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15 April 2012
A minute’s silence was observed after wreaths were laid at the memorial
A new memorial garden was opened alongside Belfast City Hall this morning to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.
More than 1,500 passengers, crew and musicians died when the liner struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic on 15 April 1912.
A feature of the garden is a series of plaques listing the names of the 1,512 people who lost their lives when the vessel sank en route to New York.
A minute’s silence was also held after the memorial garden was opened.
The boat was built in Belfast and relatives of workmen who made and work on the vessel were present for today’s ceremony.
Dr Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck in 1985, was in Belfast for today’s ceremony and delivered a memorial lecture yesterday.
He spoke about the next 100 years, of preserving the wreck and making it available to all via communications technology, beaming live images from the depths.
This afternoon the Taoiseach officially opened the Titanic Memorial Park in the village of Lahardane in Co Mayo.
14 people left the parish of Addergoole to board the Titanic for America; 11 died while three women survived. Some of their descendants have returned from America for the commemoration.
Local people fundraised to build a memorial park, which includes life-size bronze sculptures of Titanic passengers and the bow of the ship.
A hearth has also been built with stones collected from the cottages of the Addergoole 14.
This weekend villagers unveiled an 80ft replica of the Titanic on the water beside Addergoole Cemetary. It was built in secret over four months by local men.
This morning at 2.20am – the precise time of the sinking of the ship – the lights on the model ship were extinguished as the bell tolled in the church at Lahardane.
Elsewhere, a wreath-laying ceremony took place this morning aboard the Le Eithne at the Titanic’s last anchorage in Cork harbour.
There have been other ceremonies across the world to recognise the ship’s sinking.
Out in the Atlantic, a cruise ship tracing the liner’s route across the ocean paused at a point over the wreck.
A memorial service was held on the MS Balmoral and wreaths were thrown into the sea.
In the Canadian city of Halifax, where 150 victims of the disaster are buried, church bells rang out to mark the anniversary and there was a candle-lit procession.
Meanwhile in Lichfield in England, more than 1,500 candles were laid at the statue of Edward Smith, the Titanic’s captain.
13 April 2012
THE area where the Titanic was built by Belfast’s working men a century ago is in danger of becoming “a foreign country” to many of their descendants, a former Presbyterian moderator has warned.
The Rev Dr Norman Hamilton said that an area which has long been associated with the working man in Belfast could become somewhere only accessible to tourists and the well-off.
Writing in today’s News Letter, the north Belfast minister says that Belfast’s new Titanic Quarter – with its expensive apartments, multi-national bank headquarters, gleaming visitor centre and film studio – is in danger of economically excluding many in Belfast.
Dr Hamilton stressed he wants the vast Titanic Quarter regeneration project to be successful but said that the £7 billion project could do more to welcome those at the margins of society.
“I had the privilege of standing on the fifth floor (the conference level) of the new Titanic building a few days ago and looked out across the Lough to north Belfast and my part of town,” he said.
“I couldn’t help but think that it was a very far distance for so many of my neighbours to travel if they too were to be able to stand where I was at that exact moment.
“The Titanic Quarter is no longer the natural habitat of those whose grandparents helped to build the Titanic.”
He said that Belfast Metropolitan College’s Titanic Quarter campus provided some hope that those educated there may find employment in that part of the city.
But he added: “Yet my angst has not diminished that this wonderful Titanic building and the long-term vision that has made it happen may not be fully owned by a younger generation who face long-term unemployment, and that they will see it as being in another country populated by tourists, visitors from cruise ships and conference delegates.”
The Presbyterian minister said he was concerned that almost everything in the area was commercial in nature.
Titanic Belfast chief executive Tim Husbands said in a statement: “Titanic Belfast is a massive opportunity for Northern Ireland to put itself on the international tourist map, but it’s also very much a project for the people of Belfast.
“We’ve worked hard with Belfast City Council and the Titanic Foundation to engage with schools and local communities across the city and that will be an ongoing process.
“In comparison to other attractions of this standard, Titanic Belfast is competitively priced and there is already free access to Titanic’s slipways and Titanic Belfast’s plaza.
“Public realm areas are integral to the wider Titanic Quarter development and the objective is to ‘build communities where once we built ships’.
“The aim is to develop these spaces into a new urban park which is as much part of the fabric of Belfast as City Hall is.”
