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My father, the late Commander David Blair, was with the
White Star Line for many years and was to have sailed in the Titanic ... I have a
picture postcard of the ship which he sent to his sister-in-law + on it he said
"I feel very [underlined] disappointed I am not to make the first voyage ........ I hope
eventually to get back to this ship." In the rush to pack his belongings + get off before
she sailed he came away with a key in his pocket + there was no opportunity to return it.
This is now in my possession + I treasure it as a unique memento [sic]. On one side
of the brass label to it is engraved "R.M.S. Titanic" + on the other "Crows Nest Telephone
We were living in Southampton at the time +, although I was too young then to remember anything about it, I have heard my mother say that she had tea on board the day before the sailing + there was still work people racing to finish the laying of carpets etc. in time. My aunt has told me that my father showed her all over the ship + it took them three hours to go round, she was so large.
Commander Lightoller (or "Lights", as we always called him) was a great freind [sic] of my fathers, in fact they were shipmates for many years. Latterly they both lived near London + saw each other frequently.
My aunt is a friend of Miss Moody, sister of the young Moody who was drowned. He was a frequent visitor at our house in Southampton."
1. Considerable controversy exists regarding the provenance of the key; or, to be accurate, the tag after research by Titanic enthusiast Tim Trower. See here. The key was eventually sold by Auctioneer Henry Aldridge in September 2007.
2. Walter Lord wrote back to Miss Blair on 12th November 1958, "I was fascinated to learn that you have the key to the Titanic's crows nest telephone. You'll be interested to know that this is not the only such key that has survived. Not long ago, a lady from a small farm in New York came to my apartment and showed me the key to the Titanic's forepeak locker. It too had a brass tag exactly like the one you describe, only of course with the words "Forepeak locker" stamped on it instead of "Crows nest telephone". This lady's key had an even narrower escape than yours. Her uncle was a member of the Titanic's crew and after the collision was sent to check the forepeak. He did so, and on leaving stuck the key in his pocket. Later he was sent off in one of the boats and discovered the key only after leaving the Carpathia. He gave it to his niece, and I've been trying to get it ever since!"
In a letter to Vaughan E.Braatz, on 12th February 1957, he gives a slighly different description of this other key: "A lady from New England has showed me the key to the Titanic's forepeak, which was given to her by her brother, a member of the crew."
So, to whom did the key belong? Titanic crew member Hemming climbed down into the forepeak and Haines inspected the exhaust pipe after the collision to determine the source of the sound of air escaping. Pictures of Hemming's keys can be found here.
3. In April 2007, Sheila Jemima, one of the authors of "Titanic Voices" gave a talk in Southampton, in which she said that the indicated figure in the photograph below was, they, believed, David Blair. They had blown up the original negative to help in making this determination. I assume that they had a photograph from Blair's family to make the identification - after all, they had loaned Southampton City Council the Blair keys to place in their maritime museum so there was some contact between the two parties.