Stanley Lord in Conversation with Leslie Harrison

Extracts from a conversation between Captain Stanley Lord and Leslie Harrison, held on 19 August 1961.

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[These 26 extracts exist solely in typewritten form by Harrison, with no grounding original and no apparent extant audio recording. There is a separate full August 1961 recording, now fully transcribed elsewhere on this site.]

A) Captain Lord: The main thing in my view is – Stone. ‘The steamer is steaming away now,’ and I said, ‘All right.’… and then he whistled down. He said, ‘She’s altering her bearings from SE x E to SW x W and she’s out of sight.’ That finished everything so far as the Titanic’s concerned. How could a steamer sinking alter her course five, six points? Altering her bearing is the vital thing, in my view.

B) I don’t know… (Lord Mersey) in my view had made up his mind he wanted to get a goat, and I was the goat… I think it was Strachan said, ‘You were the bloody goat.’ Strachan never believed it. Why should I – there was I, fully dressed, been on the bridge ‘til Stone came up, and then about one o’clock – why should I dodge it?
   A fortune like that. Look what that would have meant. If it had only been a tow, apart from saving life – look what that would have meant to me. We gave them every position. When I stopped at 10.20 I sent word out that I’d stopped, surrounded by loose ice – giving them the position, which corresponded with my course from the time we’d passed the five [sic] bergs. There was no question there was no cheating, no cooking at all about it.

C) [The wireless officer] came out. He said, ‘That’s not the Titanic.’ He said that. I was looking aft at this steamer… but this steamer coming up astern. I went to the wireless, and I said, ‘Got any ships around?’ and he said, ‘I’ve got the Titanic.’ And he said, ‘That’s not the Titanic.’ He said it, and I said it. She came up and stopped, about six, seven or eight miles south of us. And that’s the steamer that steamed away. South by East to Southwest by West. You can’t alter that fact. It was Stone that gave that evidence.

D) There was nothing brilliant about Stone, but he wouldn’t tell lies – I’m quite satisfied about that. He was a simple kind of boy that had served his time with the Leyland Line, and what he said would be the truth, I think. I don’t think he’d tell lies about it. I’m sure he wouldn’t.

E) (Stone) had very little to say. He was quiet, and I don’t think he bothered with anybody. He hadn’t had a lot of experience, but what he had, he used.

F) [The radio officer] didn’t go off watch until after midnight. He was the only operator we had… why keep calling him out in the middle of the night when there was no need for it?

G) With us we only had this one poor devil (of a wireless operator) who wasn’t a very brilliant fellow… he knew his job, and why get him out? He’d been on all day. He’d been on watch all day, I suppose, on and off, and he’d been on that watch – he’d been on 8 o’clock until 12 – I knew that, because I’d been talking to him.

H) When a ship alters her bearing from southeast by east to southwest by west, she’s steaming, isn’t she?

I) Stewart (at the British inquiry) didn’t seem to know what to say. But in those days, company’s signals were very much used. You see, we hadn’t had wireless long. A voyage, or two voyages, since we got wireless, and there must have been lots of other ships who hadn’t got wireless, that would use company’s signals. There was nothing else to use.

J) (Gordon, Leyland secretary) used to come out and tell me all the secrets. I think he was told to come. But Gordon was the secretary there, Mr Roper’s private secretary – he told me all these little things that I shouldn’t have been told. When I would walk out, after 12 o’clock, then Gordon would follow me, probably talk to me at the door, or talk to me outside. There were a lot of little things he would let drop, which I’m sure he wasn’t supposed to. I can’t think of them now.
   Mr Roper went to London once a week, to a meeting, and Gordon was his private secretary. In fact, he was Secretary to the Leyland Line. And he got all the information from – Roper, and was letting these things drop to me. Oh, there were a lot of little things – I can’t think of them now. He would come out.

K) [Meeting with Notley] was strange… Notley was the man Baker introduced me to, and we met and had lunch together. Baker left us, and said, ‘There you are, now you can talk it over.’ Notley and I had lunch together and we had a long talk… at the State, in Dale Street. He said, ‘If there’s anything you want to know, let me know and I’ll tell you.’ He was out of a ship then, for some reason or other, but afterwards he got along very rapidly… became Marine Superintendent. And then he died. But he got along very well. Don’t know whether it was to keep his mouth shut or not.

L) Groves was just the man Mersey wanted. He was dying to get publicity… Gill wouldn’t come on deck dead on 12. They usually washed themselves down below before coming up, and have a yarn with the man coming to relieve them. And then they come up – and not ’til half past, getting on for then.

M) But the ship that moved away is my strong point. The ship that fired the rockets, according to these people aboard her, and she moved away five, six points afterwards, after the rockets had been fired, steamed away. That’s eight or nine miles – no ship sinking could do that. That is my strong point, the whole thing. That clears everything.

