British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 10

Testimony of George Symons, cont.

11571. Close to the passengers?
- There was a lady and a gentleman sitting in front of me. I was standing up in the stern.

11572. Where were the other passengers?
- From what I could see in the morning when we came to get the daylight, there was one lady sitting on the other side, the fore side, by the fireman that was pulling. There was one of the fireman pulling at the starboard oar; and there was a lady sitting on the foreside of him, and the gentleman was sitting like on the other side, on the port side further forward.

11573. Did you hear one of the passengers say that it would be too dangerous to go back?
- No, Sir; I heard nothing.

11574. That you might get swamped?
- No, I heard nothing.

11575. That was your view, that it was too dangerous to go back, because you might get swamped?
- Yes.

11576. That is what you thought?
- That was my own view, yes.

11577. Did you hear anybody express that same view?
- No.

11578. Then, or at any time?
- No.

11579. At any time?
- No.

11580. Since. Have you discussed it since?
- No.

11581. Have you never heard anybody say since that it was too dangerous to go back, that you might get swamped?
- No. The first thing that I have seen about that was when I arrived in England on Saturday and I read Hendrickson's evidence in the papers.

11582. Who showed it to you?
- I bought the paper myself and read it.

11583. I want to understand. You bought a paper, and then were you seen by somebody?
- I was not seen by nobody. I was travelling in the train by myself.

11584. Have you been seen by any solicitors in the case?
- What do you mean, Sir?

11585. Has any lawyer seen you about your evidence?
- I have given evidence in two or three places.

11586. I would just like to understand what you mean about making a statement. Were you asked to make a statement to somebody representing Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon?
- Well, I was asked to make a statement, and I just simply told the truth.

Mr. Duke:
I wish you would emphasise the latter part of that - "on behalf of Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon." He was asked to make a statement, but not so far as I am aware on behalf of Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon - if you would not mind eliciting whether he says that or not.

11587. (The Attorney-General.) I will ask him again. Were you asked to make a statement by somebody on behalf of Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon?
- Yes, they did say they were representing Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon.

11588. When was that?
- It may have been Tuesday night or it may have been Wednesday night. Tuesday night I believe.

11589. You mean last Tuesday?
- Yes.

11590. (The Commissioner.) Where was it?
- At weymouth.

11591. (The Attorney-General.) When did you arrive - Saturday night?
- At weymouth.

11592. When did you arrive home from America?
- On Saturday morning at half-past seven at Liverpool

11593. Where did you go to from Liverpool?
- To Weymouth direct.

11594. Do you live at weymouth?
- Yes, that is my home.

11595. Had Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon your address at weymouth then?
- That I could not say.

11596. Do you know how he got into communication with you at weymouth, or somebody on his behalf?
- I could not say.

11597. When you were at weymouth did someone on behalf of Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon get into communication with you?
- Yes, they came down to see me.

11598. When did you get to Weymouth?
- On Saturday evening.

11599. When was it that somebody came to see you on their behalf?
- It must have been on Tuesday evening.

11600. Was that the first time that somebody had been to see you since your return to this country?
- Yes.

11601. Was it a gentleman?
- I beg pardon.

11602. Was it a gentleman - a man - who came to see you?
- It was a gentleman.

11603. Two men?
- A gentleman.

11604. Then you made a statement to him?
- Yes, just a statement.

11605. (The Commissioner.) Did you know that he was coming? Had they written to you to say he was coming?
- I just knew that there was a gentleman coming, but I did not know who he was.

11606. How did you know that there was a gentleman coming?
- How did I know?
- the message was brought to my house that somebody was coming to see me.

11607. Who brought the message?
- By telephone.

11608. Where from?
- That I could not say.

11609. Was it from somewhere in Weymouth?
- Oh, yes; the message came through to Weymouth.

11610. Was the message from somebody in Weymouth?
- No, Sir, that I could not say, because the man brought -

11611. How long before the gentleman came did you get this telephone message?
- In the afternoon, Sir.

11612. How long before he came did you get the message? How long after the message did the gentleman turn up?
- About six hours, I suppose.

11613. Six hours?
- It may have been that.

11614. Did you ask through the telephone who he was?
- I never had nothing to do with the telephone whatsoever.

11615. Who had?
- The man brought me the message.

11616. Where from?
- From a place in the town. That I could not tell you, I do not know.

11617. Who is the man?
- That I could not tell you, Sir. Perhaps my parents might. I was not in at the time.

11618. (The Attorney-General.) When was it that you had the telephone message. Was it on the Tuesday?
- It must have been on the Tuesday, yes.

11619. The message was given to your parents then?
- Yes, the message was left with my parents.

11620. Had you communicated with Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon since your return?
- No, I communicated with no one.

