Stephen McGann finds family member in Titanic crew list


What we have here is one of my favourite
documents in the whole of The National Archives It’s the agreement and crew list of a very very famous ship, the RMS Titanic.
Clearly a great document, a very famous one. But it has a particular resonance
for me. Because about five years ago, I found this. If you go down this document,
you will see the scrawled signature of a man called James McGann of Liverpool and that’s my grandfather’s brother. James was what was called a trimmer who worked
in the engine room of the Titanic on that fateful voyage. And he survived. And
I didn’t know he was even there until about 20 years ago. But I didn’t know
he’d survived and the manner of his survival and this, until only about five
years ago. It chilled my blood when I first saw it. And the wonderful things
about archives is they they don’t just give you one thing, they give you so many
other pieces of evidence that could go on to paint so much better of a picture
of the people you think you know. For instance, from this, James here, I was able
to find where he was living at the time in Southampton. I found out that he’d not
being entirely honest about his age. But an interesting one – his previous ship was
listed as ‘South Africa’. I only found out later that it was a ship that sailed
from South Africa but wasn’t actually called the South Africa. But this for me of all those great archives in
this place represents my family’s tiny part in something momentous and huge. And I’m from a family of actors – this was the big story.

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