By Conor Humphries
13 Apr 2012
(BELFAST – Reuters) – For much of the century since the Titanic sank, the story of the doomed liner has been a taboo subject in Belfast, an unwelcome reminder of industrial failure and bitter sectarian division in the city that built her.
Now Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, buoyed by 14 years of peace, aims to salvage the liner as a symbol of one-time industrial might, hoping the Hollywood glamour around its story can create an icon for a new, united city.
Cast as a monument to the 1998 deal that ended three decades of violence, a 97-million pound Titanic museum was opened by Catholic and Protestant leaders last month to mark the centenary of the ship’s launch and fateful first voyage.
The museum’s 38-meter-tall glass-and-aluminium facade redraws a skyline long dominated by the yellow cranes of Harland and Wolff, the Protestant-dominated shipyard that built the Titanic and the scene of some of the worst sectarian rioting before 1920 partition and beyond.
“For too long, perhaps more than anything because of a sense of profound sorrow, the Titanic has never been truly remembered at home, but all that has now changed,” said Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
“These buildings… are being used to write a new history, to write a better history,” he said.
McGuinness himself, long despised by Protestant shipyard workers for his role as a commander in the Irish Republican Army paramilitary group in the 1970s, recently discovered that one of his relatives had helped build the Titanic.
The period around the launching of the ship was one of the most turbulent in Irish history as Protestant industrialists led a campaign to prevent the government of Ireland being moved from London to Dublin.
The struggle led to sectarian bloodshed in Belfast and a civil war in the south and helped pave the way for the carving out of a Protestant-majority northeast, which remained part of Britain, a decade later.
Hundreds of Catholics were expelled from the yards during sectarian riots in the months that followed Titanic’s launch.
For Protestants the liner, the largest floating vessel at the time, was supposed to symbolise Northern Ireland’s industrial prowess.
But instead of a triumphant arrival in New York, the news that came was of catastrophic failure as the ship sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, with a fraction of the lifeboats required, killing 1,500 of the 2,200 people on board.
The sinking dealt a huge blow to the prestige of the shipyard and the North’s industrial legacy. Fearing what the bad publicity could mean for the province and the shipyard, generations swept the story under the carpet.
“There was such a shock that everyone just clammed up about it,” said Susie Millar, the great granddaughter of a Harland and Wolff engineer killed when the liner sank.
“When I was at school it was never mentioned. It was ‘don’t mention the ‘T’-word’. It was taboo.”
The shipyard declined rapidly in the 1980s and 90s as British heavy industry lost out to lower cost competition from Asia – its workforce is just hundreds today from 30,000 at its peak – and memories of the ship’s sinking stayed deep.
The success of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster film and the security promised by the 1998 peace deal raised the possibility of a lucrative tourist industry and kindled the overwhelming desire by most in the province to return to normality.
“Northern Ireland desperately needs to make cash. I think that supersedes any idea that it was a Protestant project, a Protestant ship,” said Millar, who has built a business around the Titanic, offering customised tours.
The shipyard, which has given up shipbuilding for servicing ships and marine infrastructure, is steering clear of the fireworks, concerts and banquets marking the anniversary; its only involvement is sponsoring the composing of a requiem mass.
But books and films testify to the ship’s use of state-of-the-art technologies and highlight the hundreds of other successful ships built at the yard. The city steadfastly maintains the ship’s design was not at fault in its sinking.
“She was fine when she left here,” is the slogan emblazoned across t-shirts and mugs on sale across the city.
“Any other vessel afloat would have went down in a much shorter time” on hitting an iceberg, said David McVeigh, a spokesman for Harland and Wolff. “It was built as well as man knew how at that time.”
ANY OPPOSITION MUTED
When Derry was named 2013 British city of culture in 2010, Irish nationalists opposed to Northern Ireland’s position in Britain responded with several bomb attacks.
By contrast, any opposition to the Titanic project has been muted. But that does not mean the revival is universally loved in Belfast.
“It’s an attempt to airbrush history,” said Brian Feeney, a columnist with the Irish News, newspaper of the city’s Catholic Irish nationalist minority.
“Nationalist Belfast has no connection with the Titanic.”
In the 1960s, only 400 of Harland and Wolff’s 10,000 workers were Catholic and Protestant shipyard workers were a mainstay of mass rallies that helped to raise tensions in the city.
