In her last post, Inger Sheil reminisced about the events that led to her fascination of shipwrecks and ultimately Titanic. Over time, her interest swayed towards the crew and their stories of life at sea…
… Gradually I became aware of one name in particular during my research into Titanic. It belonged to a man who seemed to appear when anything interesting was being said or done during the Titanic sinking and aftermath. He was a junior deck officer who told the chairman of the White Star Line to ‘go to hell’ when he thought he was interfering with the lowering of the lifeboats; who, in response to a question at the American inquiry about what icebergs were composed of, answered ‘Ice, I suppose, Sir’; and who had commanded the only lifeboat to return to pick up Titanic survivors. He was the man whom Walter Lord called a ‘tempestuous young Welshman’ who was ‘hard to supress’, and who emerged vividly as an engaging character. His name was Harold Lowe.
Intrigued, I looked for more information. Surely, given the millions of words that had been expended on just about every aspect of the Titanic disaster, someone must have researched and written more extensively about this particular individual. I found, however, that not only had no full-scale biography been written, but very little at all was to be found in print about his pre- and post-Titanic life. He emerged briefly from obscurity before fading back into it. He never commanded his own vessel, he had retired at some point after World War I, and he died in Wales in 1944. Any details beyond the outline of his career given at the American inquiry were scarce indeed.
At this stage I was fortunate enough to encounter on the far side of the world someone who shared my interests – Kerri Sundberg, a mid-western American girl with a love of the sea even though she’d only seen it once in her life, on a visit to the West Coast. We began corresponding, and she shared with me 1912 newspaper articles that she’d found in archives and other scraps of information she’d been able to put together. We discussed creating a website on Harold Lowe and his colleagues to correct some of the misinformation about them that circulated online, and to facilitate further research. We made contacts and connections with the Lowe family, thanks to fellow researchers like author Dave Bryceson, who kindly put us in contact with Harold Lowe’s son, Harold William George Lowe. Harold W G Lowe, in turn, introduced us to more friends and family members, such as his own son and daughter and his nephew.
To add to the material the family shared with us, I engaged proxy researchers to look for information in UK archives. It was slow going, however, as many archives had not yet put their collections online. While email was becoming more commonly used, much of our correspondence was still done by snail mail. Scanners were almost unheard of, and there were long and anxious waits for packages of documents from overseas.
But at every turn we were finding new information. With the exception of some who resented young upstart researchers like us, the Titanic community was overwhelmingly supportive. Finally we decided that the scope of information we were accumulating far exceeded that of a website, and we began tentatively to look towards a print publication.
– Inger Sheil