The inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic may have been influenced by the Freemasons, new evidence suggests.
A secret archive containing the names of two million Freemasons has been made public for the first time on the genealogy site Ancestrywhich reveals extensive Masonic involvement in the controversial British investigation into the catastrophe.
It confirms that not only the judge who oversaw the British Wreck Commissioner’s inquiry into the disaster and leading investigators, but also even some of those who escaped censure were all Freemasons.
While a US Senate inquiry into the sinking savaged the White Star Line and singled out the British Board of Trade for blame for lax regulations which allowed the scandalously small number of lifeboats fitted on the ship, the UK investigation overseen by Lord Mersey avoided blaming the Board of Trade.
Lord Mersey himself – John Charles Bigham – was, the records show, a Freemason, initiated in 1881 at the Northern Bar Lodge in London.
Crucially, so too appears to have been the President of the Board of Trade Sydney Buxton, initiated at Limehouse in East London in 1888 where he was the local MP at the time.
The names of at least two of the inquiry’s five expert assessors – Prof John Harvard Biles, a specialist in naval architecture, and Edward Chaston, the senior engineer assessor – can also be found in the Masonic archive.
Meanwhile Lord Pirrie, who was not only chairman of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast which built the Titanic but, crucially, also one of the directors of White Star’s parent company, also appears to have been a Freemason.
The peer was born William Pirrie in Quebec in 1847. The records show a William Pirrie initiated at St George’s Lodge in Montreal in 1904.
Titanic Expert Nic Compton, author of Titanic on Trial told History.com: “The Titanic inquiry in Britain was branded a ‘whitewash’ because it exonerated most of those involved. Only three passengers were interviewed, and they were all from first class.
“Even Captain Smith was exonerated on the grounds that most other ships at that time also sped through the ice at full speed with no serious consequences.
“The only person both inquiries heaped scorn on was the captain of SS Californian, the ship that had stood by about eight miles off, its crew watching the emergency flares being fired by Titanic, without doing anything about it until it was too late.”
Mr Compton said the British inquiry got drawn into more populist issues, such as whether Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon had paid the crew of Lifeboat 1 a bribe not to go back and pick up swimmers and whether Bruce Ismay had behaved like a coward.
The passenger line sank in the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of April 15 1912 after colliding with an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
Lookout Frederick Fleet had spotted the iceberg and altered the bridge but by the time First Officer William Murdoch had ordered the ship to be steered around the obstacle and the engines put in reverse, it was too late. The ship was carrying only enough life boats for half the passengers, the crew were not trained for a full evacuation. In all, more than 1500 people died and 700 survived the disaster.
The British inquiry was headed by the Board of Trade who had approved the ship, and some believed it had little interest in finding itself or White Star negligent.
It concluded that Captain Smith had done “only that which other skilled men would have done in the same position” and neither White Star or its parent company, the International Mercantile Marine Company (IMM) was found negligent.
However the new Freemason links cast new light on the proceedings.
“The records demonstrate the extensive involvement which freemasons have had in British society,” said Diane Clements, director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
“As freemasonry approaches its 300th birthday in 2017, we are pleased to be able to provide access to details of past members.”
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper was an obscure singer whose identity was shielded by fellow Masons, the new records suggest.
A new book by Bruce Robinson, the director and screenwriter of the classic film Withnail and I, claims that the notorious Whitechapel murderer was a man named Michael Maybrick.
In the book They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper, Robinson argues that all of the Ripper killings bore the stamp of Masonic ritual; the symbol of a pair of compasses carved into the face of Catherine Eddowes, the removal of meal buttons and coins from the bodies of Eddowes and Annie Chapman and the cryptic graffiti daubed on a wall in Goulston Street, which he says was “the most flagrant clue of all.”
The new archives prove for the first time that singer Maybrick and his brother James were both masons.
