John Collins (Scullion)


Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
I have been trying to gather important information on JOHN COLLINS, the 17-year old scullion on board the Titanic. As we know, Collins was one of the last survivors to leave the doomed ship. He later served in World War I. I would like info on his was record, particularly details of his internment as a POW in Germany. It appears that there he met a fellow allied prisoner named Woods who befriended him and with whom Collins discussed his Titanic experiences. I am trying to find out WHERE and for HOW LONG Collins was a POW and whether there is likely to be a list of other Allied/British POWs with him in the same camp. This info has an important follow-up.
 
H

Holly Peterson

Guest
Hi! I'm new to this thread and very interested in the children and teens of the Titanic, and I was wondering if anyone knew where to find a picture of the youngest Crew survivor, Mr. John Collins. I have a biography of him on my website, Children of the Titanic - John Collins but cannot seem to find a picture of him around the age when he was on Titanic. Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!

P.S. My name is Alzbeta, not Holly
 

Chris Dohany

Member
Dec 12, 1999
218
2
263
A circa-1912 pic of Collins was published in Steven Cameron's book "Belfast's Own," that would be your best obtainable bet. Perhaps harder to locate is a group shot of Collins and other surviving stewards whilst returning to England aboard Celtic after the U.S. Inquiries. I know this photo ran in THS's "Titanic Commutator," but I'm not certain which issue. Additionally, a photo of Collins in his 20s is on his Merchant Mariner's card, which at one point was contained on a CD-ROM produced by the Public Records Office.
 
H

Holly Peterson

Guest
Thank you Chris. You are certainly an avid researcher; I had no idea such photos existed. Do you think you could post them on this thread for me? Don't worry about legal issues or anything; I'm not going to put the photos in a published book. I merely collect them for fun and want to put them in my scrapbook. It's okay if you feel unwilling to post the photos on the internet.

Thank you so much,
Alzbeta
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,043
107
333
UK
Alzbeta, the law of copyright applies to the internet as well as to books. So material which is under copyright can't be posted here without permission from the copyright holder, even though we obviously don't have commercial motives.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
I have been trying to get some information on John Collins, the (then) 17 year old victualling assistant who was one of the last survivors to leave the Titanic and eventually ended up on the overturned Collapsible B lifeboat. A few years later, he ended up as a POW in Germany during the First World War. I want to find out where in Germany he was imprisoned and some details on the other inmates of that POW camp. Can anyone help with suggestions or information? Thanks in anticipation.

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally a separate thread, has been moved to this pre-existing thread discussing Mr. Collins. MAB]
 
Jul 22, 2001
123
2
183
kent uk
Hi Arun

Ancestry has some WW1 service records, although many service records were destroyed in the Blitz during WW2. You may be lucky to find his records on there. Should any survive they should list details of any POW camp John was held at. I was lucky to find the record of one of my relatives and it was quite detailed with dates and places. I went to Kew in London where the originals are held. Message me if you need some help with this
happy.gif


Good luck.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

marius mckee

Member
Sep 15, 2010
2
0
71
I am John Collin's grandson. His daughter Mary (my mother) lives in Spain. We have a few photographs of him from the 1920's and 30's. I would be very interested in any more information about him, he died 14 years before I was born. [email protected]
 

michael

Member
Apr 5, 1997
15
0
211
I wanted to ask if it has been determined (or at least speculated) as to the identity of the woman and her two children whom John Collins tried to help (where one of the children was eventually washed out of his arms)? Thanks in advance!
Michael
 

Collins80

Member
Jan 20, 2021
2
2
3
My name is Christopher Collins. I am from North Carolina USA. I Remember my grandmother telling me her great grandfather was from Belfast Ireland and also family of ours lived in Dublin Ireland. When I saw this it just makes me wonder...
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
My name is Christopher Collins. I am from North Carolina USA. I Remember my grandmother telling me her great grandfather was from Belfast Ireland and also family of ours lived in Dublin Ireland.
John Collins was certainly from Belfast and AFAIK lived most of his life there till his untimely death in 1941. He had 2 sons and a daughter and one of the sons - I think it was Benjamin Collins (but might have been Hugh) had an interest in his father's Titanic experience. The daughter Mary became Mary McKee after marriage and in the early and mid 1990s was living in England. At that time I was doing some research into John Collins and spoke to Mary McKee several times over the phone. She knew very little about her father because she was very young when he died but learned a bit from her brother Benjamin which I managed to make a gist of after several conversations.

One of the sons - I am almost certain it was Benjamin Collins - was living somewhere in the US when I was in touch with Mary McKee as above. She did send me his contact details by regular mail (I had no internet at the time, over 25 years ago) but we moved house ourselves soon afterwards and I misplaced it somewhere. Also, I lost contact with Mary McKee soon afterwards but I learned recently that she moved to Spain where she passed away in 2011. According to John Collins' bio on ET, she was his last surviving child at the time and so Benjamin and Hugh must have died earlier.

