Did a reputable man sink Officer Lowe's reputation


regarding the following extract from Fifth Officer Lowe's testimony at the US Inquiry...

>>Senator SMITH. Are you a temperate man?

Mr. LOWE. I am, sir. I never touched it in my life. I am an abstainer.

Senator SMITH. I am very glad to have you say that.

Mr. LOWE. I say it, sir, without fear of contradiction.

Senator SMITH. I am not contradicting you, and I congratulate you upon it; but so many stories have been circulated one has just been passed up to me now, from a reputable man, who says it was reported that you were drinking that night.

Mr. LOWE. Me, sir?

Senator SMITH. That is the reason I asked the question.

Mr. LOWE. No, sir, this [indicating a glass of water] is the strongest drink I ever take.<<

Does anyone know who the "reputable man" is?
Also, I don't know how to access Inger Sheil's research on Fifth Officer Lowe and I'd really like to read it. Can someone tell me where I have to go?

Thank you!

I don't know offhand, but as a general rule, accusations like that do tend to crop up when something happens and people are looking for some poor sod to take the blame or settle some kind of score.

I don't believe it was a true accusation in Lowe's case, but it doesn't help matters that sometimes, such accusations are true.

Inger Sheil

Hallo Patrick -

I'm still working on an in-depth biography of Harold Lowe, and have not yet released the bulk of my research. I'll be keeping the board informed of any major developments.

I'm afraid that I don't know of any source that identifies the 'reputable man' by name (although I would be pleased if someone would come forward with it). This is a question that concerned Lowe himself, and in the days following his testimony he considered approaching Smith and demanding to know the identity of the individual who had impugned his sobriety. In the end he did write to Smith seeking to have the matter of his sobriety put beyond doubt, as he feared that reports of him drinking might be taken as true, a possibility that distressed him on both a personal and professional level. Smith obliged him by making a further statement on the subject vindicating the officer's sobriety (if not his temperament), and Lowe was pursuaded by friends and colleagues not to pursue the matter further. Additionally, at least one childhood friend who was living in NY at the time wrote to the media pointing out that his total abstinance was well known among those who were acquainted with him.

In the realm of speculation, I have wondered if perhaps the 'reputable man' might have been one of Daisy Minahan's State Senators. It is interesting that Minahan was requested to give a sworn affidavit in which she alledged that Lowe's behaviour gave the impression of intoxication. Lowe's grievances over Smith's questioning of him on the issue of drunkeness had been given quite a bit of media coverage that was sympathetic to the Fifth Officer, and I have wondered if the affidavit was an attempt to put the source of charge on record. The 'reputable man' who handed Smith the material is not identified as a passenger or crewman, but someone who said that 'it was reported' rather than 'I saw', suggesting that the story may well have been second-hand.

Lowe's sobriety was beyond question to those that knew him. The written references he provided for his BoT certifications make interesting reading on this point - the words 'sober' or 'strictly sober' were frequently underlined!
Inger, just a way out wild thought, but I wonder also if it might not have been Senator Smith himself using a little bit of courtroom trickery to try and trip Lowe up or at least put him on the defensive and keep him there. It's not like Smith was wholly incapable of doing something like that.
Hello Ms. Sheil,

Thank you for the information. I'm looking forward to reading your biography of Fifth Officer Lowe. I've gone through many of your previous posts and learned a great deal from them, so it promises to be very interesting.

>>Inger, just a way out wild thought, but I wonder also if it might not have been Senator Smith himself using a little bit of courtroom trickery to try and trip Lowe up or at least put him on the defensive and keep him there. <<

To be honest, that thought has also crossed my mind. I can only guess what their tone of voice was, but it seems to me Senator Smith and Fifth Officer Lowe didn't exactly hit it off. Regarding Titanic's position at 8 o'clock the night of the 14th as determined by Lowe, didn't the latter say "Do you mean to say you would be more accurate than I am?" when Smith repeatedly asked him about the figures he used for his calculations? And wasn't Smith quite arrogant right before mentioning the "reputable man" when he said "I am not contradicting you, and I congratulate you upon it;"? But then again I wasn't there, and for all I know there were smiling all the while. But somehow I don't think so.


Christine Geyer

To me it sounds like Smith really enjoyed provoking poor Harold Lowe - whether the reputable (wo)man really existed or not. Parts of the interview sound rather like the interrogation of a prisoner than the testimony of an eyewitness. Not quite the way I'd deal with a man who just went through such a tragedy.

Regards to you all
From the looks of it, Senator Smith enjoyed provoking a lot of people. Especially with the not so thinly veenered way he reworded a lot of the same questions he'd asked befor. However, in fairness to the man, his tactics were pretty good for bringing things out and getting the story strieght. He also got there first, while memories were still fresh, and he gave passngers a venue for being heard you never saw at the BOT Inquiry

We may not like his tricks, but we still owe him an enormous debt.

Inger Sheil

Their relationship was certainly adversarial - newspaper reports had it that both men became sarcastic, and Lowe was later to privately make some scathing remarks about Smith. I agree, Christine, that the tone of the exchanges does veer into something like the cross-examination of a hostile witness, which makes one raise an eyebrow when reading Smith's reminder to Lowe that the Inquiry was not a trial!

I do believe that the note most probably was handed up to Smith and read as he paraphrased it, and while he might have tackled it somewhat hastily, he did so in the context of the 'other stories' that were circulating. Smith was still pursuing the Klein allegations of intoxication on the part of the crew, and when the suggestion was given to him that Lowe was seen drinking it is understandable that he thought it might substantiate some of the other stories of drunkenness. Klein was, of course, later exposed as an imposter, and as far as we know now intoxication played no part in the officers' conduct. However, matters weren't that clear in the aftermath of the disaster, and it is understandable that Smith would pursue these stories.