More than of 3,600 people were killed in the next 30 years of violence between Catholic Irish nationalists, who wanted a united Ireland, and predominantly Protestant Loyalists who wanted the province to remain British.
“Most people have just kept quiet because they are aware of the attempt to create a new Belfast, attract visitors, tourists and all the rest of it,” Feeney said.
In recent years the government has taken to using the Titanic as a glamorous and relatively neutral topic to build bridges in divided communities.
On the Lower Newtownards Road, the working class streets of dockland workers which became a centre of violence, murals of paramilitaries have been replaced in government-sponsored schemes with images glorifying Titanic and its designers.
In a church where hundreds in 1912 pledged to fight the “calamity” of rule from Dublin, Catholic children were recently invited to paint posters of the Titanic’s builders.
“This would not have been possible even 10 years ago,” said Dan Gordon, a writer from the area who has written plays about the Titanic and the shipyard that chart the hardships suffered by Protestant workers and explore its legacy on the city.
“What has made Titanic acceptable is time… it’s about time healing,” he said. “That is what is happening with the so-called Troubles.”
• Additional reporting by Matt Cowan; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall
LORNA SIGGINS and JOHN FALLON
6 Apr 2012
When 14 people in period costume set off by horse and sidecar this weekend, they will be marking Mayo’s commemoration of the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.
The parishes of Lahardane and Addergoole lost 11 of their 14 residents, who joined the ship in Cobh – then Queenstown – Co Cork, 100 years ago. Every year the event is remembered in the community with the tolling of a church bell.
This year, the parishes are hosting a week-long programme of events, the Mayo Titanic Cultural Week. It will be opened on Easter Sunday by former president Mary Robinson.
The Addergoole 14 will mount their transport and travel to Castlebar, where they will stop to re-enact their ticket purchase in Linenhall Street and Main Street. They will then walk to Castlebar railway station where a plaque will be unveiled.
The three survivors lived out their days in the United States; Addergoole is remembered as the parish that suffered the “largest proportionate loss of life when the Titanic sank”.
Next Wednesday, five Caltra residents, also dressed in period costume, will travel by train from Athlone, Co Westmeath, to Cobh island in Cork harbour, where they will visit the Maritime Heritage Centre and the Titanic Experience museum and will lay a wreath out in Cork harbour.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will open a memorial park in Lahardane on April 15th, incorporating a 12ft bronze sculpture of the ship.
By Eamonn McCann
Friday, 30 March 2012
Tragic story: ‘A Night to Remember’ showed proper reverence for the truth and those who died while Bruce Ismay saved himself
She was touted as the greatest transatlantic liner ever built, but didn’t make it across the Atlantic even once. If she had, we wouldn’t be marking her centenary now.
Eddie McIlwaine had it spot-on in Monday’s paper when he recalled his father and others who had watched the ship sail up Belfast Lough agreeing that, “If the fates had been kinder and she had never met the iceberg … she would now be just a dot in H & W history after being broken up in the knacker’s yard”.
Without the horrible deaths of 1,500 people then, the £90m project in east Belfast would never have been thought of. This is scarcely acknowledged in the hype of the grand opening.
There’s been little sense of the victims other than as extras in an epic adventure – certainly, no sign of rage against the incompetence, injustice and contempt for the poor which characterised the Titanic experience.
The narrative presented in the strangely beautiful ship-shape building will reflect the version of the story which has provided scenarios for such meretricious entertainments as James Cameron’s relentlessly uplifting movie.
In a past age, it proved possible to make a decent film of the Titanic story. Roy Ward Baker’s 1958 ‘A Night To Remember’, written by Eric Ambler and starring Kenneth More, Ronald Allen and Honor Blackman, showed proper reverence for truth and respect for the victims and was as moving as Cameron’s travesty was mawkish. But there’s progress for you.
We are told that the Belfast facility will bring in 400,000 visitors-a-year. In the Stormont speech in which she invited us all to “get on board”, Arlene Foster seemed to offer this figure as a fact, rather than an aspiration, much less a mad guess. I cannot read Ms Foster’s mind, but I’ll go for mad guess.
The deluge of publicity which has swamped the scheme will ensure that, initially at least, there will be long queues for the various attractions.
But in a year or two or five, as the hype fades and austerity bites deeper, will hundreds of thousands still part with their leisure dollars, or euros, or pounds, in exchange for dipping a toe into the Titanic disaster?
The ugly face of class society revealed in the story isn’t likely to pull in the punters, either.
