Alexander Carlisle


Logan Geen

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Dec 2, 2001
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I have often wondered about this man. Exactly how big of a role did Carlisle play in the Titanic's design and construction? I believe he retired in 1911, and that he had extensive involvment on the Olympic, but I am surprised that he did not go on the Titanic's maiden voyage. Does anyone have any information on what happened to Carlisle he retired? Also Carlisle was Lord Pierre's brother in law. And Thomas Andrews was Pierre's nephew. Sounds like a little nepotism to me. Did Andrews originally assist and then succeed Carlisle? Who succeeded Andrews? The most I know about Carlisle was his early invovlment, and of course, his "attempts" to have more lifeboats added.
 

Martin Pirrie

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Dec 30, 2000
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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.

Martin Pirrie.
 

Logan Geen

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Thanks Martin! I always wondered why he didn't go along. BTW, did he go to work for the Welin company after he left Harland and Wolff?
 

Martin Pirrie

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Carlisle had many dicussions with Welin when Olympic and Titanic were being designed as he said at the British Enquiry.

But I can find no record that after he left H & W in 1910 he worked for Welin or had any consultancy agreement.

Martin Pirrie.
 

Dave Gittins

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Carlisle mentioned at Mersey's inquiry that he had recently acquired shares in Welin's company but there's no hint that he worked for it.
 

Martin Pirrie

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Talking about company shares; I have read that Carlisle would not buy any Harland & Wolff shares throughout his time with the company.

Martin Pirrie.
 

Logan Geen

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OK I've done a little research on Carlisle in my collection. Apparently he was part of the original design team, had attempted to have more lifeboats installed but only half heartedly and testified to the British Inquiry. He also became overwhelmed and fainted at a church service after the disaster. It seems Carlisle had a lot of involvment with the Olympic and Titanic's early design but limited involvment on the Titanic specifically. It is news to me that he and Pirrie did not get along. I read from Titanic and Her Sisters than Pirrie was very happy with Andrews and was extremely upset at his loss.
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Logan,

I read Carlisle's testimony and was thinking that it is too bad that he didn't press for more lifeboats to be built onto the Titanic. He had them in mind, prepared the plans for them, but he just didn't push the situation hard enough. A bit from his Enquiry clearly shows his aspirations on the matter:

21371. "And there was no reason why, if the White Star people wanted more boats, they could not have ordered you to go ahead and install 64? - Certainly

21372. (The Commissioner.) Am I to understand you advised them to install 64? - I merely put my ideas before them.

21373. Did you say "There ought to be 64"? - No I did not.

21374. Did you think there ought to be 64? - I thought there ought to be a very much larger number.

21375. Did you think there ought to be 64? - I thought there ought to be three on each set of davits.

21376. How many would that make altogether? - Forty-eight boats.

21377. You thought there ought to be 48? - Yes.

21378. Whereas, in point of fact, how many were there? - Sixteen.

21379. You thought there ought to be three times the number. Did you say so? - I believe I did, but I could not sear.

21380. But it is a very important matter, is it not? - You see I never put my ideas on paper unless I thought they were what should be carried out.

21381. You do not answer my question. You were there apparently discussing this matter. Did you say, as the chairman of the managing directors of Harland and Wolff's, "I think there ought to be three times as many boats on that deck as we are at present contemplating putting there"? - No, I would not say that I did.

21382. Did you think it? - I thought there ought to have been.
 

Martin Pirrie

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Logan. don't forget that at this time, Pirrie was stamping his mark on the company and was appointing men who thought like him and would act in the way he liked. Carlisle may not have fitted Pirrie's ideas and after the 1906 General Election and Carlise's intervention, the friction between them became worse.

Thomas Andrews, on the other hand, appears to have fitted Pirrie's bill and Pirrie appointed him Managing Director. Who knows what would have happened had Andrews not gone on the maiden voyage?

Perhaps that disaster would have opened up a rift between them similar to that between Pirrie and Carlisle.

Martin Pirrie.
 
J

Joanne Seiferlein

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Dear Martin,
Yes, it is frightening to think what might have happened had Andrews not been aboard TITANIC that night. I imagine that many more lives may have been lost.
 

