As the RMS Titanic left Belfast Harbour just days before its first and final trans-Atlantic voyage, the Olympic-class ocean liner barely missed colliding with another ship, according to Moose Jaw’s Edward Humphrey.
Because of this close call, Humphrey’s uncle, Arthur Paintin, wrote a letter to his mother, questioning whether the massive White Star Line vessel was perhaps cursed with bad luck. Perhaps it was.
After all, Titanic collided with an iceberg during her maiden voyage in April 14, and foundering on April 15 about 600 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland. In total, 1,514 people perished in this infamous maritime disaster, including Humphrey’s uncle.
Paintin was chief steward to Capt. Edward Smith. Humphrey said his family had long expected his uncle was standing next to his captain as Titanic went under. Humphrey said his granddaughters recently uncovered an article (found at www.dailymail.co.uk) that helps verify this belief.
“To me, he was a hero — anyone who could stand on a deck like that,” Humphrey told the Times-Herald. “He was a dedicated seaman.”
Paintin was 29 years old when he died. His youngest sister and Humphrey’s mother, Louise, was 22 at the time. According to Humphrey, all Paintin’s younger siblings had a great respect for him.
“They looked up to him,” Humphrey said, adding Paintin was well educated, ambitious and incredibly studious — a good Englishman.
“Somebody said I looked a little bit like him.”
Soon after the Titanic disaster, Humphrey’s parents moved to Canada, where Humphrey was born. He spent much of his youth in Mossbank, and moved to the Friendly City in 1950. Humphrey owned Assiniboia Music Store in Moose Jaw until 1976, after which time he worked at McCarr’s Furniture Store, and later Grant Hall before finally retiring.
Now 92, Humphrey said his uncle has always been important to his family story. In fact, his middle name is ‘Arthur,’ in honour of the now long-deceased brave seaman. Humphrey said his granddaughters — one who now lives in Calgary and the other lives in the U.S. — were always very proud of their link to Paintin and the whole Titanic saga.
“Boy, when they went to school, when the Titanic story used to come up, they’d say, ‘My great uncle was in that!’”
As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ‘unsinkable ship’ takes place this weekend, Humphrey said he can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to be there, and to be a crewmember such as his uncle, knowing he wouldn’t be making it to a lifeboat that fateful, frigid night at sea.
“It makes you think what they had to go through, and they only had half the lifeboats needed…. I guess they had to be real heroes to push all the women and children onto them.”
Carter Haydu can be reached at 691-1265.