Unfortunately, there is not a lot on Fred Fleet's family; he was left parentless at an early age, and there is no record of any brothers or sisters, that I know of.
Fred's life was first spent in various orphanages and foster homes, until he began his sea career at age 12. He was 24 years old when he was assigned as the lookout on the Titanic.
Apparently Fred and his wife had no children, and in their later years were living with his wife's brother. After the wife died, Fred was told to leave, by his brother-in-law, and within 2 weeks, Fred committed suicide by hanging himself; that was on January 10, 1965.
My information comes from the board's crew information page; there is a biograpy on Fred Fleet's life; see:
BTW, in the book "Titanic Voices", coauthored by Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima, there is a 1961 picture of Fred Fleet. At that time he sold copies of the Southern Daily Echo at a news stand in Southampton.
Fred Fleet also related that he was an orphan, in a letter written to Ed Kamuda. The text of the letter and Fred's picture are on page 273 of "Titanic Voices".
There is also a picture of Fred's grave, at Southampton's Hollybrook Cemetery, on page 282 of "Titanic Voices".
Can anyone please tell me what Frederick Fleet's religion was? I ask because I am currently involved in a production of "Titanic the Musical" and, in the relevant scene, immediately before the collision, the character of Fleet is given the line: "Holy Mother of God...iceberg right ahead!". Now, I know that the famous last three words have the provenance of Fleet's own testimony, but the earlier words have clearly been added for dramatic effect. What worries me is that this type of expletive would only be used by a Roman Catholic, and I am not sure if these words "ring true" from what we have found out so far about Fleet. It sounds Irish, really, and Fleet was born in Liverpool where there was and still is a large Irish Catholic community - but he was brought up in a succession of foster homes. Can anyone verify whether Fleet had a Catholic upbringing, and whether, as a result, this is an expression he is actually likely to have used?
It annoys me that the musical is sometimes inaccurate - historically, verbally and socially - but it is still seems much more faithful than the James Cameron film. I would like my production to be as authentic as possible.
"It annoys me that the musical is sometimes inaccurate - historically, verbally and socially"
I agree James, My Late father's cousin Charles V Clarke is featured in the musical. "Caroline Neville" is an upper class English women who is running away with C V Clarke to marry him against her parents wishes. Charles and his wife Ada M Winfield had in fact been married for four years before they sailed on Titanic. Charles perished whilst Ada survived
Thank you, Barry. I suppose it is not surprising that the authors felt it necessary to conflate characters and re-work certain facts in order to achieve the dramatic purpose. The same was done with the film A Night To Remember. Unfortunate, though, when a family member is involved.
Still, all of us working on the show have been very affected by it already, and we are not performing it until April. As you yourself have a connection to one of the victims, you may be interested to know that our cast includes two brothers, Jonathan and Matthew Mudd, who are the great-great nephews of Thomas Mudd, a second class passenger from here in Suffolk, who also lost his life.
James, the musical was never intended to be an authentic representation of the characters or events involved with the sinking of the Titanic, any more than Evita was intended as a reliable biography of Eva Peron. So I don't think anybody is likely to pass judgement in that respect and I wouldn't be too concerned about it. From all accounts, TTM works very well for its intended purpose as an entertainment inspired by real events, and stirs the emotions as it should. That would be the limit of my expectations, and I would enjoy the production as such. Sure you could get a lot closer to authentic portrayals, but only if you binned the script and started from scratch with historical advisers on hand. The result would very likely be unwatchable! I'm sure your audience will appreciate the story as it stands and will be moved by it, and that's what it's all about.
You are, of course, absolutely right, Bob. And I wouldn't actually seek to change anything in the musical, even if I could, which I can't because we have been licensed to perform the work only as writ. As you say, it is a very stirring piece and I am sure our audiences are going to be very moved by it. It just slightly aggravates me that the authors sometimes changed things when they didn't really need to.
The Titanic disaster is still a very emotive subject too, unlike, say, Evita Peron (well, in the UK anyway). There has already been one letter in the local press criticising the decision to mount the production implying that the appalling loss of life makes it an unfit subject for a musical play.
Eva Peron is still a VERY emotive subject in Argentina. In 2006, they moved Juan Peron's body to a new location and fighting broke out among the unions that were gathered to watch. I think fighting nearly 50 years after he left power would point to a highly-charged and emotional subject.