From the April Fine Art Sale 2013

The Edwy Arthur West Collection.

Twelve watercolours of mostly Cornish views.

Painted by Edwy Arthur West of Truro, who perished aboard the Titanic on the night of April 14th 1912.

Provenance: From the estate of Barbara Dainton West, penultimate survivor of the Titanic disaster who died in 2007 aged 96.

Edwy Arthur West was born in 1876 in Perranzabuloe, between Truro and Perranporth, the son of a customs officer. He grew up in Newham in Truro and was a chorister in the Cathedral choir. In 1905, he married Ada Mary Worth, also of Truro, whose family had a printing business, Netherton and Worth’s, and a fancy goods shop. Edwy worked in the drapery trade in both Bristol and Bournemouth, but suffered from a respiratory condition and was advised to emigrate for his health. The family sold up and embarked on the Titanic at Southampton, bound for a new life in Florida working in the fruit culture business. They travelled second-class on ticket number 34651 which cost £27 15s. Accompanying them were their children, Miriam, aged four, and Barbara, then only 10 months. Ada was pregnant with their third child.

Edwy went down with the ship, but Ada and the children survived the sinking aboard lifeboat no.10. Ada and the children returned to England aboard the White Star liner Celtic and eventually found their way back to Truro, where the third daughter, Edwina was born.

Like so many accounts of that dreadful night, the West’s story is one of incredible bravery and terrible personal tragedy. Ada’s account describes how Edwy (Arthur) returned to their cabin to collect a thermos of hot milk for the infant Barbara. As it had already started to be lowered, he had to shimmy down a rope into the lifeboat to hand it over. At this point some of the crew were rigorously enforcing the rescue discipline of “women and children first” and, believing Arthur was attempting to join his family, they held him back at pistol point. He then climbed back up the rope to await his fate with the rest of the men.

“After seeing us safely into the lifeboat Arthur returned to the cabin for a thermos of hot milk, and, finding the lifeboat let down he reached it by means of a rope, gave the flask to me, and, with a farewell, returned to the deck of the ship.”

All children in second class survived but 92% of second-class male passengers perished.

Barbara West was the second youngest passenger aboard the Titanic and unsurprisingly had no personal recollection of the terrible event that robbed her of her father. She steadfastly refused to talk about it for most of her adult life. Edwy was a keen amateur water colourist and these charming pictures, one painted just 3 months before the Titanic disaster, must have been a poignant link to the brave father she never knew.

We are now approaching the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, yet fascination with the doomed vessel and its passengers continues to grow. Items like these with such an impeccable family provenance are now very rare.