A MAN branded “the luckiest” to survive the sinking of the Titanic has direct family links to the region.

Thomas Patrick Dillon was one of the lucky few who went under the water and survived when the ship dubbed ‘unsinkable’ sank 99 years ago this month.

His great-nephew, also called Thomas Dillon, of Buckley, has dedicated much of his time to attempting to uncover more information.

With his great-uncle being away at sea from a young age, Mr Dillon initially had little insight into his relative’s involvement with the Titanic.

“I did everything I could to find out more,” said Mr Dillon, 70. “It took me years to find out stuff about him.

“My father always said we had a connection to the Titanic.

“But my great-uncle was lost to the family because he never lived at home and was always away on ships.”

Progress was eventually made and more details were obtained through newspaper offices and he spoke to a couple of people who knew of him.

With the use of the internet it has also become easier for relatives of Titanic passengers to discover details about those on board, with full profiles available of many who were on the ship when it made what was its maiden – and only – voyage.

Records show Mr Dillon, who was 34 at the time of the Titanic voyage, lived in Southampton but hailed from Liverpool.

His most recent ship had been the Oceanic and he received monthly wages of £5.10s for his endeavours.

As the ship sank Mr Dillon helped fellow passengers into lifeboats.

But following his good deed, he found himself in water on the ship’s deck and jumped with three other men.

The other members of the group died, but Mr Dillon showed great resilience as his life hung by a thread in the freezing sea.

He later recalled that he swam for “about 20 minutes” before being picked up by a rescue boat.

He recalled seeing hundreds of others in the water as the ordeal of the sinking began to hit home.

The realisation of how close he came to dying struck him when, after recovering from passing out on the rescue boat, he awoke to find two men lying dead on top of him.

Historical accounts from a female passenger suggest Mr Dillon may have been drunk when he was rescued after drinking brandy, with one historian describing him as the “luckiest man of the night” for surviving and it is a view to which his great-nephew is willing to subscribe.

“He must have been the luckiest man of that particular time,” said Mr Dillon.
Having survived the ordeal, Mr Dillon continued to serve at sea  and was asked to give evidence at the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry into the events of the night the Titanic sank.

Mr Dillon lived until 1939 when he died suddenly, being buried in his native Liverpool.

Feeling a sense of pride at being related to someone who helped others during the sinking of the Titanic, his great-nephew revealed the story stands out in an otherwise routine family tree.

“It’s the only claim to fame the Dillons have ever had really,” said Mr Dillon.