Mr Charles Joseph Shorney was born in Cannington, Somerset in 1889, the only child of Austin and Margaret (née Nelson) Shorney. Austin Shorney was, by trade, a cabinetmaker and following his marriage bought Clare House and the adjacent builder's and undertaker's business. The family prospered modestly and even employed a maid. By the turn of the century the Shorney family had moved to Sussex where they lived at Oak Cottage, Heron's Ghyll.
In 1905, when Charles was fifteen, his mother died suddenly in Uckfield Hospital from blood poisoning caused by pricking her finger with a rusty needle whilst sewing. This left Charles and his father alone at Oak Cottage, except for several servants. One day they had a visit from Rudyard Kipling whose motor car had broken down nearby. Kipling gladly accepted their invitation to lunch and a most enjoyable afternoon was spent at the cottage. Charles attended Uckfield Grammar School and won a scholarship to Christ's Hospital but was debarred from entering the institution, which was founded by Catholics, because he was a Catholic!
On 16th June 1906, at St John's Church, Heron's Ghyll, Austin Shorney remarried. His bride was Mary Anne Naughton, who was thirty years younger than him. By this time young Charles was travelling the world working as a gentleman's valet. He spoke fluent French and much of his time was spent in Paris, Cannes and Biarritz. During his travels, Charles visited New York where he realized that he could have a promising future
1. He became engaged to a young American girl who rejoiced in the name of Marguerite Alacoque Morphy (but who in reality was plain Maggie Murphy!) and decided that he would set up a taxicab business in New York. Charles returned home on the White Star liner Oceanic but the weather was so bad that it took the ship nine days to complete its voyage. When he reached dry land he swore that he would not travel with White Star on the return trip to New York.
By this time, he had a step-sister, Margaret Mary (Greta) born in 1907, and after spending some time with his family, he travelled to Brighton. He visited the offices of Thomas Cook there where the clerk was singing the praises of the new Titanic and he was persuaded to purchase a ticket for the maiden voyage (ticket no. 374910, £8 1s). Carrying with him his share of the family silver, in order to finance the taxi business, he perhaps travelled to Southampton with the Ford family from nearby Uckfield. Charles's last postcard, postmarked Queenstown, 12th April 1912, and addressed to his father
2 and step-mother read
This is the boat. She is a peach. She smashed into another boat leaving Southampton. There is great vibration in the stern. Shall be in Queenstown today, Get New York next Thursday so will write again later. Sea quite calm.
Shorney died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was not identified.