A family photograph album containing never before seen images of Titanic during her launch and departure from Belfast and stunning photographs of the Olympic has gone on display in the TITANICa exhibition at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum in Northern Ireland.
This exceptional photograph album, containing 116 prints, belonged to John W. Kempster who was a Director and the Master of Ceremonies at Harland & Wolff at the time of Titanic and Olympic. It includes 13 pictures from the launch of the Titanic in May 1911, including Lord Pirrie returning from his inspection of the hydraulic rams, and the famous liner going down the slipway and being chased by spectators.
Many of the photographs in the album feature the Kempster family on-board Olympic’s maiden voyage and give a wonderful flavour of how passengers spent their days while sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.
A striking image shows two boys enjoying a pillow fight as well as ladies taking part in an egg and spoon race on the ship. Other photographs of their trip show a car being taken on-board a ship at Port Jefferson, New York and the places the family travelled to including Niagara Falls.
John Kempster was the manager of the Electrical Department at Harland & Wolff in the early 1900s. On the day of the Titanic’s launch, Lord Kempster hosted a lunch at Belfast’s Grand Central Hotel for yard officials and other visitors.
Andrew Aldridge of Aldridge Auction House described the album as the most complete photograph album of the Titanic in Belfast in existence. The album is currently on loan to the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum.
National Museums Northern Ireland’s Head of Human History, William Blair, said, “This album allows us unparalleled access to previously unseen images of the Titanic and Olympic. One of the striking things about this album is that the photographs exude an excitement in Belfast on that momentous day of 2nd April 1912. Family photographs from the Olympic’s maiden voyage also give us a fascinating insight into how the passengers spent their days at sea.”
He added, “The Ulster Folk & Transport Museum holds a unique and extensive collection of artefacts relating to Titanic itself and, importantly, its wider context within the White Star Line fleet. We are delighted to have this album on display at the museum and consider it an important addition to our TITANICa exhibition.”
Owner of the album, Steve Raffield, said “I was extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to purchase this photo album 2 years ago. In this respect I have to thank Andrew Aldridge of Henry Aldridge and Son for his invaluable help and advice at that time. I am of course thrilled and delighted that these wonderful photos will now go on public display at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. I hope as many people as possible will see and enjoy the photos - they really are remarkable!”
Whilst on display in the TITANICa exhibition, the album will be closed, due to its sensitivity to light. However visitors will be able to view each photograph through an audio-visual display which shows the individual pages of the album turning. There will also be enlargements of some of the photographs within the display.