In a later statement about the Lowe drinking allegation, Smith reportedly declared that he was very pleased to have tackled the question of whether Lowe had been intoxicated head-on, and intimated that he was glad to have cleared the name of the 'brave young officer' [!!!]. Whether he was sincere in this or whether it was a matter of classic political backpeddling for the newspapers (which had been reporting Lowe's side of the story very sympathetically) is a matter of interpretation.

In a profession where alcohol abuse was not uncommon and in which it was a factor in many maritime accidents, it is understandable that being able to say one was a teetotaller or abstainer was desirable for a merchant mariner. Lowe felt strongly on this point, and made it quite clear in his reported comments that he regarded his reputation as an abstainer a substantial part of his 'value' as an officer.

We're very informal here, Patrick - I hope I'm not presuming too much by using your first name. Please call me Inger
Hello Inger,

It's absolutely OK for you - or anybody else for that matter - to use my first name. I sometimes forget that I'm not at work (a scary thought in itself) and therefore continue to call everyone "Sir" and "Miss". If I keep this up, I'll soon refer to myself at the third person...
Smith actually called Lowe a "brave young officer"?! I'm wondering how Lowe reacted to that - did he send Smith a card that read "Senator Smith, thank you for the kind words. If we're ever on a sinking ship together, I'll let you lower any lifeboat you want"? It's 1:30 in the morning here, and I think my brain has already gone to bed...
I'd like to know what are your thoughts on the three shots Lowe said he fired the night of the 14th. For some reason, I have the feeling there's a lot more to that story.


Inger Sheil

Lol! Lowe kept a clipping of an article reporting the 'brave' comment, but as far as I know he didn't correspond with Senator Smith (although he did hit it off well with one of Smith's off-siders and communicated with him once he was back in the UK). It's interesting that there was some behind-the-scenes contact between the two men that never made it into the official transcripts of the inquiry - Lowe's letter re the drinking matter, for example, and (according to one source) a visit that Lowe made to the Senator's office to see about his expenses.

I've bandied around ideas and theories regarding the firing of shots as No. 14 was lowered over the years, and had some very interesting discussions with researchers that have put a wide variety of interpretations on his action - one friend has even gone so far as to suggest that someone may have stood in the way of the bullets, although I strongly believe that the testimony indicates otherwise.

Lowe was very comfortable and familiar with firearms, and my interpretation of the evidence is that he was cool and deliberate in his use of the gun to make his meaning very plain. I wonder, though, whether his comments that he had retrieved the gun because one never knew 'when you might need it' was the full story - I suspect that perhaps Lowe was the officer that Stengel reported as ducking off to fetch his gun in response to unruly behaviour at some of the earlier forward starboard boats, and men jumping in.
About officer Lowe, I have read in the book :"The Titanic, End of a dream" by Wyn Craig Wade, that he was very hard with a young boy, hardly more than a schoolboy. " As the young boy climbed over the rail and fell in among the women in Number 14 who covered him up with their skirts. The boy didn't want to go. Lowe thrust his revolver into his face saying, ;"I give you just ten seconds to get back onto that ship before I blow your brains out!" He finally got the boy to get back on the Titanic. Is this story true ? If so,I find him very hard and I desapprove with the way he acted even if the situation was critical , it is in no way, a reason to threaten a young person with a revolver. If this is true, I consider he was hearthless in that specific situation. Please, someone, tell me it is not true.
Emilie, that story came from 2nd Class passenger Charlotte Collyer who wrote a colourful account of her experience for a popular magazine, probably with a little help from an imaginative journalist. Their efforts to put words into Lowe's mouth (even for occasions when Mrs Collyer was not present) are not the most reliable, but she did go on to say that Lowe succeeded in ejecting the young man not with threats but with a more gentle approach, by urging him to 'be a man' for the sake of the women and children. Nobody who wasn't there can say for sure whether or not the essence of the story is true, but keep in mind that Mrs Collyer described the young victim not as a child but as a lad "almost small enough to be counted as a child." In 1912 there was a different notion of the age at which school days and childhood ended and a life of adult responsibility began.
i am not trying to defend lowes *supposed* brutality towards the young lad, and i suppose some people might find me strange for thinking like i do but, if you think how much people must have been panicking (i cant spell) the boy would not have took one bit of notice if Lowe had said "now be a good boy and get back on the ship" he had to threaten him with death, because that is what the lad was trying to escape from, so at least being left on the ship he had a tiny shred of hope whereas if he had stayed in the lifeboat he knew what his fate would have been.
i know Lowe wouldnt have had time to think it over and probaly just said what ever came out of his mouth to get the point accross. he was responsible for the safety of those in #14 and this lad was jeprodising their chances of safety.
btw, if i have said anything which is wrong please correct me, i am just expressing my opinion but would hate to have them based on things which are not true
Thank you for your explanation Bob. It makes sense and I'd rather think the way you do about that boy eviction from number 14 boat. I felt it is so shocking to address like that to a person, no matter if she is a child or an adult and what ever the emergency, after all, it wasn't their fault and noboby needed to be treated as criminals.
If this incident did happen more or less as Mrs Collyer described it, I think it highly unlikely that Lowe ever intended to do more than threaten to shoot the lad. At worst he would have ejected him by throwing him bodily out of the boat. Mrs Collyer herself further stated that Lowe dealt in just that way with an adult passenger who jumped in shortly afterwards: "He fell upon a young child and injured her internally. The officer seized him by the collar and by sheer brute strength, pushed him back onto the Titanic."

Emilie, you might be interested in this thread, which begins by considering the circumstances in which a ship's officer might be justified in making use of a firearm: