Titanic letter to return to Belfast

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LONDON (AP) — The descendants of a doctor who died on the Titanic said Tuesday they are delighted that a letter he penned days before the ship sank will return to his hometown, Belfast.

John Edward Simpson's family had appealed for a benefactor to buy the note, which was put up for auction earlier this month in Long Island, New York.

It did not meet the reserve price of $34,000, Philip Weiss Auctions said, but a buyer who did not want to be named then bought it for an undisclosed sum after hearing about the family's campaign to bring the letter to the Northern Irish city for public display.

Simpson's great-nephew John Martin said the note will soon return to Belfast, where the Titanic was built.

"For it to be on its way back is just amazing and so appropriate now just ahead of the 100th anniversary of his death. We are so thankful to the benefactor," he said.

The surgeon wrote the note to his mother on April 11, 1912, days before the ship sank. In the letter, written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic, the 37-year-old said he was settling in well. He also noted that his cabin was larger than the accommodation onboard the Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, where he had previously worked.

The letter was brought ashore at Cobh (now called Queenstown), Ireland, the Titanic's last port of call before the ship set sail for America. It was dispatched to Simpson's mother, Elizabeth, who lived in Belfast.

Three days after he wrote the letter, Simpson died along with 1,500 others after the ship struck an iceberg.

Martin said his family had held the letter for generations but Simpson's 81-year-old daughter-in-law gave it to a Titanic enthusiast in Holland 15 years ago. The family lost track of the letter until learning it is to be auctioned by Philip Weiss Auctions. The auction house said it could not disclose the identity of the seller.

Simpson's story will form part of a new Titanic exhibition opening in Belfast next month ahead of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

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