Presented below are interviews held with relatives of survivors; time constraints in the archives meant that I had to focus on pages relating to the Titanic, although some incidental material was obtained (some of the sessions were short anyway). The interviewer's comments and questions are in italics.
The interviewees are:
Joan Massey, daughter of George Symons
Rosina Broadbere, daughter of Wally Hurst and granddaughter of Walter Mintram
Molly Adams, daughter of John Stewart
You can click on the above links to go straight to the interviews.
Had [your father's] parents, do you know, always lived in Weymouth?
My grandmother came from Bridport, in that area and my grandfather, well I imagine he was a Weymouth man but I know my grandfather ... because one of my relations had traced the family back, come from a Coastguards.
This was on your father's side?
Yes, on my father's side, yes.
And what about your mother's side?
On my mother's, her father was a seaman and, I remember he also was ... when he retired, he was a fisherman, he used to have a little boat down a Weymouth Harbour, we used to go down and they lived in Weymouth of course, and I imagine that they were Weymouth people, I don't really know but I think they came from Weymouth.
So he came up with his wife?
No, no, he came up on his own, he was in digs in Southampton and they lived in Shayer Road, in digs for a while, or he did and then I suppose they married, no they married, just a minute ... they married on the first of the twelfth, 1912, so and then they came up to Southampton.
Did he ever tell you about how he got the job on the Titanic?
No, no but I imagine it was, he was well thought of, he was a man that never smoked, never drank. That's not true, he smoked a cigar now and again but he never drank and all his life was a strict teetotaller, belonged to the Rachobites (laughs). Strange then.
Unusual for a seaman?
Yes, oh yes. In fact I remember him telling us that he and another man were the only two sober on board a ship at one time, yes because I think they're quite noted for their drinking, the sailors, but he was a strict TT.
Do you know if he went to sea school or anything.
Oh no, no he started, he must have done, just started as a boy sailor and progressed from there.
Do you know how old he was when he went on the Titanic?
Well, he was born in 1888 and the the Titanic was what, 1912? So he'd be 24 wouldn't he?
And he was married that, after the Titanic you see, my mother had a prayer book. I don't know what happened to it, with 'In Memory of' and the dates of the Titanic.
Did he tell you anything about the voyage?
Not a lot, not a lot. He never spoke about it very much. I remember once when we were children, well I don't know how old I was but he did come one day and say that the Daily Sketch or one of those, what was it? THey were running a series on the Titanic and he said to me then, "You may read something that is a bit detrimental but don't believe all you hear" and I think he would have spoken about it then but being a youngster I never really bothered. He was my dad and and I loved him you know (laughs) and then when the Mary, when she was first there, we cycled down to Millbrook Point and we went up on the bridge and he stood there looking at it and he looked very sad and he said, "That, that's where the Titanic broke in half" he said and I never asked him anything, you know, I wished I had but there, I didn't and that was all then every year when the Titanic, the date of the Titanic came, he used to pop off on his bike and my mother used to say to me, "You know where he's gone don't you" and he always went to the Titanic. Never said anything, he just used to go to the Titanic memorials and I suppose to pay his respects and to remember.
How long was he gone, do you remember?
When did you first know your father was on the Titanic?
We always knew, it's one of those things, it was one of those things people used to say oh, you know, "Your dad was on the Titanic" and it was quite a thing really and we always said, "Oh dad was on the Titanic" you know but that was, it was just one thing we, I suppose we grew up with.
Did your mother ever talk to you about it?
No, only once she ... well she used to say that, she wasn't a woman really to dwell on things but she did say that she was walking along Weymouth Front and someone said the Titanic had sunk and George Symons was on it and she fainted (laughs) but that's about, hmm, but of course he was saved.
What did he do on board the Titanic?
He was a look-out, he was a seaman, you know and he was in the crow's nest quite soon, quite before the Titanic sank, he was on duty and apparently he reported that he smelt ice and he did tell me that when he went to America that they made a terrific fuss of and he went to the White House and oh ... but when he came back to England I think that's when the criticisms started and he said it was a different life, different story all together when he came back to England.
Why did he criticise him?
Because he was in charge you see, he was an Able Seaman and he was in charge of one of the lifeboats and apparently his lifeboat was not full and he was criticised because in the lifeboat was Lord Duff-Gordon I think his name was, Duff-Gordon and they reckoned at the time that he'd bribed them, more or less, to, oh, I think it was quite a story, but well, you know, I mean the chaos, he was probably told to cast off and he cast off, he was a man, certainly he wouldn't have done anything like that because he wasn't that sort of man.
