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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

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Honouring memory of Titanic engineers

AS the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster is marked we remember two engineers, men from Cumberland, who died in the tragedy.

One was Jonathan Shepherd, born in Whitehaven in 1880. The other, his mentor, Joseph Bell of Farlam, near Brampton.

Jonathan’s father, James B Shepherd, speaking afterwards recalled how his son had acted coolly and courageously while serving on his previous ship, the Olympic, when it had been in collision with HM cruiser Hawke in the Solent.

The grief-stricken father said of the Titanic sinking: “My lad would remain on duty, sink or swim. He would stick to his post to the last.’’

Jonathan had moved as a child with his parents to Blackburn where he served his apprenticeship at the Canal Works of James Davenport. He then joined Howard & Bullough, Ltd of Accrington, and later worked for Hadfields Ltd, Sheffield.

With a desire to go to sea he secured a berth on a steamer belonging to Messrs W S Kennaugh & Sons, Liverpool, trading to South America. He came home, secured his second-class certificate and joined the Lowther Castle of the same firm, trading between New York and China and Japan, during the period of the Russo-Japanese War.

After securing his chief’s certificate he joined White Star and served on the Adriatic, Teutonic, Olympic and Titanic. He also had also served in the St Paul. A single man, Jonathan was 32 when he died. He was junior assistant 2nd engineer on the Titanic. His ambition was to be chief engineer of a White Star liner.

Mr Shepherd senior said that when Mr Bell was appointed chief engineer on the Titanic he selected Jonathan to accompany him. It was a great honour but Jonathan, who had been five years with the White Star line, hadn’t wanted to go. He would rather have stayed on the Olympic but was honoured and felt it his duty to join Bell.

Jonathan was said to be six feet tall, a man of good nature, jovial disposition and well liked.

His parents, James and Johanna Shepherd, in 1881, lived at 32 James Street in Whitehaven. James was an architect. Johanna was born in Limerick, Ireland. Jonathan was one of seven children and later the family moved to 9 Church Street. By 1901 they had left Whitehaven for Blackburn.

Jonathan’s mother died in 1911, the year before her son was to be lost in the Titanic tragedy.

Jonathan’s eldest sibling, his sister Frances, named after grandma, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1874, so his parents must have been in America at that time.

Jonathan’s grandparents were Jonathan and Frances Shepherd. Grandfather Shepherd was a cabinet maker employing about 30 men and boys and lived at Scotch Street and at 79 Lowther Street in Whitehaven.

When the Titanic went down she took with her the lives of many brave people including her entire complement of engineers under the control of Joseph Bell.

Mr Bell, who was aged 50, was the son of farmers John and Margaret Bell of Farlam, near Brampton. He left a wife Maud and four children.

His staff consisted of 24 engineers, six electrical engineers, two boilermakers, a plumber and a clerk. In addition, many of the firemen and coal trimmers were lost.

Not one engineer survived so there is no verbal evidence of the role they played, however there is evidence in the fact that the ship stayed afloat longer than it would have done had they not sacrificed their lives for the good of others.

ANOTHER who lost her life when the Titanic sank was a 63-year-old woman from Millom, Mrs Marion Meanwell, whose alligator-skin handbag was discovered, 88 years later in the 2000 sea-bed trawl for salvaged artifacts.

Mrs Meanwell was bound for New York where she was to stay with her daughter. She was the cousin of a Mrs Clara Beck of Cambridge Street, Millom, and it is believed she was intending to sail out aboard a smaller ship, the Majestic, which had been due to leave Southampton at about the same time as the Titanic but was detained because of a coal strike. She was used to making the trans-Atlantic voyage and in a message to Mrs Beck she said she was delighted with her accommodation on the Titanic.

Mrs Beck was born in Manchester and married to iron ore miner William Beck.

MARYPORT was the birthplace of Thomas Henry Ismay, owner of the White Star Line and last month a Maryport fisherman Brian McGuirk found a White Star saucer in his scallop nets while fishing off Holyhead, Anglesey.

It was quite a coincidence as his father John owns the White Star pub in Maryport and his mother Ann was born in the Maryport house formerly owned by Thomas Ismay. The piece of crockery is now part of the Titanic display at the town’s Wave Centre.


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