Sylvia Lightoller

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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
I'm starting a new thread because I'm just too lazy to plough through years' worth of posts, so please - humor me. I understand that Charles met Sylvia in Australia, and that she was an Australian citizen. Can someone please provide me with a link to more information about her and her family before Charles? Thanks in advance.

Inger...Inger...Bueller...Inger
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
Lol! I don't know if there's all that much information available on-line, Mary. Stenson's Lightoller biography, The Odyssey of Charles Lightoller contains what is perhaps the most comprehensive published source for her early life, although perhaps Pat Winship or Fiona can think of another one? He doesn't include her name in all its full glory, though (have a copy of their marriage certificate here somewhere).

According to Stenson, Lightoller met Sylvania Hawley-Wilson when he was serving on the Suevic. Sylvia, as she was known, was not yet eighteen at the time, and had been staying with an aunt in England, studying music and completing her education. Sylvia had a club foot, and Lightoller took to assisting her around the ship by carrying her up steps and companionways. Her mother, Charlotte, was an Australian who had married an American named John Hawley-Wilson who had come to Australia to prospect for gold. He was killed in a mining accident, and Charlotte opened a guesthouse which evolved into a hotel in order to support the family.

Stenson relates an anecdote that has it that as the Suevic neared Sydney one of Lightoller's colleagues, seeing him stewing over the situation, told him 'Oh, for God's sake "Lights" if it's that bad go ahead and marry the little lame girl.' It was the finally prompt for him to propose, and upon arriving back in Sydney, the couple informed Sylvia's mother. The couple were married on 15 December 1903 and travelled back to England together.

It was, by all accounts, a happy marriage. I've interviewed someone who visited the Lightollers back in the 30s, in many ways their impression of Sylvia was even stronger than their impression of Lightoller. She was very chatty and vivacious, and enjoyed discussing her trips back and forward to Australia. A few weeks ago I had a long conversation with one of Lightoller's grandchildren. He confirmed the absolute truth of the dedication to Titanic and Other Ships - according to him, it was most certainly the persistant Sylvia who induced her husband to write the book.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Great romantic info., Inger! She sounds like someone who would have been delightful to know, doesn't she? Have to add Stenson's book to my growing list.

So many books....so little time.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Thanks to Inger for mentioning the "Suevic"! Interestingly, I had just discovered that Inman Sealby was the Captain of the "Suevic" for a time, and also the Captain of the WSL "Republic, which sank in 1909. Even though Sealby actually did "go down with his ship", and even though the "Florida" actually rammed into into the "Republic", WSL apparently saw fit to fire Sealby. It's interesting how these stories are often inter-connected. Was Lightoller on the Suevic when Sealby was Captain? Inquiring minds want to know.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
I think Pat might know, Mary. Or perhaps John Hemmert. I haven't really done much work on Sealby's early career, although I did come across the agreements for a voyage of the Canopic with him as master. Also on board were deck officers Henry Wilde and David Blair.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Thanks, Inger. It's really not that important - I was just curious about the "Republic" connection.
 
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Pat Winship

Member
Hi, Ing and Mary

Sorry, I don't know who the Suevic's captain was on that trip.

What I'm curious about is how did they manage their living arrangements on the way back? I understand that WSL officers were not allowed to have their wives travel with them when they were working. So, how does one have a honeymoon under those conditions?

Pat W.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
'Sno worries, Pat - that's another one to add to the backburner of crew agreements to look up one day. Think I've already had a sticky beak for any Suevic agreements out at the PRO, so if anyone wants to go after it their best bet might well be Newfoundland.
 
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Pat Winship

Member
Another "item of interest" that Inger and I have discussed on IM-- Lights confides that the voyage on the Suevic, "which, as a matter of fact, although promotion at the time, was actually a punishment voyage, for a certain scrape I got into..." Inquiring minds would love to know what he did! I rather suspect that it's unknown and unknowable!

Pat W.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Maybe he was caught buying those "frilly lace French undergarments" (knowing he might marry) that he mentions in ANTR!?!
 
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Pat Winship

Member
Cuuuuute, Mary!

However, considering that the White Star Line had let him off almost scot-free after a fairly major incident in Sydney, I do wonder what he did this time, that was bad enough to get whacked!

Pat W.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Well, now you surely have my curiosity peaked, Pat! I won't sleep a wink until I find out about the "major incident in Sydney"! What ship might he have sailed had it not been for the Suevic "demotion"?
 
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Pat Winship

Member
What I'm speaking of is the infamous "One Gun Salute" where Lights woke up all of Sydney in October of 1900. I have often wondered if Miss Sylvia Hawley-Wilson was in Sydney when the gun went off-- and how he 'fessed up about it, if she was!

Here is a newspaper article about it

WHAT HAPPENED AT FORT DENISON

A Strange Story

Who fired the gun?

The police are engaged in investigating a peculiar occurrence which is reported to have taken place at Fort Denison the other morning. The authorities are strangely reticent about the matter, but from what can be gleaned, it would seem that either a big practical joke has been played by someone, or else there are in our midst persons of a very strong pro-Boer temperament. The police are busily engaged in looking for an explanation.

Just as the Post Office clock had struck the hour of 1 a.m., a gun went off at Fort Denison, breaking some of the windows and, the story goes, putting the red light out. How it happened, nobody seems to know. On the tower are several large guns of an obsolete pattern, and it is one of these that is said to have gone off. Moreover, it has been stated that in the morning, a flag with the Boer colours was found flying on the tower. But, whilst this has not been positively denied, an official communicated with last night said he ‘never heard of such a thing.’ At the same time he admitted having received a similar report. A man was dispatched to examine the guns, with the result that he reported that one of them had the appearance of having just been fired. A direct question as to whether it had been fired met with the answer. ‘That remains to be proved.’

Meanwhile the mystery continues and all sorts of stories, possible and impossible, are going about. One is to the effect that a boatman saw a man pull over to Pinchgut; and, making his boat fast, climb up the tower. It was too dark to see what he was doing, and though he watched him for some time, thinking his movements somewhat mysterious; the boatman took no particular notice of the occurrence until he suddenly heard a gun go off. A fuse is supposed to have been employed, and it is also clear that the gunpowder was carried to the fort.

The Daily Telegraph, Sydney Australia, October 11, 1900, p.7

Thanks to Inger Sheil for locating that for me

The best account of the inside story is Lightoller's own, found in Chapters 27 and 28 of
Titanic and Other Ships

Pat W.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
Pat, you of all people will appreciate why, on the research trip I've just returned from, I had a tremendous grin when going through the many shots keen photographer Harold Lowe took.

The smile was at a photo of Fort Denison.
 
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Mary S. Lynn

Guest
Imagine Charles Lightoller showing up on this magnificent ship with only "half a uniform"!! (Hmmm...which half did Sylvia see)?

http://www.benet.net.au/~brandis/gendata/ssmedic.html

If I had sailed half-way around the world with only half a uniform, I would likely have been half-minded to prank as well! Oh, wait - I already did that! I didn't paint canvas with Boer colors, or fire a shot, but I/we DID decorate our bure with a sarong in the shape of the French flag (purchased in Martinique), and did a very poor impression of "the Marseilles" during dinner. We were soundly - and deservedly - defeated by further refusal of Bitters (just for the night, though), but the kava was plentiful. It was a half-brained thing, with a half-uniform in the guise of an ill-fitting bikini. Boy, did we have a great time!
 
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