It has long been acknowledged that the first, second and third-class status of the ship’s passengers reproduced the basic divisions in wider society and that these determined in large measure who was to live and who to die.
The Daily Herald of the time, edited by future Labour leader George Lansbury, was 100 years ahead of today’s carefully modulated narrative.
Four days after the ship went down, on April 18, 1912, Lansbury posed the relevant question: “Mr Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, has been saved. Why is it that so few of the steerage passengers have been saved?”
On April 26, having pieced together accounts from survivors arriving back in Southampton, Lansbury streamed ‘Women and Children Last!’ across the top of the front page. The story below told that, of 266 first and second-class women and children, 20 were drowned. Of 255 women and children in steerage, 134, including 53 children, were drowned.
“Where were those 53 steerage children, Mr Ismay, when you saved yourself?” asked the paper. Referring to White Star’s latest profit figures, it continued: “They have paid 30% to their shareholders and they have sacrificed 51% of the steerage children.
“They have gone to sea criminally under-equipped with means of life-saving; they have neglected boat drill; they have filled their boats with cooks and valets, with pleasure gardens and luxurious lounges; they have done all this to get big profits and please the first-class passengers.
“And when the catastrophe came, they hastened to get their first-class passengers and their chairman safely away.”
When the Board of Trade appointed Lord Mersey to head an inquiry, the Herald didn’t hold back. An editorial recalled a case over which Mersey had presided in which a wealthy woman had been charged with cruelty to a child of the labouring class.
“The cruelty was undoubted, the infamy glaring. The sentence was nominal. The defendant was a woman of good station. A first-class passenger … What is likely to be Lord Mersey’s judgment here?”
Does the headline ‘Women and Children Last!’ feature anywhere in the Titanic Building? Is the question ‘Why Did They Die?’ explored?
In what type-size are the words ‘scandal’, ‘crime’ and ‘disgrace’ set? So many questions, so few answers.
The Daily Herald was sold to Rupert Murdoch in 1964. Five years later, it was renamed The Sun. More progress for you.
The dramatic first-hand account of Jack Thayer, a 17-year-old survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, is to be published next month after lying almost forgotten for decades.
By Philip Sherwell, in New York
28 Mar 2012
German artist Willy Stöwer depicted the plight of Titanic’s passengers, unable to all find space in the ship’s lifeboats. (The icebergs in the painting are inaccuracies, but the desperate drama was no doubt real) – Image from PBS.org
It was the desperate cries for help that haunted John “Jack” Thayer after he witnessed the death throes of the Titanic as it reared, roared and plunged into the North Atlantic.
The shouts from those thrown into the icy water swelled into “one long continuous wailing chant”, noted the teenage son of an American railway baron.
“It sounded like locusts on a midsummer night in the woods. This terrible cry lasted for twenty or thirty minutes, gradually dying away, as one after another could no longer withstand the cold and exposure.”
Lost for several decades, his searing first-hand account will be published next month to mark the centennial of the catastrophe in April 1912. Amid the slew of books, documentaries, films, auctions, exhibitions and cruises commemorating the 100th anniversary of the disaster, A Survivor’s Tale stands out for its power, intensity – and indisputable authenticity.
John ‘Jack’ Thayer survived to see the Titanic go down
From his vantage point clinging to an upturned lifeboat, Jack watched the unthinkable befall what was supposed to be the unsinkable. All the more poignant was that his father, also called John Thayer, was among the 1,514 who perished in the seas in the early hours of April 15, 1912.
“We could see groups of the almost 1,500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after-part of the ship, 250 feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a 65 or 70-degree angle,” he recalled.
In 1940, those recollections still vivid, he put them into print in privately-printed edition of just 500 copies for family and friends, which sat largely forgotten on relatives’ bookshelves for the next seven decades.
Now, however, his compelling story is to be published by Thornwillow Press, specialists in hand-made letterpress printed books, after one of the originals was found by Lorin Stein, editor of the literary magazine Paris Review and a distant relative of the Thayers. The copy was inscribed to his great-grandfather.
With appropriate historical resonance, the launch party for A Survivor’s Tale will be hosted by the St Regis Hotel, a prestigious New York institution built by John Jacob Astor, who died on the Titanic.
“This is not just one of the most powerful first-hand descriptions of the sinking, but Jack Thayer also reflects back, after nearly three decades, on what was for him the end of the world that was, a turning-point when the modern world began,” said Luke Pontifell, founder of Thornwillow.
