Chester Man's 55 Adventious [sic] Years At Sea
A TITANIC DISASTER SURVIVOR
In the 1880s one Chester lad may have been heard asking another "What's happenned [sic] to Punch Wynn?" and the reply might well have been, "Oh, didn't you know 'e 'ad gone to sea?" What has happened to Punch Wynn in the Intervening years?
Recently, while strolling the deck of a big liner, my attention was drawn to an old sailor. I addressed a deck steward who stood near by — "Who Is that old fellow?" The deck steward glanced towards the games deck where the sailor was busy supervising and assisting with the removal of deck tennis nets, quoits, ping pong table, etc., so that the deck might be prepared for a night attraction.
“Oh! that is old Bill Wynn" a pause, then " 'e's a lad oi tell yer. Yer should get ’old of ’im some time, sir. an' 'e'll tell yer 'ow 'e got away from the Titanic."
I was interested and watched for suitable opportunity for a chat with the old man. who was always busy about the ship. Considering his years, he was a remarkable man, he was never idle. During the day he would be found tying up here, washing down there, or polishing brass work.
A TYPICAL OLD SALT
One afternoon I skipped up to the promenade deck, where all was quiet. Games were suspended and all passenger were enjoying forty winks either in their berths or in deck chairs on the sunny decks. Yes, there he was, rolling along with a bucket in one hand and a bundle of cleaning rags in the other, towards the stern of the ship, a typical old salt who might have materialised from Marryat's pages.
I decided to walk round the other way and come upon him as if by an accident. I found him wiping a capstan head. I asked him if I might take a snapshot. He readily agreed, and we got into conversation. "I was born in Chester." This was interesting, for I, too, was born in Chester. I gradually gleaned that as a boy he attended Holy Trinity Boys' School. When he was about 11½ years of age he became an errand boy at Bollands, and then at a talor's shop in Foregate-street; later he acted as a conductor on the trams. But he always felt the "call of the sea," as he termed it. About this time he was mixing with a number of young lads, among whom were some who might have led him into trouble; he was therefore glad when an old lady interested herself on his behalf, and was instrumental in getting him posted to the training ship Clio.
When he was 16, he was sent to Liverpool, where he shipped in a 100 ton schooner. But he did not get enough to eat and sought and obtained a job in a bigger vessel. In 1888, while he was employed on a large sailing ship, the Garfield, he nearly lost his life in a typhoon while on a voyage from India to New York. He was employed by an American Line when the Spanish-American war broke out, and he joined the American Navy "for the duration." Later, while in Southampton, he married a local girl, just as the South African war broke out, and he was soon employed in ship sailing to and from South Africa with troops and invalids.
MANNED TITANIC'S LIFEBOAT
The war over he joined the White Star Line, where he was on the quartermaster's staff of the Oceanic. One day the men were assembled, and he was chosen to proceed to Belfast, where he found he was posted to the Titanic. The vessel sailed for New York on the 10th April 1912, on her fateful voyage. As the old man put it. "It was on Sunday night, the 14th, we ran into a nest of icebergs," and the great vessel, which was said to be "the last word," was struck by the submerged shelf of an iceberg. There followed one of the greatest disasters in the history of the Marine, for two hours later the Titanic sank, and all but 706 of her 2,300 passengers lost their lives. He would never forget the scenes he witnessed during that short period. He was placed in charge of a lifeboat containing 55 women and four men. It will be remembered that, in response to frantic S.O.S. messages, the Carpathia arrived and took aboard those she found on the rafts and in the lifeboats of the Titanic.
Arrived back in England, he was granted six months' rest.
In 1914 he was afloat in the Olympic when war was declared, and he "carried on" during the period of the Great War in different ships, finishing up in the Persian Gulf. He could tell some stories about this period of his life.
"And I am still afloat, sir, in the crack ship of the Union Castle Line, the Stirling Castle," and it will be seen from the photograph that Punch Wynn (he informed me that this was his nick-name when he was a lad in Chester), is still going strong.
He has lost track of his relatives-never heard of one since he lost his father in 1890.
He has never had a day's illness since he went to sea, and he has been over 55 years a seaman. He is indeed a fine example of merchant sailor, and a credit to "Ye Ancient Citye." J.F.