Archives, section 8 ...

 

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Chairs from ms Bermuda survive and we are told the story of how Furness Bermuda Line came to Bermuda ...

 

For Archives, section 1, click here, section 2, click here, section 3, click here, section 4, click here, section 5, click here, for section 6, click here, section 7, click here, section 9, click here, section 10, click here and section 11, click here.

Memories of ms Bermuda in the early 1930s, the fire that engulfed her, some dining room chairs and how Furness Bermuda Line’s American managing director was instrumental in the creation of the Bermuda service, are evoked in an email from Howland Blackiston (right).

Howland tells us, “I just came across your site.  My grandfather, Henry Curtis Blackiston, was the American managing director of Furness for many years. He was influential in the development of the tourist trade in Bermuda, and led the building of the Furness Bermuda line and the associated Bermuda hotels in particular. He lived and worked in New York City, but also maintained a home, Sound House, on Harrington Sound in Bermuda. He retired in 1935 and died in 1951, tragically on the same day I was born.

 

We asked Howland if he had any more pictures relating to that time and he sent these two shots of ms Bermuda arriving in Hamilton on her maiden voyage on Monday, 16 January, 1928.  In stark contrast to that happy day, another image (below) shows the ship devastated by fire in June 1931.

Among many bits of Furness memorabilia in the family, I have six of the dining room chairs from Bermuda. As you may know, the ship burned twice. These particular chairs were stored at her mooring while she was being repaired from the first fire.  How I wish I could find an image from the Bermuda that shows this particular design of chair on the ship.”

The chairs in Howland’s possession (below) are featured in an advertising brochure of the time (below left), which can also be found on page 72 of ‘Queen of Bermuda and the Furness Bermuda Line’, by Piers Plowman & Stephen J. Card, Bermuda Maritime Museum Press, 2002.

Henry Curtis Blackiston in his office at Furness House, 24 Whitehall Street, New York.  About 1911.

Howland Blackiston

Image by kind permission of www.king-casey.com  -  accessed 1 December 2012

An advertising brochure of the time includes an image of Bermuda’s dining room chairs (above).  Howland’s chairs today (right).

Photographs: Collection of Howland Blackiston, unless otherwise stated

The full story of the fires and the consequences can be found on pages 81 to 96 of Queen of Bermuda and the Furness Bermuda Line’ by Piers Plowman & Stephen J. Card, Bermuda Maritime Museum Press, 2002.  

It includes a reference to Mr Blackiston, as follows:  “On Sunday June 21, Captain Jeffries Davis had to sit down and put on paper his account of the disaster.  Addressed to Mr. H.E. Blackiston, managing director of Furness Bermuda Line in New York, it was undoubtedly the most painful duty this experienced seaman had ever undertaken.  However, the letter he wrote explains quite concisely exactly what happened to his lovely ship …”  (p.81).

Howland continues, “I am sending you an image of a very large sterling silver loving cup (right) with the following engraved on its face:

Presented to

Henry C Blackiston

The prince of hosts afloat or ashore
By the grateful sharers of his hospitality on board

The Monarch of Bermuda

December 2, 1931

My grandfather was known for his extreme generosity, often giving friends and acquaintances free trips to Bermuda, and putting them up at his house in Tuckers Town. I know he gave trips to his tailor at Brooks Brothers, New York policemen, and many others. The story is that when some of his friends came on board to see him off, they commented "I wish we were going with you".  He promptly invited them as his guest. "But we have no clothes packed, we only came down to see you off".  "No problem", grandfather replied, "There are shops on board. Purchase what you need and I'll pay for it".  They went, and upon return presented this cup in deep appreciation.”

 

 

Another image shows a clock (left), made by Tiffany, New York and presented by the crew of Monarch of Bermuda to Henry Blackiston on his retirement from Furness Withy. The inscription reads: 

PRESENTED TO

H.C. BLACKISTON

MANAGING DIRECTOR

FURNESS, WITHY & COMPANY

NEW YORK

AS A TOKEN OF ESTEEM FROM THE PERSONNEL

OF THE

Q.T.E.V. MONARCH OF BERMUDA

APRIL 30, 1935

 

Other images sent by Howland, with his own comments, include: 

(Top right) “Casual image of grandfather sitting on the steps of his home in Hampton, Virginia. Note the spats.”

(Top left) “My father, Henry C Blackiston Jr, in bathing suit at Mid Ocean Club beach in 1927.”

(Middle left) “My father in 1970.”

(Middle right)  "Jimmy Green, thought to be a steward on ms Bermuda.”  

(Bottom left)  “My father on a visit to Sir Fredrick and Lady Lewis' home, Essendon, in 1923. At that time, Sir Fredrick was Chairman of Furness.”

(Bottom right) “Diving using Mr. Rounthwaite's homemade diving bells (he managed the Mid Ocean property).

 

Howland mentioned Sound House in Tucker’s Town (above in the 1930s) many times and we asked him if it still stood.  He replied, “Yes, the house is still there. I've driven by it, but I've never been inside.  There's the main house, a guest house and a boat house.  I think on five acres.  How I would love to have a tour of it some day.  Grandfather sold it when he retired in 1935 for $30,000.  Do you think I could get it for that price now?”

We then asked Allan Davidson, former Jnr Chief Officer with Furness Bermuda Line and an accomplished professional photographer, if he could find the house.   He later replied, “I went down that way this morning and was in luck.  I spoke with the lady of the house who had no objection to my photographing the exterior.  I enclose two shots: (below left) the front of the house from the eastern end and (below right) the view looking over Harrington Sound from the eastern end.  Hope these are suitable.”

We sent them onto Howland, who was delighted.  “My goodness, this is simply wonderful. Many thanks to you and your colleague in Bermuda.  It is nice to see grandfather's house looking so lovely. What a magnificent setting.  Thank you so very much.

 

Photographs  - Allan Davidson

With permission.

Henry C Blackiston is credited with being the first person to see the opportunity that Bermuda presented as an attractive tourist destination after the first world war.

Working with prominent figures from the Bermuda Tourist Board and fellow directors of Furness, Withy & Company, he helped develop and establish Furness Bermuda Line.  As part of this effort, Furness built ms Bermuda, Monarch of Bermuda and Queen of Bermuda and established hotels on the island, including Castle Harbour, St. George, the Bermudiana, Inverurie and the Mid-Ocean Golf Club.

For an understanding of the magnitude of this achievement, read the following:

1. An extract from the book by Howland’s father (click here)  

2. Bermuda Magazine, Tucker’s Town, Summer 1966. Carlton University, Canada (click here)

3. Chapters 3 to 8 of ‘Queen of Bermuda and the Furness Bermuda Line’ by Piers Plowman & Stephen J. Card, Bermuda Maritime Museum Press, 2002.  

 

 

Henry with his wife Mary Marrow Blackiston outside The Inverurie Hotel in 1927