Look out for this one on Officer Lowe


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Senan Molony

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Hi guys,

Must say I got a sudden jolt when leafing through a stack of British provincial papers over the weekend to notice one of our esteemed number mentioned prominently in despatches - page three no less.

The Western Mail (based in Cardiff, Wales) reported in a headline:

"Author Sheds New Light On 'Real Hero' Of The Titanic"

The story, by Manjiri Kulkarni, told of Officer Lowe's derring-do, adding:

"Inger Sheil, an Australian writer currently living in London, is writing a book about Lowe entitled The Real Hero of the Titanic.

"He went to return immediately, but the women in his boat were unimpressed," said Ms Sheil. "So he dispersed them into other boats and rounded up a crew of nine to go in search of survivors.

"His torch failed and it was completely dark, but he picked up four people. He then managed to erect a mast and sail - he was a boatman and a sailor.

"As they headed to the rescue ship, Carpathia, he came across a collapsible boat and pulled everyone off it. Ten minutes later and they would have died," she said.

Lowe's heroics were brought back to life by Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd in the blockbuster film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio.

Ms Sheil now wants to trace Lowe's early years and has interviewed his descendants in Wales.

She said, "I've had a long-term interest in the story and the Titanic sinking. One of the most vivid characters is Harold Godfrey Lowe, the fifth officer. When I first began looking, I found a remarkable dearth of material on him. (My book) was originally going to be a website, but then I found more and more material."

Putting the story together has meant comparing official documents, corporate records and newspaper reports against anecdotal evidence.

She said, "He originally grew up in Barmouth, but he ran away from home. He gave his age as 14, but we found that he was actually more like 15."

Starting out as a ship's boy, Lowe rose to the position of fifth officer by the time the Titanic set sail in April 1912. Official Inquiries into the Titanic disaster painted Lowe as a colourful character, Ms Sheil said.

"He rebuked the chairman of the line (Ismay) because he was interfering in the release of the boats and was known for having a very, very sharp tongue, and was also fairly blasphemous.

"But he took great offence at being accused of being drunk on duty because he abstained. He also played up the gallery a lot. In one account, there was a group of Washington schoolgirls in the gallery, and Lowe would raise an eyebrow up to them now and again."

In one exchange, Senator Smith, head of the sub-committee into the Titanic inquiry, asked him what he thought the iceberg was made of.

"Ice, I suppose, sir," Lowe replied, to laughter in the galleries.

He later saw some action in Vladivostok with the Allies and rose to be a commander in the Royal Naval Reserves, Ms Sheil said.

"He retired in 1930 with his family back to Deganwy in North Wales and passed away in 1944," she said.

"I have been in contact with the members of his family, particularly his son who was very supportive."

Although there have been biographies and books written on other officers who served on the Titanic, and the ship's captain, Ms Sheil's book will be the first on Harold Lowe.

"Most people just accept stories about the Titanic and never delve into it." Ms Sheil gave up her job as a political speechwriter in Australia to move to London and concentrate on the project.

"So far I can take him as far back as 1900. But there are possibly one or two steamers that he worked on before that, and I'd like to trace some of the men who were part of the crew."
______

A book for the Christmas stocking in a year or two's time, I should imagine. Attagirl Ing!
 
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All I want to know is when it's going to be published and through who. Senan, I hope I have better luck getting that one then I've had getting yours. Amazon.uk has it available by special order only.

Say, I've mentioned this befor in the 'Let's Meet" thread, but if you're bringing a few copies of yours to sell, I'm buying!

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Senan Molony

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Actually that's a good idea, Mike. I'll see what I can rustle up. I have only one or two personal copies and it is out of print at the moment, but a reprint is supposed to be imminent, so I will bring some if I can. Will have to give a couple to Phil Gowan for all the help he's given me on various fronts.
I don't know anything about Ing's book, when it's due out or whatever, and hope she doesn't mind me posting what I saw. I guess if the media are taking an interest things must be fairly well advanced.
 

Inger Sheil

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Lol! Thanks, folks. I'm amused you saw it, Sen. The Western Mail story was one of a few kites I've had in the air with the Lowe research (and one of the reasons I've been haphazzard in my posting- have spent a few days here and there away from the net and working on the book).

