Thomas Henry Ismay

Thomas Henry IsmayThomas Henry Ismay (1836-1899) was the chairman of the White Star Line, famous for its doomed ship, the Titanic.

Born on January 7, 1836, at Maryport, Ismay was the eldest son of shipbuilder Joseph Ismay. His roots were well established in the county as the Ismay family in the 1600s lived at Bromfield, south-west of Wigton. Over time they migrated to Cockermouth, then Maryport. His father, Joseph, worked for a local shipbuilder, then started his own business.

When he was 16 Thomas moved to Liverpool to apprentice with a firm of shipbrokers. Afterwards he travelled to South America. When he returned in 1858 he purchased, for the sum of £1000, the White Star line which had gone bankrupt. He founded the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. The flag with a white star on it that belonged to the original company was adapted as the new company's flag. A firm of Belfast shipbuilders was engaged to build the company's ships. The company ran vessels trading around the world.

Ismay married Margaret Bruce in 1859 when he was twenty-two and over the ensuing decade amassed a fortune, rising from a worth of £2000 to half a million. He had parlayed this into £1.25 million by the time he died. He had three sons and four daughters.

When he retired in 1892 his son, Joseph, took over as head of the firm. Ismay, however, keep his chairmanship of the White Star Line. It was during Joseph's reign that the Titanic was built and sunk. Ismay died at Dawpool (near Birkenhead) and his grave is nearby in the Thurstaston churchyard on the Wirral peninsula.

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