SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTIONS TO THE TITANIC.
By Anne Lemkuhl.


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Reproduced with permission.

The recent on-line access to the Titanic's passenger list has revived interest in this tragic event. Some of the Titanic's passengers had connections to South Africa. The following are a few of them. There may be other passengers with South African connections, as yet undiscovered.

Thomas William Solomon Brown

Thomas William Solomon Brown (60), his wife Elizabeth Catherine (née Ford) and their daughter, Edith Eileen, were from Worcester. Thomas was the son of Thomas William Brown and was baptised in Cape Town on the 25th August 1851. Thomas registered various mortgage bonds at the Cape between 1884 and 1904, while Elizabeth registered one in 1904. Thomas was a successful hotel owner but business had declined, so he decided to start again in Seattle, USA, where Elizabeth's sister, Josephine, lived with her husband Edward Acton. Elizabeth was much younger than Thomas, and was his second wife. His first wife, Isabella Gracilla/Greceilda (née Willoughby) died at the Cape in 1889. Elizabeth was born in 1872 at the Cape. Thomas's first marriage produced 4 children - Lilian Henrietta (later married to Woolf), Harriet (later married to Bosman), Thomas Ralph and Ernest. The second marriage produced two daughters, but one, Dorothy Beatrice, died at the age of eight, from diphtheria. Edith was born on the 27th October 1896.

The family were 2nd Class passengers. Elizabeth and Edith were rescued by the Carpathia. They stayed in New York for a few days before going to stay with Josephine in Seattle. Soon afterwards, mother and daughter returned to South Africa. Elizabeth married a Mr Parrott and moved to Rhodesia, where she died on the 29th June 1925.

Edith married Frederick Thankful Haisman, an architectural engineer, in South Africa on the 30th June 1917. They had 10 children, including Dorothy (married to Mr. Kendall) and David. David later served as a lookout on the White Star Lines and wrote a book, I'll See You in New York: Titanic - the Courage of a Survivor. Edith was an honorary member of the Titanic Society of South Africa and the oldest Titanic survivor until her death on the 20th January 1997 at the age of 100 at a nursing home in Southampton. She appeared in the 1994 TV movie, Titanic: The Legend Lives On, as herself, as well as in Titanic: Secrets Revealed (1998). In 1993 Edith was presented with the gold watch that her father was wearing when the ship went down. RMS Titanic Inc of New York City, a salvaging company, found the blackened watch. Her life story was published as A lifetime on the Titanic - the biography of Edith Haisman.

Charles Henry Chapman

Charles Henry Chapman was born in Cape Town. He was the son of James Chapman (explorer) and Catherine Cecelia Roome (daughter of Capt. William Roome and Catherine Cecelia Bushnell). Catherine was born in Virginia, USA, and her father was a sea captain who settled in Nova Scotia, Canada. Charles was an exporter and lived in the Bronx, New York. He was 52 years old when he died on the Titanic, as a 2nd Class passenger. He had the Bushnell family Bible with him. His body was recovered and in his suit pockets, the following were found: silver cigarette case, garnet tie-pin, garnet ring, papers, gold mounted cuff-links, $200, gold studs, fountain pen, knife and pipe. JJ Griffin of New York City claimed his body. Charles was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery, in the Bronx.

Nathan Goldsmith

Nathan Goldsmith was a boot maker in Cape Town (possibly also Johannesburg) before the Anglo-Boer War. He was originally from Russia. After the war, he moved to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA. He was married and had two children. Nathan was 41 years old and a 3rd Class passenger when he died on the Titanic. At the time of his death, his family was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sydney Samuel Jacobsohn

In 1902 Sydney Samuel Jacobsohn was an attorney in Cape Town, living at 16 Wale Street. He registered mortgage bonds in 1898 and 1906. He later moved to London. He married Amy Frances Christy Cohen on 6th September 1910. She was born in London. They boarded the Titanic as 2nd Class passengers, on their way to Montreal, Canada. Sydney (42) did not survive. Amy (24) was rescued by the Carpathia. She returned to England onboard the Meganti.

Samuel Beard Risien

Samuel Beard Risien and his wife Emma, from Texas, USA, were on their way home, after spending about 14 months in Durban, visiting relatives. They were 3rd Class passengers and did not survive. After the death of his first wife, Mary Louise Lellyet, Samuel married her sister Emma, of Durban, South Africa. There were no children of the second marriage.