11621. Had you ever given them your address?
- Not as I know of. They asked me for my name aboard the ship, with one of the firemen. I cannot say for certain whether at the time I gave the address or not. I gave my name, but I think it was only my name.

11622. You do not know how they knew you were at weymouth?
- No, that I do not know.

11623. Do you know how they knew that you had arrived home?
- No, I do not.

11624. No idea?
- No.

11625. (The Commissioner.) Do you happen to know the name of the gentleman who came to see you?
- No, I do not.

11626. You never asked him his name?
- I never asked the gentleman's name.

11627. Have you ever seen him since?
- No.

11628. (The Attorney-General.) How long was he with you?
- I suppose, roughly, it might have been an hour, or it might have been a little more.

11629. (The Commissioner.) He took down what you said, I suppose in writing?
- That I could not say, Sir, what he was doing of.

11630. (The Attorney-General.) Was he writing when you were there?
- He just wrote down a little, but what he was doing of I could not say; I never said much, I just simply stated the truth, and that is all.

The Commissioner:
I understand, Mr. Duke, you have heard nothing of all this?

Mr. Duke:
I have just been inquiring, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
You have heard nothing of it?

Mr. Duke:
No, My Lord, I have not, but I have been inquiring, and I think presently I may be able to give your Lordship some information about it.

11631. (The Attorney-General.) Did you sign any statement at this interview?
- Yes, I signed my name.

11632. What happened to the statement?
- That I cannot say.

11633. Was it taken away by this gentleman?
- Yes.

The Attorney-General:
I call for it. Have you got it, Mr. Duke?

Mr. Duke:
No, I have not got it, Mr. Attorney. I am making every Inquiry I can. I think I know something about what happened about this now. I have been making inquiries.

11634. (The Commissioner.) It was not, I suppose, a newspaper gentleman?
- That I could not say, Sir.

11635. (The Attorney-General.) Were you asked whether you were master of the situation?
- Oh, yes, Sir; I was asked that.

11636. That is what the gentleman said to you?
- Yes.

11637. The gentleman asked you, were you Master of the situation, and I suppose you said "Yes"?
- Certainly, Sir.

11638. Were you asked whether you exercised your discretion?
- How do you mean "exercised my discretion"?

11639. That was your expression today; it is not mine. Did that gentleman say to you, "Did you exercise your discretion"?
- Is that for me to say in the Court here?

11640. I am asking you?
- I know you are asking me, but is that for me to say?

11641. Whether the gentleman asked you that?
- Whether the gentleman asked me that?

11642. Why should you be so shy about it?
- I am not shy at all about it.

11643. Why do you want the protection of the Court? Why don't you answer the question?
- You put the question to me, and I told you - the master of the situation.

11644. Just follow what I am putting to you. You say a gentleman was there with you?
- Yes.

11645. And he put questions to you?
- Yes.

11646. I am asking you, did he put this question to you: "Did you exercise your discretion as to whether you should go back or not"?
- I told him "Yes."

11647. The Commissioner: Then he did ask you the question, and you said "Yes"?
- Yes.

11648. (The Attorney-General.) Did the gentleman tell you that you ought not to say anything about this?
- The gentleman said nothing whatsoever to me, Sir.

11649. I do not quite understand why you should have objected to answering the question I put to you?
- I think myself, Sir, like this. I do not know who the gentleman was, neither did I altogether at that time, and it was in my own private home; and I think myself it was not a case to put before the Court.

11650. Do not drop your voice - you thought it was not a case to put before the Court?
- Not that question you put then.

11651. But why not?
- I have answered it now, so that it has gone.

11652. I would like to understand why it is that you think that question ought not to be put to you. What is your objection to it?
- I think myself, Sir, that what you do in your own private life is no business of no one. That is what I think, and that is a sailor's view of it.

11653. So that you thought that this conversation between you and this gentleman representing Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon ought to be treated as private?
- It was no business of nobody's.

11654. Neither of the Court's nor of anybody else?
- Not in that regard, no, because there was nothing more than I just simply stated the outline of the thing.

11655. Did he ask you whether you had read Hendrickson's story to the Court?
- No, Sir.

11656. Did he ask you whether you had heard anything about what Hendrickson had said to the Court?
- No, Sir, not as I am aware of.

11657. What?
- No, I knew what Hendrickson had said then.

11658. I am asking you what he put to you. Did he mention Hendrickson?
- No.

11659. (The Commissioner.) Did you mention Hendrickson?
- No, Sir.

11660. Now, just think. You had read Hendrickson's story?
- Yes.

11661. And it was a very important story?
- Yes.

11662. And this gentleman came to talk to you about Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon who had been mentioned in Hendrickson's story?
- Yes.

11663. Do you mean to tell me that neither you nor he mentioned Hendrickson's name at all?
- Not Hendrickson's name - no, Sir.