The article is not quite representative of my views - I gave the two reporters who spoke to me on separate occasions quite lengthy interviews, and they had to piece it together from that. It was all excruciatingly detailed from the time he finished the second dog watch to his appearances at the inquiries, and they simply picked bits out of that. I'm quoted as saying some things I didn't say (although there are a few definite 'Ingisms' in there...like 'dearth of material'). They also selected a name for the book for us - I was asked if it would be called 'The Real Hero...' and responded that was up to the publishers, but not if we could bloody help it. I suspect they struggled a bit with the rapid fire Aussie accent too - mention of pre-1900 *steamers* when it should of course be *schooners* is one example.

I thought they did a good job of it, coming to a fairly complex story cold, as Manjiri did. I was also quite taken aback by just how much coverage they gave it - a few photos and a front page headline. Also a good little sidebar that told Rene Harris story of the presentation items and interviews. Kerri was left out again, unfortunately.

We're plugging away - somewhere in the vicinity of 50,000 + words and some remarkable photos. No projected publishing date as yet.

Next time I see you I'm going to have to snap up some extra copies of TIAT, Sen, as I keep getting asked for them from non-UK residents.

~ Ing
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Out of print? Well, that explains why I can't get it then. I'll be looking forward to it if you have a few left to sell.

BTW, how goes it with that second edition? I've heard some rumblings that you've had some difficulties with the publisher.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Inger,

Very interesting article. Congrats! That is - if you're still speaking to me after the minor skirmish. Even if not congrats anyhow.

That's good publicity and you should certainly keep that up. If I can help here in the US with anything, let me know. I write for the Dallas Morning News and its southwest syndicate. As you know my forte is fluff but I'm being assigned my first feature which will be Titanic related and guess who the star is - if he's still willing - our own Phil G! So maybe I can do a piece on you when or before the book comes out.

I would have rathered put this in a private email but I can't find your correct address. You must have changed it recently? Mine is [email protected]. Drop me a line and let me know if we can still have a nice civil tea on my next trip over! No flipping jam with a fork allowed, dear.

All my best wishes on your fascinating project.

Randy

PS) In case you're listening in, Phil, my deadline is March 15 for inclusion in the April 15-18 edition. I'll be in touch ASAP.
 

Inger Sheil

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Randy, if you'd ever seen me in a knock-down, drag out stoush with Smolony (either on a discussion list or, say, in a pub) over some point or other of Titanic issues, you wouldn't need to ask if we're still speaking :) I draw a line between a difference of opinion on an academic matter and a personal difference, and don't hold grudges against those who differ with me on a matter of interpretation. Thanks for your kind words, and I'll email you when I have a moment.

My new address is [email protected]

All the best,

~ Ing
 
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Andrew Rogers

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1900 schooners! There's a nice thought.

(eastern Australian IN joke, sorry)
 

Inger Sheil

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Lol! Yes, although I fear Lowe would most probably have been avoiding the pre-1900 Australian schooners (and middies, for that matter).

As a follow up to the above, in case there are any Welsh members of the board who happened to be listening to BBC Radio Wales on Friday morning - yes, that was me attempting to explain to Roy Noble how an Australian living in London happened to be writing a book about a Welsh seaman.

The response to the article has been very warm - I particularly appreciated hearing from a Welsh maritime historian who shared similar feelings about some of the more zealous revisionists of recent years (e.g. Gardiner) who either deliberately downplay positive material pertaining to Lowe or who are blissfully ignorant of the existance of such material. This counter-trend (familiar in any historical field where the pendulum of revisionism-reactionism swings) is as problematic as the perceived 'pro-Lowe' bias, and just as prevelant. It was also very interesting to hear from someone whose thoughts ran parallel to my own on the influence that stereotypes of Welsh character have on interpretations of Lowe's personality.

Have been preoccupied of late (hence the slight decrease in pontifical posts on the board) - new photos, a 1912 account from a survivor referring to Lowe that has never been reprinted that I found when I was looking for something else, comments from Lowe about his role in the disaster that were made just before he returned to sea in the latter part of 1912. All good stuff, but of far more interest to me has been some of the material relating to his pre and post Titanic life that we've recently located. Yet another odd incident that might be interpreted as supernatural in nature - and this one was part of testimony submitted at a coronial inquiry!

All the best,

Ing
(Who is off to drink pints in one of Dick Turpin's haunts, the Spainiards Inn on Hampstead Heath, but she shall call them schooners in honour of you, Andrew)
 
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