Original blueprints for auction at BTS 2005


Mar 28, 2002
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According to the BBC, original blueprints taken off the Titanic before she left Cherbourg are up for sale at the Aldridge auction at BTS this year.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4207437.stm

However, these belong to William Wilson, an engineer / draughtsman who sailed on the Titanic from Southampton and disembarked at Cherbourg. Searching through the crew and passenger lists on this site, there is no mention of anyone by the name of WIlliam Wilson and certainly no-one by that name who boarded at Belfast and disembarked at Cherbourg. Is this story legit?

Cheers,

Boz
 
Mar 28, 2002
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Found out a bit more on William Wilson. Apparently he boarded the Titanic at Belfast on her sea trials and was "thumbing a lift" down to Cherbourg to help repair the Rotterdam there. He went on to have an illustrious career.

I still have difficulty in believing he was on board the Titanic for eight days and there is no mention of him anywhere on this site.

Cheers,

Boz
 
Sep 3, 2004
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Senan,

Just in response to your post. We do take seriously anything said in the public eye that can damage the value of a lot and because of this felt a need to respond. The lot has been consigned by Mr Wilson's daughter, she was told by her father that he took the trip on Titanic to go to Rotterdam to assist with technical problems. We have researched to try and find details of his passage which we have not been able to do. But as you know there has been conjecture about crew and passenger lists for many years. But this Titanic blueprint was shown to Harland and Wolff's experts in the early 1990's by Mr Wilson's daughter and caused great excitement within the company. We have copies of the correspondence from the head of the technical department, we have taken advice from naval architects and Titanic construction experts and the facts as we have them are beyond dispute. We suggest you do some similar research before making such a statement as this plan is without doubt one of the rarest items to come to the open market in recent years.

Mr Wilson was appointed leading draughtsman to H&W in 1911 in his early 20's, he won the Lord Pirrie award for cross channel steamer design, within a few years he was the senior manager of the design office and was then promoted to be manager of Southampton docks. He was also appointed by the White Star Line to redesign the Naval Dock Yards in Boston to accommodate the Majestic as there was no dry dock large enough to do the job. In 1927 he joined Royal Mail Lines and went on to work in co-operation on the design of Royal Mail Line Steamers, one of the crowning glories of his designs was The Andes, (regarded to be one of the finest built steamers of her time). These facts are beyond reproach as is the gentleman and his daughter's reputation, which we feel you have grossly impugned.

With respect Mr William David Wilson, worked on the drawings of Titanic which is a fact. He told his daughter who is a very well educated woman from a respected Belfast family that he was on Titanic and we struggle to think that those were not even born at the time have any right to question her integrity, which as an historian I am sure are you aware, his word to a living witness is classed as primary evidence. If you were privvy to the documents that have been made available to us from Mr Wilson's daughter, which relate to some of the most important people at Harland and Wolff, your opinion will be slightly different. We would request that you amend your post forthwith. Incidentally the plan and some of these documents will be on display together with other selected lots that relate to Belfast at the Made in Belfast exhibition at the end of March and if you wish to look at them you will be very welcome.

Regards
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Boz, Senan and Andrew -

Perhaps we can ratchet down the rhetoric just a bit and see if we can objectively investigate this fascinating story, and see if we can identify any corroborative contemporary evidence for the oral history that places Wilson on the ship? Sounds like interesting material for discussion! The claim is an extraordinary one, and the information (both about Wilson's presence and the data in the blueprints) would be potentially tremendously important to researchers. It is understandable that some individuals will express caution and reservation given the scope of that importance.

On another note - welcome to the board, Andrew - good to see you here!
 
Dec 6, 2000
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Put me down with Inger on this one.

We are so used to seeing claims of being on the Titanic, that do not work out, we have a tendancy to disbelieve them at the start.

*If* evidence can be dug up to prove this claim, all the better for all of us.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Put me down with Inger on this one.<<

And myself as well, though I'm open to being persuaded if there's evidence to support the claims made.

>>and the facts as we have them are beyond dispute.<<

Actually, since there has been no documentation found which places Mr. Wilson on the Titanic at the time claimed, I'd venture the opinion that at least *one* of these facts is emminantly disputable. At the very least, it needs to be investigated further if we're to accept this as a fact. The plans may be the real thing and I wouldn't question that if they've been properly authenticated, (And it appears that they have been.) but that lack of documentation about his being on the ship for the trip to anywhere is something of a problem.

