Reverend Roussel Davids Byles

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Thomas Roussel Davids Byles

Birthdate: (42)
Birthplace: Leeds, Yorkshire, England
Death: April 15, 1912 (42) (Titanic victim)
Immediate Family:

Son of Alfred Holden Byles and Louisa Bridget Byles
Brother of William Esdaile Byles; Hilda Margaret Byles; Helen Beuzeville Byles and Edith Mary Byles

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About Reverend Roussel Davids Byles

Reverend Byles

Fr Thomas Roussel Davids Byles was born in Yorkshire, England on 26 February 1870, to Louisa Davids and Alfred Holden Byles; he was the eldest of seven children.

Byles' father, the Reverend Dr. Alfred Holden Byles was a congregational Minister and a successful businessman. He was the first pastor of Headingley Hill Congregational Church, Leeds. Records show the family's home address as York Road Council Schools, Leeds, Yorkshire. In the 1890s he was the Minister of Shelton-Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent and also lived for a time in Omaha, NE, USA with his wife and two of their children (a daughter and Winter, their son). Whilst in America he supplied the First Congregational Church in Omaha with a pulpit. The family later returned to England. Rev Byles senior died on 8 December 1911 [2].

Byles' uncle, Mr F. Byles, lived in Bradford, and another uncle—who was born in Bradford—was Sir William Pollard Byles (1839–1917), radical, social reformer and member of Parliament for Salford North (elected 1906). One of Roussel's sisters became a missionary in China.

Byles was educated at Leamington College and Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire (1885–89) where he was a 'scholar' and school monitor for Crescent House.

In 1889 Byles went to Balliol College, Oxford [3] where he studied mathematics, modern history and theology. He was also Vice-President of the Arnold Society (a select undergraduate debating society at Balliol). He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1894. While studying at Oxford he converted to Catholicism and the following year went to work as a Master at St Edmund's College, Ware, Hertfordshire, a boys' school and Roman Catholic seminary. In 1897 he wrote 'A School Commentary on 2nd Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians', his only published work.

Byles it would appear was not in generally good health his letters allude to occasional beak-downs and fits:

   I hope to enter some Religious Order early in next year, but I want to wait a little, partly because I have not yet found out which Order I am best fitted for, & partly because my doctor tells me that by next February, if I have not recurrence, I may consider myself quite cured of my fits, & till that is safe it would probably be difficult to find any Order willing to accept me.
   Sept 14, 1897

Byles worked at St Edmund's until 1899 when he travelled to Rome to study for the priesthood. He received a B. D. (Bachelor of Divinity) from Gregorian University in 1901 and was ordained on 15 June 1902; he finished his studies in Rome in 1903. From 1905 to 1912 he was the Roman Catholic Rector of Ongar, Essex.

Byles' younger brother William also converted to Catholicism but moved to America to run a rubber business and fell in love with Katherine Russell of Brooklyn. When they planned to marry William asked his brother to officiate at the ceremony (planned for the Sunday after his arrival). He and his brother Winter (living in America) made arrangements to travel to New York. Fr Byles was initially scheduled to travel on another White Star liner but switched at the last minute to the Titanic. His second class ticket was number 244310 and cost £13. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912.

While the Titanic lay at anchor at Cherbourg he wrote to his housekeeper, Miss Field back at his parish in Chipping Ongar, Essex

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Reverend Roussel Davids Byles's Timeline

February 26, 1870
Leeds, Yorkshire, England
April 15, 1912
Age 42