Encyclopedia Titanica

Arthur John Priest

Fireman survivor of Titanic and Britannic

Arthur John Priest
Arthur John Priest

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.

George Priest George Priest
Two photographs of John's son George during the second world war.
(Courtesy of Wendy Bullock, Jake Billingham)

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.

Notes

  1. Birthdate often cited as 31 August 1889.​​​
  2. The Asturias was torpedoed and sunk in March 1917 but Priest was not aboard at the time.

Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr Arthur John Priest
Age: 24 years 7 months and 15 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Fireman
Last Ship: Asturias
Embarked: Southampton on Saturday 6th April 1912
Rescued (boat 15)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Cause of Death:
Buried: Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, Hampshire, England

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References and Sources

Register of Seamen (PRO London, BT 350) #380560
Photo: Public Record Office, Courtesy of Senan Molony, Ireland

Research Articles

Titanica! (2017) Shipwrecked again!
Titanic passengers and crew that experienced shipwrecks either before or after the Titanic disaster.

Newspaper Articles

The Times (23 April 1917) A Fireman's Adventures

Documents and Certificates

Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259
General Register Office: Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths

Bibliography

John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
Craig Stringer (2003) Titanic People (CDROM)
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Comment and discuss

  1. Alison Openshaw

    Alison Openshaw said:

    I need to find out more about my great great uncle Arthur John Priest, my grandfather's uncle. , I remember when I was younger that the family used to laugh about him as he was like Uncle Albert of "Only fools and horses" because every ship he goes on it sinks! My grandfather doesn't give out much information [He made my family tree hard to do on that side of the... Read full post

  2. wendy ann bullock

    wendy ann bullock said:

    Hello Alison,what was your grandfathers name,Arthur John Priest is my grandfather, my dads dad, I do not not know if he ever lived in london,Arthur"s wife Annie came from liverpool she moved to Southampton before i was born where she is now buried. yours sincerely, Wendy.

  3. SPriest

    SPriest said:

    I was looking for information on Arthur John Priest’s family. My grandfather was Harry Priest (Arthur’s father and brother was a Harry as well) and was married to a Frances McVeigh from Derry, Ireland. I’m not sure if there is a relation, I just figured I could ask.

  4. Jakebilli

    Jakebilli said:

    Hey S Priest I'm currently working on a project to mark Arthur John Priest grave he is buried in Hollybrook Cemetery Southampton and we are trying to make contact with his relatives to let them aware of the project and we need to contact yourselves for permission to mark the grave as we believe the grave is privately owned and we also need to know more information about his final years as that information is some how lost to us please contact me at Kindest Regards Mr Jake Billingham

  5. Wendy bullock

    Wendy bullock said:

    hi arthur john priest wife Annie remarried to a bob polly , we used to call him uncle Bob when we went to visit they then lived in st Denys portswood Southampton . George married eliza jane callaghan and lived in stoke on trent Staffordshire , they went... Read full post

  6. Jakebill

    Jakebill said:

    hi arthur john priest wife Annie remarried to a bob polly , we used to call him uncle Bob when we went to visit they then lived in st Denys portswood Southampton . George married eliza jane callaghan and lived in stoke on trent Staffordshire , they went onto have three children michael robert peter, arthur thomas,wendy ann,john David, Both George and eliza have sadly past away. Arthurs other son Frederick married beryl they went on to have two boys john and Anthony who still live around the Southampton area again beryl and fred past... Read full post

  7. Anthony priest

    Anthony priest said:

    Hi my name is Tony Priest my grandfather name was Harry priest he lived in Stourbridge Worcester shire died 1952?. Children Charles Doris Lizzie George.he was a chain maker.

  8. Jakebill

    Jakebill said:

    Dear Tony please do contact me on 07860374394 I would love to speak with you.

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Acknowledgements

Gavin Bell, UK
Jake Billingham
Wendy Bullock
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA