginal and he spilt the vote so that Joseph Devlin a Nationalist won by 16 votes, much to the chagrin of the Unionist Party. Memories in Irish politics are long and his actions were not forgotten. Lord Pirrie, although not a true Unionist (he supported Home Rule) did not support the Loyalist cause. Carlisle found working with his brother-in-law difficult and he resigned at the age of 56 in 1910.
Thomas Andrews had been made Managing Director in 1907. Lord Pirrie was his uncle.
Nepotism? Perhaps, Thomas Andrews would likely have become Lord Pirrie’s successor had Andrews not died on the Titanic. But Andrews had to earn his place, and if he made a mistake as Carlisle had done, he would be out.
After his retirement, Carlisle moved to London. He was mildly eccentric for the times. He was an avid autograph collector and when he lost his autograph book, he advertised for its return and it was! He rode a bicycle every day in his oldest clothes and swam every day regardless of the weather in the Serpentine lake, Hyde Park.
In 1925 he caught a chill and died: he was 71 years old.
He married Miss Wooster of San Francisco and had two daughters and a son.