Purser’s Assistant Denison? Question about Obscure Geoffrey Marcus reference


Mar 17, 2018
39
14
38
Ok, I have a question about a supposed Titanic crewman that as far as I can tell, has only ever been referred to by one author. In Geoffrey Marcus’ 1969 account, “The Maiden Voyage,” (on pages 161 and 253 of the edition by Viking Press, the one that included a poster of the ship’s general deck layout) Marcus refers just two times to a person named “Denison,” but apart from the fact that he worked as an assistant to the pursers McElroy and Barker (p. 161), and that he allegedly died in the sinking (p. 253), nothing more is spoken of him. Does anyone have any idea who Marcus is talking about or even if this man existed? I have never seen his name on the lists of the crew, but maybe Marcus mistook his name? Can anyone suggest anything at all?
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,599
986
388
65
I have looked through Gunter Babler's Guide to the Crew of Titanic, Tad Fitch et al's On A Sea Of Glass and the Wikipedia list of all Victualling crew. I could find neither a post for Purser's Assistant not the name Denison or anything close to it. In fact, there was nobody by that surname among passengers or crew.

Therefore, it looks like Marcus might have been misinformed by his source. I have the book but it is not with me now. It does give references and so can you please check if there is a source mentioned for this Denison in the references section?
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Mar 17, 2018
39
14
38
I have looked through Gunter Babler's Guide to the Crew of Titanic, Tad Fitch et al's On A Sea Of Glass and the Wikipedia list of all Victualling crew. I could find neither a post for Purser's Assistant not the name Denison or anything close to it. In fact, there was nobody by that surname among passengers or crew.

Therefore, it looks like Marcus might have been misinformed by his source. I have the book but it is not with me now. It does give references and so can you please check if there is a source mentioned for this Denison in the references section?
Thank you for your reply. Certainly this story is not true. And yet, even the fake stories usually have more details to them. I first thought that some fraud like Walter Belford or Lorraine Kramer could easily explain this Denison character, but Marcus said he died. Maybe someone who claimed to be a relative of a victim? I wish Marcus was still alive so we could just ask him where he got this from. As it is, the References and Notes in his book just leave me more puzzled. Marcus was selective about revealing some of his sources, on occasion he has a reference which says “Private information.” But he doesn’t do that with either of the Denison references. Both times he speaks as though he is referring to Lightoller’s account. In the first mention of Denison (in chapter 10), he is supposedly present when Lightoller shakes hands ”goodbye” with McElroy, Barker, O’Loughlin and Simpson. Nearest reference number is in the next paragragh, number 22. It refers to “Lightoller, p. 243.” I am assuming he is referring to the rare first edition of Lightoller’s memoirs published by Ian Watson. He must be referring to the part in chapter 33 where Lightoller recounts this story, but there is no Denison. Lightoller has no mention of Denison, but the story is true and the others four men are present. But no fifth man, or sixth man if you count Lightoller. “I met the Purser (McElroy), Assistant Purser (Barker), and the Senior and Junior surgeons (O’Loughlin and Simpson)...” but no one else is mentioned as being present. Marcus should’ve known even back in 1969 that this Denison chap wasn’t really there. The second and last time Marcus mentions Denison is much later, during the British Inquiry (chapter 17). Again, with connection to Lightoller. Lightoller never spoke of any Denison at all. “(Lightoller) was the sole survivor among the senior officers of the Titanic. It was a miracle, indeed, that his own life had been spared. ‘E.J.’, Wilde, Murdoch, Moody, O’Loughlin, Simpson, McElroy, Barker, Denison,, and every one of the engineers — all had perished...” The nearest reference is in the next paragragh, number 6. But that proves to be no help, as it only refers to an early inspection in Belfast by Lightoller and Moody of “the route leading from the steerage quarters up to the Boat Deck.” No source material reference here at all.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,599
986
388
65
In the first mention of Denison (in chapter 10), he is supposedly present when Lightoller shakes hands ”goodbye” with McElroy, Barker, O’Loughlin and Simpson.
That sounds decidedly unlikely. That meeting, if true, occurred sometime in the 15 minutes between the tile Lightoller lowered Lifeboat #4 and launch of Collapsible D on the port side. If, after launching #4 Lightoller found that #D was not yet ready for loading, he might have issued instructions (about forming that cordon etc) and briefly popped across to the starboard side, where Murdoch, Moody and McElroy were lowering Collapsible C.

I even checked the people - passengers and crew - who were travelling under pseudonyms for one reason or another (see link below). No Denison there, real or assumed.



I just had a thought. I wonder if Geoffrey Marcus got this "Assistant Purser Dension" infor from Frank Prentice? Prentice was a storekeeper on board the Titanic and survived. He is supposed to have given several media interviews and in later years described himself as an "Assistant Purser". Of course, his better known 1979 and 1982 interviews were long after Marcus' book was published but he had given many smaller ones before, I understand. Prentice's interviews were quite ridiculously embellished most of the time.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Mar 17, 2018
39
14
38
That sounds decidedly unlikely. That meeting, if true, occurred sometime in the 15 minutes between the tile Lightoller lowered Lifeboat #4 and launch of Collapsible D on the port side. If, after launching #4 Lightoller found that #D was not yet ready for loading, he might have issued instructions (about forming that cordon etc) and briefly popped across to the starboard side, where Murdoch, Moody and McElroy were lowering Collapsible C.

I even checked the people - passengers and crew - who were travelling under pseudonyms for one reason or another (see link below). No Denison there, real or assumed.


Huh. Odd. Well, thank you for your help. It’s puzzled me ever since I first read it. What you’ve just said is very convincing. It’s probably not worth my time wondering.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Similar threads

Similar threads