Mr Arthur John Priest (Fireman) was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 31 August 1887.1
He was the son of Harry Priest (b. 1850), a labourer and a native of Bloxham, Oxfordshire, and his wife Elizabeth Garner (b. 1859), a native of Bradwell, Buckinghamshire. The couple were married in Newport, Portsmouth in late 1880 and went on to have a total of twelve children, ten living past infancy.
Arthur's known siblings were: Ellen "Nellie" Maud (b. 1881), Harry (b. 1883), Elizabeth (b. 1885), Daniel (b. 1885), William Joseph (b. 1889), Annie Louisa (b. 1891), Albert (b. 1893), Emily (b. 1894) and George (b. 1895). The family initially settled in Buckinghamshire before settling at different times in Warwickshire, Essex and Wales, eventually settling in Southampton around 1886.
Arthur first appears on the 1891 census living with his family at 27 Lower Canal Walk, St Mary, Southampton, an address he and his family would live at through to the 1911 census. By the time of the 1911 census Arthur was absent, most likely at sea. His mother was by then listed as a widow, his father Harry having died only weeks prior.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 Priest gave his address as 27 Lower Canal Walk, Southampton. He had transferred from the Asturias and as a fireman he received monthly wages of £6. He had also previously served aboard Olympic and was aboard at the time of that ship's collision with HMS Hawke in 1911. Also, the Asturias was later torpedoed and sunk in March 1917 but Priest was not aboard at the time.
Priest was rescued, probably in lifeboat 15. Contemporary news coverage stated that his sisters Nellie and Emily both lost sweethearts in the sinking, the former reportedly being connected with Dublin-born trimmer Joseph Dawson.
Along with Stewardess Violet Jessop, Priest was on board the Olympic when she collided with the HMS Hawke, and also aboard the Britannic when she hit a mine and sank in November 1916. In a letter to one of his sisters he described his escape from Titanic's sister ship:
"... most of us jumped in the water but it was no good we was pulled right in under the blades...I shut my eyes and said good bye to this world, but I was struck with a big piece of the boat and got pushed right under the blades and I was goin around like a top...I came up under some of the wreckage ... everything was goin black to me when someone on top was struggling and pushed the wreckage away so I came up just in time I was nearly done for ... there was one poor fellow drowning and he caught hold of me but I had to shake him off so the poor fellow went under."
Priest also survived the World War I losses of the Alcantara in February 1916 and Donegal on 17 April 1917. He once claimed that he was forced to retire from the sea by these disasters because no one wished to sail with him.
He was married in Birkenhead in 1915 to Annie Martin, née Hampton. The couple had three sons: Arthur John (1917-1920), George (b. 1919) and Frederick Harry (b. 1921). The family lived for a time at 17 Briton Street, Southampton.
Arthur Priest, known as Jack, lived for the last number of years of his life at 21 Hill Street in Southampton. Following a spell of pneumonia, he died aged 49 on 11 February 1937 and he is buried in an unmarked grave in Hollybrook Cemetery in that city.
What became of his widow Annie is unclear. His son Harry died in Southampton in 1997. His son George later married and had two daughters but what became thereafter of him is not known.