While things may have been a bit looser in 1912 about traveling between countries, the authorities who have jurisdiction then as now tended to take a very dim view of foreign nationals entering their borders without documentation or some kind of legal permission to do so. It may have happened, but where's the proof?

Titanic researchers run into stories of people being on the ship who in fact were not all the time. All too often, these stories turn out to be family legends. Unless we see a passenger manifest or immigration records which back up this particular claim, how are we to know?
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B

Bruce Beveridge

Guest
Hi all,

I have to put my two cents in here. I have seen the plan, and it is legitimate. There is no doubt in my mind. This plan is more of a schematic showing the ship's water systems then an actual construction plan. There are specific features within the water systems that few people are aware of that are shown in this plan. It is actually a copy of the original B&W pencil drawing I believe - hence the blue background with white lines. The originals would stay at H&W of course. A plan of this sort would also be accessible to the bridge officer's (generally mounted on a wall). It not only shows the hot and cold fresh and salt water systems, but the fire mains, and the steam fire extinguishing lines. It includes the water pumps and the valve chests for the before mentioned which was really important.

As for Mr. Wilson, I am no passenger expert and don't pretend to be. Is it not possible that this guy hitched a ride to Cherbourg under the radar for whatever reason? I don't know how much it effects the worth of this plan if it was or wasn't taken off the ship, but as for the plan itself - it is the real thing. No on could have forged that thing. The information it contains has verified some of my suspicions, and awed me at the same time.

I don't know what is more important, verifying the legitimacy of the plan, or proving if Wilson was on the ship. I would assume verifying Wilson's presence on the ship is considered to be paramount to proving the validity of the plan. If this is the case - no need to go to the trouble.

I don't know if any of the passenger people here can verify Wilson's passage, but if not, I would hope the benefit of the doubt would go to Wilson's daughter. He was an employee, and I have to wonder just how many people hitched a quick ride that were part of the company and never got recorded on the passenger list. This was entirely possible and should not be discounted.

Bruce Beveridge
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I don't know what is more important, verifying the legitimacy of the plan, or proving if Wilson was on the ship. I would assume verifying Wilson's presence on the ship is considered to be paramount to proving the validity of the plan. If this is the case - no need to go to the trouble.
Many thanks for the input, Bruce!

I don't think that proving Wilson was a passenger is essential to proving the legitimacy of the plans - I don't think, for example, that anyone here is doubting that he was a Harland & Wolff employee, so there are other ways that the plans if legitimate may have come into his possession. Nor do I think anyone is trying to cast aspersions on the honesty of his daughter - it is possible with oral tradition that errors may creep into the record (or, of course, that she is entirely correct). I do not know the lady, but have no reason to doubt her integrity. I also know that the firm of Henry Aldridge & Son are a highly reputable firm who do their own research.

Passenger/crew researchers are familiar with claims of unlisted passengers/crew, hence the hesitancy greeting the story. This is a new source, and one which has not yet, apparently, found contemporary collaboration. Perhaps someone can step forward with that collaboration, or with further comment.

Certainly, I look forward to seeing the blueprints in April!
 
Mar 28, 2002
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Morning everyone,

I have no trouble believing the authenticity of the blueprints, I don't think that is in question. As Andrew and Bruce say, they are the genuine article. If I do get to Southampton in April I wouldn't mind having a sneaky peek at this piece of history myself.

However, I have never seen or heard any evidence to physically place Wilson on the Titanic at sea, whether it be her sea trials, delivery trip or cross-channel voyage. I'd love for this story to be true, that a passenger or crew member, previously unlisted, has suddenly come to light.

Inger quite rightly says that this claim is an "extraordinary" one. I sincerely hope that it can be proved categorically that he made at least one significant trip on Titanic to qualify himself as a passenger. I didn't post the story to denounce Wilson's claim, or to doubt the origins of the blueprints. I wanted to point it out to a wider and much more experienced (than I) forum to learn if anyone has any more information on this story or to tell me I was barking up the wrong tree.

Cheers,

Boz
 

Senan Molony

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Jan 30, 2004
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I have no view on the blueprint, per se. Of course, I acknowledge that Aldridge's are auctioneers of the highest repute, or I wouldn't have bought items from them myself.

However, as I wrote privately to Andrew, I am not willing to embark myself on the idea that Wilson was on board the Titanic.

That is the "story" I was referring to. I have met scores of families myself, as have Aldridges, and families elaborate...

For example, check my recently updated court report on William Mintram against the family belief (on his ET biography) that his wife was accidentally killed.

