Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Relative's fury over 'ghoulish' Titanic sale

£120m New York auction sparks anger as the families of those who died urge respect for doomed liner’s ‘grave’

A bracelet from the Titanic which was recovered from the ocean floor during an expedition to the site of the tragedy (AP)
A bracelet from the Titanic which was recovered from the ocean floor during an expedition to the site of the tragedy (AP)
The Titanic sank off Newfoundland on her maiden voyage to the United States after striking an iceberg
Some of the survivors of the Titanic disaster. 1912.
The Titanic signature project currently under construction
Buggy bar: Titanic Belfast
Shipyard worker William Parr (background) pictured in the Titanic gym along with instructor T W McCawley
Giant starboard anchor of the Titanic is raised for the last time. 1.55pm 11th April 1912 in a picture taken by Father Browne.
1st class dining room on RMS Titanic taken by Father Browne.
Marconi Room on RMS Titanic showing Harold Bride in a picture taken by Father Browne.
The Dutch Suite aboard the RMS Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The Titanic had a fully equiped gymnasium 44 feet long and 18 feet wide. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
A shipyard worker's ticket to the launch of the RMS Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Lord Pirrie, chairman of H&W (left) and Bruce Ismay, chairman of White Star, make a final tour of inspection of Titanic before her launch. 31/5/1911. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic first class suite bedroom 'b58'. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic at fitting-out wharf with three out of four funnels fitted. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic. Hydraulic launch rams below port bow. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic, double bottom and initial plating of tank top of Olympic, with keel of Titanic laid on No.3 slip. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic, port near profile during outfitting at Thompson deepwarter wharf. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic, upper part of stern frame in position. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The Titanic's two main engines near completion in engine works erecting shop. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic. Port bow 3/4 profile afloat immediately after launch. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic first class cafe parisienne. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic. The Great gantry, Queen's Island, Belfast. This photograph shows the enormous scale of the ship, together with the complex structure of the enfolding steel gantry, from which she will soon be free. The photograph also reflects old and new maritime technologies, with the traditional wooden schooner in the foreground contrasting eith the modernity ot Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic. In this photograph of the cabinet shop, taken in 1899, a small army of cabinet-makers are at work. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Workmen prepare the Titanic slipway. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic leaving Belfast. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The crew of the RMS Titanic, pictured just before her maiden voyage. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The hull of the S.S. Titanic. under construction in dry dock. The tragic sinking of the Titanic nearly a century ago can be blamed on low grade rivets that the ship's builders used on some parts of the ill-fated liner, two experts on metals conclude in a new book. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Harland & Wolff drawing room. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The "unsinkable" four-funnelled ship the SS Titanic. Part of the White Star Line, Titanic sank off Newfoundland on her maiden voyage to the USA after striking an iceberg (14-15/4/1912). Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The Titanic being built in Belfast. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The transporting of the Titanic's anchor. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Titanic designer Thomas Andrews. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Olympic and Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Shipyard men fitting the starboard tailshaft of the Titanic prior to her launch. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The Titanic launches into the water. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
The shipyard men leaving Queen's Island at the end of a working day in May 1911. Some of them have boarded electric trams for parts of the city beyond walking distance. In the background the Titanic can be seen under her huge gantry. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Three loftsmen, pictured in 1910 chalking the lines of a ship on portable wooden flooring at Harland and Wolff. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Brilliant new footage of a first class cabin on the Titanic. A live television link-up shows spectacular footage of the captain's cabin
Brilliant new footage of a first class cabin on the Titanic. A live television link-up shows spectacular footage of the captain's cabin
Pipes and the captain's bathtub are shown in this July 2003 photo, of what remains of the captain's cabin on the Titanic more than two miles underwater in the north Atlantic. Recent research dives to the legendary shipwreck are showing the vessel is deteriorating faster than earlier thought.

The sale of a massive section of the doomed Titanic liner has sparked a transatlantic row.

A 17-ton section of the ill-fated ship is one of thousands of artefacts up for sale in a multi-million pound auction in New York later this year.

Nicknamed ‘The Big Piece’, the massive chunk of metal was pulled from the depths two-and-a-half miles beneath the North Atlantic in 1998.

The steel section, measuring 14ft by 23ft, broke away from the starboard side of the hull as the ship sank after striking an iceberg on April 15, 1912, 370 miles off Newfoundland in Canada.

But Una Reilly, chair of the Belfast Titanic Society, said the raising and sale of the section of hull “is not how we want to remember the ship”.

“I would have preferred it was left for nature, and instead looked upon as a sea grave,” she added.

At the time several Titanic survivors and relatives of victims criticised the decision to raise the massive section of hull, appealing for the wreck to be respected as a grave.

The piece is one of more than 5,000 artefacts up for sale during the auction in April, which has already stirred up a wealth of interest a century after the luxury liner’s ill-fated maiden voyage.

But Susie Millar, whose great-grandfather Thomas Millar helped build the doomed ship before setting sail on its only voyage, said the auction was “absolutely appalling”, adding it was “extremely insensitive” given the centenary commemorations.

“I think it’s appalling and especially the timing — it’s almost like they held this back especially for this,” she added.

“My great-grandfather has a watch down there and every time I hear about a watch for sale I prick my ears. But I don’t own it.”

Included in the vast haul of artefacts is a child’s bracelet with the name Amy spelled out in diamonds. Only two Amys were listed among 2,228 passengers, of whom more than 1,500 died.

RMS Titanic Inc, based in the US, currently oversees the items and is the “official salvor-in-possession”.

“I understand they have paid the money for the salvaging but the whole thing is pretty crass,” Ms Millar added.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, she said she was now concerned that individual and personal items would never be seen again if sold to a private collector.

“For Northern Ireland it’s out of our price range and out of reach,” she added.

“We may or may not see them again.”

The sale on April 11, organised by Guernsey's Auctioneers & Brokers, will feature a range of items including clothing, fine china and gold coins.

The items will be sold as one lot and when last appraised in 2007 were estimated to be worth £120m ($190m).

It is understood the artefacts cannot be sold individually and must go to a buyer who agrees to properly maintain the collection and make it available for occasional public viewing.

But Ms Millar, who owns and operates Titanic Tours Belfast, now wants the hunt for remnants from the sunken ship to finally come to an end.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted Guernsey's Auctioneers & Brokers but nobody was available for comment.

Background

The law of salvage is a concept in maritime law which involves a person recovering another’s ship or cargo — after loss at sea — entitling them to some form of reward, although it does not automatically grant ownership. The Titanic wreck is one of the most contested cases in recent years with the salvors — US firm RMS Titanic Inc — having fought court battles for many years for the right to sell the items on to a new buyer.

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