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Titanic keys bring £20,000 in Christie’s ‘Out of the Ordinary’ sale

A set of keys from the Titanic have doubled their estimate at a Christie’s auction in London, selling for £20,000 ($26,400).
They keys belonged to Samuel Ernest Hemming, the lamp trimmer on board RMS Titanic, who survived the tragedy and later gave evidence to the US Senatorial Inquiry into the disaster.

Hemmings had spent his life at sea, taking his first job aboard a ship when he was just 15, and was aged 43 when the Titanic set sail.

During the enquiry he listed his duties as "to mix the paint, and all that kind of thing for the ship, and to look after all the decks, trim all the lamps, and get them in proper order, and to put the lights in at night-time and take them off at daybreak".

According to his account, Hemmings was woken by the impact of the iceberg and discovered air was escaping from the exhaust tank. However, having reported this to his Chief Officer, he returned to his bunk not realizing the extent of the damage to the ship.

Moments later he was alerted by the ship’s joiner and the Boatswain, who allegedly told him "Turn out you fellows. You haven’t half an hour to live. That is from Mr. Andrews, but keep it to yourselves and let no-one know."

Hemming then rushed to the deck and helped prepare and load the lifeboats, ensuring each of them was equipped with lamps before lowering them into the icy black sea below.
He remained on board after all the main lifeboats had sailed, and when Second Officer Lightoller asked him "Why haven’t you gone Hemming?", he replied, "Oh, plenty of time yet, Sir."

He was preparing to release a collapsible lifeboat from the roof, but the ship sank with lightning speed and Hemmings soon found himself in the water, where he was picked up by Lifeboat number 4 in a bad condition.

He thankfully made a full recovery and later returned to England, where he lived in Southampton with his wife Elizabeth until passing away in 1928.

The keys were just one of the remarkable items consigned to the Christie’s sale by the renowned collector David Gainsborough Roberts.

Further highlights from his collection included a desert robe worn by Lawrence of Arabia which sold for £27,500 ($36,300); a pair of Queen Victoria’s drawers which fetched £16,250 ($21,450); and a pair of John Lennon’s cufflinks which realized £15,000 ($19,800).

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