Despite being now associated with silly Celine singing about s1, Kate Winslett's left breast, Leonardo DiCaprio, and people sticking their arms out on the front of boats, a phenomenon that no car ferry crossing to the Isle of Wight in the summer is free from, the sinking of the RMS Titanic is a terrible sad tale, one of the greatest and most famous disasters of all time.
This Olympic year marks the 100th Anniversary of the loss of the Olympic-class Titanic. As someone who grew up living on an island and who now works in one of the world's largest ports, Southampton, I have always been very much aware of ships and boats, and the anniversary of the sinking of one of the most famous ships of all time, the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, has been approaching. On 10 April 1912 the Belfast-built RMS Titanic left its home port of Southampton on its fateful maiden voyage. Southampton was the home of the White Star Line, the company that owned the ship.
Despite an estimated budget of $200 million, the most expensive film ever, James Cameron's film is the most inaccurate and unrealistic portrayal of Southampton ever made2
Southampton and the Titanic
On 10 April, 1912, the RMS Titanic left dock from Southampton for her maiden voyage, sinking on 14-15 April. Only 706 people onboard survived. Of the approximately 1,523 people who died on the Titanic's ill-fated voyage, 549 were from Southampton. Most were employed by White Star, the Southampton-based company that owned the Titanic. It was said that there was not a family in Southampton that had not suffered a loss.
Sea City Museum
A £15 million museum, the Sea City Museum, will open on 10 April, 100 years to the minute since the Titanic left port. This is in Southampton Civic Centre's Grade II* Listed 1930s Old Magistrates' Court as well as a purpose-built extension. The first temporary exhibition for 2012 will be 'Titanic – the Legend', focusing on the international fascination with the story of the Titanic.
A large number of events are dominating the city centre of Southampton throughout March and April, either side of the 100th anniversary. The focus is on both the 10th April, the day the Titanic left Southampton, as well as the 15th April, the day of the sinking. These events have proven to be popular, with many of them already sold out, although if you are in the Southampton area at the time there will be many events that you can still attend.
Titanic Berth Event
Associated British Park is holding an event by the Titanic berth in the Ocean Terminal, hosted by television broadcaster Fred Dinenage, whose great uncle, James Richard Dinenage, was one of the ship’s stewards. At 12noon on Tuesday 10 April 2012, exactly 100 years on from the start of Titanic’s tragic voyage, a recording of the ship’s whistle, recovered from her wreck, will once again sound around the Port. Re-enacting Titanic’s departure, the tug tender Calshot will sail from her berth followed by a flotilla of craft. All ships in the port and the immediate vicinity will sound their whistles as a mark of respect.
Once the vessels have departed the story will be told of Titanic’s voyage into history and the disaster that took place when the ship struck an iceberg on 14 April 1912. Port Chaplain, Reverand Andrew Huckett, from the Southampton Seafarers Centre will lead prayers, and all those attending will be invited to place flowers into the water in memory of the victims of the tragedy.
Over 600 school children from more than 27 schools will parade through Southampton carrying placards depicting the Southampton residents who served as crew members on the RMS Titanic in tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in the disaster.
The event takes place on 10 April. Schools have been busy researching the 897 crew members of the Titanic, 714 of whom were from Southampton. In total 685 crew members lost their lives. 538 were registered to a Southampton address, many others were from neighbouring areas including the Isle of Wight3.
Their names – along with any other known information – are inscribed onto the back of placards, with an image of the crew member on the front. At 12 noon the children will hold their placards high, parading through the city, led by music from Southampton’s Youth Brass Band, from the Titanic Engineers' Memorial towards the new Sea City Museum.
Ancestors Lost at Sea!
The Ancestor's Lost At Sea event held on Wednesday 4 April at 7pm -9pm in Southampton Central Library is about how the Titanic was just one of hundreds of thousands of British merchant ships that have been lost in peace and war. Members of the public can use Southampton Library's collection and National Archive to research more information about any relatives they have lost at sea.
Oxford Street Remembers
On Saturday 7 April one of the most popular districts of Southampton went back in time to 1912, complete with costumed characters, maritime market, a Titanic Trail and special menu.
British Titanic Society Annual Convention
The British Titanic Society will be holding its annual convention in Southampton, from Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th April 2012, with Saturday 14th April a Public Open Day, with Titanic lectures, a sale of Titanic and other maritime items, and exhibition.
Sunday 15 April at 11.15am, The Old Burial Ground, behind the War Memorial, West End, Southampton. Captain Sir Arthur Henry Rostron, was captain of the RMS Carpathia that rescued 705 Titanic survivors.
