While members of the Bowring family were reported to have known the Titanic’s captain, Edward John Smith, they would have another connection to the ship in the days after its sinking.
A Bowring Brothers Ltd. vessel out of St. John’s, the SS Algerine, was among the four last ships commissioned by the White Star Line to search for bodies.
According to the website Encyclopedia Titanica, a source of all things Titanic, the vessel was a 505-tonne cargo and passenger ship that was sometimes used for sealing.
It left St. John’s May 16, 1912, and spent three weeks searching.
It found one body, that of James McGrady, a saloon steward whose body was No. 330.
His remains were transferred at sea to another Bowring vessel, the Florizel, and brought to Halifax.
Capt. John Jackman commanded the Algerine on the recovery mission, while Richard B. Giles was chief officer.
Also on board were undertakers Andrew Carnell of Carnell’s Funeral Home and a Mr. Lawrence from the Lawrence Brothers funeral home.
Larry Dohey of The Rooms Provincial Archives offers an explanation of their presence.
“(White Star Line) wanted to leave the impression this was a very controlled, a very well-organized recovery mission, and the greatest dignity would be given to these bodies; that included on every vessel there was supposed to be a clergy person and a qualified undertaker.”
Carnell, the archivist notes, had left the island for training and was the most qualified mortician on the island.
Encyclopedia Titanica says there was no record of clergy being on board.
Incidentally, the Algerine was built by Harland and Wolff, the same Belfast firm that built the Titanic.
It was built in 1880 and rebuilt in 1910.