Titanic 100: Doctor’s last letter returned to Belfast

In an earlier post I wrote about the efforts of the family of  a ship’s officer to get possession of the letter from their ancestor who perished on the Titanic.

Now a good news story …from the delighted family of Dr John Simpson , a medical officer who also perished on the Titanic. His last letter written to his mother just days before he was lost, has been returned to his family. Bought by a generous and mysterious benefactor, this is indeed a good news story!

RTE News report :

A mystery benefactor has stepped in to ensure a valuable letter written by an officer days before he died on the Titanic will return to his home town.

There were fears that the note Dr John Simpson penned to his mother onboard the doomed liner would be bought by a private collector when it was put up for auction in New York with a $34,000 reserve price.

But after hearing about a campaign by relatives of the ship’s assistant surgeon to bring the letter back to his native Belfast a mystery donor stepped in and bought it for the city just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

According to witnesses who survived the 1912 sinking, 37-year-old Dr Simpson stood with fellow officers on the deck of the stricken vessel as it went down.

His great-nephew Dr John Martin said he was happy the letter was coming back to where it belonged.

He said: “I’ve never actually seen the original letter itself as it was last in Belfast in the 1940s before Dr Simpson’s son moved away.

”So for it to be on its way back is just amazing and so appropriate now just ahead of the 100th anniversary of his death. We are so thankful to the benefactor.”

He said the letter had been passed down through several generations until Dr Simpson’s 81-year-old daughter-in-law gave it to a Titanic enthusiast in The Netherlands 15 years ago in the hope it would go on display.

However, what happened to the letter after that remained a mystery to the family and Dr Martin said relatives had always regretted its loss.

They thought it was gone for good until they heard it was to be sold at Philip Weiss Auctions in New York.

But the item failed to reach its reserve price at the sale earlier this month, enabling the benefactor to step in and purchase it for an undisclosed sum.

The letter, dated 11 April 1912 and written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic, was brought ashore at Cobh, Co Cork (then called Queenstown) before the ship set sail for the US.

It was dispatched to his mother Elizabeth who was living in Belfast’s Dublin Road.

In it, the married father-of-one, who was then based in Liverpool, said he was tired but settling into his cabin well.

He had worked on the Titanic’s White Star Line sister ship the Olympic for a year previously and observed to his mother that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger.

Dr Simpson also complained he had found one of his trunks unlocked and $5 or $6 had been stolen from his pocket book.

The surgeon, who treated second and third-class passengers, signed off: “With fondest love, John.”

It is intended that the letter will go on display in Belfast.

RTE news Item can be seen here.- Some nice scenes!

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Family History, Irish Heritage, Irish History

5 responses to “Titanic 100: Doctor’s last letter returned to Belfast

  1. Is this the letter RTE mentioned last night when they actually said that ‘the Titanic’ had written ‘a letter to his mother’ and it was back in Ireland? Hubby and I were in fits, but then we changed the station…

  2. I have no idea as I did not see the item on the news…..but delighted the story grabbed your attention any way at all!

  3. Pingback: 80,000 Titanic Belfast tickets sold | NOTWUK

  4. A great outcome, wonder who the generous soul was?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s