This is what you've learned since, from the reports?
This is what I've learned since, yes.
Do you think it affected him at all?
Oh I think so, oh I think so. He was, I don't know, he was a very good man, very good man, deeply religious and not in keeping with his lifestyle really because he became a Stevedore afterwards and he never swore, never. We never heard him swear and, you know a church-goer and church warden and all that sort of thing but I think, really, yes, I think it must have affected him and of course he was ship-wrecked afterwards so it must have been quite an ordeal.
So he went to sea afterwards?
He went to sea afterwards, yes.
Do you know what ship he went on?
I've got them on the things there, on his discharge books, he was on several boats and ships and he was at Gallipoli and at Dardanelles afterwards, he had quite a career really (laughs)
Did he talk to you about things, being ship-wrecked?
Not a lot, no, no her never, it was just one of those things that have happened to him I think and he put it all behind him but he never said a lot about it and I don't know why we weren't curious but we weren't. I suppose we were all busy, you know, it's just when you're young and that was it and he never really, no, he wasn't one that reminisced a lot. He used to tell us about his family and things like that but not a lot about the sea. I know at one time when we used to call it the Dark Days because times were quite hard in those days and he had the opportunity to go back to sea. Somebody, a friend of his, offered him a job going back to sea and I remember him consulting us about it and we all cried and said, "Don't go" and he didn't (laughs), so he never went back. I don't think he really wanted to because he was a home loving man, you know and his wife and family were everything.
So all of the children came after the Titanic disaster? You were all born later on.
Yes, that's right.
How many were there of you?
Well, they lost their first one and then just my sister and myself and she was born in 1915 and I was born in 1918.
And you stayed living in (inaudible)?
They moved to Moorland Road yes, then and they rented their house then and eventually they bought it because it was quite a thing in those days but he did.
He went to the inquiry didn't he, after the Titanic, before he passed away?
Yes he did, I've got the subpoenas that he went to, several inquiries I believe.
You mentioned something about the glasses, he'd reported not having looking glasses.
That's right, yes, that was in the inquiry, that he'd reported that there were no glasses in the crows ... in the lookout and he always, where he'd been before they'd always had glasses and he reported it and they said there'd be glasses on the next voyage.
Do you know anything about why the said that Lord Duff-Gordon bribed the crew members? Do you know what the story was behind that?
Not really, no, I just imagine that he'd said that if he got them home I suppose he promised them something, or that was the story but apparently it was vigorously denied and what happened and why I don't know.
He had a letter from him?
He had a letter from Lord Duff-Gordon afterwards, saying that they didn't ... a full story would never be told or something like that, I don't know what it was, well you've got the letter as you know.
He used to talk sometimes about the Titanic fund, he'd see in the paper how much it stood, you know and he used to say sometimes that he did't think it was probably distributed properly to people that should have had it. He never had anything of it because of course he was, I don't know whether they, I don't even know if they reimbursed him for his clothes (laughs) because in his seaman's book it was just 'Discharged at sea' and after I often wondered if perhaps that's when the money stopped, it may have been, I don't know but he used to speak about the Titanic, there used to be a big Titanic fund, I don't know if there still is. I think it's been merged with Disaster Fund now but there was a terrific amount of money poured into this Fund I believe and he used to say sometimes that was about they only thing much he spoke about but he never dwelt on it or perhaps it was too deep, I don't know.
Did he, to your knowledge, ever keep in touch with any of the seamen that survived?
Yes, I think, was there a Fred Fleet?
Yes, he was the other look-out man.
Yes, I've got a feeling that maybe he did but not to my real knowledge. He, they weren't friends of ours, never came home or anything like that but I have a feeling that maybe he did but other than that there was nothing much that I can tell you about the Titanic.
Do you know what ships your father worked on?
Well not really. I mean there were a few of them. He was on, he was naturally on the Titanic and he was on the Britannic when it was torpedoed [sic] in the Mediterranean and he worked for, he was, went round the world with Lipton on his yacht but other than that he was going on all the normal boat that were in the Docks.
Do you know what he did?
I think he did all sorts of things. He was a fireman, he was, I think it's in that book anyway. He worked downstairs in the engine room I think, more than anything and my grandfather must have worked in the engine room too because he ... when they hit the Titanic, dad was asleep in his bunk and my grandfather threw a lump of ice on his bunk and said, "Wake up Wally, we've hit an iceberg". He went down in the engine room and they never saw him again but my father was saved.