Jack’s account is brought dramatically to life by series of six illustrations, based on his graphic description of the stricken vessel’s final hours and sketched just a few hours after the sinking. LD Skidmore, an artist who was aboard the SS Carpathia when it came to the rescue of the Titanic’s survivors, made drawings as Jack relayed the events of the night before. According to Thayer family lore, Jack may have drawn the outlines first.
A ship’s artist made sketches after hearing his recollections
That the 17-year-old boy even lived to tell the tale defied the odds. For while 710 people, mainly female passengers, of the 2,224 aboard survived, almost all of them had escaped in lifeboats launched before the ship went down. Only about 40 who were thrown or jumped into the sea were rescued – and Jack was among them.
“About one in every 36 who went down with the ship was saved, and I happened to be one,” he noted.
Mr Thayer and his wife Marian boarded with the Titanic with their son and a maid at Southampton on April 10. The ticket for two staterooms and servant quarters cost £110 17s 8d.
The vessel sped across the Atlantic at more than 20 knots on its maiden voyage, intent on a record time for the journey, despite reports of ice. “The weather was fair and clear, the ship palatial, the food delicious,” he observed of life in first class.
After dinner on April 14, he walked the decks, recalling a scene so placid it was beguiling. “It was a brilliant, starry night,” he wrote. “There was no moon and I have never seen the stars shine brighter; they appeared to stand right out of the sky, sparkling like cut diamonds.
“I have spent much time on the ocean, yet I have never seen the sea smoother than it was that night; it was like a mill-pond, and just as innocent looking, as the great ship quietly rippled through it.”
He had said goodnight to his parents at about 11.45pm when he felt the ship sway slightly, veering to port “as though she had been gently pushed”, before the engines suddenly stopped.
He and his father went upstairs to explore. The passengers remained calm, even when to their disbelief, one of the “unsinkable” ship’s designers – with whom the Thayers had spent several evenings – told them he believed it would not survive an hour.
They went back to fetch Mrs Thayer and her maid, then all returned to deck, wearing life preservers of thick cork vests.
The ship’s band, also in life preservers, played on as the vessel’s officers remained at their posts. They fired distress rockets that illuminated the night sky, but they were ignored by at least one nearby vessel, the SS California, which passed close enough at 12.30am for its lights to be seen by many on the Titanic.
Shortly after 12.45am, stewards passed the word “All women to the port side” as lifeboats were lowered into the water, with people scrambling for spaces. The Thayers were separated in the throng – and while Jack’s mother eventually made it to safety, he never saw his father again.
By 2.15am, the sinking liner was tilting sharply out of the water. “We were a mass of hopeless, dazed humanity, attempting, as the Almighty and Nature made us, to keep our final breath until the last possible moment,” he noted of the mood.
The vessel then reared up and, amid a rumbling roar and muffled explosions, he decided to jump. “I was pushed out and then sucked down. The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs.
“Down and down, I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water.”
Falling debris dragged him under water again and when he fought back to the surface, he came up against an overturned lifeboat. Too exhausted to haul himself, the men already clinging to it pulled him up.
To his shock, the other lifeboats, some of which had plenty of space, never returned to try and rescue those – very possibly including his father – calling for help in the water because of fears they too would be swamped.
“The most heartrending part of the whole tragedy was the failure, right after the Titanic sank, of those boats which were only partially loaded, to pick up the poor souls in the water. There they were, only four or five hundred yards away, listening to the cries, and still they did not come back. If they had turned back several hundred more would have been saved.”
The Carpathia, a Cunard liner, had received wireless messages and was by now heading towards them. Thayer was on the last lifeboat to be rescued at about 7.30am, and at the top of the ladder, he saw his mother. Her joy was rapidly tempered. “Where’s daddy?” she asked him “I don’t know, mother,” he replied.
The journey of the next three days was one of crushing sorrow. “The trip back to New York was one big heartache and misery,” he wrote. It seemed as if there were none but widows left, each one mourning the loss of her husband. It was a most pitiful sight.”
Mr Thayer later married the heiress to another railway fortune and pursued his own career in business. But in 1944, his beloved son, a US air force pilot, was killed over the Pacific and his mother also died.
Just a year later, in a tragic postscript to his tale of survival loss, Jack Thayer committed suicide, aged 50 – the same age his father when he went down with the RMS Titanic.