Regards,

S
 

Senan Molony

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The original tale touted to the Daily Mirror was that Wilson was one of the Guarantee Group and that Chisholm took his place for the maiden voyage.
This is self-evidently poppycock, as Chisholm and the rest of the Guarantee Group appear on the delivery trip from Belfast to Soton. The only Wilson listed is engineer Bertie Wilson.
I have copies of the manifest for this voyage, and it is available for inspection at the PRONI. Shipping companies could be heavily fined for carrying unregistered passengers and it was a specific offence under the 1984 Act, which only consolidated earlier legislation.
All the Guarantee Group appear for the maiden voyage proper. William Wilson does not. All the disembarkees at Cherbourg are separately listed as departing, as they are at Queenstown, which demonstrates the rigour of the recordkeeping required at the time and evidently meticulously followed.
Any unlisted person on a vessel is a stowaway.
Thomas Andrews, head of the Harland & Wolff group and managing director of that firm, signed Titanic's papers twice.
Will all due respects to Andrew's "grossly impugned" etc, we might, in all fairness, have expected Wilson to append his moniker with everyone else.
To fail to do so once is careless in the extreme, not to mention illegal. To fail twice means the story itself is grossly impugned.
For an auction house to suggest in defence of the story that there has been "conjecture about the crew and passenger lists for many years" is rather sad, in my view.
The lily of real blueprints does not need to be gilded, as others have pointed out.
Finally, Wilson telling his daughter anything does not, with respect, constitute "primary evidence."
It is, like the story, hearsay.

See you in Southampton, Andrew. Mine's a pint.

Senan
Regards,

S
 
Sep 3, 2004
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Senan,

Further to the above post there are a couple of points that need addressing. A number of years ago Proni did some research for us. The point of this was to find the name of the pilot who took Titanic out on her sea trials prior to delivery. After much exhaustive research they failed to find his name, there was no trace of the identity pf this man. Along with Captain Smith, he was probebly the most important man in charge of the ship for that period. You say that the lists “demonstrate the rigor of the recordkeeping required at the time and evidently meticulously followed”￾. Yet this record keeping does omit quite an important man.

As you kindly pointed out re the Maritime Acts, our belief is these apply to vessels leaving for foreign ports and correct me if I am wrong but Belfast to Southampton is not a foreign port, although obviously Cherbourg does fall into this category. Our ongoing research is to ascertain whether Mr Wilson disembarked at Southampton to connect with another vessel to Cherbourg or completed the whole stretch Belfast to Cherbourg, but as he was going to assist repairs would it have been viable for him to wait the seven days when Titanic was in Southampton? This was mentioned in our press release but as we have said earlier, as we were not there at the time of Titanic and Mr Wilson was, who are we to correct him, the fact that newspapers reported otherwise is beyond our control. By the way it may be a typo but the 1984 (1884???) act really would not apply to Titanic

To paraphrase your comment “For an auction house to suggest in defense of the story that there has been "conjecture about the crew and passenger lists for many years" is rather sad, in my view”￾ I would like to point out that as far as the accuracy of the lists and records in question go, I would bring to your notice a couple of points. Firstly last September, as you will know we sold a 2nd class passenger list from Titanic for £24000. I am not sure if you saw this or examined it closely but there were upwards of eight people listed who are not on the official manifests, The possibility is these passengers failed to travel but equally as this list was only printed a matter of days before departure they could have traveled and the lists in their case be inaccurate. Another example of the infallibility of the records is that of Controller Will Jeffrey. He is listed on the signing on sheets as joining the ship at Southampton, yet the onboard letter written on crew stationary addressed to his mother and postmarked and dated April 2nd written in Belfast states most defiantly otherwise, or do we ignore this too!

Incidentally Oral evidence to a living person is classed as primary evidence, or was when I finished my degree in Southampton, maybe things have changed in the last ten years or so. As we all share a common interest in Titanic, surely the point is to look at things in a three dimensional way in the search for knowledge and evidence, keeping an open mind at all times. Not working on the principal the earth is flat and everything is two-dimensional. I look forward to a good discussion and pint in April or if you are around in Belfast at the end of March and I believe its your round. I leave you with this last thought “In the Valley of the blind the one eyed man is king”￾.
 

Senan Molony

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Jan 30, 2004
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Well done, Andrew, it was indeed a typo! I meant to type 1894, but as usual I type too fast.

Pilots are pilots, not listed crew or passengers. Irrelevant.