Did your father talk to you about all this?
Not very often. He wasn't one for that sort of thing. He was a lovely man but I mean he didn't talk about things that had happened in his life, not really.
So you don't know what happened to him?
Well I know that he was on ... he was one of the last off and he was in the collapsible boat that was upside down in the water, he was on top of that and he always said that, you know the captain of the ship, they say all sorts of things about what happened to him. Well he said somebody swam up to the boat and he couldn't get on because there were so many on there and he said, "Good luck boys" and he want and my dad swore that was the captain that said that. He did, rather, when he was alive.
Did your mother talk about it to you?
No, not a lot, no she didn't say much about it at all. She used to cry when different hymns were played, you know, that they had on the ship and just that sort of thing, you know, she'd get upset now and again but she never said much.
Did they have any children during that period? You were born in 1916 weren't you?
Yes they had three boys, there was three and a half years between the three boys, the youngest was six months when the Titanic went down.
Do you know if your father got any compensation?
No, I don't think he got anything at all, no. Of course, my mother used to feel it more because it was her father that was drowned on the Titanic and she was the oldest of five children and she went into service at 15 and her sister was ill, she was in London. The three boys were sent to Canada with Dr Barnardos Home and they were on different farms, working.
This was your mother's brother (inaudible)?
Yes. When I was talking to my uncle once in Brighton, that was one of the ones that went to Canada, he said that he was working on a farm and he had a dog and this dog strayed into the Indian Reservation and he went after it and they shot arrows at ... the Indians shot arrows at them and he had a scar on his leg he showed me, where the arrow went, and they killed his dog.
Do you know how old your uncle was? Do you know how old they were?
No I don't really but they were in the First World War so, when would that have been? That was after the Titanic wasn't it?
Yes that was 1914.
Yes because I remember one, they were in Canada and they were in the Canadian Army and they came over then and the oldest one, his wife had died, he was married to an Icelander and they had three children in Canada and his wife had died so he met a person that he knew as a boy in Kingsland and he married her and took her back and they had two more children.
Where were your grandparents living?
In Dock Street, I think it says in the paper, a piece of paper that I've got, Dock Terrace but it was called Dock Street when I was a youngster.
And have your family always come from Southampton?
Your grandparents had always lived there as well?
What happened to your father whe he came back to Southampton?
Well I can't remember that place. There's nothing in his log book about that, not until later when he was on the Britannic because his first log book went down on the Titanic and this was a supplementary one so between those times I haven't got any idea really. I mean, when he was on Lipton's yacht, I don't know whether that was between those times or not.
What was your father's full name?
I haven't got it I don't think. Walter but I can't remember. I don't know if he had any other name, I expect he did, they nearly all did.
Walter, and what was his surname?
And your grandfather?
He was Charles [sic], I can't remember, I've got it somewhere written down. I suppose you didn't want to, need it?
Did your father ever talk about how he got into the collapsible boat? Did he jump off the ship? Do you know very much?
No, actually I think they were trying to get it off and a wave came over and washed it onto the sea and there were two of them trying to get if off the top, off of the cabin, off of somewhere and the wave came over and washed it into the sea.
Did he tell you?
Can you remember anything else he told you?
No, only that when they stood him up on deck when he was picked up, I think by the Carpathia, when they stood him up his legs were frozen and he fell and he was in hospital in America for a while and why my mother thought he was lost was, they spelt his name Hearst and it's Hurst so until mum got the telegram she didn't know that he was saved.
So he sent her a telegram?
Yes, it said, "Walt safe, father gone down on it". I remember seeing that in the centre of the Daily Mirror paper when I was a youngster and my brother wrote to me when I asked him if he knew anything about the Titanic. He sent back and said that a person had shown him a paper and he described it exactly as I remember. There was my mother and her children on one side, the telegram was through the middle of the double page, in the centre of it and it said, "Walt safe, father gone" and her father was on an inset up on the other side, on the right hand side. I can remember that.
Do you know what happened to the paper?
No, no, I don't know what happened to a lot of things my mother had. Lovely cards from dad with lace on and everything, you know, they were lovely but I don't know what happened. I wasn't there when the house was cleared you know.
How long was he home for, from his voyages? Do you know?
No I can't remember but I was only seven when he stopped going to sea.
After the Titanic disaster, do you know what ships he went on?
