“There were no more boats, water was swirling around the upper deck, people were beginning to panic… and the band continued to play.”
HELEN CHURCHILL CANDEE - Titanic Survivor
In Isleworth Cemetery, at a place where two paths meet, is a tall marble column erected as a memorial to the Pears family. On one panel is written…
. In loving Memory of Thomas Pears Fourth son of Andrew and Marianne Pearson Pears Who was lost on the S.S Titanic April 15th 1912 Aged 29 years
“Until the day dawns and the shadows flee away.”
Thomas Clinton Pears, 29, was born on 7th May 1882. He was the managing director of the Pears Soap Factory in Isleworth and also responsible for his family’s rubber estates in Malaya.
Thomas was the great-great grandson of Andrew Pears who founded the Pears Soap Company in 1789. Thanks to the quality of the product, some skilful advertising and the endorsement of celebrities like Lillie Langtry the company became very successful. Because of increased demand, in 1862 the company moved its production from central London to a large factory in Isleworth, the Lanadron Works.
In 1910 Thomas married Edith Wearne and they lived at “Mevagissey” on St Johns Road in Isleworth. They were a popular young couple, active in their local church, St John the Baptist, and with a wide circle of friends. Thomas was a keen sportsman. He supported the Pears’ Athletic Club and participated in motor car and motor cycle races including ‘The 23 Hours Car Run’, London - Edinburgh on May 28th/29th, 1908 and ‘The 24 Hours Car Run’, London to Edinburgh, June 5th/6th, 1908’. Thomas received two medals for these events and had them mounted as napkin rings, inscribed ‘T.P’ and ‘E.P’ respectively.
In 1912, three years after his father’s death, Thomas decided to visit New York with Edith in the hope of expanding his business there. For the journey they booked on the White Star liner S.S. Titanic which was about to make its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic.
The Titanic wasn’t the fastest way to get to New York. The Cunard “greyhound” liners, Lusitania and Mauretania, were certainly quicker. With turbine engines and streamlined hulls they were able to achieve over 24 knots (28 mph). In 1907 the Mauretania won the Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossing and held this record for twenty-two years. But as fast as these Cunarders were they didn’t have the luxury or comfort offered by the Titanic - “the largest movable, man-made object ever constructed” - or its guaranteed safety. With 16 watertight compartments and internal bulkheads the Titanic, was considered ‘virtually unsinkable’. As one of the crew put it - “God himself could not sink this ship.” Thomas Pears’s only doubt about their forthcoming trip was they didn’t use his own family Pears soap on the Titanic but “Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap - perfect for sensitive skins and delicate complexions!”
Thomas and Edith boarded the Titanic at Southampton on Wednesday 10th April as first class passengers and occupied cabin C-2. Four days later, at about 11.40pm on the evening of 14th April 1912, at position Lat. 41.46 N. Lon 50.14 W, the ship ran into an iceberg and despite its 16 watertight compartments, internal bulkheads and the lofty promises of its owners, immediately began to sink.
There is little detailed information about what happened to Mr and Mrs Pears. Edith managed to get into lifeboat 8 with 22 other women, all from first-class and 3 crew members and was eventually taken aboard the Carpathia which came to their rescue. Thomas Pears was never seen again…
Back home in Isleworth there was considerable confusion about what had happened. Initial reports said that the ship had run into an iceberg but everyone had been saved. On Monday 15th April, the day after the collision with the iceberg a radio message arrived at the Lanadron Works saying “All Well, Telephone Hampstead (Edith’s parents address).” This gave the impression that both Thomas and Edith had survived. Unfortunately the message had been sent from Titanic on the 13th April, the day before the collision, and routed via another ship, S.S Potsdam, explaining its delay.
The first list of survivors failed to mention either Thomas or Edith but then a cable arrived, sent on 18 April from the Carpathia, saying ‘Edith safe, all hope for Tom’. Then came a second cable, which reported that both had been lost. Shortly afterwards, a third cable was received from English friends in New York saying that Edith was in good health and staying with them at the Hotel Woodward. It added that she intended to sail for home on 20 April 1912. By now it was known that Tom had died at sea, one of 1,514 passengers and crew aboard the Titanic who had perished. There were only 710 survivors.
At the time of its launch S.S. Titanic was described as “unsinkable” - and in one particular respect it was. 100 years later the story of that great ship and the tragic events that took place in mid Atlantic on the night of 14th/15th April 1912 still engage and intrigue us, no matter how often it has been repeated in books, films, television series, radio programmes and museum exhibits. As the writer Walter Lord said in the foreword to the 1976 edition of his book “A Night to Remember”… _“it is a rash man indeed who would set himself up as final arbiter on all that happened the incredible night the Titanic went down.”_
Thomas Clinton Pears, aged 29 years old and one of 1,514 passengers who were lost that night on the S.S Titanic, is still remembered on a marble column that stands at a place where two paths meet in Isleworth Cemetery.
A survivor of the Titanic disaster, Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, once lived at 1 Ducks Walk in East Twickenham. His story, The Twice Told Tale of the Titanic appeared in the St Margarets Community Website on 5th December 2008
– from Martyn Day
Credit: The photographs of the Pears Memorial are by Amanda Day.