In relation to the claims made about William Wilson in 2005 - and you cite the lapse of time since 1912 in relation to sceptics of the story - can I say that I have been through all the Belfast, Southampton and Liverpool papers from April to December 1912 and have transcribed almost all of what is therein about the Titanic. Never once is the name of William Wilson mentioned, although of course there are many claims about people who were not on board.

It is, to me, perfectly explainable that there were no early reports of a Wilson family expressing worry about their member, or relating his lucky escape, or Harland and Wolff staff doing the same (they were quoted extensively). And it is explainable in that he was not aboard the vessel.

You are holding to a most contrary position - defending the veracity of something that was told to you, whether in writing or orally, by a person alive in 2005 about events, as you say, nearly a century ago.

I have no idea how old the descendant is now, but she either was alive in 1912 (in which case she would be prone to not only the tender innocence of childhood at the time but also to super-superannuated infirmity today), or else she was not. Your line of argument reflected back to you.

Second-hand information is hearsay in a court of law, and in journalism, and in most other walks of life I am sure, and to point it out does not grossly impugn anyone's character in the quasi-legalistic phrase earlier employed. The doubt, you see, is on the original teller, not the "tellee."

Now, someone made the claims to the Daily Mirror in connection with this auction that Wilson was on the Titanic. I note you say you haven't established that "yet."

It is, for the moment, an asserion that is without documentary provenance.

I will be glad to buy you copious pints if Alan announces this lot at Southampton in conjunction with the claim that Wilson was on the Titanic. I wager that he will not do so, mindful of his trade descriptions.

Here's another handy phrase:

"Dura veritas, sed veritas."

The truth is hard, but it is the truth.

Yes, I hope to get up to Belfast in March. Are you going to be in the Europa?

S
 
Sep 3, 2004
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Dear Senan,

Interesting post but you fail to address the points raised with regard to the passenger and crew lists. Why would Wilson's name be mentioned as a survivor and in the newspapers if both his family and employers knew that he was only on the ship for a short time and was safely working on assignment with regard to the Rotterdam.

"You are holding to a most contrary position - defending the veracity of something that was told to you, whether in writing or orally, by a person alive in 2005 about events, as you say, nearly a century ago" Are you assuming that a person in her seventies is not in possession of all of her faculties, if so you offer a great insult to a large proportion of the worlds population, a dangerous road to tread (ageism I think its called)!

"Second-hand information is hearsay in a court of law, and in journalism, and in most other walks of life I am sure, and to point it out does not grossly impugn anyone's character in the quasi-legalistic phrase earlier employed. The doubt, you see, is on the original teller, not the "tellee." On the subject of courts having acted as an expert witness for the Crown Prosecution service many times, I am aware of the legal protocol, I had many happy hours studying it at Uni.

"Now, someone made the claims to the Daily Mirror in connection with this auction that Wilson was on the Titanic. I note you say you haven't established that "yet." It is not a claim Senan, it is a statement of fact by his daughter, though Titanic sank in 1912 when Mr Wilson was a young man, he did not retire until the 50's so his daughter hardly has to be 100. There are numerous cases in history of information being passed down after an event, also remember the auction is 12 weeks away. Of course dad will be saying on the Rostrum and you may even get a mention, you never know.

Basically the point I am trying to get across is not everything is black and white. Anyway Titanic although a passion of mine is only a percentage of our business and because of this it is now time I got on with some real work, so see you in March or at the sale. Not sure where we are staying yet, either Europa or Hilton, shall let you know but look forward to meeting up then.

To continue the theme of classical quotations, this one from Socrates is a cracker.

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. And in knowing that you know nothing, that makes you the smartest of all”￾

Regards
 

Senan Molony

Member
Jan 30, 2004
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Andrew,

With respect, mate, you can't say it is a "statement of fact by his daughter."

It is a statement by his daughter. Facts have a habit of being indisputable.

I don't want to go around in circles, but how come the BBC et al think that Wilson was supposed to replace Roderick Chisholm, the main draughtsman? Where did they get that idea?

Meanwhile If I, as a working journalist, were to publish every second-hand assertion made to me as a "fact," I would swiftly be in a court of law rather more than you apparently are.

The only libel court case in which I was ever a defendant is one which I happen to have won, rather bucking the trend of such actions...

But look, I don't want to fall out.

You will note that I have been careful in not myself stating as a fact that Wilson was not on the Titanic. I am not in a position to prove an impossible contrary. But perhaps the onus does not lie with me.

I go back to the available evidence from 1912, both for the vessel herself and that which in the public prints, and what I can see does not support the contention.