No, I'm afraid I don't. I was only seven.
Did he ever talk about the ship he'd been on later on in life?
Not really, no. He said when he was on the Britannic that was torpedoed in the Mediterranean during the War, that was a picnic to Titanic because the water was warm and calm, it was different all together.
Did he ever talk about being on the Carpathia?
Only when he was picked up. I think it was the Carpathia but there was another one, another name that he spoke of and I can't remember it now. I usually do, but when they did stand him up after he'd been in the water all night he collapsed because his legs were frozen and he always had trouble with his legs as he got older but I think that must have been hardening of the arteries he had as he got older, he couldn't walk very well.
Was the ship you're thinking of the Lapland?
No, no. I believe that began with a C, there was another one wasn't there? I'd know if I heard it.
The California [sic]?
That, yes, yes, that one.
What did he talk about that?
Well I had ... I wasn't quite sure whether he was picked up by that or the Carpathia and, because he did say he was transferred from one to another but I can't be sure, it's sort of foggy.
So when you were growing up, when were you aware, first aware that your father had been on the Titanic?
Well, I always knew because we used to have, you know mum used to get upset, I told you that before anyway, because she lost her father, but no, I just was aware of it, that's all, grew up with it you see.
Did you ever have any projects at school on the Titanic?
I don't remember ever, no.
And your father, did he ever talk about it in later life? Did he ever talk to newspapers? Was he ever interviewed?
Well it was only when he went on the BBC programme, that's the only time.
Do you know when that was?
And did you ever have a copy of that programme?
No, no, I would have liked one but, I think they said something about they had copies of some but not all of it.
Did you ever see it when you were younger?
I saw it when it was on the television, yes.
And were there other crew members speaking?
Yes there were two others, I don't know, Highland [Hyland -sic?] he was one of them but I don't remember the other one. There were three men there anyway and they were, I mean dad was more a crew member and they were more officers I think.
And what was he doing? Was he talking about his experiences?
Only when his, my mother's father came down and threw a lump of ice on his bunk and said, "Wake up Wally, we've hit an iceberg". Then he went down in the engine room and they never saw him again.
Do you know when he was aware that he had lost his father in law?
Well not probably until he came back from America.
Was [your father] born in Liverpool?
Portabello, in Scotland wasn't it, yes he was born there.
Do you remember why he came to Southampton?
He came round on the ship. He came round ... he was on the Olympic before the Titanic and so I suppose that's where he met my mother.
Where did your mother come from?
My mother came from Southampton. Her father was a Trinity House Pilot and of course he died quite young.
What did your father do on the Olympic?
On the Olympic? I believe he was a steward. Of course, you know with being born after this you just can't remember. You don't know much about it, but I know that he was in charge I think of the Verandah Cafe on the Titanic.
How come he went to work on the Titanic, on the Olympic? Do you know?
No, I wouldn't know.
Did your parents talk to you ... can you tell me anything about his job?
Well not exactly about his job but I do know that on the particular night he was on deck when they hit this iceberg and he dashed down to his pals below and of course they wouldn't believe him, just didn't think it was possible (inaudible)
Did he ever talk about it to you?
Not to me exactly, no. I just don't know why but he would never speak to anybody about it, not at all.
Did your mother talk about it?
Not very often, no, only that she cherished these things that were, you know that she had left.
What things do you have ...?
Quite a number of telegrams from ... to say that he was safe and the keys of the Verandah Cafe where ...
Do you know what lifeboat he was in?
In the last one. My mother would never go and see my father off and this particular day she went and she always swore that that was the most unlucky thing that she ever did.
Do you know if your father got any money from the Disaster Fund ...?
I don't think so.
Did you ever do any projects at school on the Titanic?
Even in later life did your father not tell you anything? Did you ask questions?
I don't suppose I did really. You know it was so difficult that ... You might say oh yes Dad was on the Titanic and that's as far as it would go. It went no further, even if he was found.
And your mother didn't talk about how she felt when she heard of the disaster?
She must have been shattered, absolutely.
She didn't talk about it in later life?
No, no, no.
What did he do after the disaster? Did he return to sea?
I think he went back to sea for a little while but not for very long and then eventually he worked for the South Western Garage, it's connected with the hotel, and then after that he went into pub life.
Yes, but of course he did in 1947 [sic - 1946]
Do you think it had any effect on him, the disaster?
It would be hard to say wouldn't it, because it they never spoke about it, you don't know what their inside feelings were.
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