Sen, that was absolutely remarkable. If you hadn't already established yourself as one of the most prominant front-rankers in the field of Titanic research, this would have done it. You breathed life into the fragments of historic records - and somehow just the simple image of Joseph Dawson taking off his boots to give himself some chance of life through increased manouverability has surpassed the 3+ hours of Cameron's tale of 'ice crossed lovers' (a phrase that is going to stay with me from now on!).
You gave a man back his identity, reclaiming it from the facile Hollywood character whose identity was grafted onto his name.
Brilliant, and an inspiration to all researchers in this field.
This was truely a masterful job sir! It takes a lot to master various forms of writing style and I see such professionalism in every single thing you write.
Whether political, ...prose or poetry....words simply come forth onto paper in a way that simply leaves the reader in always wanting more and yet filled to capacity. That is truly a gift. To give until the reader can hold no more and yet wants more.
This was truly a beautiful work Senan. A hundred years from now there will be hundreds or even thousands of Titanic Books with hundreds of authors. Some great and some not so great, but you my kind sir will go down in history as a truly great man, researcher and author.
As Inger said, "You gave a man back his identity, reclaiming it from the facile Hollywood character whose identity was grafted onto his name." What a beautiful gift to give to this family.
Your work here sir is brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.
Senan, you devil, how long did it take you to turn that phrase!?!
Thank you for a delightful article. I can hardly wait to see you, Charles Haas, Brian Ticehurst, and Alan Ruffman on television in January, and to add your Discovery video to the collection.
((I finish reading this article to a group of "I love Leo D." gals.)
"Yes ladies, I can see the dissapointment on your faces, but that's the way the cards can fall at times.
Heck, I was dissapointed to find out that the 101st Airborne is in the wrong town (history-wise) at one point in "Saving Private Ryan", so welcome to the club.
Anyhoo, any of you chicks here who are about the same age as me care for a date with a regular guy like moi?..."
Sorry, couldn't resisit a little satire there. Vive le femmes! )
Kudos to Sean Molony!
Reading your superb article was a treat which brought LOTS of long-lost facts to life about a man who suffered a fate much like what happened to George A. Custer when the film "Little Big Man" came out: had a movie character who happened to share his name be mistaken for the real person of history (though of course, Joe's first name wasn't Jack, so it wasn't exactly like what happened to Custer, but still quite like it.)
(Sigh!) And in regards to what happened to Joe Dawson: Sean, did you hear that pieces of Mr. D.'s grave had been CHIPPED OFF by unscrupulous souvenier hunters? That even...er, to put it delicately, articles of ladies undergarments had been left at the grave? Candles were left there, too, as well as love poems to Mr. DiC., IIRC.
And the crowing insult: a flower shop in Halifax offered, to those who wished to put flowers on Mr. D.'s grave, that the shop would put the flowers there themselves for a fee.
(To the owner(s) of that establishment, I hereby scream: "Eight ulcer soul(s) on four ulcer pay! Eight ulcer soul(s) on four ulcer pay!
You just wanted some non-ulcer money, didn't you, by pulling a tacky, decadent, tasteless stunt like that?!
Okay, okay, meebe it just might not have been because of that, but I still think you all ought to be ashamed for partaking in the defacing of a grave.")
""It is a must-see site for the passengers of cruise liners that placed Halifax on their itinerary after the success of the highest grossing motion picture of all time.""**
Three groans and countless "boos" and "Bronx cheers" for those who thought up that one!
That decadent stunt pulled by those cruise lines DEFINETLELY must be the work of eight ulcer souls on four ulcer pay who saw a chance for their companies to make some non-ulcer money by cashing in on the tastelessness fest at grave 227 in the Titanic victim's section of Fairview Cemetery, Halifax.
As for the gals who started it all, WHERE were their parents? Didn't they tell their daughters NOT to tamper with or deface that grave when they stopped by at Fairview?
It's a crying shame that, just to get close to a movie star whom they were just bonkers for, those chicks went in and trashed up the grave of a man who had stared right into the hideous, eyeless sockets of the skull of Death itself upon a cold April morning aboard a doomed ocean liner LONG before any of the dames who would beset his grave one day were born.
(I confess I feel sorry for those girls, btw. Knowing what real-life love can be like, I certainly hope their first experience with heartbreak or being in love alone isn't as hard a blow for them as it was for me. Both of those happened to me in 1998, btw. An event in my life I'll always see in stark contrast to a mere cinemactic love story which got overblown out of all proportion the same year I tasted heartbreak and frustration....but I digress big time here).
I'll conclude this post with this comment: all the superflous, poppycock, hype about "Jack Dawson" can go to Hades for all I care, and that I hope to someday go to Halifax and clean up Joe Dawson's grave personally if it hasn't been already.
**Who are the cruise lines that do this, Sean? I'm dying to know, for I want to raise my voice over this. R.K.
Some off you are going a trifle overboard (rather like Joseph Dawson)... ! (Thanks, anyway)
To deflect the glare a little, I should say I have a piece going into the December issue of the White Star Journal (publication of the Irish Titanic Historical Society) about Harland & Wolff and the state of Titanic's slipway and the Thompson graving dock. It begins:
"Last June I had the privilege and pleasure to welcome back to Ireland PHIL GOWAN, probably the foremost Titanic passenger researcher in the world today..."
Now if only he did *crew* as well... jes' kidding OM. BTW, Phil, did you receive that little surprise I sent you from over here, about ten days ago now?
