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.



About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…