The parish of Addergoole in County Mayo lost 11 young men and women in the Titanic disaster – a sacrifice that still resonates today, almost 100 years later
17 Mar 2012
The Titanic leaves Southampton on her doomed maiden voyage in April 1912. (Photograph: AP)
At precisely 2.20am on 15 April every year, a church bell is rung in the tiny County Mayo parish of Addergoole on the west coast of Ireland.
As the sound echoes across the slopes of Nephin mountain and the surrounding boglands, residents gather in the churchyard to remember the night that changed the parish for ever. It was at this exact time that RMS Titanic disappeared into the inky waters of the Atlantic.
The parish was then home to just a few hundred people, but 14 of them were on board the Titanic. It is believed to have been the greatest loss from the disaster suffered by any area.
As the 100th anniversary approaches, residents say that it is impossible not to feel a connection with those emigrants who set out from the village a century ago – only three of the 14 survived and just one returned, though only briefly. Their loss is still felt keenly.
“I know there are many tragic stories associated with Titanic, but I think ours is particularly sad because so many families from such a small area were affected,” says Mary Rowland of the Addergoole Titanic Memorial Society. “It’s why we’ve never forgotten them and we never will.
“These were people who were looking to better themselves, and most of them died a terrible death instead.”
To commemorate the centenary, a memorial park will be opened in the village and two stained-glass windows have been commissioned for the church, one depicting the people lost and the other the survivors.
Of those who set sail from the southern port of Cobh, in Co Cork, the oldest was 42, the youngest 17. Several had already been in America and each of them knew the others. All 14 travelled in third class, or “steerage”, having paid a one-way fare of about £7 15s.
Among them was Mary Mangan, 32, who was returning to Chicago and her fiancé, whom she was due to marry that summer.
Mangan had come back to Addergoole to visit her sick mother and announce her engagement. She left again with a promise to return soon with her husband. Several weeks after the disaster, salvagers employed by the Titanic’s owners, White Star Line, recorded the details of one of the bodies recovered from the freezing waters as: “Number 61: female. Estimated age: 30. Hair: light. Clothing: green waterproof, black coat, skirt, blouse, red cardigan jacket, black button boots with cloth uppers. Effects: One gold watch, engraved inside ‘M Mangan’. Gold locket with hair and photo engraved ‘Mary’. Gold chain, beads in pocket, brass belt-buckle. Medallion around neck. Diamond solitaire ring. Gold bracelet engraved ‘M M’, wire gold brooch. Probably third class. Name: Mary Mangan.”
Her body was returned to the sea by the salvagers for reasons not specified. The diamond solitaire ring, of which she had been so proud, never made it back to her family in Mayo, but the gold watch did arrive in a parcel with some of her other effects. They are still kept by her family’s descendants.
Today the parish of Addergoole, including the village of Lahardane, is home to workers from the nearby towns of Castlebar and Ballina. With a small pub and beautiful views of mountains and lakes, it attracts anglers and visitors in search of solitude. Many farming families in the area have kinship ties to Titanic victims. Among them is Bridie Syron, whose aunt Mary was killed. Speaking in Murphy’s pub in the village, she said that her family’s suffering was largely unspoken but ever present.
“My aunt, Mary Canavan, was aged 21 when she left for America, and her family were at first given to believe that she had survived the tragedy, after the initial casualty list returned her name as Mary Concannon. Days later, they were informed of the mistake.”
Syron said that her father, who was Mary’s brother, rarely spoke of the tragedy. “He didn’t want to talk about it and I suppose you can understand why. Even if there was a film on TV about Titanic, it was switched off. It was painful, I suppose.
“My aunt had been due to go out to her brother in California the following year, but then when the whole gang was going from Addergoole she wanted to go too. She went a year early and that was that.
“My uncle Richard told me about the day before she left. Everyone came to the house to say goodbye to her, and they were sad she was going, but also excited for her. I don’t think they could quite believe it when the news came she was gone.”
One of the three survivors from the parish was Annie McGowan, who had been travelling with her aunt Catherine, who perished. McGowan was 17, and left alone and destitute in New York by the tragedy. Assisted by the Red Cross, she found shelter and a job, but her family say that she rarely spoke of the tragedy.