Dave Gittins

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Martin, at Mersey's inquiry Carlisle said he retired from H & W. Do you think he was being tactful about his resignation? Maybe he was too honest to work with the devious Lord P.
 

Martin Pirrie

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Lord P devious? What makes you think that!

He played his cards very close to his chest and barely relied on anyone except himself: he negotiated the contracts on his own and then handed the details over as a fait-accompli.

Normal business practice I would have said!

I believe that Carlisle was another kind of man. He had not got Pirrie's thick skin and lacked the drive that Pirrie had. Blood being thicker than water may well have blunted his feelings and his answers at Mersey's enquiry. Most certainly the answers Carlisle gave, were very circumspect to the point of being non-committal.

When my elder sister first went out with a Belfast man, he went home to his mother and told her that he had met a nice young lady named Pirrie. "The Pirries are all mad!" she said in reply. They later married despite her protestations!

Did you know that Lord P had all the flower beds at his house in Belfast covered over with grass lawns? What sort of man is that!

Have a good New Year!

Martin Pirrie.
 

Dave Gittins

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"Did you know that Lord P had all the flower beds at his house in Belfast covered over with grass lawns? What sort of man is that!"

A man who had some other poor sod to mow his lawns!

Cheers, Martin!
 

Martin Pirrie

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And the poor sod’s name? Thomas Griffin!

Just think, if Tommy had been a little more forceful he might have persuaded Lord P to have a flower bed or two and maybe Lord P would have telephoned Carlisle and said to him: "Come over to Ormiston and have tea with Margaret and me the flowers look lovely and let’s talk about these extra lifeboats you keep going on about!"

And history would have been changed forever!

At Kew Gardens in London there used to be a creamy coloured rose named Lady Pirrie. I saw it once or twice. I don’t expect that it’s there now.

Martin Pirrie.
 

Logan Geen

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Dec 2, 2001
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According to Titanic Triumph and Tragedy (pg 259) Carlisle joined the firm of Axel Welin, but according to Wyn Wade Carlisle became a master builder in the Royal Navy. Have a great Christmas everyone!
 
Well... I was proud that Lord Pirrie was born in Quebec just like me, the man that draws the Titanic, but I really wondered if I should keep on like that! lol!
More seriously, I've read somewhere that Carlisle had resigned from H&W because he did not agree with Pirrie's stance about the lifeboats, but when I tried to have this fact confirmed with the British Enquiry (testimony of Carlisle) I found out that nowhere it is specified in the latter. Is someone knows what is the truth concerning this ? And where this fact could be confirmed for sure if it represents the truth ? Thanks!
 
Mar 18, 2008
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I've read somewhere that Carlisle had resigned from H&W because he did not agree with Pirrie's stance about the lifeboats, but when I tried to have this fact confirmed with the British Enquiry (testimony of Carlisle) I found out that nowhere it is specified in the latter. Is someone knows what is the truth concerning this ? And where this fact could be confirmed for sure if it represents the truth ?

You will not find anything about it as it is only a modern made up myth. Also there was to conclusion reached about the lifeboat question when he left H&W.
His retirement was bases on his health condition. (I have recently published a research article about it.)
 
Thank you very much! By the way, do you know if the book of Jaeger is reliable ? It has in it some half-truth like that. I have the habit to read Historical Reviews where articles are written, with review panels by university's historians when I want to go deeper in a Historical fact, like the Second World War or Russian Revolution, for instance, but to have check it in d-base, there is no such thing for the Titanic, so everybody's feel free to tell whatever he wants, "killing" the truth incidentally! Is there any specialist of the Titanic in university of some country ??
 
Aug 27, 2017
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Hi ,I'm new on the forum . Have always been interested in the Titanic as my grandfather was Alexander Carlise's secretary and friend . My father was called after him 'Ion Alexander Carlisle " and I have my fathers christening cup given to him by Alexander Carlisle .
I have a writings by my grandfather about Lord Carlisles political speeches although they are quite incoherrant . I believe they both left the shipyard around the same time
There were actually old photos of the Titanic in our old family home ,but they were destroyed when we moved in the sixties ! The Titanic wasn't really famous then !
 

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