Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries – this story involves people who were much closer than the theory’s five intermediaries. It involves my husband’s great-grandfather and the son of his ship’s mate on the Ant – a ship involved in an accident at sea that almost killed both great-grandfather Hines AND his mate, John Jewell.
On April 10th 1912 the Titanic sailed from Southampton with 2,200 passengers and crew. On April 14, 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank. 1500 people died and 700 survived. Titanic collided with the iceberg at about 11.40 pm on 14th April. She sank below the water at 2.20 am the next morning. A ship which had taken three years to fully construct was sunk in less than three hours.1
The 100th anniversary of this maritime disaster is a proper time to share a family story that includes a “six degrees of separation” relationship to a Titanic survivor.
My husband’s maternal grandmother, Bessie Hines, immigrated to America from Bude, Cornwall in 1913. Bessie Hines was the daughter of Hedley Samuel Hines, a ship captain in Bude, Cornwall. Hedley Hines captained freighters that hauled coal from South Wales as well as other merchandise. This is the story of one of his voyages. The incident described happened during the Great Blizzard of 1891.
The Great Blizzard of March 1891 affected many parts of Great Britain, particularly the South West. The strong gales and heavy snowfall hit Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Herefordshire and Kent. London was also hit by the strong winds and snowfalls. The devastation left behind included uprooted trees and many fences and roofs were blown away. Ships on the seas were stranded on rocks and ran aground due to lack of visibility. The storms were so ferocious that much of Cornwall and Devon was cut off from the rest of Britain for four days between 9th and 13th March, 1891. In this time, over 200 people were killed as well as 6,000 animals.2
“Mr. Jewell sailed out of Bude in various vessels belonging to that Port. He had extraordinary recollections of his experiences and dangers which he encountered when at sea during the great blizzard of 1891. At this time he was mate of the 95-ton Ketch Ant, owned by the late Mr. H. Stapleton, of Bude, and was on a voyage from Saundersfoot (S. Wales), to Ipswich, loaded with a cargo of coal. The vessel was blown miles out of her course, and was eventually sighted on March 14, after drifting for ten days, by Capt. Burton of the Astrea in the Bay of Biscay.
A record of the event contained in The Blizzard of the West, March 1891, printed at Devonport, says: ‘Capt. Burton sighted the Ant some miles off with the sails down and flying a signal of distress. Capt. Burton sent alongside a boat’s crew, who found the Captain, H. Hines, and a sailor named Jewell, wrapped in the mainsail in a shocking state and barely able to speak. Their hands and legs were so swollen from frostbite and exposure, that they could not handle anything or lift themselves up to stand. After administering brandy and medicine they recovered sufficiently to inform their rescuers that the Ant was 10 days out from Saundersfoot and that four days before a lad named Stapleton (nephew of the owner), had died from exposure and his body had been thrown overboard. The Ketch Ant was taken into Plymouth in a disabled condition.”3
Capt. H. Hines was my husband’s great-grandfather, Hedley Hines. The “sailor named Jewell” was John Jewell, also of Bude, Cornwall. John Jewell’s youngest son was a man named Archie Jewell. Archie Jewell survived the Titanic disaster.
Archie signed on to Titanic as one of the 6 lookout men. On the night of 14 April 1912 he had worked the 8pm to 10pm shift and was in his berth when the ship struck the iceberg at 11.40pm (had the ship not struck the iceberg his next watch period would have been 2am to 4am). He was one of the first to leave the ship in lifeboat 7 at 12.45pm. It left from the starboard side with 28 people on board, the capacity was 65 (Writer’s Note – stop and consider this fact for a moment – the lifeboat had 26 people on board, yet had the capacity to have saved 65 lives).4
Archie’s lifeboat made it to the Carpathia safely. Both Archie and his father survived deadly maritime disasters. Sadly, Archie died 17th April, 1917, in WWI when the his ship was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine in the English Channel.5
There is our family’s “Six Degrees of Separation Story.” John’s great-grandfather survived a marine disaster with the father of a man who would later become a survivor of the Titanic disaster.
NOTE: In researching this story, I learned of a seaman who did indeed have incredible luck. His name was John Priest. John Priest was a hand on the Titanic and survived. He later survived the sinking of the Britannica (Archie Jewell’s family believes that Archie was a survivor of that as well) and was also a survivor of the same torpedoed ship in WWI on which Archie Jewell died.
1. “Titanic FAQs.” Titanic Info. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <http://www.the-titanic.com/Titanic-FAQs.aspx>.
2. “Plymouth Local History.” : The Great Blizzard of March 1891. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <http://plymouthlocalhistory.blogspot.com/2010/01/great-blizzard-of-march-1891.html>.
3. “AT SEA IN A BLIZZARD: Bude Seaman Found Wrapped In The Mainsail.” Encyclopedia Titanica. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. .From an article published in the Cornwall & Devon Post, Friday 24 January 1936.
4. “RMS Titanic Facts and History: Titanic Passenger and Crew Biography…” Encyclopedia Titanica. Web. 14 Apr. 2012. <http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/>.
5. Ibid, Titanic Passenger and Crew Biography.