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Premonitions of death
for Titanic passengers.

( an article from my local newspaper "Northampton Chronicle & Echo" , Feb 14th 1998. )

When the news broke of
the sinking of the Titanic in
April 1912, most people
found it almost unbelievable
..the ship was unsinkable!

Not everyone was surprised,
however, as for at least three
local victims there had been
presages and premonitions.

In the case of two young men
from Wollaston fickle fate had
also taken a hand. George
Patchett was only 19 years old,
one of nine children. His close
friend John Garfirth, who lived
next door but one in Hinwick
Road, was just 21, a member of
the church choir, and assistant
scoutmaster of the Wollaston
troop. Both were shoe hands and
had decided to emigrate to
America where Patchett`s
brother was already established
and had found jobs for them

The day before they were due
to leave Garfirth visited his
older brother Thomas at Little
Houghton, where he was
gardener to Cannon Bartlett. He
also went to the village school
there to say goodbye to his little
nieces. The Wollaston pair had
arranged to sail on Good Friday
on the Empress of Britain but
the country was in the throes of
a coal and dock strike that had
paralysed the country and
railway services were severely
restricted. When they tried to
board the Liverpool-bound train
at Wellingborough station they
were told that it would be
impossible to get through. Try
as they might the pair could find
no route open to the port, so had
to delay their trip and return

When the re-arranged sailing
came through it was for the new
ship Titanic sailing from

Southampton. Patchett`s
mother, when shown a
photograph of the liner took an
instant and intense dislike to it.
She pleaded with her son not to
sail on it, conceding that her
fear of the monster vessel was
irrational but that she had a
sense of foreboding.

The rest is history. Both men
were lost. John Garfirth`s last
words to his widowed mother
were on a postcard written from
Southampton just before he
embarked, "too busy to write."
He had promised to send her £1
a month to help keep two other
sons, one in hospital and
another a cripple.

Another strange case of
events casting their shadow
before them involved a much
more famous figure with
Northampton connections, that
of the eminent journalist and
author William Thomas Stead.
He had visited the town last in
December 1911 when, by
arrangement with the Free
Church Council, he had spoken on the Prevention of War at a
peace meeting held in the Town
Hall and had stayed with Mrs.
Branch at East Park Parade. An
ardent pacifist, he had been a
close acquaintance of local MPs
Charles Bradlaugh and Henry
Stead was for a while
assistant editor of the Pall Mall
until he started his own
publication Review of Reviews.It
was in this magazine that a
story appeared written by Stead,
called "From the Old World to
the New." In it he set the scene
on a liner crossing the Atlantic.
The ship was the White Star
liner Majestic, that at that time
commanded by Captain Smith,
the very same officer who went
down with his later ship the
Titanic. In the tale Stead dwelt
at great length on the dangers of
icebergs in the Atlantic and had
the Majestic driving through fog
into the floe ice until, all of a
sudden, the fog lifts and reveals
a "dazzling array of icebergs,
ever shifting and moving. Now
and again a great berg would
capsize with a reverberant
roar". The climax comes when a
small party of survivors are
discovered alive on the ice,
thanks to the powers of
One phrase in the story was
ominous. "The ocean bed
beneath the run of the liners is
strewn with the whitening
bones of thousands who have
taken their passages as we have
done, but who never saw their
But that was not the only
premonition of doom to affect
Stead. For an article on
palmistry that appeared in
Pearsons`s Magazine for January
1897 expert Mr Robert Machray
examined Stead`s hand and
reproduced a photograph of it.
He stated that the "lifeline is
moderately long, terminating
about 63." That was precisely
Stead`s age at the time of the
Titanic disaster. Stead had often
expressed the opinion that he
would die a violent death.
William Stead. John G George P

Webmasters foot-note.

Letter written by Captain Smith`s steward Arthur Paintin (lost). As seen on display in Southampton`s maritime museum.

On board Titanic , Queenstown ________________________________________________________11/4/12

Dear mother and father,

........ I am sorry I could not get to Oxford, for we have now commenced the quick voyages all summer ( bar accidents ). I say that because the Olympic`s bad luck seems to follow us , for as we came out of ........
( only one side of the letter is visible, but the rest of the letter probably refers to the near collision with the SS New York as Titanic left Southampton. )


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