Mr Arthur John Priest (Fireman) was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 31 August 1887.1
He was the son of Harry Priest (b. 1852-1911), a labourer and a native of Bloxham, Oxfordshire, and his wife Elizabeth Gardner (1859-1934), 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 (14 December 1882-1949), Elizabeth (b. 1885), Daniel (1885-1956), William "Willie" Joseph (25 March 1889-1941), Annie Louisa (b. 1891), Albert (13 January 1893-1953), Emily (22 July 1894-1979) 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 Asturias1 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.
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. It was later reported that he suffered frostbite to his toes and an injured leg in his escape from the Titanic.
Along with Stewardess Violet Jessop, was also on board the Olympic when she collided with the HMS Hawke, and aboard the Britannic when she hit a mine and sank in November 1916.
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.
Several years ago he was in the "Asturias" when she met with an accident on her maiden voyage. He was one of the survivors of the disaster which overtook the "Titanic" on her maiden voyage five years ago, escaping with frost-bitten toes and an injured leg.
He was also in the "Olympic" when that vessel and the "Hawke" came into collision near the Isle of Wight some years ago, and he served in the "Alcantra" during her gallant fight with the German raider "Greif" in the North Sea. — The Times, 23 April 1917
He was married in Birkenhead 31 August 1915 to Annie Hampton (born 26 April 1898). The couple had three sons: Arthur John (1917-1920), George (23 June 1919-1982) and Frederick Harry (2 April 1921-1997). 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.
His widow Annie then, in 1938, remarried to John's brother Albert. After his death in 1953 she remarried to Robert James Polley (1909-1975). She died in 1972 and was buried in St. Mary's Extra Cemetery Southampton section K77, plot 112 her husband Robert J. Polley was cremated and his ashes were scattered on Annie's grave.
John's son Harry died in Southampton in 1997. His other son George later married and had two daughters and died in 1982.