Austin Blyler van Billiard

Austin Blyler van Billiard (35) and his sons, James William (10) and Walter John (9), were 3rd Class passengers on their way to South Wales, Pennsylvania, USA. None survived. Austin was a part owner of a diamond mine. He left Cape Town for England, with his wife Maude and children - James William (born 20th Aug 1901 in France), Walter John (born 28 Feb 1903 in France), Dorothy Jane and Donald. He had several diamonds cut in Amsterdam and decided to go to New York where he might get a better price. His father and brother, Monroe, lived in South Wales, Pennsylvania. Maude became ill and it was decided that she remain in England with the youngest children, until she was well enough to travel. Austin's body (found with 12 diamonds in the pockets) and Walter's body were found and buried at Union Cemetery, Zion Lutheran Church, Flourtown, Pennsylvania.

Austin was born on the 9th February 1877, the only son of James V van Billiard, a successful marble merchant. He moved to England where he met Maude Ellen Murray and married her on the 3rd November 1900. The family spent 10 years in South Africa. In 1906, Austin applied for letters of patent at the Cape, for his invention - a mechanical suspension conveyancer. In 1912, he decided to return to the USA. Maude eventually moved to South Wales, Pennsylvania, with her two remaining children. She never remarried and died in a nursing home on the 17 January 1968, aged 94.

Henry Sutehall

Henry (aka Harry) Sutehall was born on the 23rd July 1883 in England. He started a round-the-world trip on the 1st January 1910 and purposefully waited to return home to the USA on the Titanic's maiden voyage. His family had immigrated to the USA in 1895 where they settled in Buffalo, New York. Henry became a trimmer, installing and repairing upholstery in carriages and early cars. He met Howard Irwin at work and they decided to do a world tour, while working wherever they could find employment. During 1910, they travelled all over the USA. In mid-1911, they left for Australia. While in Sydney, Henry won a sweepstakes that helped fund the rest of their trip. The two friends wanted to visit different places and at this stage, they each went their own way. They met up again in Durban and made plans to meet in England early in 1912 to conclude the voyage home together. While in Durban, they entered a talent contest and won a trip. Henry played the violin and Howard played the clarinet. Howard most likely used the prize to fund his travels, arriving in England a week before Henry.

On the day of their departure from Southampton, Howard did not show up. Henry already had put Howard's steamer trunk onboard the ship, but Howard never showed up. Henry did not survive the voyage. In 1993, during recovery efforts at the wreck site by RMS Titanic, Inc. Howard's steamer trunk was found. Among the contents was a diary that Howard kept for 1910. The diary and several of Howard's possessions can be seen in museums in St. Petersburg and Boston. Howard Irwin died in 1953.

Henry Forbes Julian

Henry Forbes Julian was born on the 9th May 1861 in Cork, Co Cork, Ireland. He became a metallurgical engineer and in October 1886 travelled to Natal. He became a consulting engineer and mine manager in Natal, Barberton, Johannesburg and Kimberley. Henry stayed in South Africa for seven years, during which time he invented and patented an extracting apparatus for the mines. In 1893 he moved to Germany. By 1902, he was living in Torquay. He was booked to travel to the USA on another ship but because of the coal strike he was transferred to the Titanic. Henry was to attend a meeting in San Francisco. His wife, Hester Pengally, stayed home as she had influenza. He did not survive.

Herbert Gifford Harvey

Herbert Gifford Harvey was born on the 3rd February1878 in Belfast, Ireland. He volunteered to serve in the Anglo-Boer War and joined the 46th Company Imperial Yeomanry. He earned the Queen's Medal with three clasps and the King's Medal with one clasp. After his return, he joined Harland & Wolff and later went to sea as an engineer with Lowther, Latta & Co before leaving to join the White Star Line. He lived in Southampton. Junior Assistant Second Engineer Harvey did not survive.

William Jeffery Ware

William Jeffery Ware was born in 1889 in Gunnislake, Cornwall, to Samuel Ware and Ann / Annie Louisa (formerly Witheridge). Samuel was a blacksmith at one of the copper mines near Gunnislake. William became a blacksmith and married Cecilia. Six weeks prior to sailing on the Titanic, he had been in South Africa visiting his father. He was a 2nd Class passenger on his way to Butte, Montana, but did not survive.

Francesco Celotti

Francesco Celotti was a sailor from Cape Town. He was a 3rd Class passenger and did not survive. He applied for a passport at the Cape and was granted one on the 16th February 1911. He was originally from Italy and was age 24 when he boarded the Titanic at Southampton.

