Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Family appeal over Titanic letter

The family of Dr John Edward Simpson with a copy of the letter from their great uncle outside the new Titanic signature building in Belfast
The family of Dr John Edward Simpson with a copy of the letter from their great uncle outside the new Titanic signature building in Belfast

The family of an officer who chose to go down with the Titanic have appealed for help to return to his home town a letter he sent from the doomed liner.

The two page personal note Dr John Edward Simpson wrote to his mother days before the ship sank is due to fetch at least 50,000 dollars (£31,500) when it is sold at a New York auction house at the start of next month.

His relatives, who say they cannot afford to bid for the valuable artefact, desperately want to see it brought back to Simpson's native Belfast, where the Titanic was built, to be put on museum display.

Fearing it could be snapped up by a private collector and lost from public view forever, they are hoping a benefactor can step in.

"We're at a point now where the family can't afford to buy it and it would be great if a donor or benefactor could be found who would purchase and return it to Northern Ireland for public display," said his great nephew Dr John Martin.

According to eyewitnesses who survived the 1912 disaster, Dr Simpson, 37, the assistant surgeon on board, stood with fellow officers on the deck of the stricken vessel as it went down, resigning themselves to their fate, making no attempt to board the lifeboats and instead calmly helped others to safety.

Dr Martin explained that the letter had been passed down through several generations in the family and the plan was always to have it placed in a permanent Titanic exhibition in Belfast.

But he said 15 years ago Dr Simpson's 81-year old daughter-in-law gave it to a Titanic enthusiast in Holland in the hope it would go on display.

However, what happened to the letter after that remains a mystery to the family and Dr Martin said relatives have always regretted its loss.

He said they thought it was gone for good until they heard it was to be sold at Philip Weiss Auctions in New York city.

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