11664. What do you mean by that. Did he mention somebody else's name?
- I simply said that it was pretty good evidence what that man gave last week. No name was mentioned whatever.

The Commissioner:
What is the meaning of that?

11665. (The Attorney-General.) "It was pretty good evidence what that man gave last week." Did you mean by "that man" Hendrickson?
- Yes, I suppose that is what I meant.

11666. You did not mention his name?
- No.

11667. But they knew to whom you referred?
- I take it so.

11668. And you knew they had come to see you about that?
- No, not about that question.

11669. Think. Do you mean to say you did not know that this gentleman had come to see you because of what had been said by Hendrickson to this Court? Is that what you are telling my Lord?
- What do you mean, Sir, putting it that way? I do not quite follow what you mean?

11670. Do not you?
- No.

11671. Let me try and put it to you again. Did not you know that this gentleman had come to see you because of what Hendrickson had said to this Court about what had happened in No. 1 boat?
- I suppose that is what he did come there for, for protection, I suppose, to hear my story, and I gave him the brief outlines.

11672. You knew he had come because of what was suggested against Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon?
- I believe that is what it was for.

11673. Did not he tell you so?
- He told me he was representing Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon.

11674. And did not he tell you he had come to see you about the story of this man Hendrickson, or of some man?
- No; he just simply came and asked if I would give a brief outline of the story, and I gave it.

11675. A brief outline of the story?
- Yes.

11676. How long did it take you to give that brief outline?
- Just over an hour, I suppose.

11677. He put questions to you?
- No - he may have put one or two now and then.

11678. You told me about the exercise of your discretion and your being Master of the situation. Those you have told me about?
- Yes.

11679. Did you say anything to him about having received any money from Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon? Do speak up.
- I was just thinking whether I said anything. I will not tell a lie.

The Commissioner:
Do speak a little louder, please.

The Attorney-General:
That does not want much thinking about, whether you had any money from Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon.

Mr. Duke:
You asked him whether he told the gentleman that he had received the money.

11680. (The Attorney-General.) I say it does not want much thinking about to recollect that you had the money.
- That is right enough, but I am just thinking whether I mentioned it or not to the man. It is no use my telling you a lie. I was just thinking whether I said it.

11681. (The Commissioner.) Now think, and tell us what the answer is?
- Yes, I did tell him. I told him that at the time it was given me it was a surprise.

11682. A surprise?
- Yes, it was a great surprise to me when I received it.

11683. (The Attorney-General.) That is what you told him?
- Yes.

11684. How much did you have?
- Is that a question to submit, Sir?

11685. (The Commissioner.) Yes?
- £5.

11686. (The Attorney-General.) Have you had any more since?
- No, none whatever.

11687. That is all you have had altogether?
- That is all I have had.

11688. When did you have that?
- About a day - it may have been two - before we arrived in New York on the "Carpathia."

11689. I understood you to say to my Lord just now that that came upon you as a surprise?
- Yes, quite a surprise packet.

11690. You mean you had never heard of any present?
- No, Sir, I heard of nothing.

11691. From Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon?
- No, Sir, I heard nothing.

11692. Either a present or a gift of money?
- I only know I heard that they took my name, and I understood from the other fireman they were to send a wire to our parents.

11693. They were to send a wire to your parents?
- That is what the other fireman said. Of course, I did not know the fireman's name at the time.

11694. Did you hear sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon say anything at all in the boat?
- No, Sir; I heard Sir Cosmo say nothing.

11695 How many hours were you in the boat before you were picked up by the "Carpathia"?
- It must have been five or more.

11696. Did you hear any of the crew say anything?
- No, Sir; they only gave a bit of a cheer when they sighted the "Carpathia" first.

11697. Are we to understand from you that during the whole time you were in the boat nothing was ever said until a cheer was raised when you saw the "Carpathia"?
- There may have been a conversation among themselves, but I heard nothing.

11698. You did not hear it?
- No. They may have been speaking among themselves.

11699. There may have been conversation going on without your hearing it? Is that what you mean?
- Yes.

11700. Were not you surprised that nobody suggested that you should go back to pick up the people who were drowning?
- Yes, I was rather surprised.

11701. You were rather surprised?
- Yes.

11702. Were you looking towards the "Titanic"? Were you facing towards the "Titanic" or away from her when you were rowing?
- How do you mean?

11703. When you were steering in the boat?
- When I was steering away from the boat my back was turned. I was watching the "Titanic."

11704. Then, when you stopped and lay on your oars were you facing the "Titanic" then?
- The boat was not. The boat was pulling away, but I myself was facing the "Titanic." I was watching the ship.

11705. When you heard the cries were you facing the vessel - or, rather, facing the place where the "Titanic" had been?
- No, Sir; our stern was to the place then.

