Belfast & Titanic


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Serena Fehn

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Does anyone know when the news of Titanic´s sinking arrived in Belfast ? I would be very interested in the first reactions of Harland and Wolff´s chairman Lord Pirrie,the workers of the shipyard and Thomas Andrews´s family.
Thanks,
Serena
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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Hallo, Serena -

Probably the best Titanic on the Titanic and Belfast is...well....Titanic: Belfast's Own by Stephen Cameron (Wolfhound Press, 1998, ISBN 0-86327-685-7).

Amongst a good deal of other information, Cameron relates how Thomas Andrews Sr gathered the staff at the Andrews family home of Ardara in Comber and read a telegram he had recieved from James Montgomery of New York, his wife's cousin:

Interview Titanic's Officers. All unanimous that Andrews heroic unto death, thinking only safety others. Extend heartfelt sympathy to all

Cameron states that Thomas Andrew's fate finally became known to his family on 19 April when a telegram from NY was delivered to the offices of Harland and Wolff, and was taken to Comber by the man who had been in charge of the horse-team that had taken Titanic's great anchor to the shipyard. As Cameron says, 'The news devestated the Andrews family and the town of Comber'.

Among the poignant message of condolance Cameron mentions the Andrews family receiving are those from Ismay and Pirrie. Pirrie's letter of 30 May in particular mentions how 'I miss Tommy at every turn and it is hard to realise that I must do without his assistance just when I have come to rely upon him most.'

Inger

Inger
 
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Peter Taylor

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A question from a new member.

Can anyone tell me how to find out if my Grandfather helped build the Titanic. Does an employees list exist?

Any pointers would be most welcome in helping us explore our family tree.

Peter.
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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Sorry, Peter, H & W does not have list of employees from 1912. They often get asked this one and have made it quite clear.

You could try going to http://www.nireland.com/titanic401 James Carlisle may be able to advise you if there is any alternative way of getting what you want.
 

Sam Brannigan

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A late addition to this thread!

I believe that Pirrie was very ill when the Titanic sank and that the news of her loss and the death of his nephew was kept from him for some time until he had recuperated.
It seems he was one of the last people in Belfast to hear the news.

Regards

Sam
 

Martin Pirrie

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Lord Pirrie had prostate cancer and underwent surgery in February 1912. He was too ill to attend the sea trials or the maiden voyage of Titanic. He spent part of the next three months on his yacht SY Valiant cruising the Baltic and he attended the Kiel regatta in July 1912.

Lady P. is reported to have written to Lady Aberdeen that she and her husband “were most wishful to travel on the Titanic on her maiden voyage” . Lord P’s doctors forbade the trip.

I can find no record that the news of the sinking of Titanic was kept from him.

Martin Pirrie.
 

Martin Pirrie

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I have looked a little deeper into whether the news of Titanic’s sinking was withheld from Lord Pirrie. I don’t believe so.

Lord P was at the launching of Titanic and he was on the maiden voyage of Olympic to Southampton, on the same day, with J. Bruce Ismay and J. Pierpoint Morgan. So he was reasonably well.

From, “Titanic - Belfast’s Own”, we read that Lord P had received a letter from David Galloway on board the SS Lapland, en-route to Southampton from New York, describing how Thomas Andrews was last seen helping people into the remaining lifeboats.

Lord P wrote to Thomas Andrews’ mother (Lord P’s sister) “A finer fellow than Tommie never lived, and by his death - unselfishly beautiful to the last - we are bereft of the strong young life upon which such reliance had come to be placed by us elders who loved and needed him".

From its tone, this letter appears to have been written after Galloway’s letter and Lord P seems to have known of the sinking as soon as anyone else.

Martin Pirrie.
 

Martin Pirrie

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Sorry! What I wrote above is nonsense!

It all comes about by being too clever with word processors and pasting in too many lines from another letter!

Of course Olympic was launched the year before Titanic and although Lord P sailed to Southampton on it, it has nothing to do with whether he was too ill to be told about Titanic sinking a year later!

Sorry again!

Martin Pirrie.
 

Sam Brannigan

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Martin

I am pretty sure I got the information about the news being kept from Pirrie from "Shipbuilders to the World" by Hume. When I can find the book (!) I'll post the relevant passage.

By the way, any relation?

Regards

Sam
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Hi Martin,

I'm wondering if you ever found anything out about Lord Pirrie's firing of naval architect Edward Wilding. There's a tale that's been put out that he did it in retaliation for Wilding's testimony at the British Board of Trade hearings, or alternatively, because he blamed Wilding for the loss of his beloved Thomas Andrews. Actually, Wilding was around for some time, and purportedly wasn't fired until the 1920s.
 

