David Blair Luck Misfortune and also Heroism by Rosanne MacIntyre

Mark Baber

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As new research by Rosanne MacIntyre will reveal, Blair was no slouch when it came to physical action.

Now that the December issue of the Irish Titanic Historical Society's White Star Journal has been published, Inger's unadorned reference in an earlier thread to Rosanne's research can now be embellished upon.

Under the title "David Blair: Luck, Misfortune and also Heroism", Rosanne recounts the well-known history of Blair's being bumped from Titanic in the last-minute shuffling of officers and his subsequent court-martial after the wreck of Oceanic II in 1914. She then provides an article that appeared in White Star Magazine in May 1924, three years after Blair had left White Star. At the time, he was captain of a ship called St. George, which was carrying members of the Scientific Expeditionary Research Association to the South Pacific. That article recites that Blair was with White Star from 1902 to 1921, and that "n 1913, Captain Blair received a silver medal for jumping overboard from the Majestic and rescuing a man." It also reports that he was awarded the O.B.E. in 1919 and the Legion of Honour. A photo of Capt. Blair, taken from the magazine, accompanies this article, as does a photo---which appears elsewhere on this message board---of the author.

Accompanying this is an article from The New York Times of 9 May 1913. It reports that on 6 May, two days before Majestic I arrived in New York, a 27 year-old trimmer named William Keoun jumped overboard. As other officers and seamen tried to rescue Keoun with lifebuoys and a lifeboat, Capt. Kelk guided the ship closer to him. First Officer Blair, who was in his cabin lying down, "hastily jumped into his uniform and rushed on deck to see what had happened." Spotting Keoun through the fog, Blair dove from the promenade deck railing, grabbed a lifebuoy, and swam through the cold (44F;7C) water toward the drowning trimmer. The lifeboat got to Keoun first, and both he and Blair were pulled into it.

The passengers "gave a hearty cheer for the gallant attempt made by the first officer" and later raised a purse of $50, which they gave to purser Evans to buy Blair---of all things---marine glasses.

Ro, this is great stuff and a wonderful find. Thanks and congrats!
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I've been eagerly awaiting publication of this one (as folks might have gathered from my earlier references to its long awaited appearance when writing in another thread)! Congratulations to Ro on a fine piece of research and writing, and to the WSJ on the publication of yet another piece of groundbreaking work.

Blair seems to have not only been a talented officer, but also a courageous individual - while many know about the Titanic episode (and speculation about the whereabouts of those 'marine glasses') and the grounding of the Oceanic II in WWI, few know that Blair had a distinguished war service and was decorated for his personal valour. The story Ro has uncovered, of another incident during the course of his merchant marine career when Blair demonstrated great personal courage, powerfully indicative of the man's mettle, should go a long way towards furthering a better understanding of the Titanic's first Second Officer.

Yet again a rebuff to those who suggest there's nothing more to discover and research, and let's hope we see more work of the sterling calibre of Roseanne's article!
 
Jan 3, 2001
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Thanks Mark & Ing for the kind words. :)

Since this was published, I have found another major incident in Blair's career that I need to hunt down the newpaper article that was published on the event. He supposidly made the headlines of a London newpaper for this achievement! As soon as I find the article, I will post more on the career of Blair. Quite a facinating individual that keeps popping out while I'm researching. At this rate, I'll never get to Mathias and Laurentic!

Thanks again!

Rosanne MacIntyre
 

Phillip Gowan

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Apr 10, 2001
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Rosanne,
Just got my WSJ today and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the Blair article. Great work and big congratulations! It is a very good read.

Phil
 

Pat Cook

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Hey Shug! Outstanding article on Blair! Just got my WSJ issue yesterday and yours was the first item I read (of course!) and Parks' was the next (tremendous work there, Parks, which explained a lot about the use of searchlights on ships which I never knew.) There is so little known about Blair that this really helps flesh out the man and shows him in a much better light. Grand research and yet another demonstration to those who think it's 'all been researched by now'. Can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Love from me and Mrs. Rose Ann,
Cookie
 

Mark Baber

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One correction to the White Star Magazine article on which Ro's piece was based. Blair's OBE was in 1918, not 1919; the notice published in The Times has been added to his bio page. So, too, have the notices related to the silver medal mentioned above.