We arrived back in Southampton and offloaded passengers from our mini cruise. We then began to load new passengers to set sail on the Titanic Memorial Cruise in the early afternoon. We spent some time watching the arrival of our fellow passengers that we will be with for the next 12 days. The excitement was very electric with television reporters and cameras recording the day’s events. Many passengers arrived in period costume and seemed to be regaling in their moment of time as they paraded onto the ship. Everyone was excited about the upcoming memorial cruise. It was quite a sight. Many people I met had booked their passage on this trip when it was first announced - up to six years ago. I was not in costume but was wearing a Molly Brown House Museum t-shirt for the 100th anniversary. Somehow I was spotted and had an opportunity to share with two separate BBC interviews my excitement and motivation behind traveling on the cruise. They asked many questions about Margaret Brown as well as what I was looking forward to on the cruise. I responded “I was Chasing Molly and her spirit on this adventure with the hopes of returning home just like her- Unsinkable”.
It was quite a festivity for the sail-away. The Mayor of Southampton attended and was on-board to greet passengers and wish everyone a safe journey. There are many commemorative events scheduled in Southampton from lectures, musicals, historical walks and the opening of their Sea City Museum.
Before we could depart we participated in the mandatory lifeboat drill. Although we are assigned to #10, I made sure to locate Margaret’s lifeboat #6.
Now after over 2 years of anticipation, we begin the 100th anniversary Titanic Memorial Cruise. I have had the opportunity to share with you my journey through New York, London, Southampton, Liverpool and Belfast. All provided significant encounters, but the most meaningful experience will be the actual memorial portion of the cruise. For the next 4 days, crossing the Atlantic we will focus on getting to the site to pay our respects to the passengers of the Titanic. I feel a degree of sadness going into this portion of the cruise but I also look at it as an experience of a lifetime. It is very significant to me to find a connection to what Margaret could have experienced on this journey of necessity. I had a strong connection to her while in New York but I think this will be different. This event changed her life. She did not board in Southampton but in Cherbourg France. She had been traveling with the John Jacob Astor party through Rome, Africa and Egypt. She was also gathering artifacts to bring back to the Denver Museum. She returned to Paris where she received a telegram from her son, Lawrence, pleading for her return due to her ill grandson. She had not even had the opportunity to see her grandson as of yet and felt extreme anxiety to return as quickly as possible to America. She obtained passage on the next ship, by chance the Titanic – it would change her life. Margaret’s nieces, Florence and Helen Tobin received a letter from Margaret from London that she was going to set sail for home aboard the Titanic. Margaret expressed her approval for both of her nieces to accompany Susan McManus to Europe on the Virginian. The letter was received on April 13th. Margaret reached Cherbourg, France from Paris at 5 p.m. on April 10th, 1912 and finally boarded the Titanic.
Traveling from Southampton today is a little bit different than 100 years ago. You can only imagine the loved ones of family and friends 100 years ago bidding their farewell on the dock and waving goodbye with their good wishes. There was a good sized group this time on the dock waving at friends, family, or just part of the experience. There were news reporters with all of their recording, microphones and hi-tech cameras hoping to catch a good story from the passengers. I would suspect all the stories being told were good. Some were Titanic fanatics and buffs, some had a link to an ancestor from the Titanic, or perhaps some with a distant curiosity of what truly is their fascination. There might have been a few cameras and reporters 100 years ago, but the stories would have been different. Some were traveling in luxury for the first time on this ship, but many were visiting distant family, reconnecting with loved ones, but so many were looking forward to a new life in America on the Ship of Dreams and were leaving their families with no intention of returning. Many of Titanic’s crew (almost 400) lived in the Northman area of Southampton, along with a large proportion of other seafarers and dockworkers. Life was hard for the residents of these dockland communities, with unemployment particularly high due to a national coal strike which had left several ships laid up in dock. The prospect of a job on board Titanic would have brought welcome relief to those crewmen who had managed to sign up for the voyage.
Because Titanic was a faster ship than our Balmoral, we are actually leaving 2 days before the Titanic would have left 100 years ago in order to be at the memorial site at the time the Titanic hit the iceberg.
As we pulled away from Southampton, I could only imagine what it might have been like to be bidding farewell to families and friends with the anticipation of a new life in the America. The Titanic was the vehicle that would get them to where they could now support their family.
We did not stop in Cherbourg on this cruise but will continue on to stop in Cobh, Ireland. As we passed Cherbourg, my thoughts were that Margaret had been waiting for Titanic to arrive on April 10th, 1912, which had been delayed due to the encounter with the New York liner as she departed later than anticipated. Her thoughts were perhaps on her grandson wondering how he was and the eagerness for a swift and smooth trip on Titanic to return home.
I did a small salute and a wave in the direction that Cherbourg was located even though it was not visible from the ship. I had a moment of thought of Margaret and that we too will have a swift and smooth trip home while Chasing Molly.