Titanic Letter Return Sought By John Edward Simpson Relatives After Auction

Ocean Liner and Cruise History

The descendants of a surgeon who died on the Titanic nearly 100 years ago are appealing for a benefactor to purchase a soon-to-be-auctioned letter he wrote from the doomed ship — and to return it to the city where the vessel was built.

A two-page note John Edward Simpson wrote to his mother days before the ship sank in April 1912 is to expected to fetch at least $50,000 at the auction later this week in Long Island, New York.

Simpson’s great-nephew John Martin said Sunday that the family can’t afford to buy it, but would love to see it back in Belfast.

“It would be great if a donor or benefactor could be found who would purchase and return it to Northern Ireland for public display,” he said.

Simpson’s letter, dated April 11, 1912, is written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic and is addressed to his mother, who was living in Belfast.

In the letter, Simpson, 37, said his cabin was larger than the accommodation on board theTitanic’s sister ship the Olympic, where he had previously worked. He also complained that he had found one of his trunks unlocked and that some money had been stolen from his pocketbook.

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

The letter was brought ashore at Cobh (now called Queenstown), Ireland — the Titanic’s last port of call before the ship set sail for America. It was dispatched to Simpson’s mother, Elizabeth, who lived on Belfast’s Dublin Road

Three days later, he died along with 1,500 others after the ship struck an iceberg.

Martin said his family had held onto the letter for generations, but that Simpson’s 81-year-old daughter-in-law gave it to a Titanic enthusiast in Holland 15 years ago. The family lost track of the letter until learning it is to be auctioned by Philip Weiss Auctions.

Simpson’s story will form part of a new Titanic Belfast visitor attraction opening in Belfast next month ahead of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

Martin said the letter provided a rare insight into the life of one of the ship’s officers.

“There are references within the letter which give a bit of humanity to the man who died, and he did die bravely,” he said. “It puts a human face on what could be another statistic.”

An account of the last moments of the Titanic written by 2nd officer Charles Lightoller, who survived the disaster, is going on sale in the same auction.

In his letter, Lightoller describes Simpson walking calmly along the deck with other officers as the ship sank. Lightoller wrote: “They were perfectly calm in the knowledge they had done their duty,”

He continued: “We exchanged the words, ‘Goodbye, old man.’ This occurred shortly before the end and I am not aware that he was seen by anyone after.”

Lightoller’s letter is expected to fetch $20,000 at the same auction on March 2.

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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