Photo: Courtesy of Fourth Estate
And they reveal that Freemasons were in prominent positions in the Scotland Yard inquiry including the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren and the colleague he appointed to be his “eyes and ears” on the case, Chief Inspector Donald Swanson.
Two coroners who ruled on the murders, Wynne Baxter and Henry Crawford and at least three of the police doctors who examined the bodies were also members of the masons.
Maybrick, who was on the Supreme Grand Council of Freemasons, travelled the country as a performer.
His entry in the carefully handwritten records, describes him as a “vocalist” and states that he was a member of the St Andrew’s Lodge from 1863 until 1887 – meaning he left just a year before the nine-week period in 1888 when five women were murdered in the East End of London, one of the biggest unsolved crimes in British history.
Sir Charles is said to have been a senior member of the Masonic society. He was a founder member of the Quatuor Coronati lodge, and an authority on Freemasonic history and ritual.
Robinson told the Telegraph: “It was endemic in the way England ran itself. At the time of Jack the Ripper, there were something like 360 Tory MPs, 330 of which I can identify as Masons.
“The whole of the ruling class was Masonic, from the heir to the throne down. It was part of being in the club.
‘Part of the whole ethic of Freemasonry is whatever it is, however it’s done, you protect the brotherhood – and that’s what happened.
“They weren’t protecting Jack the Ripper, they were protecting the system that Jack the Ripper was threatening. And to protect the system, they had to protect him. And the Ripper knew it.”
Secret Archive shows extent of freemasonry in Britain
A secret archive containing the names of two million freemasons has been opened to the public for the first time
The list, seen by the Telegraph, could lead to a re-examination of almost 200 years of British history, by revealing the extent of Masonic influence in the upper reaches of society at the height of Britain’s imperial grandeur.
Records, being published online by the genealogy service Ancestry, contain the names of royalty, statesmen and thousands of other influential figures including judges, police, military top brass, lawyers and bishops.
While the individual Masonic connections of some of those included – such as Sir Winston Churchill and Edward VIII – are well known, the records from 1733 to 1923 offer the first comprehensive view of the reach of freemasonry over the age of Empire.
On the military field, those listed range from the Duke of Wellington to Lord Kitchener. In the arts it includes writers such as Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling; the actor Sir Henry Irving while names from the musical world include both Gilbert and Sullivan.
The explorers Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Falcon Scott also feature while scientists listed range from Edward Jenner, the pioneer of vaccines, to Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.
In the world of charity and social reform Dr Thomas Barnardo is among those listed while businessmen include Harry Selfridge while Thomas Telford heads a list of thousands of engineers who ensured Britain’s industrial dominance.
In addition to Edward VIII, monarchs present include Edward VII and George VI.
While most of the entries simply include names, lodges and initiation dates, of the smaller number which specify professions there are 5,500 police officers of different varieties, thousands more military figures, 170 judges, 169 MPs, 16 bishops and at least one Indian prince.
It follows a series of steps by the freemasons in recent decades to open up the organisation while Ancestry believes the records will prove invaluable in helping people trace their roots.
Miriam Silverman, senior UK content manager at Ancestry said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer people an online window into a relatively unknown organisation.
“While we can’t reveal the inner workings of Freemason ceremonies, what we can tell you is the details of over two million historic members.
“So, if you want to find out more about a Freemason ancestor or locate a famous member, now is the perfect time to get online and start your search.”
The freemasons officially date from 1717, when a group of like-minded men in London got together in a coffee house and devised a non-sectarian, socially egalitarian ‘club’ in which ‘men of integrity’ could fraternise, while avoiding the issues of religion and politics.
They took as their guiding metaphor the trade of stonemasonry, hence the symbols of Freemasonry – the square, compass and apron – and its three degrees of evolution, Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has around 250,000 members and The Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland administer some 150,000 members. There may be as many as six million globally – two million in the United States.
The Duke of Kent is the current Grand Master of UGLE, and his brother, Prince Michael of Kent, is a Mason.