Titanic Letter William Henry Harrison

RMS Titanic, 1912, White Star Heritage Collection

A 4 page letter written on the Titanic by first class passenger William Henry Harrison - private secretary to J Bruce Ismay (Managing Director of White Star Line).

Harrison travelled on Titanic on ticket number 112059 and occupied First-Class cabin B94. He died in the sinking and his body was recovered by the Mackay Bennett #110. He was buried at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax on 1st May 1912.

This exceptional four-page letter on Titanic stationery is dated April 10th 1912. The content gives a fascinating snapshot into the life of the personal secretary to J. Bruce Ismay. It reads:

“My own dear Nancy,

Just a line before we get away from Queenstown to let you know how I am getting on.
I had a most rotten journey to London from Manchester to Derby. I travelled third class, 12 in the compartment. The train was absolutely packed people standing up in the first and third class dining cart, who had to be cleared out into the corridors before they could have dinner. They told me that some people never sat down all the way, although I got into a first class compartment at Derby and had to have the seat with the arm turned back which is not the most comfortable in the world. We were an hour late into Saint Pancras getting there at 11 o’clock, those who travel much by rail these days are learning not to expect too much.

I got down quite comfortably this morning and found the boss in good shape. We started in and I had to work all the afternoon writing letters to post at Queenstown, and I expect another dose in the morning. We have 318 first class passengers, quite a small lot for this ship but I haven’t seen any of them yet with being so busy. I have a seat at the pursers table again and there is WT Stead, the great writer on social subjects there too, quite an old chap now, all the rest are men. There is of course very little difference between the Titanic and the Olympic a few improvements.

We are just getting up to Queenstown and I have just a few minutes to finish off. I didn’t get to bed till after midnight getting things ready for Q’town – if there are going to be any trips in future I am fed up and shall I avail of any opportunity he gives me to stay behind – and the amusing part of it is that people think it is a holiday.

I thought I saw that solicitor from Warrington we met at Monaville last year passed the carriage at Liverpool while you were there did you see him? I think the fool who sat by me was drunk. He rode nearly all the way with his head out of the window to call his hot head I should think. I suppose Tom turned up alright in spite of your fears and I hope you got home in good shape. I wonder if you have started that cleaning which worried you so much. You do seem to take some things seriously these days, why is it? I am sure everything is the same than it has been for years.

There dear, I have told you all that had has happened to me. Nothing interesting as Nelly says, no it only remains for me to say goodbye with best love and lots of kisses for you all and to remain your own faithful devoted Will.”

  • RMS Titanic
  • 1912
  • Artefact, Life onboard, Paper Ephemera
  • 401.031