Was there a Benjamin or Hugh Collins among your American grand-relatives ie grandfather or grand-uncle? If so, might be worth checking if there is a connection.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
I wanted to ask if it has been determined (or at least speculated) as to the identity of the woman and her two children whom John Collins tried to help (where one of the children was eventually washed out of his arms)?
I know that the above post is over 10 years old but I just saw it yesterday.

I don't think anyone can find out for certain but from careful analysis of all available survivor accounts - especially those of August Wennerstrom and John Collins, my guess is that the woman was the Swedish Third Class passenger Alma Palsson. She was travelling with her 4 children to join her husband Nils, who was working at the time in Chicago.

The whole scenario happened at around 02:15 am just as the Titanic started its final plunge. As far as I can reconstruct the scene, Wennerstrom had 2 of the 4 children, Collins one and another (unnamed) steward the fourth child. Alma herself was somewhere between them. They were trying to get towards Collapsible A which Murdoch and his crew were trying frantically to free it from the falls in which the lifeboat had become partly entangled.

It was at that moment that the Titanic lost its longitudinal stability and gave a sudden forward and downward lurch. This created displacement of a large body of water in the form of a 'wave' that washed over the ship towards the stern. Caught in this wave, Wennerstrom and Collins lost their grips on the children; presumably the same thing happened to the other steward and the child he was carrying. Collins never saw them again but he and Wennerstrom managed to surface again; the latter climbed on board the waterlogged Collapsible A while Collins was eventually pulled on board the overturned Collapsible B.

It is not certain what happened to Alma Palsson herself but she was almost certainly one of the "4 or 5 women" that steward Edward Brown saw struggling in the water moments afterwards. He testified that under the circumstances he was not able to help any of them. Edith Evans and Martta Hiltunen might have been among those women but only Rhoda Abbot (who lost both her children) made it to Collapsible A; the other women were all lost.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
I have a biography of him on my website, Children of the Titanic - John Collins but cannot seem to find a picture of him around the age when he was on Titanic.
I checked out that link posted by the ET guest almost 13 years ago. It is from a web archive called "Wayback Machine" and while there is some useful information in it, there is a lot of melodramatic embellishment and also one major but understandable error that had tripped me up as well and led me widely off the path for almost 18 months in the late 1990s. I was rather new to web searching at the time.

Like the article says, scullion John Collins often regaled other WW1 POWs with his experiences on board the Titanic. One of them was a fellow Brit named Clarence 'Cheesy' Woods who sort of chronicled Collins' statements about the Titanic in his personal diary. The two men kept in touch for over a decade after the war - certainly into the early 1930s. During that time Collins met Woods' niece Alice, who was 9 or 10 years old at the time and was fascinated by his survival story. Decades later in the summer of 1985, I was introduced to Alice - then Mrs Alice Braithwaite - by a fellow Titanic enthusiast in Burton-on-Trent, England. We had a very long discussion about Collins at that meeting and although it was the only time I met her, I made copious notes. I have discussed that elsewhere here on ET.

But another bit of information that is mentioned in that 'Children of the Titanic' article is completely wrong. It refers to a 1939 reunion dinner in Toronto involving Titanic survivors Elizabeth Mellinger, her daughter Madeline Mann (nee Mellinger), Emma Bliss and.....John Collins. I first heard about that in 1997 and enthusiastically followed up, contacting various hotels and newspapers in Toronto, Titanic enthusiast and journalist Alan Hustak and several other sources. It took me 18 months of wasted research before I realized that I was onto the proverbial Red Herring. That reunion dinner took place exactly as described with all the 4 named people involved but the "John Collins" involved was actually John 'Samuel' Collins, a Titanic fireman and survivor who was more than 20 years older than the real subject of my research, his namesake scullion John Collins. Paradoxically, the older John Collins outlived the scullion by almost a decade.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Collins80

Member
Jan 20, 2021
2
2
3
John Collins was certainly from Belfast and AFAIK lived most of his life there till his untimely death in 1941. He had 2 sons and a daughter and one of the sons - I think it was Benjamin Collins (but might have been Hugh) had an interest in his father's Titanic experience. The daughter Mary became Mary McKee after marriage and in the early and mid 1990s was living in England. At that time I was doing some research into John Collins and spoke to Mary McKee several times over the phone. She knew very little about her father because she was very young when he died but learned a bit from her brother Benjamin which I managed to make a gist of after several conversations.