I have expresed my opinion, which remains my opinion. That the story about him being on the Titanic has a powerful ordeur to my nostrils. Some of the reasons have been adduced above.

You will have your own reasons for choosing to regard the story as fact.

There it is - we disagree! As friends sometimes do.

I will see you in the Crown, about a quarter to eight. That will give you plenty of time to settle in. Are you going to continue to embrace Her Majesty's ditchwater, or will you be having a real pint?

S
 
Sep 3, 2004
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Senan,

No danger of falling out at all, we will agree to differ and look forward to a spirited chat over a few beers, none of that brew you loosely call ale though!

Regards


Andrew
 

Senan Molony

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It's a funny thing, but I was on radio with Fr Eddie O'Donnell this morning and the presenter (Clare FM) brought up the matter of these blueprints, which shows just how effective Aldridge press releases are.
The reason I was on with Fr Eddie is that Fr Browne has a new book out, despite being himself deceased since 1912.
Many Titanophiles are also railway buffs and therefore may I make mention of "Fr Browne's Trains and Railways," published this time not by the Wolfhound Press, but by Currach.
This is the link:
http://www.currach.ie/catalogue.php?&ISBN=1-85607-916-3
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Why would Wilson's name be mentioned as a survivor and in the newspapers if both his family and employers knew that he was only on the ship for a short time and was safely working on assignment with regard to the Rotterdam.<<

For the same reasons that a person named Jay Yates and a number of other people would be named as a passengers when in fact they were never anywhere near the ship: He fibbed, or in somebody else fibbed, or people got names mixed up with others (Plenty of Wilsons and Smiths out there for example.), or the media of the time just plain got it wrong. Newspapers of the time are absolutely notorious for getting things wrong and even fabricating stories whole cloth. All these are problems that historians have been wrestling with for a very long time.

To paraphrase something Porgy might have said to Bess "Just because a newspaper *sez* it, it ain't neseccerily so!"

A number of passenger lists contemporary to the time are riddled with all sorts of errors from misspellings to people being counted twice and so on. At least since they are documented and tickets are tracable to the ones who bought them, it's at possible to sort through all of that to come out with a very accurate picture of who was there or not.

Andrew, might I suggest the following: Don't get caught up in the idea that Mr. Wilson just had to be on the ship. Nobody's impugning his daughter's integrity. For her, it was a story she heard from papa and which she related honestly. It's hardly her fault that what she related was in all likelihood a tall tale related to her by her father to make the kiddies go "Gee wiz Pop!" and it doesn't even remotely take away from the very real value of the plans you're fixing to offer at auction.
 
Sep 3, 2004
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Michael,

Good to hear from you. I don’t think we have met so if you are in the Belfast or Southampton in March/April, please introduce yourself. As I make my living from auctioning and handling collectors items not only from Titanic, I've been in the business a bit long to get caught up in any one idea. You would be amazed at the stories we hear about various historical items from Admiral Nelson through to J.M. Turner and Winston Churchill, it’s a very interesting and diverse way to earn a living. I am lucky enough to handle items from the ship that very few people are likely to see unless they are loaned out to museums, public bodies etc, with this does come a feel for the good, bad and indifferent.

What I am saying is keep an open mind and don’t dismiss something for the sake of it. It is impossible for a list to be 100% accurate, nothing is ever in stone. When our research is complete I will keep you up to date on it.

"It's hardly her fault that what she related was in all likelihood a tall tale related to her by her father to make the kiddies go "Gee wiz Pop!"

On the subject of telling tall stories and Mr Wilson’s reputation. I will quote you a paragraph from a letter from Robin Cameron, Technical Manager at H&W to Mr Wilson’s daughter in the early 90's.

"The other gentleman I spoke to was Mr Alan Watt, a former chairman and Managing Director who at one time had been Southampton works manager, he would be now be in his mid eighties and he remembered your father well and with considerable respect and pleasure, he was most interested to learn of our meeting with you, he mentioned that in his young days at the shipyard, your father was often quoted as an example to young naval architects and junior managers such as himself to demonstrate how if one established a record of hard work and aptitude at H&W, it could be a stepping stone to high office in shipping companies and other outside bodies"

Basically this is a man of the highest integrity in Belfast society who knows a great deal more about what he did in his life than you or I. He was a very private man who by the above character reference would not have been in a habit of tall stories.

At the end of the day regardless of whether he was or was not on Titanic, it is one of the rarest items to come onto the market, but only 1 of the 300 or so we have. When the catalogue is complete I will post details on the board.
 

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