Figure 1.--This photograph shows Jack standing alone on the Titanic was taken by Kate Odell, Jack's aunty.
Excitement was whaT 11 year old Jack Odell felt when his mum said that they
were going to tour Ireland. A touring holiday by car was a relitively new way
to take a holiday in 1912. It would start when Jackís school was on its spring
holiday. Like all 11 year old boys, Jack could hardly wait for this event to
occur. It was in April 1912 that the tour of Ireland was to take place. The
family had hired a car which they would collect in Ireland. They would then
spend the next few days touring the country. This is the story of the start of
Herbert Odell was the name of his father. His mother was called Lilly. The
family lived in London. They had a family business at Billingsgate fish
market. They traded under the name of James Bell and Company. Richard Odell
had bought the business in the 1840ís. It developed at a time when
Billingsgate controlled the whole of the fresh fish business in Great Britain.
Jackís father was a senior member of the Fishmongersí Livery Company in the
City of London. For some reason Jackís father did not go on the touring holiday. Jack was with his mother, his Aunty Kate and his two uncles. The party included a Jesuit priest called Father Browne.
The family hobby was photography. Jack, Kate and Father Browne had cameras.
Unknown to them at the time they were to became part of a famous historical
event. Their photographs would record these times and become famous because of
their authenticity and their uniqueness. A holiday to Ireland then as now involves a sea crossing, although these days it is possible to fly there. Despite this it is still popular to catch a boat to train to a Welsh port and travel by ship to Ireland. In 1912 it was the only way to reach Ireland.
The Odellís did not plan the outward journey in quite this way. They were not travelling to Wales by train to join to take a sea crossing to Ireland.
Instead they had booked seats on the boat train to Southampton. They were then
travelling on a trans-Atlantic liner to Ireland. Once in Ireland they would
tour in a Star Landaulette motor car. Their return journey was the
conventional Irish Sea crossing to Swansea and then by train to London.
Jackís father had followed the advice of his brother Richard, who was a
director of the shipping company, to book the tickets on the liner early. It
was the shipís maiden voyage and it would be well booked. Everyone looked
forward to the tour and being part of a shipís maiden voyage, even if it was
only on the first part of the shipís journey.
At long last the day came to begin the holiday. It was Wednesday, April 10th
1912 and Jack, his mum and Aunty Kate travelled by taxi from their home in
Wimbledon to Waterloo railway station. Here Jack met his uncles and Father
Browne. There was plenty of time before the train left for Southampton so Jack
watched his tutor, Father Browne, take photographs of the boat train. At 10am the train departed Waterloo. The journey would take just over an hour. It was an exciting journey and jack looked out of the window as the countryside scenes flashed passed. Jack was entertained by the funny stories his uncles and father Browne told. Jack also helped Father Browne take photographs on the train throughout its journey to Southampton.
At last the train arrived alongside the liner. It was the Titanic and for a
time Jack did not know the bigness of it. He was with Father Browne as they
boarded and it was then that he saw the size of the ship. It was the tallest
ship he had ever seen. Jack was awestruck and stirred transfixed at the liner
towering over Southampton dock. The stories he had heard about the Titanic
were true and it was certainly the most luxurious liner afloat. Jack was
filled with joyfulness that he was to sail on this ship to Ireland.
The first thing everyone did was to find their cabins on B deck. Once these
had been found, Jack met up with his aunty and Father Browne. Armed with their
cameras they went on deck to take photographs. It was at this time that Father
Browne took the first of his famous pictures showing the Titanicís on board
life. They, like many of the passengers may have visited the gymnasium and
tried out the sporting equipment that was there. They walked about the decks laughing and enjoying the first day of their holiday.
They did not mind the cold sea breeze bite into their cheeks they were far too interested in taking photographs. Everyone took pictures of each other standing on the deck. It seems that the only snap shot photograph to survive is the one Kate Odell took of Jack. It shows him wearing a cap and a large overcoat. He is dressed in a white shirt and a tie over his shirt he is probably wearing a thick jersey. It is the way his overcoat fits that suggests this. He is wearing knickers, with thick full length woollen socks. He wore black leather shoes. Over his shoulder is his camera. In his overcoat lapel there is a badge but it is not possible to explain why Jack is wearing it
Everyone remained on deck to watch the Titanic leave port and sail down river. This part of the voyage had only just begun when another liner broke away from its moorings into the path of the Titanic. Jackís aunty Kate and Father Browne photographed this near accident. It would be five hours later that the Titanic sailed across the English Channel reached Brittany and anchored outside the French port of Cherbourg. This was a wondrous time for Jack because he possibly met up with other boys and made friends with them as they explored the ship together. Maybe later in the afternoon Jack met up with his uncles and went with them to the swimming pool.
It is very likely that at Cherbourg Jack watched the passengers disembark and those boarding the ship here. Shortly after the ship got underway at around
8pm Jack would have gone to his cabin because it was his bedtime. The next day Jack would have had time to meet up with the other boys and spend time with them. The Titanic reached Queenstown at about 11.30. The Odellís and
the other passengers disembarking got ready to leave the ship. It may have
been at this time, after a brisk walk around the deck that Kate took the
photograph of Jack standing next to his mum and uncles.
After lunch Jack and his family board the paddle-steamer ĎAmericaí to the
mainland. Father Browne and Kate take photographs of this and it is Father
Browne who takes the last photograph of the Titanicís captain as he watches
their departure from the bridge. Once on the mainland they watch the Titanic depart and Kate took a photograph of it steaming into the Atlantic. This is the last known photograph of the Titanic because two days later the liner struck an iceberg and sank.
The Odellís stayed in Cork overnight and collect the hire car the following
day. They then began their week long tour of Ireland travelling in a.
The Odellís plan to tour Ireland in April 1912 was a fortunate decision. The
only photographs to show the Titanicís onboard life are those taken by Father
Brown. The Odell photographs have only come to light in recent years and add
further insight to this voyage. Father Brown and Kate Odell took the only
known photographs that record the near accident at the beginning of the
Titanicís voyage. As for Jack, as far as we are aware, the snap shot
photograph taken of him onboard the Titanic is the only one showing an
individual child to survive.
It is interesting to look at these photographs because they show adults and
children being very formally dressed even though they are enjoying a vacation.
On the photograph in which Jack is with his mum and uncles he wears a
mischievous smile and it is this which makes that photograph appealing. In
other photographs Jack looks serious. The one of him sitting in the hire car
shows him wearing his school cap. His boyish excited face suggests that he is
as proud as a peacock to be in sitting next to the driver. It is clear that he
is excited about the touring holiday and it is possible that this was an 11
year old Jackís first motor tour holiday around Ireland in a Star
Titanic Historical Society pamphlet.
Lynch, Don and Ken Marschall. Titanic. An Illustrated History (1992).
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