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John Downing Smillie

John Downing Smillie
John Downing Smillie

Mr John Downing Smillie 1 was born at 5 Drake Street in Bootle, Lancashire, England on 30 November 1883 although would claim Glaswegian roots in later records.

He was the son of Peter Smillie (b. circa 1845) and Jane Brown Dickie Anderson (b. 11 April 1855), both natives of Glasgow who had married in Dennistoun on 18 April 1876. His father was a man of various trades, such as a butcher, a ship's cook and later the proprietor of a coffee house. 
He had four siblings: Helen Dickie (b. 13 March 1877)2, Peter Henry (b. 19 August 1878)3, Thomas Dickie Anderson (2 June 1881)4 and Margaret Dickie Anderson (b. 6 May 1886)5

The Smillie family moved from Glasgow to Liverpool sometime after 1881; the 1891 census shows them as residents of 32 Orlando Street, Bootle but John's father was absent, then working as a ship's cook. Peter Smillie had been ship's cook aboard Pavonia for a number of years. 

The 1901 census shows the family living at 421 Stanley Road, Kirkdale; his father was then listed as a cook in his own coffee house whilst a 17-year-old John was described as an engineer fitter. His mother later passed away in 1905 aged 50.

Smillie later went to sea, although when is unknown; he was shown working as a boots steward aboard several crossings on the Empress of Britain of the Canadian Pacific Line, appearing aboard that ship on several crossings out of Liverpool in 1907 when he gave his local address as 36 Molyneux Road, Liverpool and by then stating his birthplace as Glasgow. 

He was shown on the 1911 census residing as a boarder at 16 Malmesbury Road, Freemantle, Southampton and he was described as an unmarried ship's steward; also residing at that address was another future Titanic steward, George Evans. His father, a widower since 1905, was shown on the same census living with his daughter Helen at 17 Ashlar Road, Waterloo, Liverpool and was described as a retired butcher. 

Smillie was on board the Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton and when he signed-on again in Southampton, on 4 April 1912, he gave his address as 16 Malmesbury Road, Southampton. He had previously served aboard Olympic and as a first class saloon steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.

Smillie died in the sinking and his body was later recovered by the Mackay-Bennett (#91) and buried at sea on 23 April 1912:


CLOTHING - Steward's white coat; uniform vest; blue pants; black boots.

TATTOO - On right arm; a woman.

EFFECTS - Postcard in pocket to J. Smillie.


His grieving family, on the first anniversary of his death, placed the following memorial to him in the Liverpool Echo:

SMILLIE--In loving memory of Jack, the youngest son of Peter and the late J. Smillie, Waterloo, who lost his life on the s.s. Titanic, April 15, 1912.
(Liverpool Echo, 15 April 1912)

His widowed father remained in Liverpool, later living at 41 Bedford Road, Bootle where he died on 22 October 1922. His last remaining sibling, his younger sister Margaret, died in Matlock, Derbyshire on 30 September 1961.

In 2012 a number of Smillie's personal items were put up for auction, including letters and a group family portrait, with an image of Jack inset.


  1. He was listed as "John Downing Smillie" on the 1911 census but no such middle name appears on his birth record.
  2. Helen Dickie Smillie; later Mrs Fullerton Rimmer Boyd. Married in 1901, she had a son, Fullerton Rimmer Jr who was born 16 June 1905. Her husband died at the Kingsmead Tavern, Southampton on 10 December 1929. Helen later migrated to the USA to join her son who had himself first migrated around 1920; she settled in Delaware, Pennsylvania. Fullerton, who later worked in insurance, was married and raised a family and lived for the last eight years of his life in West Hartford, Connecticut where he passed away on 13 July 1975. Following a brain haemorrhage, Helen passed away in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, on 27 December 1957 and was later cremated.
  3. Peter Henry Smillie; later a sea steward. Was married and lived in Perth, Scotland and Liverpool, England before migrating, living at different locations in Canada and the USA. He died in Carroll, Arkansas on 23 March 1929.
  4. Thomas Dickie Anderson Smillie; later a sea steward. Married in Glasgow in 1907 and raised a family. He died in Liverpool on 6 October 1959.
  5. Margaret Dickie Anderson Smillie; later Mrs Alexander Duncan. She married in 1911 to marine engineer Alexander Duncan (b. 1881) and had three children: Robert McMillan, Margaret and Andrew Smillie. Initially making home in Liverpool the family moved to Southampton in the early 1920s. By 1939 she and her family were living on Wilton Road in Southampton. Margaret died in Matlock, Derbyshire on 30 September 1961.  

References and Sources

Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Particulars of Engagement (Belfast), Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (TRANS 2A/45 381)
White Star Line (1912.) Record of Bodies and Effects (Passengers and Crew S.S. "Titanic") Recovered by Cable Steamer "MacKay Bennett"
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Gavin Bell

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr John Downing Smillie
Age: 28 years 4 months and 15 days (Male)
Nationality: Scottish
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Saloon Steward
Last Ship: Olympic
Embarked: Belfast on Monday 1st April 1912
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body recovered by: Mackay-Bennett (No. 91)
Buried at Sea on Tuesday 23rd April 1912

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