Published: 4th May 2012

Titanic Letter from brave ship’s doctor comes home to Belfast


Assistant Surgeon on the ship, Belfast-born Dr John Edward Simpson, wrote to his mother from Titanic when it was docked in Cobh (formerly Queenstown) Co. Cork, and while the letter stayed in the family for several years, it was subsequently lost to them…until in March this year when the letter turned up for sale in a New York auction house.

Titanic Foundation’s Bryan Gregory seized the opportunity to secure it for Titanic Belfast where it will become part of the internationally-renowned Titanic visitor experience. The letter will be unveiled to the family in the Britannic Suite, Titanic Belfast on Friday 22 June at 2.30pm and will be on public display in the summer.

Bryan Gregory said: “We found out from the family that the letter was coming up for auction in New York and we thought that in the centenary year there would be a lot of interest – but we really wanted to bring it home. We know a little bit about Dr Simpson’s last hours on the ship from the accounts of survivors and the letter helps us to flesh out the story of this Belfast- born doctor. It is a unique part of Titanic history.

Dr Simpson’s great nephew, John Martin, who will attend the unveiling, said: ”We are so pleased and relieved that the letter is back in Northern Ireland and part of Titanic Belfast. Anyone who has seen the exhibition will know that there were many ‘heroes’ that night and we as a family are indeed very proud of John Simpson. What we know about him, through reports from survivors, confirms that he did what was expected of him as a crew member and a doctor, to put the safety of passengers first, and, like many others that night he lost his life in the process. The letter is back where it belongs in Dr Simpson’s home city, and we as a family are delighted, and very grateful, that visitors will be able to view the letter as they follow the story of the ship and its passengers and crew through Titanic Belfast.”

Titanic Belfast Chief Executive Tim Husbands also commented:  “The letter is an important addition to Titanic Belfast  – it is part of Belfast’s heritage as well as a fascinating link to the ship.  It will be displayed in the Gallery of Titanic Belfast that describes the ship’s maiden voyage and some of her passengers and crew, where Dr Simpson is already mentioned.

The letter will be displayed in a special pressurised case to keep it safe for future generations and we are delighted to say that it will be on public view from this summer.

Dr Simpson grew up in Belfast, was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and studied medicine at Queen’s University. He then went on to work for the White Star Line and was Assistant Surgeon on Titanic.