Northern Ireland

Titanic letter returning to Belfast

A letter penned on board the Titanic by a Belfast doctor to his mother is to be brought back to Belfast for exhibition.

The letter, from assistant ship surgeon Dr John Edward Simpson, was written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic and brought ashore at Cobh, County Cork.

From there it was posted to his mother, Elizabeth, who lived in south Belfast.

Dr Simpson was married and had one son when he took the commission on Titanic. He had previously worked on another White Star Line ship - the Olympic.

In the letter, Dr Simpson said he was settling into his cabin well and that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger.

The letter was signed off: "With fondest love, John."

Dr Simpson died when the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912.

Image caption Dr Simpson was 37 years old when he boarded the Titanic

It was feared the letter would never return to Belfast after it was put up for auction in New York earlier this month with a reserve price of $34,000 (£21,692).

However, it failed to reach its reserve and an anonymous benefactor stepped in to ensure the letter returned to Dr Simpson's and Titanic's hometown.

After hearing about a campaign by relatives of the surgeon to bring the letter back to Belfast where the Titanic was built, the donor bought it for the city.

Dr Simpson's great-nephew Dr John Martin said he was happy the letter was coming back to where it belonged.

"I've never actually seen the original letter itself as it was last in Belfast in the 1940s before Dr Simpson's son moved away," he said.

"So for it to be on its way back is just amazing and so appropriate now just ahead of the 100th anniversary of his death. We are so thankful to the benefactor."

It is planned to place the letter in a permanent Titanic exhibition in Belfast.

Last week, BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson discovered he too was related to Dr Simpson.

"It turns out that Dr Simpson was my great-grandfather's cousin," he said.

"According to eyewitnesses who survived the 1912 disaster, he stood with fellow officers on the deck of the stricken vessel as it went down, resigning himself to his fate, making no attempt to board the lifeboats and instead calmly helping others to safety."

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