Many of you will know the story of Edith Haisman (nee Brown) but, if not, this lady was the oldest survivor of the Titanic disaster who, aged 15 at the time of the disaster, had vivid memories of the events that took place on the 14th/15th April 1912. Her son, David Haisman, has written this book based on his mother's account of her life and experiences, as told to her children over her lifetime. It is a wonderful read and David should be very proud of his book.
I have the hardback version, which runs to 143 pages. The book is attractively bound with a blue dust jacket. The font is a good size for reading and the binding and print quality is excellent. Don't expect lots of pictures however; there are a few but it is mostly text. Now then, on to the content...
The first two chapters, "Preface" and "Lookout Procedures" are, in my opinion, worth the book's price on their own. David Haisman has spent 30 years at sea in the British merchant marine and he uses these chapters to provide the reader with his insights and knowledge regarding certain aspects of the Titanic disaster. Within the "Preface", he explains the pressure that Titanic's seamen were under during the abandon ship procedure. Most of the crew had little knowledge of seamanship and therefore the challenges of launching the lifeboats from complex Welwyn davits fell to a relatively small number of men. After reading this section, I had much more respect for what Titanic's seamen managed to achieve that night, in extremely difficult circumstances. Similarly, the "Lookout Procedures" chapter, although brief, similarly enlightens the reader as to what life was like for a lookout posted in a crow's nest for two hours in sub-zero temperatures.
Of course, the majority of the book focuses on Edith Brown's life story, as one would expect. It starts with Titanic's allision with the iceberg, the realisation of impending disaster, the launching of the lifeboats and the sinking of the ship. The book then "flashbacks" to Edith's early life, providing background relating to her mother and father: Thomas Brown and Elizabeth Ford; and their life in South Africa. The story follows the Brown's decision to relocate to Seattle, USA - which eventually led to their presence on Titanic. The chapters then follow Titanic's story through its voyage, on a day-by-day basis, from Edith's perspective. It's truly fascinating stuff!
After the disaster and a brief stay in Seattle, Edith and her mother eventually returned to the UK, living in Southampton. The story continues to be told from Edith's perspective and takes the reader through the pre-war years, WWII and its aftermath. We read of her marriage to Fredrick Haisman, the births of their ten(!) children and their temporary war posting back to South Africa. Edith and Fredrick finally relocated permanently to Southampton after the war (despite briefly emigrating to Australia between 1965 and 1969).
This book is an obvious labour of love and it becomes apparent that Edith's children adored and cherished their mother throughout her long (and far from easy) life. She was born into a rich family but the Titanic disaster meant that she was forced to face many hardships that she could never have foreseen as a young girl in Cape Town, 1912. David Haisman beautifully summarises his mother's life as follows:
"Destiny had decided that she would go on her long journey through life without wealth. Instead, she would leave a better legacy to those she left behind: her love, her courage, and her resilience. If her mother and father could have witnessed the way their brave little daughter had gone through life, they would never have believed it."
David Haisman's book is different to most Titanic-related works as it has been written by a professional mariner who has lived with the Titanic story throughout his life. I enjoyed reading it immensely and would recommend it to all, without reservation.