All those familiar with the events culminating in the loss of R.M.S. Titanic are equally familiar with the name of Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line which had been founded by his father Thomas in 1869. Born in Liverpool on 12th December 1862, the young Ismay - christened Joseph Bruce but invariably known by his second name - had succeeded to the chairmanship of White Star when his father retired on 1st January 1892. Ten years later, the line was acquired by the International Mercantile Marine Company (IMM), a vast shipping combine headed by the American financier J. Pierpont Morgan, for 10 million. Most of White Star's older directors bowed out when this occured whereas Ismay not only retained the chaimanship but also became President and Managing Director of IMM in 1904.
The concept of a pair of spectacularly luxurious express liners was conceived by Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirie (the Chairman of Harland & Wolff, shipbuilders) in 1907; Olympic came first and the ill-fated Titanic was launched in 1911. Ready for sea the following April, it was only to be expected that Ismay would take passage on the Titanic's maiden voyage and he occupied the most sumptuous stateroom aboard. Ever since the sinking there have been repeated claims that Ismay forced Captain Smith to increase the ship's speed and although these have never been satisfactorily proven, Ismay found a far more enduring dishonour by saving himself in collapsible 'C', the last starboard-side lifeboat to get away. Vilified as "that damn coward" from the moment it became clear he had been saved, he was one of the key witnesses at both the American and British Courts of Inquiry even though after the disaster, he relinquished all links with the White Star Line and retired to a reclusive life on his Irish estate until his death in 1937. Scoundrel he may have been but he was certainly one of the most important personalities in the Titanic story and any relics associated with him are excessively unusual.