ONE of the forgotten heroes of the Titanic, who grew up in Blackburn, had a deep sense of foreboding before he ever set foot on the doomed liner.

Little wonder as Jonathan Shepherd, a junior second assistant engineer, had already experienced a naval mishap a year earlier in 1911 when a sister ship of the Titanic, The Olympic, was damaged in a collision with a British warship off the Isle of Wight.

Shepherd, of London Road, was commended for showing “great presence of mind” as he helped to close the ship's water-tight doors, while up to his knees in water after it hit HMS Hawke.

But his unshakeable feelings of despondency before setting sail on HMS Titanic baffled both himself and his family.

Interviewed later by the Northern Daily Telegraph, the forerunner of the Lancashire Telegraph, his father told how his son was “down in the dumps”.

Before he was due to depart for his commision, he was said to have spoken to a picture of his late mother, on the wall, and said: “Not long mother, not long.” His dad, Mr James Shepherd said asked him: “What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of death?”

And his son replied: “No I'm not afraid of death, but I don't want to go.”

He had worked for the White Star Line for nearly six years and held a first-class chief engineer's certificate, also serving on another ship, The Adriatic.

Jonathan Shepherd was born on March 31, 1880 in Whitehaven and moved to Blackburn with his family when very young. He served an apprenticeship at a Blackburn foundary called James Davenport and worked for Accrington-based textile loom manufacturers Howard & Bullough before going to sea with W.S Kennaugh & Sons of Liverpool. He was described as: “A fine young fellow. muscular, and stood six foot without his boots.”

He served on ships owned by James Chambers & Co. of Liverpool and joined the White Star line after obtaining his first class marine engineer’s certificate of competency in 1907.

On the fateful evening of April 14th, 1912 he was on duty on the Titanic and after the collision he helped the other engineeers rig pumps in boiler room No. 5 but broke his leg when he slipped into a raised access plate.

Leading fireman Frederick Barrett and engineer Herbert Harvey helped him to the pump-room. Shortly afterwards the nearby bulkhead was breached and Shepherd was left helpless to drown as the waters rose around him.

Titanic’s chief engineer Joseph Bell had selected Jonathan to accompany him on the vessel, as junior assistant engineer. However, his father James said at the time: “My lad did not want to go on Titanic, he would rather have stopped on Olympic.

“But, Mr Bell, when he was promoted to larger vessels belonging to the White Star Company chose my son to go with him every time. It was an honour that we appreciated, but somehow or another in this instance my boy was reluctant to change ships. Still, he felt it to be his duty, and he went.”

Jonathan visited his home in Blackburn a few weeks before going to Belfast to join the crew of Titanic, and the local paper reported: “He was not so jolly when he went away, as “he seemed to have an idea that something would happen.”

The Shepherd family were no strangers to the effects of disaster as in 1870 Jonathan’s father James had planned to sail from New York to England on the City of Boston. However, he changed his mind at the last minute and didn’t board the ship, which foundered in the Atlantic Ocean. His family were not aware of the true circumstances, and mourned him..

In another reported tribute James Shephard said: ‘My lad would remain on duty, sink or swim. He would stick to his post to the last.’ Jonathan did exactly that. If his body was recovered it was never identified.