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ISMAY, THOMAS HENRY (1837–1899), shipowner, eldest son of Joseph Ismay, shipbuilder, of Marypoint, Cumberland, was born there on 7 Jan. 1837. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to a firm of shipbrokers (Imrie & Tomlinson) in Liverpool, and on the expiration of his time made a voyage to South America, visiting the several ports on the west coast. Returning to Liverpool he started in business on his own account, and engaged especially in the Australian trade. In 1867 he acquired the White Star line of Australian clippers, and in the following year, in partnership with an old friend and fellow-apprentice, William Imrie, he formed the Oceanic Steamship Company. In 1870 they added the American trade to their other ventures, and in 1871 began running their steamers regularly between Liverpool and New York. In co-operation with Harland and Wolff of Belfast, the White Star liners earned a good reputation for safety, comfort, and speed; it is stated that between 1870 and 1899 they paid to Harland and Wolff no less a sum than 7,000,000l. In 1878 the White Star line placed their steamers at the disposal of the government as transports or cruisers an offer which led to the modern system of subsidising certain private companies. At the naval review at Spithead in 1897, the Teutonic, one of the largest steamers then afloat, was sent by Ismay to take part in the national display. In 1892 Ismay retired from the firm of Ismay, Imrie, & Co., but retained the chairmanship of the White Star Company, whose fleet then consisted of eighteen steamers, of an aggregate of 99,000 tons, which by 1899 was increased to 164,000. Ismay was also chairman of the Liverpool and London Steamship Protection Association, a director of the London and NorthWestern Railway Company, and of many other industrial enterprises. In 1884 he served on Lord Ravensworth's admiralty committee on contract versus dockyard systems of building ships; in 1888 on Lord Hartington's royal commission on army and navy administration, and on several other important committees. He was a liberal supporter of the Liverpool Seamen's Orphan Institution; and in 1887 he contributed 20,000l. towards a pension fund for worn-out Liverpool sailors. He was for some years a J.P. and D.L. of Cheshire, and high sheriff in 1892. He died at Dawpool, near Birkenhead, on 23 Nov. 1899, and was buried on the 27th in the churchyard of Thurstanton, after a semi-public memorial service in St. Nicholas's, Liverpool. Notwithstanding his liberal charities, his estate, as proved, was considerably over 1,000,000l. Ismay married in 1859 Margaret, daughter of Luke Bruce, and left issue three sons and four daughters. His portrait by Millais in 1885 was presented to him by the shareholders of the White Star Company.

[Times, 24 Nov. 1899; Who's Who, 1899; Whitaker's Almanack, 1901, p. 382.]

J. K. L.