100th Anniversary Commemorative Service
Sunday 15 April at 2pm, St Mary's Church. This annual commemorative service will include readings, music from the Salvation Army Band and the City of Southampton Orchestra and singing by local choirs.
Titanic Cultural Day
On Saturday 21 April at the University of Southampton's Avenue Campus. This event will explore the cultural history of the retelling of the ship's story in literary and cinematic form across different cultures. Film representations range from a silent German movie made immediately after the disaster to James Cameron's 1997 film, and include a number of British, American, and European productions. The Cultural day will also explore connections between maritime history and cinema.
Titanic Day for all the Family
Monday 2 April, 11am to 3pm at Southampton City Art Gallery. This free drop in Titanic Day includes rhymes, maritime-inspired face painting, songs and shanties with storyteller Fiona Moore, a creative writing competition, green screen acting and filming opportunities, launch of Southampton Library's 'Favourite Book to Share' competition for Under 5's and art and craft activities with artists Holly Deacon
Tiddler the Story Telling Fish family workshop
This event on Wednesday 11 April is aimed at those aged 5 + and takes place at the Sea City Museum. Attendees will hear the story of Tiddler by Children's Poet Laureate Julia Donaldson, famed author of The Gruffalo and create colourful fishy sculptures with artist Debra Marsh.
Porthole Pictures Family workshop
On Thursday 12 April at the Sea City Museum. Aimed at children 5 +, children are asked to write a maritime story and work with artist Holly Deacon to create pictures of what they might see through a porthole if you were sailing in the ocean.
Southampton City Libraries Local History Forum host this event on Thursday 12 April at the Sea City Museum, including an exclusive tour of the Titanic Exhibition, short presentations and a question and answers session.
Titanic Family Discovery Days
On both Friday 13 April and Saturday 14 April in the Sea City Museum an exciting array of activities to celebrate Southampton's rich maritime history will take place. Be arty, talk to costumed characters, play Victorian games.
Southampton City Art Gallery
The main gallery in Southampton has an exhibition entitled 'Retracing the Unsinkable' on display in the foyer and Gallery 1 and 2 between 17th March – 29th April 2012, with 130 works of art from 300 created by residents of Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Dorset submitted for the Retracing the Unsinkable 'open exhibition' all on the theme of the Titanic.
Bargate Monument Gallery
This gallery is hosting an exhibition entitled 'Landfalls – The Titanic & Place' until 29 April, 2012. This exhibition concentrates on the cities, key sites and places linked with the Titanic's construction and fated maiden voyage, and how they exist today.
Titanic – From Prow to Stern
Between Tuesday 10 April – Sunday 15 April Andrews (East) Park and Guildhall Square will have a full-scale outline of the Titanic, the exact length and beam, with the positions of the main features, including lifeboats and funnels, indicated. Visitors will be able to grasp the scale and walk its entire length, hear voice recordings from the archive of Southampton's Oral History Unit and read the names of all those from Southampton who perished. During the night of the centenary there will be a spoken timeline of events and Distress Flares launched. The intention is not to dramatise the incident, but to provide an accurate and evocative space for reflection and remembering.
Red Hot Press Exhibition
To commemorate the Titanic's centenary Red Hot Press have produced 16 prints on the theme of the Titanic. These will be exhibited in The Concourse Gallery of Southampton Solent University until 22nd May 2012.
Composed by the late David Bedford, this concert will be held on Thursday 22 March at Southampton Central Hall. Reflecting how the Titanic anchored outside Cherbourg, France, shortly after leaving Southampton, this concert will also be played in Cherbourg on 14 April, 2012.
City of Southampton Orchestra Concert
On Tuesday 10 April at 7.30pm at Queen Elizabeth Terminal, Southampton Docks will be a special Orchestra concert from the Queen Elizabeth Terminal, overlooking the berth from which the Titanic set sail. The orchestra will be joined in Vaughan Williams' 'Sea Symphony', performed by a specially formed 'Titanic Chorus'. The symphony uses texts about the sea by Walt Whitman in tribute to the Titanic and the spirit of adventure of those sailing on her.
The evening includes an embarkation experience exhibition with drinks reception and palm court music from the White Star song book. The orchestra will be working with Greyladyes Arts Foundation in presenting an exhibition reflecting the dockside experience of 1912 and members of the Sarah Siddons Theatre Group, which specialises in reconstructing Southampton history, will be enacting historical characters.
On Wednesday 11 April at 8pm at the Turner Sims Concert Hall will be a performance by the White Star Line-Up – a group of Southampton-based singers and musicians formed specifically to tell this story. Featuring song, music and spoken word, it relates the events leading up to the tragedy, and the aftermath, from the viewpoint of the town and its Southampton crew.
