Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Titanic letter to go on display

Dr John Martin the great-nephew of Dr John Simpson, who perished on the Titanic, holds a letter sent from the Titanic, in the old drawing rooms at Harland and Wolff, which will go on display this summer at the new Belfast visitors' centre dedicated to the liner.

One of the last letters from the Titanic is to go on display this summer at the new Belfast visitors' centre dedicated to the liner.

Assistant ship's surgeon Dr John Simpson's note to his mother was brought ashore at Cobh, Co Cork, the vessel's last stop. It will be displayed at the multimillion-pound Titanic Belfast building in the city's docks where the boat was built.

The 37-year-old Belfast doctor was married and had one son when he took the commission on Titanic. He previously worked on another White Star Line ship - the Olympic.

In the missive, dated April 11 1912, Dr Simpson said he was settling into his cabin well and that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger. It was signed off: "With fondest love, John."

Dr Simpson died when the Titanic sank on April 15 1912. It was feared the message, written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic, would never return to Belfast after it was put up for auction in New York in March with a reserve price of 34,000 US dollars (£21,692).

The Titanic Foundation, the charitable group which oversaw the building of Titanic Belfast, stepped in to buy the item.

Dr Simpson's great-nephew, Dr John Martin, from Killinchy in Co Down, said: "It was part of our family history for so long and it is tangible evidence of the man and a link to his personality."

Dr Martin, 63, said it was not an emotional letter. "It is quite humdrum in its contents, it is just a letter of a man writing to his mother," he added.

While reporting on the recent campaign by Dr John Simpson's descendants to bring the letter back to Belfast, the BBC's Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson discovered, by chance, that he was related to the Titanic doctor.

Dr Simpson was a cousin of Mr Simpson's great-grandfather. He said he initially thought the family did not have any chance of bringing the letter home from New York.

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