Encyclopedia Titanica


The Times

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We regret to announce that Mr. Ismay died at his residence, Dawpool, near Birkenhead, about 6 o'clock last night, after a long illness. The immediate cause of death was collapse of the heart, following on operations performed for an internal trouble. Dr. King, of West Kirby, the family physician, was present with several specialists.

Born on January 7, 1837, at Maryport, Cumberland, where his father, Joseph Ismay, was a shipbuilder and shipowner, Thomas Henry Ismay was educated at the Croft-house School, Carlisle. When 16 years of age he was apprenticed to Messrs. Imrie and Tomlinson, shipowners and shipbrokers, Liverpool. After completing his indentures he widened his experience by travel, sailing round Cape Horn and visiting Chile, Peru, Bolivia, &c. Returning to Liverpool, he started business on his own account; and in 1867, when but 30 years of age, he acquired the important enterprise of the White Star Line of Australian clippers, which included the White Star, Blue Jacket, Champion of the Seas, and other sailing vessels famous in their day. In the following year Mr. Ismay, with a former fellow-apprentice, Mr. William Imrie, formed the Oceanic Steamship Company, Mr. Ismay then devoting himself to the development of steam navigation. It was in 1870 that the firm decided upon entering into the competition for the Atlantic trade while still continuing the Australian, into which latter they had introduced steamers. Speaking on the occasion of the launch of the Oceanic on January 14, 1899, Mr. Ismay said he could "not recall an unfriendly word in the course of a unique business relationship, which began with the small sailing ship Broughton, of 600 tons in 1867, and has continued from that historic masterpiece of Sir Edward Harland's genius, the first Oceanic---the pioneer steamship of the White Star Line---without interruption to the present time, when the twin-screw steamer, Oceanic No. 2, of 17,000 tons, the largest vessel afloat, represent as we believe, the highest point of excellence ever attained in ship construction." When the American service was commenced in 1870, the designation "White Star Line" was associated with it. Mr. Ismay's idea was that people considered safety and comfort as well as speed, and he would not sacrifice these for the sake of making the fastest passage. When the first Oceanic was launched in 1871 she was the object of adverse criticism, but experience indicated her suitability for the trade for which she was built. The White Star Company rapidly developed in popularity, and their vessels have held high favour among passengers, though they may not have been "record breakers." In the period covered by the remarks of Mr. Ismay above quoted no less than £7,000,000 was paid by the company for vessels built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff. One of the earlier vessels to excite notice in regard to speed (15 knots) was the Britannic, which made her first trip to New York in June, 1874. The Majestic and Teutonic marked a great advance, and the Oceanic illustrates still greater progress. While the passenger steamers have developed with requirements, cargo boats have also been provided for the future of the trade, including the big ship the Georgic.

Mr. Ismay was not so absorbed in business as to neglect public matters. In 1877-78, when the Russo-Turkish was seemed likely to involve this country in hostilities, the White Star fleet was offered to the Government for transports or cruisers; and out of this developed the arrangement by which the Government, by subsidy, secures the right to use certain first-class merchant steamers as war cruisers in case of necessity. At the Spithead naval review in 1897, the White Star steamer Teutonic, armed as a cruiser with 16 guns, was sent by Mr. Ismay to participate in the naval display, and show that mercantile cruisers were not myths. Even in 1889 the Teutonic had participated in a naval review, and on that occasion she was inspected by the Prince of Wales and the German Emperor. In 1880 Mr. and Mrs. Ismay and several members of their family made a voyage round the world. Five years later fellow-shareholders in the company presented Mr. Ismay with his portrait by Millais, and a service of plate. In 1888 Mr. and Mrs. Ismay travelled in the Far East. It was in 1892 that Mr. Ismay retired from the firm of Ismay, Imrie, and Co., though he retained the chairmanship of the White Star Company, whose fleet then comprised 18 steamships of 99,000 tons and 12 sailing vessels of 18,000 tons, but the aggregate in 1899 was increased to 164,000 tons. Mr. Ismay was also a director of the London and North-Western Railway Company and the Royal Insurance Company, and chairman of the Liverpool and London Steamship Protection Association. It is understood that it was Mr. Ismay's influence that caused the London and North-Western Company to utilize the Waterloo Tunnel for passenger traffic from the riverside to Edgehill at Liverpool.

Though Mr. Ismay several times declined competing for Parliamentary honours in Liverpool and elsewhere, he was recognized as a stanch Liberal Unionist, and performed useful public work in many directions. He was chairman of the Audit Commissioners of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, though he was never a member of the board or of the Liverpool City Council. As far back as 1884 he served on Lord Ravensworth's Admiralty Committee on the contract v. dockyard systems of building and repairing her Majesty's ships. Four years later he was on Lord Hartington's Royal Commission on Army and Navy Administration, while in the following year he was chairman of the Board of Trade Life Saving Appliances Committee. In 1891 he was on Admiral Tryon's Admiralty Committee on the naval reserve, as well as on the Royal Committee of Labour, and four years after he served on the Board of Trade Committee on sidelights. The Prince of Wales nominated Mr. Ismay to serve on the Royal British Commission of the Paris Exhibition 1900. It is understood that an offer of Royal recognition in the shape of a title was tendered to Mr. Ismay more than once, but that he declined such honours. Mr. Ismay was one of the founders of the training school Indefatigable and a liberal supporter of the Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution, while in 1887 he gave £20,000 towards a pension fund for worn-out Liverpool sailors, in celebration of the Queen's Jubilee and his own 50th year. The fund is now doubled, and from it 100 sailors get £20 a year.

Mr. Ismay married in 1851 Margaret, daughter of the late Mr. Luke Bruce, shipowner, and the issue was three sons and four daughters. The sons are in the shipping business, and one daughter is the wife of Mr. Geoffrey Drage, M.P. for Derby. One son, Mr. Joseph Bruce Ismay, married a daughter of Mr. George R. Schieffelin, of New York, and another son (James Hainsworth Ismay), married Margaret, eldest daughter of the 6th Marquis of Hertford. Mr. Ismay's residence was in Cheshire, of which he was a J.P. and D.L., and in 1892 he was High Sheriff. He was also a J.P. for Lancashire. On July 20, 1899, he was made a freeman of Belfast in circumstances which indicated how highly that city appreciated Mr. Ismay's share in contributing to its prosperity.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) DEATH OF MR. T. H. ISMAY (The Times, Friday 24th November 1899, ref: #3368, published 4 August 2004, generated 7th December 2021 05:27:21 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/death-mr-t-h-ismay.html