Thursday, 12 April 2012

Titanic 'lucky love' story revealed

ONE hundred years ago yesterday 28-year-old Delia McHugh was rushing to Queenstown Port from County Mayo, Ireland, to board the Titanic for its maiden journey to New York.

Delia, a young woman from a well-off Irish family, was to chaperone the wife of a wealthy politician - but romance struck in the nick of time to save her from the doomed ship when it called in at the port.

Her remarkable escape is recalled by her Lydiate granddaughter Maureen Birchall and is being printed for the first time for the final article to commemorate our local connection with the ship.

Delia was clutching her boarding pass andn just minutes away from stepping on to the ship when her childhood sweetheart, Patrick Hoban, caught up with her on his horse and cart.

In a scene not out of place of a Hollywood blockbuster, the teenager, who was 10 years her junior, crouched down on one knee, proposed marriage to her there and then and begged her not to leave.

Shocked and surprised, Delia said “yes” but only after she returned from her two-year stint in New York – and providing he would ask again.

In all the excitement, Delia missed the Titanic and ended up getting its sister ship - The Olympic - which was also bound for New York. Little did she know that he had just saved her life.

While in New York, Delia met many survivors from the Titanic and was told by many that they believed the reason it sank was because of a ‘haunted Egyptian mummy' on board.

Two years later and true to her word, Delia returned home to Ireland and met Patrick. The couple ended up getting married and moved to Liverpool.

They took over The Renshaw Pub on Renshaw Street, had two children and two grandchildren.

Their granddaughter Maureen Birchall, who lives in Lydiate, said: “The Titanic sinking is of course really sad but thankfully I'm still here today because he proposed to her and she was one of the lucky ones who missed the ship.

”I spoke to my grandmother a lot in my early teenage years and I can remember her telling me the story – it is so romantic. She was sad about the ship sinking but felt very lucky that she was still alive because of Patrick.

“She was also a lovely lady, very shy and very gentle while granddad was very confident.

”They were opposites but they complimented each other and lived a very happy life before both dying of old age aged 86.“

The Titanic engineer who went down with the ship

WHILE the Titanic was sinking a brave Waterloo engineer worked in darkness in the boiler room in a last ditch attempt to save the ship.

Although his efforts failed, Herbert Wilson, who was a former pupil of Merchant Taylors', will be remembered as one of many ship workers who tragically perished doing the job they loved.

Archivisits working for the school have unearthed his tragic tale.

Known as Bertie, he was just 28 years old when given the post as senior assistant second engineer on the Titanic.

He attended Merchant Taylors' school between 1893 and 1898 before taking up an apprenticeship at J H Wilson & Co of Sandhills.

The promising seafarer worked as fourth engineer and third engineer before being promoted to work for the White Star Line, serving on the Teutonic as second engineer.

His numerous jobs enabled him to save up to marry his sweetheart Mabel Agnes Lloyd at St Thomas of Canterbury, Great George's Road in Seaforth on January 7 in 1908.

When White Star Line moved the centre of their operations to Southampton the newly married couple were quick to follow them.

The move paid off when ambitious Bertie, much to his delight, was given the job of senior assistant second engineer on the ‘indestructible' Titanic.

Not much has been reported about his activities before the ship's collision with the iceberg but during the incident he was working in boiler room number five.

His role was to keep the pumps working and it is thought that while the lights failed, he and his colleagues continued to work in darkness in last ditch efforts to keep the ship afloat and save hundreds of lives.

Sadly, like countless others, Bertie's body was never recovered.

His distraught mother Mary died the following year and his heartbroken widow Mabel Agnes Wilson died just four years later, the couple had no children.

A memorial to Bertie is inscribed on the grave of his mother in the churchyard of St Luke’s in Crosby.

The inscriptions reads: In Loving memory of Mary The Beloved Wife of Thomas Wilson Who Died 3rd July 1913 in her 66th Year.

Also Bertie, Beloved Son of the Above Who Was Lost In The Titanic Disaster April 1912.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Titanic family tells film-makers to 'get their facts right'

THE GRANDSON of the Titanic's second in command has warned the makers of a new four-part Titanic TV series to make sure they get their facts right regarding the ship's final moments.

Chris Bayliss' grandfather Henry Wilde was the ship's chief officer and will feature in all episodes of a four part series set to be broadcast on ITV to coincide with the 100th year since the disaster.

The Sefton resident shared his substantial collection of memorabilia with the Champion including previously unpublished personal letters sent from the Titanic when it docked in Belfast.

While revealing his personal treasures, he told of his disappointment with the 1997 Titanic blockbuster's coverage of what he says is ‘speculative' evidence from the ship's final minutes.

Chris believes there is conflicting evidence to prove First Officer Murdoch shot dead a passenger before killing himself and says that it could have been his own grandfather instead.

ITV are set to show four episodes of Titanic in April with Oscar winning writer Julian Fellowes believing the show will “set out to tell the story of the whole ship.”

Chief officer Henry Wilde was off-duty at the time of the sinking and will be played by actor Will Keen.

The Champion can reveal his back story is not for the faint hearted.

Two years before the disaster his wife Mary died in childbirth along with newborn twins Archie and Richard so the seaman was left to bring up four children, including Chris' mother Annie, on his own in Maghull.

In April 1912 Henry was originally set for a senior position on the sister ship The Olympic but in a twist of fate letters reveal how in a last-minute reshuffle against his wishes, he was signed up to the Titanic.