It was only in 1984, aged 90, that she gave her first newspaper interview about the events, to her great-granddaughter, who is a journalist. McGowan died in 1990. Her family in America have made several pilgrimages to Addergoole, and will return for the centenary.
Her friend Bridget Donohoe, 22, was not so lucky. She’d worked in McHale’s general store on the main street of the village to earn the fare for her passage to the new world. Before she left, Donohoe asked the owner’s six-year-old daughter what she wanted from America. The little girl said a ring and Donohoe measured her ring finger with string, promising to send one from Chicago. Family folklore says that, watched by the child, she then packed the piece of string in her case.
Donohoe’s family initially were also given hope when her name incorrectly appeared on the passenger manifest as Bart Donoghue. However, after several weeks she was reported to have been lost at sea.
The others from the area who died in the tragedy were: John Bourke, 42, Catherine Bourke, 32, Mary Bourke, 40, Nora Fleming, 24, James Flynn, 28, Delia Mahon, 20, Pat Canavan, 21, and Catherine McGowan, 42. The other survivors were Annie Kate Kelly, aged 20 at the time of the disaster, and Delia McDermott, 31.
Donohoe’s nephew, David Donoghue, a farmer who is now in his late 70s, is one of more than 100 villagers who regularly take part in the bell-tolling ceremony every year.
Sitting in Murphy’s pub, he said that he feels sure she would be proud. “I’m sure they’d be delighted to know that we all think of them and pray for them, all these years later. I’m sure it would make them happy, the poor souls,” he says.
15 Mar 2012
The Titanic Belfast attraction nears completion in The Titanic Quarter on March 13, 2012 in Belfast
The Titanic Belfast Experience is a new £90 million visitor attraction which opens on March 31, 2012.
Almost 80,000 tickets have been snapped up to tour the world’s largest Titanic attraction when it opens.
Operators of the £90 million Titanic Belfast, which has been built in the derelict shipyard where the ill-fated liner was constructed a century earlier, say they are delighted with the interest the centre has generated.
They have also revealed that their banqueting suite, which is themed on the White Star Line’s first class dining facilities, has already had almost 200 bookings, representing £1 million of business.
After three years in construction – the same time it took to complete the Titanic – the eye-catching building, already an icon on the Belfast skyline, is on course to open on schedule, ahead of April’s centenary of the sinking.
As workers add the finishing touches to the six-storey venue, which at 90 feet is the same height as the Titanic’s bow, the owners have given a sneak preview of what waits in store for visitors on opening day on March 31.
The centre, which hopes to attract 425,000 visitors in its first year, tells the story of the Titanic through nine separate galleries, each devoted to a different aspect of the tragedy.
Boomtown Belfast, the first, brings people back to the turn of the 20th century and explains why the thriving industrial port city was chosen to build what was to be the world’s largest moving object. From there visitors will be invited to board a skyrail pod to go on a journey through a recreation of the Harland and Wolff shipyard where the vessel was fashioned.
The story then moves to the ship’s triumphant launch in 1911 and focus then shifts to the fit-out of the vessel, with three cabins recreated on one floor, from the most opulent to the basic steerage accommodation.
The maiden voyage is then retold, complete and the temperature drops and lights darken as visitors enter the gallery dedicated to the night of the sinking on April 14/15, 1912. As haunting survivor accounts are played overhead, tales of the 1,522 victims are retold on the walls.
The final gallery recounts the discovery of the ship’s final resting place 70 years later, with footage of the wreck on a massive video screen below the glass floor of the 88-seat auditorium. The Titanic Below gallery also hosts a marine exploration educational centre, where live feeds will be streamed from ongoing dive missions down to the ship, which lies two-and-a-half miles below the Atlantic surface.
12 Mar 2012
The letter was written onboard the Titanic in 1912
A letter penned on board the Titanic by a Belfast doctor to his mother is to be brought back to Belfast for exhibition.
The letter, from assistant ship surgeon Dr John Edward Simpson, was written on notepaper headed RMS Titanic and brought ashore at Cobh, County Cork.
From there it was posted to his mother, Elizabeth, who lived in south Belfast.
Dr Simpson was married and had one son when he took the commission on Titanic. He had previously worked on another White Star Line ship – the Olympic.
Dr Simpson was 37 years old when he boarded the Titanic
In the letter, Dr Simpson said he was settling into his cabin well and that the accommodation on board his new vessel was larger.
The letter was signed off: “With fondest love, John.”
Dr Simpson died when the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912.
