Titanic letter goes on display
A letter reputed to be the last written on board the Titanic has gone on display in a visitor attraction dedicated to the doomed liner.
The historic artefact, written by a mother and daughter who survived the ship's sinking, was never sent and was recently bought by a Scottish couple for almost £120,000.
Edinburgh businessman Garreth Wood and his wife Nicola, both long-time Titanic enthusiasts, have loaned the letter to Titanic Belfast.
The letter was written by Essex-born Esther Hart and her seven-year-old daughter Eva just eight hours before the ship hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912.
Intended for her mother in Chadwell Heath, Mrs Hart's document only survived because it was in the pocket of her husband's coat which he had given her to keep warm.
He was one of more than 1,500 people to die in the disaster.
The letter was sold for £119,000 at auction in April 2014. The Woods then bought it from the auction buyer.
"We first heard about the Titanic letter when we read about it going to auction," said Mr Wood.
"This letter is not only a direct link to an iconic place in maritime history, but it also gives a fantastic account of daily life aboard the Titanic.
"We felt it was important that the letter should stay in the UK as Esther Hart was British. Although we were not successful on the day of the auction, we approached the buyer who agreed to sell it to us for a very small profit. Although all the media outlets in the UK reported that an American had bought the letter, we were thrilled to see it stay here in the UK."
Mrs Wood added: "The Titanic exhibition in Belfast is the perfect place to showcase this unique piece of history. We were very keen for people to be able to see and enjoy the letter, and not lock it away in a private collection. Therefore we are both delighted that it will be in the new exhibition for countless people to enjoy."
Tim Husbands, Titanic Belfast's CEO, said: "This letter carries vast historical significance and, as the world's largest Titanic attraction, Titanic Belfast will provide the ideal home for the next five years. The large sums of money which Titanic artefacts sell for at auction are an indication of the worldwide interest in them.
"This document will prove a fantastic addition to our world-class offer at Titanic Belfast, complementing the modern technology in our galleries which brings Titanic's story to life. We are very grateful to Garreth and his wife Nicola for their generosity in ensuring the letter will reside in Titanic's birthplace for the next five years."
Mrs Hart wrote in the letter that they were enjoying what she called the "wonderful journey" and that they were likely to arrive in New York early because of the speed the ship was doing.
The letter is embossed with the White Star Line flag, headed "On Board RMS Titanic" and dated "Sunday afternoon".
In it, Mrs Hart describes being sick the day before and being unable to eat or drink, but that she had since recovered and been to a church service with Eva that morning. She also wrote that Eva sang "so nicely" to the hymn Oh God Our Help in Ages Past and that they were both due to sing at a concert on board "tomorrow night".