Ships

Titanic and Liverpool

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10th April, 1912. 100 years ago Titanic left Southampton for America. It never made it. Titanic was the unsinkable ship. They had enough lifeboats on board to meet with current regulations, which meant not enough for everyone. That’s how confident they were in the ships design. It really does seem absurd in today’s health and safety controlled world. Was the question ”What if everyone needs to get off?” even asked?

Titanic, despite never visiting Liverpool, had massive links with the city. She was designed and registered here. According to the BBC there were so many Scousers on board that the main crew passageway was nicknamed ”Scotland Road”.

Living by a city with such a strong maritime history it’s hard not to think about Titanic from time to time. How would she have looked against the skyline? What would it have been like to be a working photographer back in those days? Despite the disastrous ending for the ship, James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ certainly paints that era with a romantic view. Everything was so grand. I do look at the photos and wonder. When I photographed the QE2 in Liverpool I wondered how she compared to Titanic. Would she have had this imposing presence?

Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth II in Liverpool, 2007.

I did some research and Titanic was actually smaller than the QE2. The QE2 was 963 feet long and Titanic was only 882.75 feet long. That said, Titanic had 2,500 passengers while QE2 only 1,777. So if the Titanic had visited Liverpool she would have looked something like this docked against the skyline.

A big ship but nothing compared to something like the Queen Mary II which is 1,332 feet long and has 2,620 passengers.

So QM2 is certainly massive compared to Titanic and yet Titanic still seems like the bigger ship. I guess that’s just down to the photographs. There’s a mind blowing photograph of Mauretania II being launched at Cammell Laird from the Stewart Bale collection that I just can’t get my head around. One day I’d like to photograph the launch of a major ship like that. It must be quite a sight.

I recently spoke to a lady at the Maritime Museum who was also surprised to learn that Titanic wasn’t as big as today’s floating hotels. We were both there for the launch of ‘Titanic: The untold story’ exhibition. If you ever wanted to be punched in the stomach by what Liverpool lost in the sinking of Titanic then you should visit this exhibition. There is a wall of names showing who from Liverpool died. It’s harrowing, especially so when you see entire families died. Parents and children lost. With the 3D version of Cameron’s romance film out it’s easy to forget that real people died, women and children died. Some fans of the film weren’t even aware that it’s based on a real tragedy!

Thomas Henry Ismay's silver centrepiece

The exhibition at the Maritime has a variety of interesting pieces to look at. Above is Thomas Henry Ismay’s silver centrepiece beautifully restored by the Conservation Centre. It was a gift presented by the shareholders of the White Star Line to its founder and chairman, Thomas Henry Ismay, in 1884. His son, J Bruce Ismay, was born in Crosby and went on to become the chairman of the White Star Line and a passenger on Titanic. He managed to get on the last lifeboat and survive the tragedy.

Titanic boarding pass

The only remaining boarding pass of the Titanic.

Nick Housley - Great grandson of William McMurray

Nick Housley. He is the great grandson of Birkenhead born William McMurray who died on Titanic. His family donated a letter to the museum by May Louise McMurray to her father William McMurray, first class bedroom steward on the Titanic. The letter didn’t arrive in time and was returned to the family. You can read the letter on the Maritime Museum’s website.

Balmoral in Liverpool

While Titanic never visited Liverpool the cruise ship Balmoral did. She is currently recreating the journey of Titanic, presumably without sinking. Lots of people have dressed in period costume and booked passage on the historic trip. Also there is a real time Titanic feed on Twitter that is interesting to follow. It’s not a modern day take on it so there’s no “OMG iceberg! lol” style tweets.

In just over a weeks time the Giant Spectacular event will take place in Liverpool. It’s based on the previously mentioned letter by May Louise McMurray to her father William McMurray. So make sure you’ve visited the Maritime Museum before you go watch the spectacular event next week.

2 Comments

  1. I have always had a special interest in Titanic, even before the spectacle of the movie. Thanks for the Twitter link. I will follow that with interest. I love boats so I think that Liverpool must be a great place to live.

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