HEROIC TITANIC MARINE ENGINEER’S REDEDICATED MEMORIAL HEADSTONE UNVEILED AND WREATH LAID BY JOHN LIGHTFOOT MBE CMarEng, CHAIRMAN OF SOLAR SOLVE MARINE, REPRESENTING THE GLOBAL MARINE INDUSTRY.
It is well documented in books and records about the demise of the Titanic; that Joseph Bell and his brave band of Marine Engineers and Engine Room ratings stayed down at their posts and ultimately perished there, to keep the lights on during the Titanic disaster, so that as many passengers as possible might survive. Bravery indeed!
In 2012, during the 100th Anniversary of the disaster Barrie Bell Hodgson was researching his family history and contacted Ann and Brian Freer, who are the owners of Farlam House, the family farm house where Joseph Bell grew up after his birth on 12th March 1861 until the family rented out the farm and moved to Carlisle in 1872.
Barrie and Ann decided to work together on their mutual interest. Barrie being keen to find out as much as he could about a possible distant relative and Ann keen to research the history of her new home and her adopted parish of Farlam in Cumbria. They discovered that a Memorial had been cut into Joseph Bell’s father’s gravestone honouring Joseph’s bravery, however the Bell family burial plot was in an overgrown area of the old churchyard that was no longer accessible. Their first priority was to raise funds to rectify the situation and open up access to the Memorial for the benefit of anyone who would be interested to see it. Consequently the Joseph Bell Memorial Appeal was set up and a website, www.josephbellengineer.wordpress.com , created to support it.
To help with the fundraising the duo’s second priority was to co-write an excellent book ‘Tarn To Titanic’ – Life & Times of Joseph Bell Chief Engineer, published in paperback. Some copies are still available at £10 each by visiting the appeal website page josephbellengineer.wordpress.com/tarn-to-titanic/. There is also an e-version; to receive a copy of the eBook in PDF format, please provide a minimum donation equivalent to £5 (GBP) via www.PayPal.com to firstname.lastname@example.org and the charity will provide a download link by return.
The book is a biography of Joseph Bell, recording the history of his family and their farm in Farlam, Cumbria and his career with White Star Line where he attained the rank of Senior Chief Engineer. Money raised from the sale of both book formats will go towards the conservation and maintenance of the Memorial Headstone, the Bell Family Plot and access to it in the old churchyard of St. Thomas-a-Becket church in Farlam, Cumbria, UK.
John Lightfoot, chairman of South Shields, UK based Solar Solve Marine became personally involved with the Joseph Bell Memorial Appeal when he read about it in the Cumberland News. He wanted to bring the appeal to the attention of people who are closely involved with Marine Engineering, the wider Marine Industry and seafarers globally; individuals and organisations that he is in regular contact with through his business, so he contacted Barrie and Ann with an offer to help them raise the necessary funds to achieve their admirable and praiseworthy objectives. However he is just one of many individuals and organisations that have rallied round to support the appeal with great enthusiasm and ensured it reached its first major objective on Saturday 26th April 2014, when the skilfully re-lettered, cleaned and re-sealed Memorial stone, with a new location plaque sited nearby, was Re-dedicated at a Commemoration Service in the old graveyard. The Memorial is now easily accessible thanks to the cleared overgrowth and newly created footpath that is signposted; there is also an acrylic encrypted QR [Quick Release] plate for further information about Joseph Bell attached to the signpost.
John Lightfoot MBE CMarEng, attending the ceremony as a representative of Seafarers and Maritime Organisations globally, unveiled the memorial, followed by aural recollections of Joseph Bell: Edward Freer on his childhood, Toby Fretwell on his education, Hazel Hartley on his family life and John Lightfoot on the White Star Line & R.M.S. Titanic. John Lightfoot laid a wreath on behalf of everyone, which was created by Brenda Benjamin, being representative of White Star, Titanic & the Sea. The Reverend Janice Murray said the closing words and prayers, at the end of a very emotional and successful Commemoration ceremony. Thanks are also due to Mr. Abhay Misra of Abbey Stonecraft, Jarrow for the work done on the Bell Family Memorial Headstone and the new location stone donated.
It is to be hoped that donations continue to be received by the Appeal to allow further improvements around the site, including a notice board detailing the history associated with it, as well as ongoing maintenance to keep it in good order for the many people who are expected to visit the Memorial once its existence becomes more widely known around the world, especially because of its association with RMS Titanic.
Top Image – John Lightfoot MBE CMarEng, Chairman of Solar Solve Marine unveils the refurbished Joseph Bell Memorial Headstone in St.Thomas-a-Becket old churchyard, Farlam, with Barrie Bell Hodgson.
Right Image – The Joseph Bell Story Group. John Lightfoot, Hazel Hartley, Edward Freer and Toby Fretwell, with the freshly laid special wreath.