11706. Your back was turned?
- Yes, we were a good way away at that time.

11707. And the other people would be looking towards the place?
- The people that was rowing would be, Sir.

11708. That would be sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon; he would be facing you?
- I could not say. I could not see. You could not discern the people in the dark.

11709. You could not tell which way he was facing?
- No.

11710. I would just like to understand the end of your story about this. You continued rowing and resting, as I understand, laying on the oars - that is the crew in the boat?
- Yes.

11711. Until you sighted the "Carpathia"?
- No. After we continued rowing, as I have said, we came back again. I stated that just now.

11712. Did you row towards the light that you had mentioned?
- We were rowing for the light. The light was bearing roughly on our port beam when we were rowing away from the ship.

11713. And did you row towards it?
- Yes, Sir, rowing after it.

11714. But it disappeared?
- Yes.

11715. Did you appear to be catching it up at all?
- No. I thought my own self she was gradually going away from us.

11716. Do you remember what time you were picked up by the "Carpathia"?
- That I could not say.

11717. It was, of course, after daybreak?
- Yes, a good time after daybreak.

11718. I see you gave evidence in America?
- Yes, and there is one mistake there that I should like to correct.

11719. I think, your Lordship, you have that before you. I will hand it up. (The copy was handed to the Commissioner.) What is the mistake that you want to correct?
- There is one mistake that was made there - that I rowed back, I think the Consul said, and saw the wreckage, but it should have been "I saw nothing."

11720. You may perhaps be referring to something else. You mean the deposition you made in America?
- Yes, first of all before the British Consul.

11721. I suppose this is what you are referring to, My Lord, I am now referring to his deposition made on 2nd May, 1912. The only passages I find which refer to this at all are these, and I think they contain the part he now wants to correct. It is quite short. It begins: "Shortly after I had got on the boat deck I noticed rockets being fired at very frequent intervals from the bridge, Morse signals being used; and at about 12.30 I saw about one point on the port bow distant some five or six miles a light which I took to be the stern light of a cod bank fisherman." That is right?
- That is right.

11722. "And after we had put off from No. 1 boat I saw this light still bearing in much the same direction and at about the same distance away. I saw no red or green lights at all at this time. At this time the forecastle head of the "Titanic" was all awash; and when we were about a quarter of a mile off I heard two sharp explosions following each other rapidly. The "Titanic" seemed to me to split in two, the head disappearing completely, and the poop coming up and seeming to right itself for a moment, the lights all went suddenly out, and she seemed to take an upturn plunge, standing up on end, and with a roar she disappeared. We felt no effect of suction through her sinking at the point where we were, about a quarter of a mile away." Now, listen to this, which I think is the only passage which relates to what happened when you were in the boat. "After waiting for a little we rowed back to where we thought the "Titanic" had disappeared, and it was difficult in the darkness to determine the spot, and we had no light in the boat, and we found nothing except some floating wreckage"?
- That is where the mistake is - that "floating wreckage."

11723. What is it you want to correct?
- "I saw nothing." That is all.

11724. You saw nothing?
- That is right, Sir.

The Commissioner:
There is no reference here to any cries or to there being any people in the neighbourhood.

The Attorney-General:
There is no reference, My Lord, of any kind to it. That is all the reference there is to what happened except the description of the sinking of the "Titanic" and the wreckage, which he now says is a mistake.

The Commissioner:
The "floating wreckage"?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, I think, My Lord, this might be put in. I will put it in.

11725. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) There is one point, you know, that I want to ask you. You said that you were surprised that no one in the boat suggested that you should go to the assistance of these drowning people. Do you remember saying that to me just now?
- Yes.

11726. That you were surprised?
- I expected fully for someone to say something about it?

11727. That seemed reasonable?
- Yes, that seemed reasonable, Sir.

11728. But you would not have thought it was reasonable if they had said it?
- Not at that time, no Sir.

The Attorney-General:
I am not going to read it now - it may be necessary to refer to it afterwards, but he has given evidence in America before the Committee. I think I handed that up, did not I?

The Commissioner:
No, you have not handed me anything up.

11729. (The Attorney-General.) This is it (The document was handed in.) That is his testimony given before senator Perkins. (To the witness.) I just want you to hear what you said there. Listen to this. Is this right? "(Q.) What boat did you go from the ship in? - (A.) No. 1. (Q.) Who was in command of her? - (A.) I was. (Q.) How many passengers did you have on her? - (A.) From 14 to 20"?
- Yes; that is what I thought I had there at the time, in the dark.

11730. (The Commissioner.) But you were not in the dark when you were sitting in this Court giving evidence?
- No, Sir, not at that time.

11731. Then why did you say that you had from 14 to 20 passengers when you had only five?
- I think, if I am speaking right, Senator Bourne asked how many was in the boat all told.

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