Kamloops man proud of grandfather's carpentry on Titanic

Three degrees of separation

There's a painting that hangs over the fireplace in Brian Kelly's house - a portrait he bought of a ship that has fascinated the world since it set sail 100 years ago.

When Kelly looks at it, he thinks about his grandfather.

"I know my mother and uncle always said that for years and years and years you didn't want to talk about it to Pop because it always got him really depressed," said Kelly of the ship depicted.

"He would think about all those people and all his beautiful work that was at the bottom of the ocean."

Kelly's grandfather, Robert Kerr, was a carpentry foreman whose crew finished the elaborate interior of the Titanic when it was being built at Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland.

"If you've ever seen pictures of it, the cabins have got all these beautiful wooden panels and columns and that sort of thing," said Kelly.

"That would have been the work that he did."

Kelly's grandfather died in 1959 at the age of 86.

He didn't like to talk about the Titanic when he was alive but his descendents view his workmanship and connection to the famous luxury liner as a source of family pride.

And the Kellys aren't the only Kamloops residents with a connection to the Titanic. Christalee Brinkworth's great-grandfather's uncle was William McMaster Murdoch, the ship's 1st Officer.

"So he would have been the second-highest rank under the captain," said Brinkworth.

"He didn't survive. He was 39 years old."

Brinkworth, whose maiden name is Murdoch, grew up in Walhachin and says there wasn't much talk of William in her family.

"Not a lot," she said. "I just knew that there is a relation to him, and then, of course, when the movie came out we heard a little bit more about him through family and stuff."

Perhaps the most talked about ship ever, the Titanic continues to captivate people the world over.

The ship sailed from the English port city of Southampton on April 10, 1912, with some 2,200 passengers onboard. But it sank just days into the voyage after striking an iceberg off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The story of how 1,500 passengers and crew died has been told many times, through books, television specials and movies; perhaps the most famous one being the Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. A 3-D version of the movie had its world premiere on Easter weekend.

And, while Robert Kerr likely wanted to erase every memory of his dry-dock days on the Titanic, his grandson has a different sentiment. The ship's sinking doesn't diminish the fact that Kerr was a fine craftsman. Photos of the ship's elaborate woodwork are everlasting proof of that.

"It's been something we've been kind of proud of in our family and have talked about over the years," said Kelly.

As for this weekend's grim anniversary, Kelly said he and his wife will probably watch the movie over the weekend. They've seen it a few times, and they know how the story ends, but it's a tale that never gets boring.

litt@kamloopsnews.ca

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