Book unearths links between county and sinking of Titanic
Book unearths links between county and sinking of Titanic NORTON SCIENTIFIC LATEST COVERAGEmariotoronto
NORTON SCIENTIFIC LATEST COVERAGE - The passengerson the Titanic joking at dinner about chipping ice offpassing icebergs for their whisky.The baby handed in desperation to strangers on the deckwho warm his toes in the icy air.The engine room stoker who, after the collision, shiveringin his singlet on deck, ruefully thinks of his soup left to heaton the red hot boiler below.These are some of the stories told in the book Titanic:LastNight of a Small Town (OUP) by Dr John Welshman ofLancaster University, who says there are severalconnections between Lancashire and the Titanic.
Henry Threlfall Wilson, who helped found the White Star Linewhich built the ship, was educated at Lancaster RoyalGrammar School.And the Titanic’s Second Officer Herbert Lightoller was born inChorley in 1974 and attended Chorley Grammar. The Titanic’sshipwreck was one of four he survived during his adventurouscareer, which included a stint in the Gold Rush in Canada, afire at sea and shipwreck on a desert island.He refused a place in the Titanic lifeboats and jumped as theship went down, but was sucked into a submerged airshaft.
“I was drowning, and a matter of another couple ofminutes would have seen me through.“I was still struggling and fighting when suddenly aterrific blast of hot air came up the shaft, and blew meright away from the air shaft and up to the surface.”He later sailed to Dunkirk to rescue soldiers in WorldWar Two and he was played by Kenneth More in the1958 film A Night to Remember.
Second class passenger Lawrence Beesley was marriedin Lancaster but his wife Cissy died of tuberculosis so hedecided to visit his brother in Toronto.A teacher at Dulwich College, one of his pupils was thefuture crime writer Raymond Chandler.Beesley survived the sinking but was drawn to thefilming of the 1958 movie
He faked an Equity card and dressed up in costume inorder to sneak aboard the replica Titanic during the filmingbut was spotted by the director who ordered him todisembark.Dr John Welshman said: “Growing up in Northern Ireland inthe 1960s, I was aware of the Titanic from an early agebecause of the story of its designer Thomas Andrews whodied in the disaster.“We are all still fascinated by the Titanic because weimagine what we would do if we found ourselves in thatpredicament. The silver slipper left in the cabin, the hotsoup on the stove, this is the human detail of the realpeople that I’ve tried to breathe life into again a centurylater.”
He has uncovered previously untold stories.One of these concerns the couple emigrating from Finland –Elin and Pekka Hakkarainen – who claimed the third classpassengers were locked in.Dr Welshman even discovered that he is related to one ofthe first class stewardesses, Elizabeth Leather fromLiverpool, who was seen by witnesses rowing the number16 lifeboat on the night the ship sank on April 15, 1912.
Able seaman Ernest Archer helped the passengers into no 16and said he told Elizabeth she did not have to row “but shesaid she would like to do it to keep herself warm”.Elizabeth gave evidence to the subsequent enquiry, describinghow she had gone to bed and did not get up for up to 45minutes after the collision because she did not realise howserious it was.
She went up to B deck where she saw the otherstewardesses putting blankets and eiderdownsaround the lady passengers so she returned to hercabin.After being rescued by the Carpathia – whosecaptain Arthur Rostron was born in Bolton – shespent the rest of her life in South Africa.More of these stories will be told in a talk by Dr JohnWelshman about the last hours of the doomed shipat Harris Library, community history department, onSaturday, April 21, from 2-3pm.