James Bertram Williamson was born in Dublin, Ireland on 28 November 1876.
He was the son of David Wallace Williamson (1840-1899), an engine driver, and Eleanor Grace Webster (b. 1844). Both his parents were Presbyterians from Edinburgh and they had married in their home city on 17 July 1863.
They initially settled in Old Monkland, Coatbridge, Lanarkshire and are listed there on the 1871 Scottish census with a child, John Webster (b. 1870), and it is likely that they had more children prior to this. They seemingly crossed the Irish sea to Dublin shortly after where their next child Eleanor Grace (b. 1872) was born. The couple are known to have had a further four children: Georgina Callan (b. 1874), Agnes Maude (b. 1881), Christine Mary (b. 1884), and Flora (b. 1887).
When James appears on the 1901 census of Ireland he is described as a sorter at the General Post Office and he is living with his widowed mother and siblings at 2 Downham Villas in Arran Quay, Dublin. His father had died in 1899 and James had reportedly began his career with the Post Office around 1894
He would be absent from the following census in 1911 when his family were living at 11 Lindsay Terrace, Bontanic Road in Glasnevin, Dublin and he may have been at sea, having obtained a transfer to Southampton a while previously where he was reportedly courting a girl named Gladys Copeland whose father operated the Queensland Hotel in Southampton 1. Whilst the identity of this woman is unclear, a Gladys Annie Copeland (b. 1895 in Southampton) was listed on the 1911 census as the daughter of licensed victualler Charles Copeland and his wife Sarah Louisa, recorded at that time as living at 76 Clovelly Road, Southampton, the same street that James was reported to have lived in 1912. What became of Gladys Copeland is unknown but she may have resettled in the USA.
James was reported to have lived at 93 Clovelly Road, Southampton. He worked on Titanic as one of five postal clerks. Several accounts by survivors describe these men dragging sack loads of mail from the already waterlogged sorting rooms to higher decks. All five men were lost in the sinking. James' body, if recovered, was never identified.
He is remembered by a memorial plaque in the Abbey Presbyterian Church, Parnell Square, Dublin:
To the Glory of God and in memory of
James B. Williamson
Of the Transatlantic Post Office
Who died on duty in the foundering
of the SS 'Titanic' April 15th 1912
By this tablet the members of
the Postal and Telegraph Services
Record their Deep Sorrow at his death
His mother Eleanor died on 6 July 1913 and his last known surviving sibling, Flora, died in Dublin in 1977 (as Mrs Charles Landers).
Articles and Stories
New York Times (1912)
Newark Evening News (1912)
|POSTED ABOARD R.M.S. TITANIC (NATIONAL POSTAL MUSEUM, WASHINGTON, D.C.)|
- As per Molony, Senan: The Irish Aboard Titanic, Mercier Press, 2012.
References and SourcesMarriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
John Eaton & Charles Haas (1992) Titanic: Destination Disaster, Patrick Stevens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 534 0
Photo: Hampshire Advertiser (Courtesy of Paul Lee)