You folks won't understand my accent. I really really really hate hearing my voice... yeurgh.
Ok, ok, there's too much competition so I won't be OTT or even OTS: bloody good read on Joseph Dawson, mate. Will that do?
(irrelevant comment) Minor point: a 'few' decades after the premiere of Handel's Messiah? That was in 1742. Bit of poetic license? Sorry, Sen, couldn't help it. But then you know me and my digressions into the trivial... (irrelevant comment)
A bloody good read - and bloody good to know that the real J Dawson's story will receive so wide an audience.
ps Yairs, iken unnerstan yer eggsen. Didja unnerstan mine?
Don't be so modest, Sean. Your article deserves a prize.
Do those cruise ships you mentioned stop at Halifax just because of Joe D.'s grave or because of the entire Titanic connection there? I assumed from reading your article that it was simply due to Joe D., but I'm now double-checking.
Hope my inital post on your article didn't in any way seem off the beam, btw.
Too true! I was at the bloody 250th anniversary performance of The Messiah in Dublin! 10,000 choristers took part.
Guess the brain went walkabout on that one.
Handel had to borrow an organ for the performance (as his own wasn't up tpo the job!) - it still exists, in the church with the mummified crusaders, St Michan's.
Hope Phil will make that correction there.
Your latest is incredible! It is the most amazingly fresh, poignant, fascinating account I've read in a very long time.
It is beautifully, touchingly worded as happens only when one's heart is in one's work. In fact I detect a bit of The Author's soul in this tale of a young lad's adventure and courage.
It is a moving tribute to "J. Dawson," and well worthy of this brave man and the many others like him, faces and stories unknown, whose lives were so needlessly lost and yet, because of writers and researchers of finesse and insight like yourself, linger to effect us still.
An incredibly well-researched, well-written and fascinating article, one of the best that I have seen! I agree that the story of the real-life J. Dawson was much more interesting than Cameron's fictional character (whom I didn't particularly care for; also I thought DiCaprio was the wrong choice for the part, but that's getting too OT).
In another coincidence of names, there was also a real Rose Dawson -- not a First Class passenger but the daughter of a surviving fireman. "Titanic Voices" lists a Rose Dawson, nee Major, under "Interviewees and Correspondents". On page 174, there is a picture of the little girl, Rose Major, along with her mother, who was also named Rose Major. They were the wife and daughter of fireman William Major. Dawson was obviously the married name of the younger Rose.
Senan, Did you see the original of the photo of Joseph Dawson in military uniform? I was told that it was his wedding photograph but as the bride was a Protestant she had been removed from the photo with a pair of scissors!
p.s. look below for a further thread in which I have answered your last email to me - my system is still "unwell"!
Saw both Geoff. Thanks for the address. The Dawson picture is ripped and does show the outline of a woman's bonnet below him, but there's nothing in it. Probably taken at some concert. There's no connection between the two figures because they are in different rows, upper and lower, and the rip is probably the indication of that - ie, that the bonnet (and the woman who may have been beneath) is of no significance. People who have seen it now are spinning all sorts of yarns. The family don't say anything of the kind.
Thanks for the Monica thing. I'll try her.
Marvelous article, Sen -- thanks for sharing! You really can bring the dead to life.
For those who haven't already done so, be sure and get a copy of Sen's book, "The Irish Aboard Titanic". (And be sure to have a hankie or 2 handy -- Sen manages to convey these people's lives and dreams, and even their hoped-for destinations once reaching New York... then tells you, in a single, powerful word, whether they survived or were lost.)
But getting back to Halifax, even (IMHO) questionable ventures like the Cameron movie can have some positive consequences. As I understand it, prior to the release of the film, and its attendant upsurge in interest in Titanic, the Halifax graveyards were in deplorable condition. I do believe there was a movement afoot by serious Titanic buffs to force the town to do something about same, but the lure of the tourist dollar was a huge enticement. By the time we visited, in 1998, new signs had been installed, the grounds were manicured, and Fairview looked great.
Seeing the heap of flowers on Joseph Dawson's grave, far outnumbering those elsewhere (tho some kindly soul had left bouquets for the Palsson mother and child and many others, as well), I first thought, "How ironic!", then re-thought, and decided it was far better to be remembered, albeit incorrectly, than to be forgotten altogether, buried a continent away from one's family. Of course, at that time, the "remembrance" hadn't been carried to the extreme of chipping away at his gravestone.
Even if the whole T to-do did cause cruise lines to add Halifax to their schedules, they would have succeeded in introducing their passengers to a wonderful, vibrant city which reminded me a bit of Boston. As Gavin points out, there are many, many good reasons to go there. Our visit coincided with the annual International Busker Festival, which was great fun. Also, for the disaster-fascinated, the Halifax area has had more than its share. From what I read, the Titanic disaster provided a "training ground" for dealing with the subsequent Halifax Explosion, a collision between a munitions ship and a second ship. Then, too, there's the Atlantic, and Swissair...
But there is another reason besides Titanic for cruise lines to have added Halifax to their ports-of-call: it fits in nicely with their spring-to-fall voyages to eastern Canadian cities from NY and points north, an alternate itinerary to Alaska or Europe, or Bermuda, or the Caribbean, which is best saved for North American winter.
Regards to all -- Susan
P.S. Thanks for that info on Rose Dawson, Barbara -- that was quite a shock!