Click on any image to view slideshow
There are many commemorations this weekend for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic on 15th April 1912. The British passenger liner sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, with the loss of 1514 lives.
You may be interested to learn a little about one of the first class passengers, Arthur H Gee, who perished on that fateful voyage, and our connection with him.
About fifteen years ago when we still lived in the north-west of England in a town called St Annes-on Sea, I happened across an article in the Lytham St Annes Express about a local man, Arthur Gee, who lost his life in the tragedy. The feature noted that Mr Gee had lived at “Morningside” on Riley Avenue in the town, at the time of his demise. This immediately rang a bell with me. Even though our house had no visible name plaque, I was convinced that I had read somewhere in the house deeds, that it had been called “Morningside”. A quick search proved that inkling to be correct.
What struck me immediately was that even though our family was so happy living in the house, by contrast, another family, many years before, had had such a tragedy befall them, whilst living at the same address. If only the house could tell the story that had unfolded within it´s rooms, at the time.
Arthur H. Gee, who was 47 at the time of his death, was born on 21 March 1865. His parents took him to live in Schlusselburg near St Petersberg, Russia when he was three years old, but Arthur returned to England, aged 14, to study at Manchester Grammar School. He later went on to Alsace, on the French/German border, where he studied the chemistry of calico printing and learned to speak both German and French.
After completing his education, Arthur returned to Russia and joined the Schlusselburg Calico Printing Works Company which was owned by Anglo Russian Cotton Factories Co. Ltd. Arthur’s father had long worked for the same firm. Arthur eventually rose to be manager and did not return to England until late 1911 or early 1912. He settled, with his wife Edith, and their four children (one daughter and three sons), at Morningside, Riley Avenue, St. Annes-on-Sea, Lancashire.
Arthur Gee’s employment with Messrs.Whitehead, Summer, Harker, and Company, machinery exporters, of Deansgate, Manchester, led him to be appointed manager of a print works at Atlixco near Mexico City
Gee bought his ticket from Whitehall, Summen, Hanber & Co. and boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a first class passenger (ticket number 111320, £38 10s), where he occupied cabin E-63. He had intended to sail from Liverpool, but when it was suggested that he might transfer to the Titanic, he jumped at the opportunity to join the liner´s maiden voyage.
On April 19th, 1912, the St. Annes-on-Sea Express carried the following report:
“At St Annes, he kept a dog, which usually reserved its most affectionate demonstrations for Mr Gee's children. Mr Gee, in the course of his business, made frequent journeys from home, but his going and comings were apparently regarded with unconcern by the dog. On the occasion of his departure to embark at Southampton, however, the dog followed the cab to the railway station, and at the station jumped about Mr Gee in so demonstrative a fashion that he remarked on the strangeness of the incident to a friend who was seeing him off, and said how remarkable it was that the dog should appear to know that he was going on a long voyage.”
In a letter written to his wife, Edith, on April 10th 1912, and posted in Queenstown, Ireland, Arthur Gee wrote:
In the language of the poet, ”This is a knock-out”. I have never seen anything so magnificent, even in a first class hotel. I might be living in a palace. It is, indeed, an experience. We seem to be miles above the water, and there are certainly miles of promenade deck. The lobbies are so long that they appear to come to a point in the distance. Just finished dinner. They call us up to dress by bugle.! It reminded me of some Russian villages where they call the cattle home from the fields by horn made from the bark of a tree. Such a dinner! My gracious!”
Although he was reported to be a strong swimmer Arthur Gee died in the sinking, and his body was later recovered by the Cable Ship, MacKay Bennett (#275).
NO. 275. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 60. DARK HAIR & MOUSTACHE.
CLOTHING - Brown overcoat; dress pants; Tuxedo suit.
EFFECTS - Silver watch; gold chain; silver cigarette case; knife; pen; pipe; glasses; case; pocketbook; two rings, one left on; cuff links; £15 in notes; initials on shirt "A. G."
NAME - ARTHUR GEE.
The body was sent to New York on 9 May 1912, and was transported to Liverpool aboard the Baltic. On Monday 20th May, 1912, Arthur Gee was buried at The Church Cemetery, Irlam O’The Heights, Manchester next to his father’s grave. The gravestone which stood for some time was later removed and the area grassed over.
I once heard a report that even though Arthur Gee was a First Class passenger and would have had the opportunity of leaving the ship on one of the lifeboats, as an engineer he opted to stay on board and try to help to save the ship. I don´t know if this right, but whatever the truth of the matter, I shall be raising a glass to Arthur Gee tonight, on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic.