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Titanic and Liverpool – The Untold Story

by wanderscapes

Everyone would have heard about Titanic. The largest luxury passenger ship of the time, people remember Titanic even today for its tragic end. Several people made films have on it and so has documentaries and other works. Even so, not many people know about its connection with Liverpool. This blog is an attempt to showcase Titanic’s connection with its home, Liverpool. Most of the information shared in this blog is from our visit to the ‘Titanic and Liverpool – the untold story’ exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum.

RMS Titanic arriving at Queenstown – pic taken by William McLean

Titanic and Liverpool – the Untold Story

Titanic and Liverpool – the untold story is a poignant exhibition that gives us a unique insight into life of the most famous ship, including its launch, voyage, sinking and the aftermath. What makes this exhibition special is the unique way in which it explores the incredible story from a Liverpool angle.

“Not only was the Titanic’s sinking a major world event, the tragedy was a bitter blow to the port and the people of Liverpool. The exhibition lifts the lid on this largely-overlooked turmoil in the wake of the sinking which resounds to this day.”

Dr Alan Scarth, author of Titanic and Liverpool

After seeing the exhibition, we couldn’t agree more. The exhibition explores many facets of the Liverpool connection in details, including the personalities featured.

Titanic, as a Liverpool registered ship, carried the city’s name on her stern. Although it was her home port, she never visited Liverpool. But she had strong links with the city.

White Star Line, the managing company had its headquarter in James Street, Liverpool. Its main New York service used to sail from Liverpool until 1907. Later, Southampton became the main port, partly due to the competition from the new Cunard liners Lusitania and Mauretania, both sailing from Liverpool from that year.

Titanic and Liverpool

In Liverpool’s Merseyside Maritime Museum, we can see the compelling exhibition that explores Liverpool’s central role in the Titanic story. Titanic, which was the largest ship in the world at that time, left Southampton for New York on 10 April 1912. She carried 1316 passengers and 892 crew members on her in her maiden journey. At 11.40pm on the night 14 April she struck an iceberg, which fatally damaged the hull.

The damage was so severe that it took just a little over two and a half hours for the ship to sink, costing more than 1,500 lives.

Model of Titanic on display at the museum

Charles Bartlett, White Star’s marine superintendent at Liverpool oversaw the organisation of Titanic’s maiden voyage. He was also in charge of the selection of her officers. Almost one in ten of the ship’s crew members hailed from Merseyside or had close links with the area. Most of the key officers and crew had sailed from Liverpool for White Star, and many still lived there in 1912.

Route map of Titanic

Some Titanic Trivia from the Museum Archives:

J Bruce Ismay, chairman of the White Star Line, was Liverpool born. He escaped from Titanic by climbing into one of the last lifeboats to be lowered, but only after helping many other passengers into boats. His survival of Titanic disaster badly damaged his reputation. People forgot all about his many achievements before and after the disaster in light of this single incident.

Although he did everything possible to compensate the travellers for their loss, he never recovered from the disaster. He led a reclusive life afterwards and was under severe depression for the rest of his life.

The White Star Line was one of the leading shipping companies of the time

The Liverpool Connection

  • Captain Smith was based in Merseyside for 40 years. He lived in Waterloo, a Liverpool suburb, before moving to Southampton in 1908.
  • Music agents CW and FN Black of 14 Castle Street, Liverpool recruited the musicians in Titanic’s band.
  • Fred Clarke of 22 Tunstall Street, Smithdown Road, Liverpool, was bass violist with the ship’s band.
  • Henry Wilson and Company, Cornhill Works, Liverpool made Titanic’s huge kitchen ranges.
  • The long passageway connecting crew quarters deep below on Titanic was called ‘Scotland Road’ by the crew, probably after the famous Liverpool thoroughfare of that name.
  • The Liverpool-based Cunard liner Carpathia rescued all 705 survivors of the Titanic disaster.
  • Fred Fleet, Titanic’s lookout who spotted the iceberg, was originally from Liverpool. He always said that if they had supplied him with binoculars the ship might have been saved.
Titanic in numbers

Titanic Audio Visuals

The most touching parts of the exhibition are the displays and AVs showing letters to and from the ship. Equally touching are the SOS signals and telegrams sent to the nearby ships upon hitting the iceberg. The narration by the survivors as they helplessly watched the ship go down will send chills down our spine too.

As soon as the ship hit the iceberg and it became clear that the ship would sink, Titanic sent word for help. Olympic, which was on its way back from US, rushed to help. But Cunard liner Carpathia was closer and all the survivors were taken in by Carpathia. According to reports, Olympic was urged to continue on its journey because Bruce Ismay felt that the rescued passenger will be further distressed by seeing the exact replica of Titanic and he wished to avoid that.

Finding the Debris

There is a small section describing the efforts made in finding the debris of Titanic. The exhibition also briefly touches upon the films made based on Titanic.

If you ever visit Liverpool, don’t miss a visit to the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the exhibition, Titanic and Liverpool. You will learn many new things about the ship’s connection with Liverpool. If you visit Northern Ireland, do visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast to know more about Titanic and its making.

You can watch a video of our visit to the Titanic and Liverpool – the Untold Story exhibition here

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