A day of pride at Titanic memorial

CLEAR VISION ... John Lightfoot, left, unveils the restored memorial to Titanic engineer Joseph Bell.
CLEAR VISION ... John Lightfoot, left, unveils the restored memorial to Titanic engineer Joseph Bell.

THE boss of a South Tyneside marine firm has unveiled a restored memorial to the chief engineer of the Titanic.

John Lightfoot, chairman of South Shields-based Solar Solve Marine, travelled to Farlam, in Cumbria, to unveil the commemorative headstone of Joseph Bell, who went down with the White Star liner when she sank in 1912.

The memorial had been restored by Jarrow-based Abbey Stonecroft, following a fund-raising appeal.

Mr Lightfoot, who was representing seafarers and maritime organisation globally, also laid a wreath.

He became personally involved with the Joseph Bell Memorial Appeal after reading about it in the Cumberland News.

He subsequently contacted Barrie Bell Hogson, who was researching James Bell as part of his family history, and also Ann and Brian Freer, owners of Farlam House, the family farm where Joseph Bell was brought up following his birth in 1861.

They discovered that a memorial had been cut into Joseph Bell’s father’s gravestone in the graveyard of Farlam’s St Thomas-a-Becket Church, but the Bell family burial plot had become overgrown and inaccessible.

An appeal to raise money for the memorial’s restoration was launched, and a biography of Bell published.

Since then, John Lightfoot has helped to bring the appeal to the attention of the marine industry, which has supported all the others involved in getting the memorial re-lettered, cleaned and re-sealed, with a new location plaque sited nearby.

Overgrowth has also been cleared, and a new footpath created, making the site easier to reach.

The memorial was re-dedicated at a commemoration service in the old churchyard.

It’s hoped that donations to the appeal will continue, allowing further improvements to the site, including a notice board detailing the history associated with it.

Joseph Bell served his time at the works of Robert Stephenson & Co on Tyneside, before joining the Mercantile Marine.

He served with Lamport and Holt line, before joining White Star in 1885, and going on to serve in some of its most famous vessels, among them Corinthic, Oceanic, Laurentic and the Olympic, from which he joined the Titanic.

He was 51 at the time of his death, and left a widow and four children.

n Visit www.josephbellengineer.wordpress.com.