SCO-CoMA Titanic Commemoration Concert
On Saturday 14 April in Southampton Guildhall, on the anniversary of the hitting of the RMS Titanic, the Southampton Concert Orchestra and Contemporary Music for All are collaborating to perform a concert of classical and contemporary music honouring the tragic event. Highlights of the concert will be Dvorak's 'New World Symphony', representing the hopes of many passengers setting off to the new world, and a newly arranged version of Gavin Bryars' mood piece Titanic, re-creating the sounds and spirits of the last moments of the ill-fated voyage.
Theatre and Film
Sarah Siddons Fan Club presents 'Titanic, The Southampton Story'
On Wednesday 11 April, Saturday 14 April and Sunday 15 April at Holyrood Church will be a performance by The Sarah Siddons Fan Club. Two of their members have relatives who were crew on the ship and were able to call on first hand accounts from family members as well as witness accounts from the enquiries and the records of the Titanic Fund. The theatre company specialise in site specific productions about real historical incidents and 'Titanic, the Southampton Story' uses buildings from the period as backdrops. The performance focuses on the experiences of the crew and their families from the excitement of the maiden voyage through to the aftermath of the tragedy and starts at Holy Rood, onto College Street, Oxford Street and then outside Seaman's Mission, The Grapes, South Western House, Queens Park and finishing in St Joseph's Church.
A Night To Remember
On Thursday 12 April at Harbour Lights Picture House, A Night To Remember is a 1958 Golden-Globe winng film adaptation of Walter Lord's book on the final night of the RMS Titanic.
Titanic: The Mission presents Dave Wilkes and Yewande Akinola
On Saturday 14th April in Southampton Solent University Conference Centre
Episode 5 of the Titanic: The Mission television series will be shown, focusing on Southampton. Dave Wilkes and Yewande Akinola are among the engineers reconstructing parts of the Titanic for this series. After the programme there will a question and answer session about their research and findings.
On Saturday 14 April at The Hub Theatre, Southampton City College is a new drama written to commemorate the centennial of the sinking. Set following the disaster, this focuses on the fate of three people on board. Their stories, taken from actual accounts, reflect the experiences of real passengers. Will they survive or, like more than 1,500 souls, perish? The audience will decide their fate.
James Cameron's 1997 film is being re-released in 3D nationwide. It will be shown in cinemas in Southampton as well as elsewhere.
Many book signings are scheduled to take place at the local Waterstones bookshop unless otherwise stated:
Author Signing with James Darcy – Last Known Address
On Saturday 24 March at 11am – 3pm. The story of a 17 year old boy on the world's most ill-fated voyage.
Author Signing with Mike Roussel and Sam Warwick – Shipwrecks of the Cunard Line
On Saturday 31 March at 11am – 3pm. The RMS Carpathia is famous for rescuing Titanic survivors but little is known of its own tragic sinking in 1918. This book tells the events surrounding its wrecking and the loss of other Cunard line4 vessels.
An evening with authors Christopher Ward & Gill Paul
On Wednesday 11 April at 7pm – 9pm at Southampton Solent University's Conference Centre. Christopher Ward is the grandson of Jock Hume, at 21 the youngest member of the Titanic's orchestra. Gill Paul is a passionate Titanic researcher who is the author of more than 30 books including the novel Women and Children First and Titanic Love Stories.
Author Signing with Leah Fleming – The Captain's Daughter
On Saturday 14 April, Leah Fleming will sign her latest book, The Captain's Daughter. This spans two generations and three continents, and centres on the lives of two women brought together by the Titanic's sinking.
Author Signing with Ronald C Denney
On Friday 20th April. Eva Miriam Hart was just seven years old when she and her parents boarded the Titanic as second-class passengers. Her story was documented by close friend Ron Denney, who will be signing copies of his book dedicated to her memory.
Author Signing with Shelby Locke – Stepping
On Saturday 21 April at 11am – 3pm local author Shelby Locke will sign her novel Stepping, an interesting, time-travel twist on the sinking.
Friday 6, Saturday 7, Monday 9, Thursday 12, Friday 13, and Saturday 14 April at 11am and 2pm at the Old Cemetery, Southampton Common. This Grade II listed cemetery opened in 1846 and was one of the first Municipal owned cemeteries in England, including 45 Memorials for Titanic victims. The Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery will lead one and a half hour walks around these memorials and relate the hardship the families suffered through the disaster. On these walks Titanic memorabilia and books and refreshments will be available to buy.
The Titanic Trail takes you around some of the memorials and locations associated with the Titanic. A self guided walk booklet is available to purchase for £1.00 from the Tourist Information Centre. Alternatively, on Saturday 7, Monday 9, Wednesday 11, Friday 13 and Saturday 14 April April at 1.30pm and 2.30pm from Holy Rood Church, fully qualified tourist guides will show people around the Titanic trail.
