Just before midnight on April 14, one hundred years ago, RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg 600 km south of Newfoundland as she sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, writes Lord David Alton in Thinking Faith.
Built in Belfast by Harland and Wolff, she was operated by White Star Line. There were around 2,200 people aboard Titanic when she sank, including some 900 crew. Notoriously, the ship had enough lifeboats for only half of the number on board and 1,517 people died; just 710 people survived.
Some of the male survivors, most notably White Star Line’s chairman, J Bruce Ismay, were accused of cowardice for leaving Titanic while women and children remained on the ship. Subsequently, Ismay faced social ostracism and obloquy. The disintegrating wreck of Titanic lies on the seabed but through a succession of books and films, memory of that fateful night remains sharp.
Commemorating this most deadly of maritime disasters, Liverpool’s Maritime Museum has opened an exhibition entitled ‘Titanic and Liverpool: the Untold Story’. But within that story there is a deeper one, which links the beautiful church of St Mary of the Angels in Liverpool to Titanic, to White Star Line’s heiress, to the Poor Clares and to the remarkable Kay Kelly.
White Star Line was a Liverpool company founded by John Pilkington and Henry Wilson. It made its money and reputation on trade between the UK and Australia and later on regular voyages to New York, taking thousands of émigrés from Europe to America.
In 1868, over dinner at Broughton Hall in Liverpool (a Gothic house which would become a Catholic girls school), a merger deal was struck between Thomas Ismay and his partner, William Imrie and the two men went on to take ownership of White Star Line. Subsequently the company would later pass into the hands of Ismay’s son, J. Bruce Ismay.
Both Thomas Ismay and William Imrie had wanted to build a small empire to bequeath to their descendants, although Imrie had no issue. However, this changed when, in 1872, Imrie adopted his niece, Amy Pollard, from British Guiana.
FULL STORY Titanic: the untold story (Thinking Faith)