Jack Simmons – victim of the Titanic
In “We Had Everything …” by Chris Rowley, p 253, there is mention of Jack Simmons who died on the Titanic from those who remembered the family. Jack had lived at Oak Cottage and had drowned on the Titanic. It was claimed that Jack had been on his way to America with Mrs Helen Twomey from Tonbridge – that they had been on their honeymoon. But were they? And if they were, wouldn’t she be Mrs Helen Simmons?
John Simmons (aka Jack) was born in about 1872. His parents were George and Mary Simmons. When George moved to Oak Cottage, he was in his mid-forties and his wife, Mary, was slightly older. They had had eight children, of whom seven survived (see 1911 census), although by the time they got to Oak Cottage only four were still living with their parents – Eliza, who is described in the 1881 census as aged 19 and “sometime servant, unemployed”; Joseph aged 11 and John aged 9, both presumably at the Village School for boys; and baby Fanny, aged 3. Ten years later Eliza had moved away from Oak Cottage but the two youngest children remained with George, still a cricket ball maker, and John “unemployed”. By 1901, Fanny has moved away. John still had no recorded occupation. But at some time John had followed his father and been a cricket ball maker – in his case with Messrs. Duke & Son: the 1911 census gives John Simmons, then 39 and single, as a cricket ball maker – stitcher, still living with his parents, who are in their late 70s – and his father, George, still a cricket ball maker at 77. However, a year later, John Simmons would be dead. John – known as Jack by the family – was one of the victims of the Titanic disaster and would die on the night of 14/ 15 April 1912.
Information gathered from village gossip/memory tells more about John/Jack Simmons, and his fate. Jack, was seemingly not one of the world’s achievers. At school he had apparently been known as “Sniffy” because he was always sniffing as he said things. However, at some point around 1910/11 he had decided to make himself a new life in America. He booked himself a berth on the Titanic stating his destination as New York City and embarked from Southampton.
In the early 1960s, an elderly Leigh resident (we cannot remember whether it was Charlie Ingram or Bert Stubbings) had some extra memories. We were told that Jack Simmons who was “aged 18” and a lady, by the name of Helen Twomey, were on their honeymoon. (But Jack would have been 40 when he left England).
A Kent and Sussex Courier article of 19 April 1912 entitled “Local Men on the Titanic” reports that John Simmons, a native of Leigh, was a steerage passenger. The son of Mr George Simmons, who resides on the Green, near the old oak tree, John was formerly in the employ of Messrs. Duke and Sons and was leaving home to join his uncle, a well-to-do farmer in the United States. He was the cousin of Mr F Simmons of 28 Western Road, Tunbridge Wells. (The article does not say that Jack Simmons had died).
There was also a Helen Twomey on the Titanic – or Twoomey, Toomey. The Kent and Sussex Courier article of 19 April 1912 reports that Mrs Helen Twoomey, who was on her way out to take up her duties as housekeeper to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Indianapolis, was on board the ‘Titanic’. She was formerly in the service of the Rev. Father Walsh of Tonbridge during his ministry at Shoreham, Sussex. The article also does not say that she had died, and indeed she had not. But there is a tentative ‘Tonbridge’ connection.
However, the article does not mention that they (Jack and Helen) were together in any way and research thus far has not been able to corroborate the ‘honeymoon’ rumour. After all, Helen Twomey is not listed as Helen Simmons.
There are many websites available with information about Titanic passengers. An Ellen Toomey born in 1862, Limerick Ireland was a passenger on the Titanic: a Miss Ellen Mary Toomey, aged 48, embarked from Southampton on the Titanic. She was a second class passenger. She was apparently from Indianapolis and she seems to have been returning home, her destination being Indianapolis – this ties in with the newspaper article mentioned above, that she was on her way out to take up her duties as housekeeper in Indianapolis. She had paid £10 10s for her ticket (no. 13531). She survived, was picked up by lifeboat 9, and later taken by the Carpathia to New York. She died in 1933 in Indianapolis. She never married. Jack Simmons also embarked from Southampton, a 3rd class passenger, destination New York City. His ticket was no. 392082 and cost him £8 1s. Although Jack and Ellen were in different levels of accommodation, it does not necessarily mean that passengers did not fraternize – or so we are led to believe by the 1997 film. (But the description of Jack does not necessarily make one think of Leonardo di Caprio!)
Where Ellen Twomey was living at the time of the 1911 census is not known – it could just be that her unusual surname has made it difficult to locate her. However, as to a marriage between Jack Simmons and Ellen Twomey, there appears to be no record in the Civil Registration indexes. In the 1911 census Jack was still single, so if he had married, it would have been between April 1911 and April 1912.
What we do know is that there definitely was a “Helen Toomey” on the ship and there was also Jack: perhaps they had met and gone together, who knows, but they were not married as far as can be ascertained from records. There is no ‘Mrs’ Simmons recorded, survived or died, nor – as the Kent and Sussex articles states – a Mrs Helen Twoomey – but only a Miss Ellen Toomey.
However, it is interesting that that Leigh resident mentioned the name of Helen Twomey – not a common surname. Perhaps we shall never know. But if anyone has any further information, do please let the Society know.
Joyce Field (March 2015)
Kent & Sussex Courier 19 April 1912
1911 and other Censuses
“We Had Everything …” Chris Rowley
www.encyclopedia.titanica.org (and other Titanic websites)