Martin Pirrie

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The story of Pirrie sacking Wilding has, I believe, nothing to do with the sinking of Titanic. Lord Pirrie seems to have kept his financial dealing very much to himself. Olympic and Titanic were both built on a cost + 5 % basis. Ismay trusted Pirrie and vice versa. A handshake completed the deal for the Olympic class. Nowadays, it seems to be pretty casual, but at the time it worked. It appears that in 1921 Wilding told a client of the actual costs of a ship being built by H & W for him, and Lord Pirrie sacked him.

Lord Pirrie was not a man to be crossed! His control over Harland & Wolf was absolute. Alexander Carlisle who designed the Olympic class and was at one time Managing Director of H & W, took “early retirement” in 1910 after suddenly standing for election to Parliament in 1906 and splitting the Unionist vote. Lord P was married to Carlisle’s sister, but Carlisle, being his brother-in-law didn’t protect him!

Thomas Andrews who was Lord P’s nephew replaced Carlisle and completed the designs of Olympic and Titanic.

Lord P had a notable ancestor, his grandfather.

Lord P’s grandfather was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars while crossing the Atlantic, He escaped, rowed in an open boat across the English Channel and returned to Belfast where he started to dig out what is now Belfast harbour. He was, I believe, the first of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and his portrait hangs in their office in Belfast. My father sold the picture to the Commissioners in the 1950’s.

Martin Pirrie.
 

Sam Brannigan

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This has taken a while but I knew I wasn't going mad and that Pirrie was laid up at the time of the disaster. This is an article from the London based "Daily Mirror" dated Friday April 19th 1912:

ON A SICK BED
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Lord Pirrie, Father of Titanic, Is Told Sad News At Last.
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BECAUSE HE WORRIED
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Lord Pirrie knows the worst.
Lying on his bed of sickness at Witley Park, near Godalming, the father of the Titanic, the man whose great comprehensive brain made it possible to build the greatest ship the world has ever known, has had to be told the dreadful news of what has befallen her on her first trip.
As was pointed out in the Daily Mirror of Tuesday last,the tragic tidings were being kept from him as long as it was humanly possible to do so. To tell him might have killed him.
But no man of Lord Pirrie's stamp is content to lose touch with the doings of the world for long; even on a bed of sickness, even against his doctors orders, at vital risk to himself, he must know what is going on. So long as he is in the world he must be of the world

WHY HE HAD TO BE TOLD

And so Lord Pirrie has learned the awful truth; the chairman of the great shipbuilding firm of Harland and Wolff knows that the wonder ship he conceived and his company carried out is lying, a broken, battered mass of iron, steel, and wood, full two miles under the grim Atlantic.
The news could not be kept from him any longer, The Daily Mirror was last night told by a member of Lord Pirrie's household.
He wanted to know how the Titanic was progressing; and somehow - one knows how bad news has a way of coming instinctively to those mainly concerned in it - he began to get an inkling that all was not well with her.
And so, because he worried, the truth had to be broken gently to him. Not the whole, dreadful truth - for the newspapers are still kept away as much as possible from him - but the salient points of it.
Lord Pirrie knows that the Titanic has sunk, and that many of the human beings who entrusted themselves to her keeping have been lost.
"Some of the newspapers had to be shown to him," said The Daily Mirrors informant. "We kept the news from him for as long as we could, but it could not be kept from him forever.

MIGHT HAVE BEEN A PASSENGER

"How it has affected him it is not easy to say at present. To-night he is not perhaps quite so well as he has been recently.
"I believe that he has not said a great deal on the subject yet, but that he has expressed a great-hearted sympathy concerning the dreadful loss of life and the many poor people who have been affected by the loss of the Titanic.
"What Lord Pirrie is told rests mainly with Lady Pirrie. Messages are continually coming for him, but they all go to Lady Pirrie first."
But for the fact that he had to undergo an operation Lord Pirrie might have been a passenger on the Titanic.
Hitherto it has been his invariable habit to take his personal share in the triumphs of the first voyages of the great ships which his brain has enabled his firm to turn out in Belfast.
It is a curious and sad coincidence that a brother of Mr. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line, is at present lying ill and forbidden to know the fate which has come upon the great ship which a week ago sailed forth in all the splendour and pride of her new life.

Evidently, the date of this report suggests that Lord Pirrie was told about the sinking most likely on the Thursday after the disaster, or at the very earliest the Wednesday. Not a huge difference from everyone else in the world, but it was kept from him.

Regards

Sam
 
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