Amidst all the huge volumes of publicity surrounding last year’s centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, the great ship’s links with the county of Lancashire and indeed the Port of Fleetwood were seldom mentioned.
But that is about to change.
A touring exhibition Unsinkable – relating to the Titanic’s links with the county - has opened at Fleetwood Museum and is on show until Saturday November 2.
Back in 1911, when the Titanic was due to be launched, Fleetwood was the main port for sea crossings to Belfast. Express trains from London, Leeds and Manchester, brought passengers into Fleetwood’s main riverside station for the overnight sailing to Belfast.
Passengers enjoyed considerable comfort and the White Star Line chartered the Duke of Albany steamer to carry the national press corps to witness the launch of the great ship.
The White Star Line president J. Bruce Ismay and the great financier, Mr Pierpoint Morgan, also travelled from Fleetwood overnight.
Some weeks earlier, Fleetwood’s top hatted station master, Tom Oldham, had supervised the loading of the world’s biggest anchor onto the Duke of Albany.
This anchor, destined for the Harland and Wolfe shipyard and Titanic, had been manufactured at Hindley of Netherton, West Midlands.
At the time of Titanic’s launch, Fleetwood had a ticket agency for the White Star Line in Dock Street.
Several Blackpool residents were amongst the passenger list for the ill-fated voyage, along with former Rossall School pupil, Father Thomas Byles.
As the ship sank, the Catholic priest refused to board a lifeboat and remained on the Titanic hearing confessions and giving absolutions.
A crew member who drowned was 19-year-old Leonard Taylor, of 6 Sherbourne Road, North Shore,(pictured) a masseur in the liner’s baths department who was on his first voyage at sea. His father was baths manager at the Imperial Hydro Hotel.
There are extensive cuttings from the Fleetwood Chronicle and Fylde Advertiser, as well as the Fleetwood Express. You The Unsinkable exhibition at the museum on Queens Terrace, is open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 4pm and on Bank Holiday Sundays and Mondays.
Musauem admission is £3, concessions £2 and accompanied children are free. Ring (01253) 876621 for more details.
Still with the sea and, sadly, still with a tale about drowning, reader Zena Burslam, who is the archivist for Blackpool Lifeboat, says a report in the yellowing minutes from more than 100 years ago show some things never change.
She has a cutting from the Blackpool Times of August 21, 1906 concerning the inquest of Harry Gradwell, 10-year-old son of a Bolton couple visiting Blackpool, whose body was recovered from the sea.
The article continues: “Poor shoeblack George Fox, of 38 Wood Street, Blackpool, had attempted a rescue in heavy seas to no avail.
“While the youth was attempting to rescue, some coward took 3s (15p), his morning’s earnings and ran off.
“The coroner congratulated the shoeblack youth and a verdict of accidental death was returned.”
Zena says reference to the same incident turns up in the minutesm of the Blackpool Lifeboat committee meeting of August 28, 1906.
It was “resolved and ordered that the action of George Fox in attempting to rescue Harry Gradwell on August 18 in a heavy surf deserves recognition by this committee.
“The sum of £5 out of the Lowe Award and Relief Fund be invested in a suit of clothes, boots, cap, medal bearing a suitable inscription and a sum of money be placed in his name in the Post Office Savings Bank and that the secretary Charles Turver and Bob Bickerstaffe carry out the same.”
Then on September 9, 1906, it was duly reported that: “George Fox was presented with a silver medal by the Mayoress. The chairman of the Blackpool Lifeboat, Rev W Evans, complimented him in suitable terms and hoped this would be the commencement of better things to come.”
Zena says: “It is such a wonderful tale of bravery by somebody whose work as a shoeshiner was probably taken for granted by so many of the people who used his services.
“But the article and the items in the committee minutes show that sneak thieves and their deplorable actions are nothing new.
“It is nice to think that George Fox’s faith in others would have been restored, and his brave actions repaid, by the kindness shown by the Lifeboat Committee. The sad part of all this is that a youngster died when he should have been enjoying a family holiday.