John (Samuel) Collins (Fireman)

Arun Vajpey

Member
On 15th April 1939, three women and a man met for dinner at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. All four had survived the sinking of the Titanic and met for the 27th anniversary of the tragedy. The women were Elizabeth Mellinger, her daughter Madeline Mellinger-Mann and Emma Bliss, but there appears to be some controversy of the man's identity.

Based on several references that I have seen in the past including Alan Hustak's TITANIC: THE CANADIAN STORY, I have always understood that the man was scullion John Collins. But in the biography section of ET fireman/stoker Samuel John Collins is credited with going to the event. Since there was a 18-year age difference between the two men, I am sure it should be possible to find the truth. Can someone help?
 

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member
Moderator
Member
quote:

But in the biography section of ET fireman/stoker Samuel John Collins is credited with going to the event.

Yes and it also states that in Emma Bliss' biography, but unfortunately to further confuse matters, this article uploaded to John Collins' biography states that it was he who attended the reunion.

In that same article, Emma Bliss swears that she remembers him "distinctly". To make it even more confusing, John Collins' biography states that he was on Collapsible B, so supposedly he was nowhere near lifeboat 15 which Bliss, Elizabeth Mellinger and her daughter were in.

Also, in John Collins' bio, it says that he died in a psychiatric hospital in Belfast in 1941 of syphilis. Assuming that he had the disease for more than a year and plus syphillis can be painful, I find it far fetched that he would travel all the way here, have a reunion and then return to Belfast in his condition.

It seems more likely (at least to me anyway) that it was Samuel John Collins who attended the reunion. Perhaps it's just a mix up of the two, due to the fact that they had almost identical names. But, Samuel's biography indicates that he was in lifeboat 1 and does not provide any information, as to where he ended up.

This is indeed a mystery and one that requires further investigation to settle it once and for all. Since I live in Toronto, I may be able to dig up something; perhaps through the Royal York Hotel itself, if they have an archive.​
 
Hey Jason - neat that you're from Toronto also! I was thinking of going over to the Royal York as well but I'm busy at work right now.

I think it's more likely that it was Samuel John Collins as well but again, Bliss was not on lifeboat 1 (which didn't have many people esp. women on board!) It's possible that because it was nighttime she mistook someone else for him or embellished a story, which sometimes happens with Titanic.
 

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member
Moderator
Member
Hey Derek,

Another Torontonian; sweet!

quote:

It's possible that because it was nighttime she mistook someone else for him or embellished a story, which sometimes happens with Titanic.

Yes, those are good possibilities as well. As you said, it wouldn't be the first time.​
 
Oh, and another thing: this event at the royal york is not mentioned in the Globe and Mail at all (which I have full access to) - only in the Toronto star, the article of which is already posted to ET.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
>>>>>>> This is indeed a mystery and one that requires further investigation to settle it once and for all. Since I live in Toronto, I may be able to dig up something; perhaps through the Royal York Hotel itself, if they have an archive.<<<<<<

It will be great if you could clear this up! I have tried phoning both the Royal York and Toronto Star without much help. Perhaps the archives department of the latter might turn up something but they charge us to provide back issue information. As a local, you might have access to short-cuts that I do not.

But it does increasingly look like it was the older man, Samuel John Collins who attended that dinner. During my research into the other one, John Collins, several sources stated that it was he who was present. One of these was Canadian author Alan Hustak in his book TITANIC: THE CANADIAN STORY. But when I e-mailed Mr Hustak recently, he suggested that he might have made a mistake earlier and now believes it was Samuel John Collins.

In a way, that is both good and bad news to me. Good because I no longer have to try and track down the very long shot of Madeline Mann's sons to check if their mother told them anything about the conversation at that 1937 dinner. Bad because it narrows the available field of John Collins' post-Titanic life quite considerably.
 

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member
Moderator
Member
quote:

Oh, and another thing: this event at the royal york is not mentioned in the Globe and Mail at all

Good to know. Thanks, Derek.

quote:

It will be great if you could clear this up!

Yes, it would be, Arun. I'll do my best and hopefully will be able to solve this mystery.​
 
re: Mr Samuel Collins
I think I may be able to clarify the identity of the Collins who attended the 1939 Toronto reunion since it was my grandfather, John Collins(1874-1950) None of us children ever knew him as he left home in Ramsgate, Kent, when our father (another John Collins)was a young lad, to make a new life in Canada.Fortunately,father did maintain contact with him and did indeed meet with him in London some years after that ill-fated attempt at working his passage. Why and how he registered as Samuel Collins is still a mystery as I thought members of crew had some sort of identification document that was signed off as they moved from ship to ship.
He dropped the alias immediately afterwards and made Canada where he enlisted in the CEF in 1914
After the war, he returned to Canada with another young family and died in Toronto in 1950.
I understand from one of the newly discovered descendants in Canada that he had what has been described as an attractive 'Titanic medal' in a velvet-lined case but I can only assume that it might have been one of those privately awarded to the crew of the Carpathia that he somehow acquired.
Incidently, he did help crew lifeboat number 1 on the night of the disaster and had to give evidence because of the controversy surrounding that boat. Hence, I can only assume that there was some embellishment of the facts in the reunion article.
 

Jim Currie

Member
According to the Titanic Crew list - Samuel Collins, Fireman/Stoker was 35 years of age when he signed on the ship's articles at Southampton which mould mean he was born in 1877. That would make him 3 years younger than your grandfather.


As you know, Gold, silver and bronze medals were struck and presented to the officers and crew of Carpathia but these were awarded some time after.
The proposal to award those medals was not passed by the US government until April, 22,1912. They were awarded to the crew of Carpathia when she returned to New York on May 30th. Samuel Collins returned to the UK. On May 2nd the BoT Inquiry began. He gave evidence on day 13 . Although some of the crew left the ship when she was in the Mediterranean; it is highly unlikely he joined Carpathia at that time.
 
Hi Jim,
Yes and that was not the only occasion when his memory with respect to his age was somewhat doubtful. However, his DoB was 19th January 1874.

I hope to find out a little more about that particular medal, as well as other matters, from a Canadian step-relative with whom I'm just establishing contact and who spent a lot of time with G/father in his younger years. With a little luck I might get a picture of it.

Regards,
Malcolm
 
Hi Jason,
Yes, thankyou, I have a copy of the article including the picture. If I remember correctly, it was one of the very kind Toronto genealogists who have so greatly facilitated my research into grandfather's life who also drew my attention to the article.
When I began this journey back in 2006, other than the tiny media pics relating to the Titanic disaster, I had just one good studio photograph turned into a post-card that g/father had send to my father from Toronto, sometime after 1921 when he finally got back to Canada after the war (there is no legible post-mark unfortunately), and his 1914-15 campaign medal. Of course, having his regimental number helped considerably; and a local Toronto newspaper was interested enough in his Titanic and WW1 experiences to publish a short article, including this post-card picture,with my request for any information on his life and final resting place.
The response was very heartening, and as a result I am now in contact with one blood relative and other step relatives with whom I am now fitting in place the last pieces of the jigsaw.
I've only just been made aware of this superb Encyclopedia Titanica website where I can see there is so much interesting material to read when time allows.
Returning to g/father, however, do you know if there is any way of discovering whether or not he previously worked on the 'Highland Laddie'as stated.
Without putting too fine a point on it, I've felt for sometime now that a man determined to make a new life in North America would probably not want his focus to be distracted by forays to South America! But I could be wrong.
King regards,
Malcolm.
 
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