Mr Albert Victor Pearcey

Albert Victor Pearcey

Mr Albert Victor Pearcey was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 23 January 1887. 

He was the son of Jesse Pearcey (b. 1855), a brick maker and builder, and Elizabeth Whitlock (b. 1853). Both his parents were native to Southampton and had married on 31 December 1876 in Portswood, Hampshire.

Albert was one of a reported eleven children(1); his only identifiable siblings, as per census and birth records, were: Kate Elizabeth (b. 1877), Jesse (b. 1879), William Frederick (b. 1881), George Edward (b. 1883), Alfred Henry (b. 1885), Ethel Bella May (b. 1889), Daisy Evelyn (b. 1891), Leonard Walter (b. 1893) and Bertie Earl (b. 1895).

Albert first appears on the 1891 census when he and his family were living at 28 Winchester Road, South Stoneham, Hampshire. Appearing on the 1901 census and by then living at 23 Kent Road, Portswood he was described as a gardener's boy, apparently already having left school. By the time Albert appeared on the 1911 census he was still living at home and unmarried, still at 23 Kent Road, and he was described as a steward in the White Star Line, having been in their employment since around 1907. In 1909, however, he had migrated to the USA aboard Oceanic and declared his intention to become a US citizen. That never came to fruition, for unknown reasons.  

Pearcey Signature

(Albert's signature, 1909 US citizenship records)

When he signed-on to the Titanic on 4 April 1912 Pearcey gave his address as 23 Kent Road, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Olympic and as a Pantry Steward he received monthly wages of £4.

Pearcey was off-duty at the time of the collision and standing with others outside the pantry on F-deck. He did not feel any violent jarring at the time of impact, merely a small skip of motion and nothing more to be thought about. Soon however news was filtered down that watertight doors were to be closed and he and his colleagues set about manually closing the watertight doors in that section located just aft of the third class dining saloon. After completing this task further orders came (from chief third class steward James Kieran?) that the passengers were to be assisted to the boat deck.

Pearcey circulated among his charges, all male third class passengers filing aft down Scotland Road, and assisted them into their lifebelts and passing them through the emergency door into the forward first class stairwell, directing them to ascend right to the top of the stairwell to the boat deck. He and a few other stewards continued at this until no more passengers were in sight, after which he ascended the forward first class stairwell with his fellow stewards, arriving at the boat deck just before 1.30 am, noting how his assigned lifeboat, number 3, had already been launched.

Shortly after his arrival at the boat deck, Pearcey related that he seen two (unidentified, or if they even existed) babies on the deck; he reportedly collected them into his arms and took them to collapsible C. Reaching that boat, first officer Murdoch ordered him into the craft to look after the two children, Pearcey describing the boat filled with women, children, three firemen, a quartermaster (Rowe) and himself, the boat's compliment being 71 persons, seemingly an exaggerated figure. Once the boat was launched, Pearcey giving the time as approximately 1.40 am, he gave up his two infant charges to some passengers whilst he took an oar. 

Pearcey survived the sinking and was later required to give evidence at the British Inquiry into the disaster, later receiving expenses of £8, 12, 6d. His brusque and sometimes confused answers to his examiners perhaps inform that he was still very touched by his experiences. 

Albert Victor Pearcey

Albert returned to sea, later working as a ship's baker and steward. In 1914 he arrived in Québec aboard the Empress of Britain, the manifest stating that he then crossed into the USA. According to his circa 1921 merchant navy identification card he was 5' 6" and had brown hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion. By 1920 through 1922 he was assistant steward aboard Aquitania and later saw brief spells as steward aboard Olympic in 1923 before returning to Aquitania aboard which he was recorded as working as late as March 1925 as an assistant baker. 

Details about his later private life are largely unknown or uncertain; he was recorded as having married in Southampton in early 1918 to Ella V. Lee, of whom nothing is known. There are no records as to whether they had any children.

Following the Titanic disaster Pearcey had at least two run-ins with the law; in August 1918 he was charged with absenteeism under the Military Service Act. 

CLAIMED BY THE MILITARY
At the Southampton police-court yesterday Albert Percey, of Oak Tree Road, Bitterne Park, wearing the uniform of a ships steward a man with three service chevrons on his sleeve, but described on the charge-sheet as baker, was charged with being an absentee under the Military Service Act. It appeared that Pearcey had signed on recently on one of the White Star vessels, but sent a telegram that he was called away owing to sickness, and missed his ship. Two or three days later he made an application to the local tramways for employment without success. After losing his ship and his wages, owing to illness, defendant secured work with local baker for a few days, in order to learn a little money at his own trade. Altogether he only worked five days there. The chairman said that after that evidence they saw no alternative but to hand defendant over to the military authorities as an absentee. This was the unanimous decision of the court. - Hampshire Advertiser, 17 August 1918

SEAMAN AND ARMY SERVICE
The question of whether a seaman still under articles was liable to military service was raised at Southampton on Friday, when Albert Pearcey, ship’s steward, was charged with being an absentee under the Military Service Act. Defendant, who was stated be a Titanic survivor, had been going to sea for 21 months, but, missing his ship owing to illness, obtained work at his old trade as a baker. The magistrates helld that they had no alternative but hand him over to the military authorities as an absentee. - Western Mail, 17 August 1918

Later on 9 April 1925 he was convicted of larceny and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment. Whilst not certain, this last act possibly curtailed his sea-going career and by the time of the 1939 register he was described as an unmarried temporary postman and living at 33 Commercial Street, Southampton, the home address of Mary Ann Mayzes, surviving fireman Thomas Mayzes' widow. After this he drops off the radar until his death was recorded in Southampton in the third quarter of 1952. He was buried in South Stoneham Cemetery (section R 4, plot 201). 

Notes

  1. Eleven being the figure given on the 1911 census. However, birth records and census records only identify ten. The identity of the eleventh child is unknown.
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2008) 
WHAT TIME DID THE FIRST LIFEBOAT DEPART THE TITANIC?
The Courier News (1912) 
 

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Credits

Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK

References and Sources

Board of Trade Hearings, 16 May 1912, Testimony
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2019) Albert Victor Pearcey Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #2036, updated 13th November 2019 18:19:49 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/albert-victor-pearcey.html