Robert Hichens

Robert Hichens (possibly also spelt as Hitchens) was born in Newlyn, Cownwall, on the 16th September 1882, son of Philip Hichens and Rebecca Wood. On the 23rd October 1906, he married Florence Mortimore in Manaton, Devon. He worked aboard mail boats and liners of the Union Castle line. Prior to sailing on the Titanic, he was living in Southampton with his wife and two children. He was one of six Quartermasters on the ship. Robert was at the wheel when the warning came from the lookout that an iceberg had been spotted ahead. He swung the wheel as far as possible. Later that night he was relieved by another Quartermaster and he was put in charge of Lifeboat 6. He testified at the US inquiry into the accident. Afterwards, he returned to England and testified in the English inquiry.

It is claimed that he became a harbour master in Cape Town, according to one Henry Blum in a letter to a Thomas Garvey. Henry was an acquaintance of Robert, and was a Quartermaster on a British ship that docked in Cape Town in 1914. According to him, the harbour master who met the ship was Robert Hichens. Henry claimed that he and Robert had a talk in which he was told that Robert had been set up in South Africa in return for his secrecy regarding the Titanic. So far, no research has found this part of the story to be true. His family members stated that he did spend some time in Durban and Johannesburg.

Robert's brother, William, lived in Johannesburg in 1915. William returned to England in 1918 and married Penelope Rouffignac Cotton in Newlyn. They had 2 children, Penelope and William, in South Africa. Penelope died in Johannesburg in 1959.

Robert served in the Royal Naval Reserve in the First World War In 1919 he was working as a Third Officer on a small vessel out of Hull. In the late 1920s, he was living in Torquay, Devon, where he did boat chartering. In 1931, the family moved to Southampton. Robert had a run-in with the law and was released from prison in 1937. He died on the 23rd September 1940 aboard a cargo ship. His wife lived in Southampton until her death in the early 1960s. The couple had six children - Edna Florence, Frances, Phyllis May, Robert, Ivy Doreen and Fred.

Samuel Emest Hemming

Lamp trimmer Samuel Ernest Hemming lived in Southampton. He was married to Elizabeth Emily Browning on the 4th June 1903, and they had several children. He was picked up by Lifeboat 4. He died in Southampton on 12 April 1928, age 59, at the Blighmont Nursing Home, of cancer. Two or three of Samuel's brothers had immigrated to South Africa, where they started a law firm.

Mary Griffin

Mary Griffin (née Webber) is buried at Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg. She was from Kea, Cornwall. Mary was 33 years old when she married the widower, James Griffin on the 5th November 1863. They moved to South Africa. Mary died on the 17th June 1897 in Johannesburg. Her brother, James was on the Titanic on his way back to his home in San Francisco, to the USA. He was 62 years old and did not survive. In 1914 a Mr J Griffin of Kenwyn Cottage in Port Elizabeth purchased the private rights to Mary's grave and a stone was erected commemorating Mary and James. James' estate was left to Harriet Julian, wife of Edmund Julian.

William Bull

Margaret Charlesworth of Lyndhurst, Johannesburg, found that her grandfather, William Bull (37), worked in the Titanic's kitchens. He did not survive. William was born in Hampshire. He married Margaret's grandmother, Edith, and is commemorated on her grave stone. Edith later married a Mr Skeats. She died in 1937. In 1912, William was living in Southampton.

The following South African connections have not been proven:

A man, who became the Bishop of George circa 1950s/1960s, spent his honeymoon on the Titanic. Different lifeboats picked up the newly-wed couple and they were separated for three weeks, neither knowing that the other was alive.

WH Welch was an assistant cook on the Titanic. He had a brother who settled in South Africa.

According to Frans van Wyk, author of Riversdal 150 Jaar, a resident of the town was on the Titanic and did not survive.

Sources:

  • National Archives of South Africa
  • Titanic Society of South Africa
  • Official list of Titanic passengers and crew
  • http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/
  • http://hometown.aol.co.uk/houghian/myhomepage/brown.html
  • http://www.titanic-titanic.com/

  • Anne Lehmkuhl was born on the island of Madeira, and immigrated to South Africa at the age of two years. In the early 1980s, she started tracing her family history. In later years she has been the editor and/or publisher of family history newsletters and has written two e-books on South African genealogy. She has been a professional genealogist since the 1990s, specialising in South African genealogical and historical research.
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