Monday, April 9, 2012

How it all began.. The Grandest Ship of All

Leaving Southampton
We had a meaningful experience visiting Southampton, having one moment in time 100 years later.  We were able to see the living quarters for the crew and officers, the dock area used for the launch of the Titanic, and the park where the town bid their farewell to Titanic for her maiden voyage.   It made me think of what I will be experiencing the next few days on this cruise.  We will now shift our focus as we travel to Liverpool.   We will be experiencing two significant participants in the creation of the Titanic - Liverpool, England and Belfast, Ireland.

The idea for the Titanic was born during a dinner party in the summer of 1907.  It was held at a London mansion of Lord Pirrie, the chairman of Harland & Wolff shipbuilders, and attended by J. Bruce Ismay, the director of the White Star Line.  Cunard’s (White Star Line’s greatest competitor) fast new liner, Lusitania was the talk of the shipping world.  After dinner, Pirrie and Ismay hatched a plan to build three huge ships, each even bigger than the Lusitania.  These ships would emphasize luxury and amenities rather than just speed.  The first ship would be called the Olympic, the second, the Titanic, and the third, the Gigantic.

Bound for Liverpool
Our trip to Liverpool took a day at sea.  I have never taken a cruise on the Atlantic and cannot imagine what it would have been like to cross the Atlantic 100 years ago.  Not even in the open Atlantic yet, we encountered a storm on the way up the Celtic & Irish Seas with rain, wind, cold, and swells. The swells appeared to range from 5 to 15 feet a Force 10 gale the captain said (Force 13 would require us to stay in the staterooms).   As we tried to relax and enjoy the ship it was a hop and jump and sway experience for a full day.  The storm seemed to pass during the night so arrival to Liverpool was not as rough.  We arrived in the morning and disembarked for our next adventure.

The pride of Liverpool’s participation in the creation of the Titanic came at a significantly later time after the sinking.  For decades the Titanic was an embarrassment to the city and for other cities as well.  The Titanic was considered a failure to the town and for all who were involved.  However, once the loss faded they were able to begin to appreciate the historical accomplishment of creating and running the Titanic.  During the tour “Liverpool’s Titanic Heritage”, the guide was able to talk with pride of Liverpool’s connection to the Titanic. 
I believe that most of us think of the Beatles when we hear about Liverpool, but Liverpool was a key player in the creation of the Titanic.  Even though Titanic was built in Belfast, she was registered in Liverpool, and so carried the city’s name on her stern.  This was because her managing company, The White Star Line, had its head office on James Street in Liverpool.   It was said that on the balconies after the tragedy the names of the survivors were announced. 

We passed via coach many buildings throughout both Liverpool and the suburbs of Waterloo and Crosby related to Titanic’s history.  We saw Capt. Rostron’s house and stopped at Ismay’s and Capt. Smith’s homes as well.  Those two homes were right down the street from each other. They are located in front of a beautiful grassy park next to a long beach on the Mersey River. We also traveled past the Marconi School in Seaforth and the Philharmonic Hall Memorial for the Titanic Musicians.

Back in town we visited the Liverpool Cathedral which is one of the largest churches in all of Europe.  It too had a rich relationship with the Titanic.  The approximate 5 story stained glass windows around the main alter were donated by Ismay. There is a stone edifice representing the Titanic and in another stained glass section there is a memorial to Capt. Smith. 


The last stop on the tour, and the most moving moment of our stay in Liverpool, was at the Titanic Liverpool exhibit at the Mersey Maritime Museum.  For a Thursday, it was surprising that it was packed with so many Titanic enthusiasts - old and young!  It was shoulder to shoulder at each display.  We took the “lift” to the second floor to the new Titanic exhibit.  Right in front of us was the builder’s original scale model used during construction.  As I turned my head to the right, it was a moment for me!  There was a glass case with the original Loving Cup that Margaret presented to Capt. Rostron (captain of the rescue ship, Carpathia) in “grateful recognition of his heroic and efficient rescue of the survivors”.  Also, in the display case were the medals given to the crew of the Carpathia for their role in saving the Titanic survivors.   In the back of the display case was a large picture of Margaret presenting the Cup.  All in all, the whole exhibit was an excellent reflection of Liverpool’s pride in their role in Titanic history.  

In closing this blog, the further we travel into Titanic’s history the more connected we feel to her.  We realized that our experiences in Liverpool and Southampton represented the Titanic’s spirit, and are really a part of the fabric of the cities, and less represented by just the artifacts from the ship’s travel.
I will be blogging about the building of the Titanic at our next stop in Belfast.  We then will be traveling back to Southampton where the Titanic Memorial Cruise will embark.  I know I will have many opportunities to meet many people related to the Titanic through ancestry or just their passion.  

So far I have had discussions with many people on this leg of the cruise about their fascination with the Titanic.  There are so many different reasons, but we all have in common that our fascination is still a mystery and perhaps we can solve the mystery as we continue on our journey. 


  1. Dear Janet,
    Thank you so much for taking us along with you on the once-in-a-lifetime journey, bringing the past alive again, rekindling memories, making a visit to the tragedy site for a memorial to honor those souls so dreadfully lost to us. Their spirits surely must be with you. Thanks again. Love the blog.

  2. Wow! To see the actual cup and spend time in the cathedral must have been amazing moments. I'm so excited. I can't wait to hear more.