Victor Giglio was involved in one of the most famous incidents on board the sinking Titanic but very little is known about his Liverpool roots.
Now curators of Merseyside Maritime Museum’s exciting new exhibition Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story – opening on 30 March 2012 – are appealing for information about Victor Giglio of 22 Linnet Lane near the city’s Sefton Park.
Victor was valet to American multi-millionaire Ben Guggenheim and the two men deliberately dressed in evening clothes as the huge liner slowly sank. Ben, closely attended by Victor, was heard to say: “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”
Ian Murphy, curator of maritime history, says: “There are about a dozen individuals and families called Giglio in the Merseyside area. Very little is known of Victor’s early life and we would like to find out more.
“So far our researches have drawn a blank but we are hoping there are descendents of Victor Giglio still in the area although he left as a small child. We know that he had several brothers who may have settled here and have relatives.”
Anyone who can help is asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 0151 478 4417.
Victor, probably of Italian descent, was the youngest of four sons whose older brothers were born in Egypt. He later became a boarder at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire, the famous school run by Benedictine monks.
He was just 24 when he died with Ben, the fifth son of wealthy mining mogul Meyer Guggenheim. The Guggenheims made their money in the competitive commercial world. Ben was certainly very wealthy but he was not a good businessman and lost more than $8 million in bad investments.
Married with three sons, Ben was a notorious playboy who spent a lot of time travelling, ostensibly on business – he kept an apartment in Paris and had a young French mistress, singer Léontine Aubart.
Victor must have been highly-organised to cater for the whims of his employer on their constant travelling. Both met their deaths in a way that reflected their elegant lifestyles.
Ben and Victor, who had been on a visit to Europe, were returning to the United States. They were accompanied on Titanic by Léontine, her maid Emma Sägesser and Ben’s driver René Pernot.
Ben and Victor occupied a First Class suite while the ladies occupied a separate cabin for propriety’s sake. René travelled Second Class.
Like many other passengers, both Ben and Victor slept through the impact when Titanic hit the iceberg. They were woken up just after midnight by the ladies and Victor, no doubt sleepy and confused, exclaimed: “Never mind icebergs! What is an iceberg?”
Victor politely persuaded Ben to get up and dressed. At first Ben put on a heavy sweater to protect him from the bitter cold. They went up to the Boat Deck where the ladies reluctantly entered a lifeboat.
Ben and Victor coolly returned to their accommodation and changed into evening wear – dark formal suits, starched shirts and ties. Ben puffed on an expensive cigar.
Ben gave a message to a survivor saying: “If anything should happen to me, tell my wife I’ve done my best in doing my duty.”
He, Victor and René all died in the disaster – none of their bodies were recovered.
The Titanic exhibition is part of the National Museums Liverpool’s Liverpool and the World exhibition series part-funded by the European Union - the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Councillor Phil Davies, ERDF North West Local Monitoring Committee member says: “Titanic and Liverpool will be a highlight of the region’s cultural calendar in 2012 said: “This ambitious, international exhibition will help fuel the North West visitor economy and raise awareness of the region’s fantastic cultural offer. Liverpool is a culturally dynamic city and exhibitions such as this demonstrate that we can deliver world-class visitor experiences year-on-year.”