'Titanic' sinking telegram to be auctioned in Dublin


THE FIRST report of the Titanic disaster to reach an Irish newspaper is expected to sell for up to €30,000 when it is auctioned in Dublin next month.

A telegram sent to the Belfast Evening Telegraph alerted journalists that the Titanic “is sinking in mid-Atlantic” after a collision with an iceberg. The communication was stamped by the post office in Belfast on April 15th, 1912, the day the White Star liner sank. The author of the telegram, who quoted a Reuters report as the news source, has not been identified.

A telegram was essentially the Edwardian equivalent of a Tweet or text message. A short communication was transmitted electronically to an office of the posts and telegraphs service, where it was deciphered and either handwritten or typed up and delivered to the recipient.

The telegram was received in Belfast at 10.39am. In one of the greatest scoops in Irish newspaper history, the Belfast Evening Telegraph published the breaking story in its second edition that afternoon, Monday, April 15th, 1912, the first media coverage in Europe of the disaster.

The report began with a series of now infamous and poignant headlines: “The Titanic Sinking; Collision with Iceberg; Disastrous Maiden Voyage; Women Removed to Lifeboats; Liners Hastening to the Rescue; Wireless Messages Come to Abrupt Termination; Over 2,000 Souls on Board”.

However, the scale of the disaster had yet to emerge. The “unsinkable” Belfast-built ship had, of course, already sunk – at 2.20am that morning. During the following days, newspapers around the world reported the full details of the tragedy based on further telegraphed reports from North America.

The telegram is being sold by a family in Northern Ireland who inherited it from well-known journalist Robert McComb – a subeditor on the Belfast Evening Telegraph in 1912, who was given the document as a farewell gift on his retirement. He died in 1932.

The document will go under the hammer in Whyte’s auction of historical memorabilia in Dublin on April 21st. Auctioneer Ian Whyte said: “ It is difficult to comprehend the disbelief and shock which must have greeted this telegram as it arrived in the office of the biggest-selling newspaper in Titanic’s home city, Belfast.” He was confident the sale would attract “interest from collectors and museums worldwide”.

Of the 2,224 people aboard the Titanic, only 710 survived. An estimated 79 of those who died were Irish emigrants, including 14 residents of Addergoole, Lahardane, Co Mayo, and an Athlone mother, Margaret Rice, along with her five sons.

They had boarded the ship on Thursday, April 11th, 1912, at Queenstown (now Cobh), Co Cork, on its last stop en route to New York.


WITH JUST two days to go before the official opening of the Titanic Belfast exhibition centre on Saturday, anyone hoping to visit it in the coming weeks has been advised to make an advance booking.

Titanic Belfast chief executive Tim Husbands said almost 100,000 tickets had been pre-sold for the exhibition centre’s first year of operation.

Where possible, the public is being advised to buy tickets in advance to avoid disappointment, Mr Husbands said, adding that visitors should remember that Titanic Belfast would be open all year round.

Tickets cost £13.50 for adults, £6.75 for children, £9.50 for students, £10 for pensioners, and £34 for a family ticket for two adults and two children.