Mr George Kemish

Mr George Kemish was born in Shirley, Southampton, Hampshire, England on 29 October 1889. He was the son of George Kemish (b. 1863), a sawyer, and Emma Tubbs (b. 1866), Southampton natives who had married in 1887.

George was one of seven children born to his parents, his known siblings being: Benjamin (b. 1887), Rose (b. 1893), Frederick (b. 1895), Lydia May (b. 1897) and William (b. 1911).

George first appears on the 1891 census when he and his family were living at Elgin Road, Millbrook, Southampton. The family would be living at 1 Grove Road, Shirley by the time of the 1901 census. By the time of the 1911 census George was described as a 21-year-old unmarried seaman and still living with his family, now at 238 Shirley Road, Freemantle, Southampton.

When he signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, George gave his address as 238 Shirley Road, (Southampton). His previous ship had been the Olympic and as a fireman he could expect to earn monthly wages of £6.

Following the collision with the iceberg, Kemish recalled being ordered down into the boiler rooms to draw the fires, a task which he later lamented was a difficult one. He described the scene:

...I saw one engineer slip and break his leg... We placed him in a pump room and did anything we could to help the other Engineers. Ship’s Carpenters were constantly taking soundings. They may have known, but no one else (except Skipper Smith), that things were going to happen...

Kemish later made his way up to the boat deck and described throwing deckchairs over the side to act as ballast. Whether or not George boarded lifeboat 9 from the lifeboat deck or promenade deck is not certain but he later described jumping from the starboard side, intent on grabbing boat 9's falls and lowering himself into the boat but missing and dropping into the water, later being hauled aboard.

After the disaster, Kemish continued serving at sea until the 1930s, serving whenever possible on coal-burning ships for health reasons and for a time worked as a fitter's mate1.  He corresponded with Walter Lord, during the research for the book A Night to Remember.

George was married in Southampton in 1918 to Myrtle Ellaline Selifant (b. 1898 in Southampton) and the couple had four children: Benjamin (1924-2012), Anthony Richard (1925-1998), Peter (1927-1928) and Linda (b. 1939, later Mrs Michael Watkins).

George was widowed in 1959 and he himself passed away in Southampton on 6 February 1966. He is buried with his Wife and Daughter in South Stoneham Cemetery, Southampton (section G 10, plot 284).

Notes

  1. A December 1924 CR2 card records him as a trimmer on the Andes.
 

Articles and Stories

Southern Evening Echo (1958) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Paul Lee said:

    What happened to fireman George Kemish after the disaster? Did he stay in Soton and have any family? When I was at Soton Uni from 1990-93, I knew a lad called Mark Kemish. He lived locally, in Totton. His father, Cyril, was a haulage truck driver. I have often wondered if he was related to George. Funnily enough, Mark knew "Old Mr.Dean" (Bert Dean) - they went to the same New Forest social club, but sadly Bert died before I could arrange a meeting. Best to you all Paul --

  2. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Hey Paul, Scooch Kemish lived out his life in the Southampton area and still has children alive there (he had a total of six children--but Cyril wasn't one of them). His children remember him as being "necessarily defensive" most of his life and he continued to sail the seven seas and was quite a traveled man. He mellowed out in old age after being widowed and I have a really nice photo of him holding his infant granddaughter on the wall of my "Titanic room." He never, ever spoke about Titanic and the children only heard about his experience on the ship when their mother would whisper about... Read full post

  3. Paul Lee said:

    Thanks Phil, I reckon Cyril was born c.1940 (?), so its possible that George may be Cyril's grandfather...? It just occurred to me as I have never met any other Kemish's anywhere, ever

  4. Mark Chirnside said:

    Hi Phil! Thanks for some fascinating information. Interestingly, I did come across some record of George Kemish speaking with Walter Lord about his experiences on the Titanic, and during the sinking, sometime in 1955 (most probably June). While I initially thought it was just a letter, I am told he also spoke to Mr. Lord as well. It's not my own area of research, though. Most likely he only spoke about it this once. Best regards, Mark.

  5. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Yes, he did talk to Walter Lord but never, ever talked about it within his family (that according to one of his surviving children). I've tried to talk them into coming to one of our Wickham dinners at BTS but so far they've been reluctant as the son has a hearing problem and fears he wouldn't understand all the conversations going on at once. He's a really nice fellow and obviously well educated. When I contact family members for information I always ask them to tell me things that make the individual a "real person" and not just names and dates associated with a disaster. Mr. Kemish... Read full post

  6. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    PS to Paul: I don't think Cyril is a grandson either as the 1940 date wouldn't seem to work (unless Scooch's oldest son had Cyril as a teenager). Maybe cousins??

  7. Mark Chirnside said:

    Hi Phil! That's it then. Thanks for all the additional information! Best regards, Mark.

  8. Filipe Prista Lucas Rodrigues Lopes said:

    Dear Phillip, Sorry to post this message here as it has nothing to do with the topic, but I have had problems contacting you by email and this is the only way I remembered: have you received my last email on the documentation issue? Best regards Filipe

  9. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Hi Filipe--always glad to hear from you and was going to send you a message today anyway to tell you that you might just get mentioned on American TV in the near future! Will send you a separate email privately. Phil

  10. Paul Lee said:

    Hi Philip, Forgot to thank you for your information. The only other information that I have about Cyril is that he lives in Totton. Thanks Paul --

  11. Filipe Prista Lucas Rodrigues Lopes said:

    Dear Phillip, Havent received any email from you yet and I wonder if there is any problems with our addresses. Anyway, I have those documents that I promised to send you (on the Portuguese passengers) packed and ready to go in my desk and I am just waiting that you confirm the address you once gave me. Your friend, Filipe

  12. Virginia Lawrence said:

    Dear Phillip, Do you know the names of George Kemish's children who still live in Southampton? I would like to contact them for permission to quote his letter to Walter Lord in a forthcoming book. Thanks, Jenny

  13. avatar

    Jason D. Tiller said:

    Hello Virginia, According to Phillip's profile, he has not accessed the board since April 21. But, you can send him an e-mail through his profile, by clicking on his name.

  14. jacqueline marie sanders said:

    George Kemish was my mothers uncle, sorry but I do not know of a Cyril.As far as I can remember, the children of George were,Ben Tony Linda and David. I hope this helps.

  15. Nichola said:

    George Kemish was my Great Grandfather (father of my living Grandad). I know some information about him but not sure about posting it on this forum. Would be happy to share knowledge with someone through email.

  16. Billie Shepherd said:

    Hi Nichola, I am doing some research for a documentary about stories passed down by Titanic survivors. I'd be fascinated to talk to you about your family's stories. Could we speak over email? You can reach me on - ? Thank you.

  17. Mark Barrell Johnson said:

    Nichola I have always been told George Kemish is one of my Ancestors on my mothers side but never had any prove of this as of yet. One of my ancestors was a Maria Kemish Barrell but i believe the spelling of her name was with 2 M's though. If you care to contact me throught emails I would be more than willing to chat to you

  18. avatar

    Jason D. Tiller said:

    Hello Mark, Please be aware that the post you are replying to is six years old and Nicola is not a registered member of the message board. So it is highly unlikely that you will receive a response.

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Credits

Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA

References and Sources

Southern Evening Echo, 14 April 1958, Article
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
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
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Daniel Allen Butler  (1998) Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2017) George Kemish (ref: #1547, last updated: 14th February 2017, accessed 8th August 2020 12:35:34 PM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/george-kemish.html