Belfast Telegraph

Belfast's so dirty, wrote crewman lost on Titanic

By Lesley Houston

A letter from a Titanic crewman to his family in which he describes Belfast as a "very dirty" city where it rains all the time is set to go under the hammer.

A four-page letter from Sidney Conrad Siebert is up for auction in Boston, and tells a brief story of life in early 20th century Belfast where the luxury liner was built in 1912.

Penned in a Belfast public library, Southampton man Siebert writes: "I don't think a great deal of the city, it is not so good as Soton [Southampton] although there are several fine buildings here. But the town itself is very dirty and it has been raining ever since we got here.

"I am writing this in the public library, a very nice building but not up to date. English books and papers seem very scarce here.

"Also another thing which strikes one as curious is that there are no cabs or taxis here - they all have these jaunting cars as sort of a shelf arrangement on two wheels and they look most decidedly uncomfortable.

"I have not tried one yet and have no intention of doing so," he tells his wife.

Siebert had been in Belfast as part of a skeleton crew taking part in sea trials before her delivery to his home town before her maiden voyage on April 10. The crew member died during the disaster and his body was never identified.

"Letters from Titanic's delivery/sea trial crew during their very brief stay in Belfast are practically non-existent," said Bobby Livingston from RR Auction house in Boston, USA.

Letters related to journalist William Stead, also lost in the maritime disaster, are among the lots up for auction.

Noted for revolutionising Victorian journalism, the newspaper man had written two fictional stories several years before which bore eerie predictions to Titanic's fate in 1912. One featured an iceberg striking a ship while another told how a shortage of lifejackets led to loss of life in another maritime collision.

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