Following the disaster several separate collections were organised to erect memorials to those who perished onboard, which is why there are so many commemorating the disaster. Just as the Titanic itself was a highly segregated vessel, with first, second and third class compartments and a structured crew, the memorials themselves reflect this. Memorials for the rich and wealthy onboard were paid for by their rich and wealthy friends and relatives. Some are simple plaques in the local parish churches dedicated to local people who died, such as can be found in St Mary's Church's Seamen's Chapel, Holy Trinity Church and one originally erected in St Augustine's Church, now owned by Southampton Museums Service. The smallest memorial is a brass plate on a leg of an oak table in St Joseph's Church, Bugle Street, dedicated to the restaurant staff who died on the Titanic. Not classed as either passengers or crew, restaurant staff were not allowed on the boat decks after the ship struck. Only two of the 68 restaurant staff onboard survived, by climbing out a porthole as a lifeboat was lowered from above. Many memorials are far grander, all are equally poignant.
The Titanic Musicians' Memorial
The Titanic Musicians' Memorial is located just northwest of the start of the QE2 mile, on the corner of London Road and Cumberland Place, on the outside of a law firm office building. The original Titanic Musicians' Memorial was destroyed by bombing in 19405, this is a replacement unveiled in 1990 by local Titanic survivor Miss Millvina Dean, who was nine weeks old when the ship sank. The memorial includes the opening bars of the hymn 'Nearer My God To Thee', a grieving woman and the infamous iceberg. It names all the musicians who died on the RMS Titanic. No musicians onboard the Titanic survived.
The Titanic Engineer Officers' Memorial
This Grade II listed memorial is the grandest of the Titanic memorials in Southampton. It is dedicated to the engineer officers onboard the Titanic, none of whom survived. The memorial built of grey granite and bronze, is 30 feet long, 20 feet high and weighs over 60 tons. In the centre a superb winged angel above a ship's prow is flanked by representations of engineer officers. The names inscribed on the memorial include Thomas Andrews, designer of the ship, Archibald Frost and Robert Knight all from Harland and Wolff, the builders of the Titanic. Whitehead and Son designed the memorial. When it was first unveiled in April, 1914 an estimated 100,000 Southampton residents attended.
In 2010 the statue was restored by Southampton City Council and Twenty Twenty Television, who made a documentary series about the ship and statue's restoration.
The Titanic Crew Memorial
A memorial to the crew, stewards and firemen stands just inside the remains of Holyrood Church. Smaller than the Officers' Memorial despite more crew than officers dying, it was not unveiled until 1915. It had taken longer to raise the funds for this memorial as the relatives and friends of the crew who had died were often paid small amounts weekly.
Originally a drinking fountain, this highly decorative Portland stone fountain has a square plinth, four columns rising above a central urn and the basin to a classical roof, with four columns above this level to a dome. Unlike previous fountains, for hygiene reasons no drinking cup was to be supplied; only a flow of water, and it was erected outside Southampton Common. The Common was an area popular with children and within two months of the memorial's erection there were requests to fence the memorial off and remove the water supply, as children were playing with the water and even climbing to the top of the memorial.
After the Second World War the urn disappeared, rumoured to have been stolen by Canadian soldiers returning home. In 1971 it was decided to place the memorial somewhere safer. It was moved from Southampton Common to the ruins of Holyrood Church, now the Merchant Navy memorial. A replica urn was fitted and a 7-foot fence protected the memorial. Next to the memorial is a 'talking post' where you can listen to the story of the Titanic and its relationship with Southampton.
The Titanic Postal Workers' Memorial
In Southampton Civic Centre is a memorial plaque to the five postal workers who drowned on the Titanic, made out of a spare Titanic propeller. They died when trying to rescue the 200 sacks of post onboard the Royal Mail Ship Titanic as it sank.
The Titanic Passengers' Memorial
At the entrance to Dock Gate 4, the dock that the Titanic left from, is a plaque dedicated to the passengers who died onboard. As this memorial is inside the working dock, permission to see it has to be granted before you are allowed past the security checkpoint. It is best to contact Associated British Ports who own the dock in advance, especially if you wish to also see the Titanic's berth.
So, what has this to do with me today?
One hundred years ago over a thousand people died who could have lived had adequate lifeboats been provided. If the story of the Titanic tells us anything, it is that we should probably do more to try and help save people's lives. Perhaps the best way to mark the anniversary is by donating to an organisation such as the RNLI or other lifeboat or life-saving organisations, such as mountain rescue, helicopter ambulances, hospital or hospice appeals?