Ismay's escape


Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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Thanks my friend, much apreciated.

I don't know what to make of Ismay's escape.Contrary to his statement, there were people round the boat, and I think its likely that he waited until the boat was being lowered before he got into it. The only problem are those accounts of him being forced into the boat.

And as for the stories of those shots being fired.... Ismay would have had to have entered the boat after them, if Woolner's account is true. Would Ismay have risked entering the boat after this? Would the officers have stopped him?

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Oct 12, 2004
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I believe Ismay, himself, in this situation. He states in the inquiry that he stepped into the boat as it was being lowered and never said that he was ordered. I think Lightoller was just defending the head of his employer.

Great report. I hadnt heard a few of those descriptions before.
 
Oct 12, 2004
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So Ive had a slow day here at the office so decided to do some reading of materials I havent looked at in quite some time and I came across another thought. Is it possible the mere stature and grace of Ismay may have hurt him in his escape? Meaning, if he wasn't 6'4" and known as a handsome well mannered man, would it not have been so hideous that he escaped? I know his position in the line hurt him most of all. However, as someone of the same height it is amazing how many people come up to me saying they have seen me before, a phenomenon due to my stature. I think had he mingled in with the masses he would not have lent himself to the sensational stories and outcries by his fellow survivors. This is a man that attended the finest prep schools in England and finishing school in Paris. Described as a handsome man and one of impeccable taste. Coupled with his height he was sure to be noticed throughout the voyage.

Just a thought. I know its rather sophomoric.

Also, the more I read and reread of him there is an underlying thought that I can't seem to shake and I'll say it here. I don't think Ismay ever fully embraced his career or lot in life. I think he was thrust into the family business and suffered from the all too familiar angst of an un-accepting father. He excelled, but I dont think it was his love of ships. I think it was to try to reach his fathers level and gain the respect of a long-deceased man. Its a common psychological effect. Standing on the deck as the last boat is being lowered he must have thought to hell with the old man and his business. His father was ruthless and Ismay never seemed that way. Demanding more lifeboats after the disaster and the money spent on victims and charities. Its classic psychosis. The more I learn of him the more I feel for the guy. And oddly, I hate that. It was always easier to accept him as a villain. Regardless, thanks for listening to my rant.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Paul -

I've just emailed you an additional secondhand (or rather, third or even fourth-hand) source on Ismay's escape from the Titanic and his purported interaction with Wilde. Oldham claims Ismay discussed it with his sister-in-law, and told her that Wilde requested he get in the boat. Oldham himself notes the contradiction between this version and the one Ismay gave at the inquiry. He also doesn't use footnotes, so although he did get information from members of the Ismay family, he doesn't specify the exact provenance of the anecdote. I've sent it on to you FWIW.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Hi Inger,

Would you be so kind as to also send me a copy of that source? I would be very interested in reading it and comparing it to his Inquiry testimony (have reread the American but not yet the British. Getting there, hehe). Thank you. I appreciate it.
happy.gif


Take care and cheers
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Is it possible the mere stature and grace of Ismay may have hurt him in his escape?<<

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that. If you're talking about on board the Titanic, I doubt it helped or hurt him much at all as it appeared that even some of the officers didn't know who he was. If you mean in the aftermath, I've a hunch he'd have been a target no matter what, even if he hadn't had William Randolph Hearst and his printing press as an enemy.

He was a corperate bigwig at a time of intense activism, upheaval as well as social and political change and corperate bigwigs of any sort were the target of choice.
 
Oct 12, 2004
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Michael,

What I meant by that was physical stature. He was surely noticed at that height and once people put together who he was, whether on board, or in the aftermath I believe it might have hurt him.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>What I meant by that was physical stature.<<

Maybe. When you're a target or can reasonably expect to become one, having traits which make you stand out can be a real disadvantage. Having said that much, I'm not sure his physical hight would have made that much difference. It's not like he would have been the only tall guy on the ship, and in the dark of the night, you tend to look like little more then a grey and fuzzy shadow. Still, you may be right.

FWIW, and that may not be much in this instance, I think the simple fact that he was "The Boss" and was so indiscreet as to survive when people under his line's care didn't hurt him most of all.
 

Inger Sheil

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Looks good, Paul - given how controversial Ismay's escape from the ship is (both in terms of what actually occured as well as the moral implications), your juxtapositioning of sources is an invaluable tool.
 
Jun 4, 2006
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Is there any truth to the story that Ismay put a shawl over his head and pretended to be a woman, then was let into a boat anyway when found out because of his position with the White Star Line? There is at least one story about a teenage boy or another man doing that---but somehow the Ismay incident sticks in my mind.
 

John Clifford

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Hi Valerie.

There is no truth about Bruce Ismay putting a shawl over his head and pretending to be a woman.

Bruce Ismay noted that there were no women waiting in the vicinity of the Collapsible, so he got on board upon seeing the available space.

The story of a teenage boy putting a shawl over his head and pretending to be a woman was based on the events of the Ryerson and Carter families.

During the loading of the lifeboats, Arthur Ryerson quarreled with Charles Lightoller, about his son being allowed on a lifeboat. Lightoller said the boy was too old, to which Ryerson exclaimed "He's 13 years old, and he goes with his mother". To that, Lightoller conceded, but then said "But no more boys!". At that point, Lucille Carter was said to have placed her hat on her son's head. Lightoller, it has been said, saw this occur, but chose not to say anything.
 
Jun 4, 2006
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Thank you...there are so many stories about what
went on that night, and so many versions that I guess research becomes a game of "Whisper Down the Lane." What would you say is the definitive source of information? A Night to Remember, this site (of course)? How truly accurate was A Night to Remember? I did not get the Ismay story from that book, however. It was probably from some badly made film version of the event.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>What would you say is the definitive source of information?<<

The best of all possible primary sources relating to the disaster would be the inquiries themselves which you can read on line by clicking on This Hotlink. For information on the ship, you can try resources such as The Shipbuilder specials. After that, you get into the books that were written based on a lot of research going through any number of records repositories and archives.

>>How truly accurate was A Night to Remember?<<

Depends. It's still the seminal work which set the standard for all subsequent research as Walter Lord did the very best he could with the resources available at the time, and did a lot better then anything that came befor it. It's far from perfect however so as with any source, it's a good idea to check things out for yourself.
 

Inger Sheil

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In addition to the Ryerson story that John mentions, there is also the man that Fifth Officer Lowe found when reshuffling passengers in the boats to arrange for a rescue attempt:

quote:

Mr. LOWE....Then I asked for volunteers to go with me to the wreck, and it was at this time that I found this Italian. He came aft, and he had a shawl over his head and I suppose he had skirts. Anyhow, I pulled this shawl off his face and saw he was a man. He was in a great hurry to get into the other boat, and I caught hold of him and pitched him in.

Senator SMITH. Pitched him in?

Mr. LOWE. Yes; because he was not worthy of being handled better.
(American Inquiry)
The 'Italian' identification is generally assumed to be incorrect - a couple of Irish steerage passengers have been nominated. Edward Ryan is a good candidate - in early correspondence he admitted to wearing a towel over his head and letting the ends hang down, also wearing a long coat and walking 'very stiff' past the officers to board a lifeboat.

As Lowe was involved both in this incident and the confrontation with Ismay on deck when he bawled out the chairman for interfering with his efforts at the lifeboats, it's possible the two incidents have become conflated in some sources.​
 

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