It was feared the letter would never return to Belfast after it was put up for auction in New York earlier this month with a reserve price of $34,000 (£21,692).
However, it failed to reach its reserve and an anonymous benefactor stepped in to ensure the letter returned to Dr Simpson’s and Titanic’s hometown.
After hearing about a campaign by relatives of the surgeon to bring the letter back to Belfast where the Titanic was built, the donor bought it for the city.
Dr Simpson’s great-nephew Dr John Martin said he was happy the letter was coming back to where it belonged.
“I’ve never actually seen the original letter itself as it was last in Belfast in the 1940s before Dr Simpson’s son moved away,” he said.
“So for it to be on its way back is just amazing and so appropriate now just ahead of the 100th anniversary of his death. We are so thankful to the benefactor.”
It is planned to place the letter in a permanent Titanic exhibition in Belfast.
Last week, BBC Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson discovered he too was related to Dr Simpson.
“It turns out that Dr Simpson was my great-grandfather’s cousin,” he said.
“According to eyewitnesses who survived the 1912 disaster, he stood with fellow officers on the deck of the stricken vessel as it went down, resigning himself to his fate, making no attempt to board the lifeboats and instead calmly helping others to safety.”
Thursday, 29 December 2011
The largest collection of artefacts salvaged from the Titanic is to be put up for auction next year – the 100th anniversary of the world’s most famous shipwreck.
More than 5,500 items, including fine china, ship fittings and portions of hull that were recovered from the ocean liner, have an estimated value of £122 million and will be sold as a single lot.
The Titanic treasures were amassed during seven trips to the wreck, which rests about two-and-a-half miles below the ocean surface in the North Atlantic.
The auction is scheduled for April 1 by Guernsey’s, a New York City auction house – but the results of the auction will not be announced until April 15, the date the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage after striking an iceberg a century ago.
The auction is subject to approval by a federal judge in Virginia whose jurisdiction has given oversight to legal issues governing the salvage of the Titanic for years.
Titanic’s sinking claimed the lives of more than 1,500 of the 2,228 passengers and crew.
An international team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985, about 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada.
US district judge Rebecca Beach Smith, who has overseen the case from her Norfolk courtroom in Virginia, has ruled that official salvage company RMS Titanic has title to the artefacts and is entitled to full compensation for them.
Judge Smith, a maritime jurist who has called the Titanic an “international treasure,” has approved covenants and conditions that the company previously worked out with the federal US government, including a prohibition against selling the collection piecemeal.
The conditions also require RMS to make the artefacts available “to present and future generations for public display and exhibition, historical review, scientific and scholarly research, and educational purposes”.
Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions, parent company of RMS Titanic, has been displaying the Titanic artefacts in exhibitions around the world. The items include personal belongings of passengers, such as perfume from a manufacturer who was travelling to New York to sell his samples.
Premier acknowledged any future owner of the Titanic treasures must abide by the covenants and conditions.
RMS recovered artefacts from the shipwreck in expeditions in 1987, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004.
Last year, RMS Titanic collaborated with some of the world’s leading experts in the most technologically advanced expedition to the Titanic, undertaking the first comprehensive mapping survey of the vessel with 3D imagery from bow to stern.
Some of the never-before-seen images were shown in Judge Smith’s courtroom. The most striking images involved the 3D tour of the Titanic’s stern, which lies 2,000 feet from the bow.
A camera in a remote-controlled submersible vehicle skimmed over the stern, seemingly transporting viewers through scenes of jagged rusty iron sprouting from the deck, a length of chain, the captain’s bathtub, and wooden elements that scientists previously believed had disappeared in the harsh, deep ocean environment.
The cameras did not probe the interior of the wreck, but the expedition fully mapped the three miles by five miles wreck site, documenting the entire debris field for the first time.
The new images will ultimately be assembled for public viewing, scientists said, and to help oceanographers and archaeologists explain the ship’s violent descent to the ocean bottom. It is also intended to provide answers on the state of the wreck, which scientists say is showing increasing signs of deterioration.
Titanic film director James Cameron has also led teams to the wreck to record the bow and the stern.
The Titanic exhibit is among several operated by Premier Exhibitions, which bills itself as “a major provider of museum-quality touring exhibitions”.
Its offerings have included sports memorabilia, a travelling Star Trek homage, and Bodies, an anatomy exhibition featuring preserved human corpses.