The Black Star Line

John Bull

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How the So-Called White Star Line Haggles with Bereaved Relatives of "Titanic" Victims

We have had placed before us the particulars of a case which throws a lurid light upon the callous manner in which the White Star Line is dealing with its obligations towards the relatives of the Titanic victims. Amongst such victims was Mr. R. L. Barker, the second purser of the ship. Mr. Barker had previously been purser on the Republic, which it will be remembered was wrecked in the year 1909, and, although he escaped with his life, the whole of his belongings on board went down with the boat. In our issue of May 11th (Lost liners and Crew's Property) we showed that it took the Company upwards of two years to meet Mr. Barker's claim in respect of his loss, and even then it dealt with him in the meanest possible spirit, paying him but a quarter of the value of the articles lost. In these circumstances, it might have been expected that generous treatment would be meted out to his widow now that he has lost his life in the service of the Company. Instead, however, of such being the fact, Messrs. Ismay, Imrie and Co. have resorted to the meanest and most contemptible device to defeat the widow's claim —made, by the way, not so much in her own interest as that of Mr. Barker's aged mother, who, as the Company has been duly informed, was solely dependent upon her son for support.

It will be remembered that under the terms of the Workmen's Compensation Act the dependents of an employee whose income exceeded £250 a year are not entitled to compensation for his death, and the Company immediately set up this defence. When, however, it was pointed out to them that, inclusive of sea and port pay and half-pay, Mr. Barker's income amounted to between £160 and £170 only, the Company, taking advantage of the strict letter of the law, put forward a claim for maintenance and arrived at the desired figure in the following extraordinary manner. We quote from a letter addressed. by Messrs. Ismay, Imrie and Co. to Mrs. Barker's solicitors on June 7th. "With regard to maintenance, the purser is privileged to take his meals in the first-class saloon, a fair cost for which we have estimated at 5s. a day, which is some pence less than the actual average cost of victualling first-class passengers." And by adding to this the average bonus received by Mr. Barker, the Company maintained that be was just outside the legal limit. Needless to say, Mrs. Barker's solicitors protested against the scale for the luxurious feeding of first-class passengers being charged against one of the Company's employees, and further pointed out that a very slight reduction in this charge would bring Mrs. Barker's claim within the provisions of the Act. But the Company would have none of it, and in the end callously suggested that "if Mrs. Barker's case is in any way a necessitous one, we feel sure it would receive sympathetic consideration on the part of any one of the Committees which have been organised for the distribution of the very large Relief Funds that have been raised throughout the country, and to which we also have been subscribers." Again the solicitors acting for Mrs. Barker protested, stating, with great force, "We presume that the subscribers to this Fund (including, of course, yourselves) intended that their subscriptions should be applied for the relief more particularly of persons who were not entitled to compensation, and not in substitution or relief of any legal liability."

All to no purpose, however. The Company had still another card up its sleeve, for it had actually told Mrs. Barker that her late husband "had at the time of his death £500 on loan from the Company "—although it took unctuous credit to itself for having no "intention to claim for this on his estate." Would it be believed that this £500 was merely a fund entrusted to each purser for the convenience of changing money on board, and naturally went down with the ship?

And so the poor old mother of the Second Purser of the Titanic is left penniless in the world, with only the cold comfort of charity in her declining days.

We have no hesitation in characterising the conduct of Messrs. Ismay, Imrie and Co. as brutal and heartless.

Lost Liners and Crew's Property


Among the Titanic victims was one whose life had previously been preserved in a miraculous manner. He was an officer on the Republic—another White Star boat — which foundered when being to-ved to New York in 1909 after a collision. On the night of the accident, to a passenger, he exchanged berths with him. To this lie owed his life, as the colliding boat rammed right into the berth, killing its occupant. However, all his belongings on board, valued at £l2 O , went down with the ship. He was requested by the Company to send in a claim, which he made out to the extent of &00. After waiting about six months the Company settled by paying him a quarter of the amount. It is to be hoped that the survivors of the ill-fated Titanic's crew will be treated generously. - John Bull, 11 May 1912

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2021) The Black Star Line (John Bull, Saturday 6th July 1912, ref: #229, published 8 February 2021, generated 26th July 2021 10:18:26 PM); URL :