Local Connection with Titanic Disaster

Whitehaven News

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The Blackburn Times of the 20th inst. contains the following account of an interview with Mr. James Shepherd, son of the late Mr. Jonathan Shepherd, formerly of Whitehaven, and now residing at Blackburn, whose son, Mr. Jonathan Shepherd, was one of the engineers of the Titanic, and it is feared is amongst those who lost their lives in the wreck.

The crew of the ill-fated Titanic, included Mr. Jonathan Shepherd, son of Mr. James B. Shepherd of 27 London Road, Blackburn, and it is feared that he perished when the liner foundered'. No news has yet been received by his father and sister, to whom the disaster came as a terrible blow. They are hoping against hope that he may be saved, but they informed our representative that the chance is remote, because they knew he would remain at his post until the last.

Mr. Shepherd was an engineer on board the Titanic. just turned 30 years of age, he was a fine young fellow, muscular and stood 6ft without his boots. In his profession he had made his mark, and by officers and men was held in the highest esteem.

He had been with the White Star company five years. He served first on the Adriatic and then on the Olympic. He was on the latter vessel when the collision occurred with H.M. Cruiser Hawke on September 20th, 1911, in the Solent. On that occasion he showed remarkable presence of mind, for as soon as he heard the crash he realised that something serious had happened, and at once closed the watertight doors. As he did so he was up to his knees in water.

His promptitude in that sudden emergency was an illustration of his coolness and courage. Recalling that thrilling incident, his grief-stricken father, referring to the loss of the Titanic, said to our representative on Tuesday: ''My lad would remain on duty, sink or swim. He would stick to his post to the last.'' Mr. Joseph Bell, a native of Cumberland was the Chief Engineer on the Titanic. Previously he was on the Olympic, and when he was promoted to the vessel that sank, he selected Mr. Shepherd to accompany him.

It was a great honour to be thus chosen, but, curiously enough, Mr. Shepherd had his doubts about the wisdom of the step he was about to take. He had a feeling that something untoward would happen. In the light of subsequent events that presentiment was only too well-founded. ''It is a singular coincidence,'' said his father, ''but my lad did not want to go on the Titanic. he would rather have stopped on the Olympic. But, Mr. Bell, when he was promoted to larger vessels belonging to the White Star Company chose my son to go with him every time. It was an honour that we appreciated, but somehow or another in this instance my boy was reluctant to change ships. Still, he felt it to be his duty, and he went.

He was over in Blackburn a month last Saturday, prior to going to Belfast to join the Titanic with the other engineers, who took her from Ireland to Southampton, from which port she sailed on her maiden voyage. He was not so jolly when he went away, as he seemed to have an idea that something would happen.'' It is reported from New York that many of the survivors, in boats, saw the leviathan disappear, carrying down hundreds of persons with her. ''That last scene,'' the correspondent adds, ''was only relieved by the bravery and self-sacrifice displayed by the crew and those male passengers who stayed on board the doomed ship''.
The missing officer served his time as an engineer at Canal Foundry, Blackburn, after which he secured a berth as second engineer on a steamer that traded with China and Japan, and he was in those waters during the war in the Far East. The presents he brought home included a beautiful tea service, a valuable pair of Satsuma vases, and choice Japanese pictures.

When he took to the sea as his calling he told his friends that he had got his foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, and he would never be satisfied until he reached the top. His ambition was to be Chief Engineer of a White Star liner, and if he had been spared there is no doubt that he would have attained his object, for he had passed his examinations with distinction, and held a Chief Engineers Certificate, first class, from Liverpool. On his return he had intended to sit for his certificate as extra chief engineer.

Mr. Shepherd has another son at sea - Mr. Joseph Shepherd, who is with the Bibby Line, and is now on his way home from Rangoon. Some 40 years ago the father himself had a miraculous escape from being lost at sea. At that time he was in America and had booked his passage on the City of Boston which left New York for England, and was never heard of again.
She foundered in the Atlantic.

Providentially, Mr. Shepherd changed his plans at the last minute, and did not sail on the vessel. His relatives in England, however were not aware of that circumstance, and they mourned him as dead. After he had decided not to return by the boat Mr. Shepherd went up country. For six months he was ignorant of the fact that the boat had disappeared. Then he happened to pick up a newspaper containing an account of the loss of the vessel, and communicated with his relatives who were overjoyed that he was alive.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) Local Connection with Titanic Disaster (Whitehaven News, Thursday 2nd May 1912, ref: #3393, published 6 August 2004, generated 31st July 2021 06:07:13 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/local-connection-with-titanic-disaster.html