One of the sons - I am almost certain it was Benjamin Collins - was living somewhere in the US when I was in touch with Mary McKee as above. She did send me his contact details by regular mail (I had no internet at the time, over 25 years ago) but we moved house ourselves soon afterwards and I misplaced it somewhere. Also, I lost contact with Mary McKee soon afterwards but I learned recently that she moved to Spain where she passed away in 2011. According to John Collins' bio on ET, she was his last surviving child at the time and so Benjamin and Hugh must have died earlier.

Was there a Benjamin or Hugh Collins among your American grand-relatives ie grandfather or grand-uncle? If so, might be worth checking if there is a connection.
As far as I can remember my grandmother spoke of 3 family members from Ireland. App, Cora, and Charlie Collins.That would have been a great discovery to add to my family tree. Thank you for the information...
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
As far as I can remember my grandmother spoke of 3 family members from Ireland. App, Cora, and Charlie Collins.That would have been a great discovery to add to my family tree.
John Collins' father was named James; AFAIK, John Collins did not have a sibling by any of those 3 names and his wife was Mary. Children were named Benjamin, Hugh and Mary - so it is likely that you are not a direct descendant. BUT, they were large families and for all you know James Collins' - John's father - might have had a sibling or other relative who is your ancestor. Worth digging into it IMO.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
I was consulting my notes and comparing the information therein with Collins' testimony at the American Inquiry. Slightly contrary to what the Children of the Titanic article says, Collins arrived at Lifeboat #16 while it was still being loaded with Moody and Wilde in charge. He helped with the latter part of the loading and hoped to be allowed to go in it himself but it was Wilde (a few years later, while a WW1 POW in Germany Collins told Woods, a fellow prisoner, that it was the 'Senior officer, the one next to the Captain') who stopped him since there was already more than enough crew men on board.

Collins did not seem to know the identity of the steward who was holding one of Alma Palsson's children, just like Collins was. While it is difficult to be certain, it did not sound like the 'old hand' steward that he had befriended during the voyage and who told Collins that his allocated Lifeboat was #16 (See Titanic Inquiry Project). In those final minutes, Collins, the other steward, Wennerstrom, Alma Palsson and the 4 children were caught by the wave caused by the sudden lurch. Only Wennerstrom and Collins survived from that little group; Alma Palsson, her 4 children and the other unnamed steward were lost.
 
Feb 20, 2021
1
0
0
My name is Dhugal Robertson my Grandmother was Mary McKee she had 4 children and my mother is Roisin Robertson.
We have just found this thread and are happy to answer any questions. Unfortunately my uncle who posted further up has passed away we have lots of past photos, details and medals.
Please feel free to contact and ask questions.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
982
388
65
My condolences on your uncle's passing. May he rest in Peace.

Between 1985 and 2002 I did a lot of research on John Collins and during the course of this, spoke several times on the phone with Mrs McKee in the mid and late 1990s. She did not know her father well as he died when she was very young but passed on some bits of information from her older brother who was living in the USA at the time. She was going to send me his contact details but unfortunately we lost touch when she moved from "Tir Na Nog" - I think that was what her house was called. We moved ourselves in 1997. I understand she later moved to Spain before passing on herself.

I have got most of my information from another source, a descendant of a man named Woods who was a fellow POW in Germany with John Collins during World War 1. John shared his Titanic experiences with fellow POWs but it was Woods who took a keen interest and chronicled some of John Collins' statements. The two men remained friends for several years after the war, right down to 1930s. If you have any first hand information about John Collins' Titanic experiences I would be interested to know.

Collins was only 17 years old on the Titanic, his first ship. He helped in the loading of Lifeboat #16 and at one stage thought he would be allowed to go on it but reportedly was told by the senior officer ("one next to the Captain") that he was not required to help. Later in the sinking he was trying to help a woman and one of her children to reach Collapsible A when the 'wave' washed them all over. We think it might have been Alma Palsson and her children; another steward and Wennerstrom were also involved. One of the last things that John Collins recalled was Murdoch - whom he knew by sight - washed overboard by the wave with several others. John himself lost his grip on the child and almost drowned but somehow managed to swim to the overturned Collapsible B and was hauled up.
 
Last edited:
Jul 6, 2021
1
0
1
Chicago & Dublin
My name is Christopher Collins. I am from North Carolina USA. I Remember my grandmother telling me her great grandfather was from Belfast Ireland and also family of ours lived in Dublin Ireland. When I saw this it just makes me wonder...
Hello Chris. I am Patrick Corbett. My great grandmother was John's sister Elizabeth, born Elizabeth (Collins) Woodcock. She was actually born on 16 May 1884. Her daughter was Elizabeth (Woodcock) Comey, my grandmother. They lived in Dublin, where my Ma, Philomena (Comey) Corbett was born and raised, still living. I was born and raised in Dublin, but I live in Chicago now.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads