April 12, 2007

Alfred Rowe and RMS Titanic

Saturday is the 95th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. While I've never written about Titanic on my blogs before, I do have a series of webpages on the subject that are quite popular (every day, anywhere between 20-50% of all my hits are with regard to Titanic). This post is with regard to a letter written by a first-class passenger on board Titanic, Alfred Rowe, which is up for auction on the 21st. A number of articles have been published about this letter in recent weeks; below is one of them, taken from the Daily Express:

Businessman Alfred Rowe described the ship as “too big” and a “positive danger” in a letter to his wife Constance written four days before it sank.

In the letter, written on Titanic notepaper, he also tells his wife that he is going down with a cold. He adds: “I took a lovely Turkish bath yesterday and that did me good.”

Mr Rowe, 59, was among the 1,522 passengers and crew who died when the liner struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York in 1912. He managed to scramble on to an ice floe but was found frozen to death.

The letter is being sold at auction by Mr Rowe’s family, along with a diary in which Constance records how she waited desperately at home in Liverpool for news of her husband’s fate. The letter was posted on April 11 in Queens­town, Ireland, the ship’s last port of call.

Mr Rowe, who owned a 200,000-acre ranch in Texas, joined the Titanic in Southampton and, although he was travelling first-class, he took an instant dislike to the 46,000-ton ship.

Describing how the Titanic had a near-miss with the SS New York as its wake caused the other ship to break its moorings, he wrote: “She is too big. You can’t find your way about and it takes too long to get anywhere.

“She has no excessive speed...and is a positive danger to all other shipping. We had the narrowest possible escape of having a hole knocked in us yesterday by the New York. The two ships actually touched.”

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: “It is a remarkable letter. Most other passengers wrote about how magnificent the ship was and described her as a floating palace. Alfred Rowe clearly wasn’t impressed and des­cribed her as a danger. He appears to have something of a premonition of what was going to happen.”

The letter and diary are expected to fetch £60,000 at the auction of White Star Line memorabilia in Devizes, Wiltshire, on April 21.

  • Text: "I'm Going Down With Something"
  • Photo: Letter Predicted Titanic Danger

    Alfred Rowe is not mentioned in James Cameron's 1997 film, Titanic, although there was Quartermaster George Thomas Rowe in the movie. (I have no idea if the two men were at all related.)

    The following is the biography of Alfred Rowe on the superb website, Encyclopedia Titanica:

    Mr Alfred G. Rowe, was born in Peru on 24 February 1853, the son of John James and Agnes Rowe of Liverpool. He was one of seven children. Rowe later moved to England, and then, in 1879, settled in Donley County, Texas where he started a ranch with his brothers Vincent and Bernard.

    In 1910, Rowe had moved back to England with his wife and children. He returned a few times a year to check on his ranch, which he had left with a manager. For his last such trip Rowe booked passage on the Titanic as a first class passenger (ticket number 113790, £26 11s).

    Accounts at the time suggested that after the sinking he swam to an piece of ice where he was later found frozen to death. However the body was simply picked up, like so many others, by the Cable Ship Mackay-Bennett.

    It was forwarded from Halifax on 4 May 1912 to Liverpool on the Empress of Britain. On Tuesday 14th May 1912 he was buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery, Smithdown Road, Liverpool.

    His eldest brother Charles Graham Rowe (of Graham Rowe & Co., Mersey Chambers, Old Church Yard, Liverpool) received his effects on 30 May 1912 which consisted of one gold signet ring, a card case containing two photos, cards and certificate of posting of a registered postal packet. Three Bank of England £5 notes, newspaper cuttings, and memos in pencil.

    Note: The ranch would eventually grew to encompass about 100 sections and reached from Gray County, through the present town of McLean, to Lela on the north, and from there to the present town of Quail and to within five miles of Clarendon. Rowe donated land in Gray County that eventually became McLean. The remains of his ranch, now considerably smaller, makes up the Lewis Ranch, named for W.J. Lewis, who bought the ranch from Rowe's widow.

    Anonymous said...

    hello, i am an descendant of alfred rowe, my grandmother was corene rowe that later married woodrow ashcraft. it pleases me to be able to learn as much as i can about my ancestors. thank you for this site.
    zandria edwards keen

    Anonymous said...

    I'm also kin. corene was my grandfathers Sister. I'm Gina Rowe, Larry Rowes Daughter. Look me up on facebook. I'm Gina Rowe Bayer I'm living in Greenville, Sc and moving to Texas in March