Question Pirrie's role and motivations in the IMMC deal?


Kate Powell

Member
May 27, 2020
53
40
38
UK
I ask the question who idea was it in the first place to build the Olympic class ships?
Ismay, Pirrie or Morgan?

A very interesting question. Each of the men would benefit from the deal; J. Bruce Ismay would gain by more passenger fares for White Star Line, Lord Pirrie would see the creation of new jobs and more work for his shipyard. Pretty sure there was a small profit margin for Harland and Wolff above the build costs in their contracts set out with White Star. J.P. Morgan would expand the reach of his IMMC and appears to have wanted to dominate the shipping trade.

Everyone involved had something to gain.
I have always thought Lord Pirrie may have had the idea for the Olympic class ships in the first place but if others have some thoughts on this, I would very much like to hear them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Jan 23, 2019
47
39
48
26
A very interesting question. Each of the men would benefit from the deal; J. Bruce Ismay would gain by more passenger fares for White Star Line, Lord Pirrie would see the creation of new jobs and more work for his shipyard. Pretty sure there was a small profit margin for Harland and Wolff above the build costs in their contracts set out with White Star. J.P. Morgan would expand the reach of his IMMC and appears to have wanted to dominate the shipping trade.

Everyone involved had something to gain.
I have always thought Lord Pirrie may have had the idea for the Olympic class ships in the first place but if others have some thoughts on this, I would very much like to hear them.

My understanding is it was largely an initiative headed by Pirrie and Ismay and that Morgan, while he owned the company, had little to do with how it was managed or the projects it involved itself with. It's also my recollection (again, could be wrong) that he had little interest in the Olympic-Class in particular, he didn't fund them and he wasn't present for either Olympic or Titanic's maiden voyage.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Mike Spooner

Member
Jan 31, 2018
842
131
88
My understanding is it was largely an initiative headed by Pirrie and Ismay and that Morgan, while he owned the company, had little to do with how it was managed or the projects it involved itself with. It's also my recollection (again, could be wrong) that he had little interest in the Olympic-Class in particular, he didn't fund them and he wasn't present for either Olympic or Titanic's maiden voyage.
You are right to say all three Gentlemen had some thing to gain from building the Olympic class ships. But who came up with the idea in the first place. Or did all three seat around a table and discuss the matter?
I would of thought Pirrie was to gain the least in finical money out of it, as he had to cover his set up costs building the new slipways out three slipways and lost the business of new ships on the three slipways to.
Morgan only owned the shares and stocks of WSL and not the ships. Therefore no cost for him for the new ships. His again is to boost the sale of shares for IMMC. Morgan was booked on Titanic maiden crossing but pulled out either for business reason or a women a fare in France.
As for Ismay. WSL was a profitable company or did he think he was losing passenger sales to Cunard's two new ships Lusitania and Mauritania. The cost of the new ships was well covered under the Mortgage Debentures scheme raised by three banks in London. It would appear financial Pirrie was the least to gain, or did he have no choice as he was contract to build new ships for IMMC. If it was Pirrie idea in the first place perhaps he should of keep his mouth shut!
 

B-rad

Member
Jul 1, 2015
584
191
108
39
Tacoma, WA
Bruce Ismay would say that the idea of a 1000ft ship was only realized due to white star line moving to Southampton and as such could build ships with greater drafts, a topic Pirrie would speak about as being one of the most important aspects for the greater the draft the more a ship can hold without increasing length and width. Of course harland and wolff would want to remain relevant and on the cutting edge of ship building and no doubt would have updated their ship yards to build large ships but there would have to be an order in order to make the transition purposeful. With all this said it had to be a realization on both parties part. How big did they imagine to build the ship, what had to be done at harland and wolff and what was practical. Eventually the 1000ft ships would be scaled back as I'm sure realizations as to practicalities set in. At least that's what I believe.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Mike Spooner

Member
Jan 31, 2018
842
131
88
Bruce Ismay would say that the idea of a 1000ft ship was only realized due to white star line moving to Southampton and as such could build ships with greater drafts, a topic Pirrie would speak about as being one of the most important aspects for the greater the draft the more a ship can hold without increasing length and width. Of course harland and wolff would want to remain relevant and on the cutting edge of ship building and no doubt would have updated their ship yards to build large ships but there would have to be an order in order to make the transition purposeful. With all this said it had to be a realization on both parties part. How big did they imagine to build the ship, what had to be done at harland and wolff and what was practical. Eventually the 1000ft ships would be scaled back as I'm sure realizations as to practicalities set in. At least that's what I believe.
The reason why WSL moved to Southampton was due to competition coming from France and Germany shipping companies and was a shorter route for passengers who came from London and surrounding area of towns and villages.
Southampton docks had been taken over by London & South Western Railway company. The Company spent a vast sum of money in building and dredging for 48 births. As for a railway company they are in the business of moving passengers and fright to and from the dock.
How big you can build the ship would come down to size of dry dock which wasn't quite complete before they started to built Olympic. The Thompson dry dock was owned by the Belfast Commissioner Harbour Board where all mighty row blew up between that bombastic arrogant man called William Pirrie and the Harbour board. Where Pirrie wanted some bigger and threatened to move H&W else where. (Which the dry dock still exit to day). I have visited and quite bold over want a fantastic piece engineering achievement it was for those years indeed.
Back to the costs for H&W. Clearly H&W did not have the facility to build such a large ships where three existing slipways are turn into two larger slipways number as 2 & 3. Then there is the cost of Arrol gantry, floating crane and looks like smaller slipway was in progress next to slipway number 2 to. How much did that lot cost? I see figures quoted been over £100,000. Now if some one got more accurate figures I would be interested to know. Which all needs to be recovered. As looking at John Brown shipyard figures who faces a similar problem when coming to build the Lusitania followed by Aquitania they seem to spend far less on extended slipway and with no floating crane to.
As for the three Gentleman Pirrie, Ismay and Morgan it would appear only Pirrie is taking all risks and gamble, and truly lumbered with all the costs! So who was the one with the bright idea in the first place for such a bold major task?
 

Mike Spooner

Member
Jan 31, 2018
842
131
88
Hi B-rad,
Reading some of your articles you seem to be pretty clued up on IMM company. The question I ask are there any records of the contract agreement on paper in forming IMMC?
 

Similar threads

Similar threads