N) It was the next day. I said (to Stone), ‘You write – tell me what you saw,’ and (to Gibson), ‘You give me a letter, saying what you saw that night.’ I don’t know why I did it (after receiving them). I just read them through and put them down.
   They might have been (useful). I didn’t submit them to the company, or study them at all when I got home. Well, after that meeting in London where Roper said, ‘It’s been taken out of my hands, we had intended to put you back in the ship, but it’s taken out of our hands altogether. I’ve had no say in the matter.’

O) It was (a thunderbolt). I said to Fry, ‘Can’t I see Mr Roper?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He’s just come out, Fry, and told me this. I went into Roper’s office – an unheard of thing – and what I’ve said, ‘I’m very surprised – I thought I was going back in the ship.’ He said, ‘It’s taken out of my hands altogether – I’ve got no say in the matter.’ Both Roper and Roberts gave me a reference for the Leyland Line. I don’t know…

P) LH: I told you about Sir Ivan Thompson, didn’t I? Wanting to make a reference to you? He reviewed the Ismay book on the radio. He’s on every Saturday morning, in the Home Service, every Saturday morning. He has a half-hour programme on ‘Ships and the Sea,’ and last week he was reviewing John Oldham’s book, which he said was a book ‘which had to be written,’ and he wanted to finish up by saying, ‘Bruce Ismay is dead, but another one who received very unfair treatment at the inquiry was Captain Lord of the Californian, who is still alive.’ So I said, ‘No, I’m afraid Captain Lord wouldn’t give you any thanks for that, for drawing attention to him like that.’ Was I right?
   CL: You – you’re quite right.

Q) [Re dismissal from the Leyland Line]: And all for that one man – the rest of the Committee were for me, I believe. So Gordon told me – my friend Gordon. The Board of Directors – the only one there was this Mathison [Mattinson].

R) Stone certainly said that he thought the ship which fired the signals was hull down, (on) the other side of this ship, which moved away… why would she be steaming away and firing rockets?

S) LH: At the present moment, I’m in the position of having all the papers and having had these two long talks with you, a lot of the background, which, as I said earlier, will help to make those first – the introduction to the book – your – the picture of this tragedy as seen through your eyes, which is of no suspicion or thought that anything of this sort was going to happen. 
   CL: No, none.

T) LH: You’re too honest, Captain Lord.
   CL: But I had no reason to be anything else. Everything I said was perfectly true. I went to Boston with an open mind, and went to Washington, told them all I knew. I know there was no question about it. The pilot who brought me out, we talked about it. He listened to my story and said, ‘Aye, aye, I see it, Captain.’ But there was never any question raised at all. When I got home to England there was no question raised about it – about the Californian being the ship. The only thing was this Groves fellow. He’s the fellow, I think, who started Mersey on that game.

U) We had fog the night we left there, but I don’t think we slowed down.    

V) The saloon – we had three tables. The Captain’s table was the middle. When we had passengers, we filled up, of course. But there was the Chief Officer, the Second Officer – and I think the Wireless Officer. I think he came in and had meals with us.

W) No, I don’t think we did discuss (the incident). There might have been (an atmosphere) aft, among the crew, but I wouldn’t know about that. But I talked it over with Stewart and Stone – I got that letter from Gibson and Stone, and that was the end of it. No question of the Californian being – doing anything.

X) [On return from Washington] I told Stewart all about it. I told Stone - no secrecy about that. A reporter came down before I left and asked me all about it, I think, before I went and came with me to the train and put me in the train, this old fellow –  I remember him very well – Boston paper – he came down (to the ship), talked it over, and he said, ‘Well, I’ll take you to the train’ – midnight train, I think it was – April.

Y) No, it wasn’t cold – all the rush. I got there, and I think – I’ve an idea – a fellow met me from the office and took me to the court. I think we had a taxi, or he had a car, I don’t know. They all had cars there. And then put me down about, alongside, Franklin, and I saw this other …looking fellow on the other side – he never spoke or anything.
   After I’d sat there a minute or two, Franklin turned to me and said, ‘How are you, Lord? My name’s Franklin.’ He held his hand out, and we shook hands. We didn’t have much talk. I was called into the witness box, and from there I went right away – sworn in. And then he said, ‘I suppose you want to get back to your ship – you’re sailing?’ – this old bird who was talking. But I didn’t see any more about Ismay or Franklin.
   Franklin was a nice fellow – gruff (old?), friendly sort of chap. Ismay was dumb. He’d very little to say at any time to anyone.

Z) Well, it will be interesting to see if I’m still here…
LH: In April?
CL: In April [1962, 50th Anniversary] – I’m sometimes feeling very down and dozy.
LH: Well, I shall miss you very much if you’re not. But you can rest assured that I’ll keep plugging away at this one.

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Senan Molony, Ireland


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