Rolls Royce ‘Titanic Ghost’ makes a stop in Cashel

January each year signals the desire to change the car, to come up the years or perhaps even get a new one, which means there will be more cars are sold at that than at any other time of the year.

January each year signals the desire to change the car, to come up the years or perhaps even get a new one, which means there will be more cars are sold at that than at any other time of the year.

So often what make and model to choose exercises lots of thought and discussion. Two of the main attributes we look for are reliability and longevity.

These days with mechanical warranties of five and seven years becoming almost the norm and a dozen years anti-corrosion warranties not uncommon, any car we buy is likely to last long enough for us to at least save towards its replacement.

Just how long will it be before our once brand new machine goes to that motor car Valhalla of the inevitable scrap-yard in the sky?

A dozen years or so is fairly average, but cars lasting maybe a score of years are pretty thin on the ground.

To find one lasting and having been used for over a hundred years is almost unheard of. However that was the case with a car which stopped in Lady’s Well Street, while taking part in a vintage car run from Dublin to Cork.

Owned by Albert and Margaret White, from Grantham, Linconshire, Margaret has strong Cashel connections her aunt the late Katie Fitzgerald, (nee Holmes lived in Lacey Square and she still has a lot of cousins living in the town.) The one hundred and two year old Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost which in common with the practice of its time had been named, rather like naming a ship, so that a cast metal plate on the scuttle under the centre of the windscreen proclaimed it to be the “Titanic Ghost”.

The story of the car and how it got its name, is fascinating. The chassis (each owner had the body made and fitted separately) was ordered from Rolls-Royce in November 1909 by the Rt. Hon. Lord Pirrie KP PC of Whitley Park, Godalming, Surrey, HM’s Lieutenant, for the City of Belfast in 1911 and Chairman of Harland and Wolff Ltd; the chassis was delivered to Morgan and Co Ltd of Long Acre, London in May 1910 to be fitted with “ceremonial double phaeton” coachwork.

Interestingly it was Pirrie who persuaded Bruce Ismay into the concept of constructing the then largest ships in the world; Titanic, Britannic and Olympic which were built at the Harland and Wolf shipyards in Belfast.

On Pirrie’s death in 1924, the car was passed to his brother-in-law, the Hon Alexander, Montgomery Carlisle who was chief designer at the shipyard and who represented the company at the Board of Trade enquiry into the sinking of RMS Titanic in April 1912. Carlisle had the phaeton body removed and a cabriolet body substituted.

When the Carlisle died in 1926 the car was sold for £35 and fitted with an ambulance body.

Sinking even lower down the social scale, in 1932 the body was removed and the car used as a breakdown truck and subsequently as the prime mover for a set of gang mowers on a Surrey golf club.

It was again for sale in 1950 in a breaker’s yard on the main London to Maidstone road for the derisory sum of £3 10s (£3.50).

It was then purchased to continue its life as a breakdown truck, but in 1955 when recognition had set in that these old cars might become more valuable, the car’s fortunes changed for the better.

The by now very well used Rolls-Royce breakdown truck came into the hands of London Rolls-Royce agents Jack Barclay, who had a period style body built on this very early example of the marque for use as a sales promotional vehicle. The rejuvenated old car served them well for thirty years until it was sold to an American owner in June 1985.

As has happened with quite a lot of these cars that made their way over to the USA, the car was “repatriated” in 2000 and became the subject of a four-year restoration to return the car to as near original as possible.

The work included the construction of a replica of the double phaeton coachwork, made possible by the discovery of contemporary photographs.

Much praise to all concerned in that the result is magnificent and one would need to be a RR expert of world class to know that it was not totally authentic; in fact it might well be better (or more polished) in some respects than when lord Perry first took delivery 100 years ago.

What might the one-time £3.50 car be worth today? Let us say that the most expensive new current model Rolls-Royce would be no swop for its century-old antecedent. This particular Titanic may well almost have been lost without trace, but unlike its ocean going namesake it is a superb survivor.