Grandson Chris said: “As you can imagine my grandfather took a large part of 1911 off to sort out family matters.

”Because of his job he left four orphans and kept in touch with them via writing letters.

“He was due to sail on the Olympic but captain Smith wanted a more experienced chief officer for the Titanic so he requested that my grandfather took the position up.

”He only found out the day before it sailed and then he was introduced to the rest of the crew.

“There is a letter that states, he wrote to say that he didn't want to go on the Titanic and there could have been various reasons for that including the ill-feeling about the last minute command reshuffle.”

When the Titanic docked in Belfast in Henry's final letter to his family he mentions how the ship is an “improvement” on his previous ship the Olympic.

Three days before the sinking, on 11 April, he wrote: “I only got word from Liverpool at 2.30pm on Tuesday to say I was to go here.

”I had a very busy time in Southampton on board all day Good Friday and Sunday getting this ship ready and not knowing whether I was going on the ship or not.

“I have not time to give you any details about the ship but she is an improvement on the Olympic in many ways.

”I hope you will be able to come here yourself. I would like you and Jane to come down I am longing to see the little ones so much and hope to do so next trip home.

“I will be back in 16 days from now and will try to get home on Saturday for the weekend.”

Chris added: “To be honest with you when I was a little boy, you didn't ask questions you just sat there, you were always taught to be seen and not heard."

”My mother only having been three and a half didn't know a lot about what had gone on and my auntie Jane generally speaking wouldn't speak about it.

“There's that much stuff that comes up about what happened a lot of the evidence contradicts each other.

”There is no reliable account of my grandfather's final days so I'm looking forward as to seeing how accurate this TV programme is.

“I think it is important for the directors to leave the controversial bits out rather than speculating as I honestly don't believe that we will ever find out the true story of what happened the night it sunk.”

Titanic captain's former home left 'untouched'

THE Titanic's captain, Edward John Smith, was last seen in the bridge area giving the final order to abandon ship.

It is thought Captain Smith made no attempt to save himself and in true seamanship style went down with his vessel.

It is well-known locally that, lived in Waterloo on Marine Crescent at the time of the disaster but The Champion can reveal for the first time a number of images that show how the house's current owner Rose Gallagher has kept much of the place in its original state.

Unaware of the property's illustrious history, Rose bought it in 1988 after she fell in love with the ‘warm feeling' that the place had.

But it was nearly ten years later when she discovered the Titanic connection when film producers knocked on her door to have a tour around before their famous 1997 blockbuster.

“It just came out of the blue as a shock to me, I knew that the house had been here a while but not since 1830,” Rose told the Champion.

“They said would I be okay with them filming here and I said yes but they never returned and filmed the opening scenes in Southampton instead.”

Original items at the house include Captain Smith's photographs, marble fireplaces, an old brass kettle and the original wrought iron gate.

There is also a sealed cellar which hasn't been opened since before Rose lived there.

“I just fell in love with the place when I first stayed here. There's a real warmth around the place and only when people visit can they see how great it is.

”Many people come from all around the world to see the house on a regular basis and they are often fascinated when they arrive.“

Rose is looking to give tours of her property in the near future.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Titanic hero 'traumatised' by those he left behind

THOMAS William Jones was 32 when the Titanic set sail to the sound of cheers around midday, an experienced Able Seaman, he was taking up his post as part of the deck crew on the ship.

When the disaster unfolded he couldn't believe the “unsinkable” ship was sinking until received orders direct from the captain to man the lifeboat and steer it to safety.

On April 15, 1912, some 1,517 lives were lost after the Titanic struck an iceberg on its journey from Southampton to New York.

Because of the women and children first policy his lifeboat was full with 35 ladies, including The Countess of Rothes who thanked him for helping save their lives afterwards.

Thomas' niece Esther Jones, 74, from Bootle, told how as a child she remembered Thomas being on the Titanic but knew he hated talking about it.

“I was just told that my uncle was on the Titanic and he survived it. We were told not to ask too many questions.

”He was a seaman he was always away for a few years first on the Majestic and later the Oceanic. He didn't have any worries about it going down.

“I don't think at the time he liked talking about it, it was something he wanted to forget about. The whole ordeal must have been horrendous for him.”

Esther has kept copies of the original inquiry and his wage slip from the Titanic at her home in Netherton Way.

During the Titanic inquiry, he said of the journey: “I was sitting in the forecastle. I heard something like a ship going through loose ice and everybody ran on deck right away.

”I looked down below and I heard a rush of water, I went down below and I could see firemen coming up from there then we were given orders to get the boats ready.

“There was one old lady there and an old gentleman, her husband. She wanted him to enter the boat with her but he backed away.

“She never said anything; if she did, we could not hear it, because the steam was blowing so and making such a noise.

”The captain's orders was to aim for the light in the distance and then come back so I rowed for two hours.

“I wanted to return to the ship, but the ladies were frightened.

”It started to get daybreak and we lost the light and all of a sudden we saw the Carpathia coming and made for that.“

Around a year after the disaster but still traumatised, Thomas received a letter from survivor Gladys Cherry who was on his lifeboat, she described him as being a ‘hero'.

In the letter Gladys said: ”I shall always remember your words ‘ladies, if any of us are saved, remember, I wanted to go back. I would rather drown with them than leave them.'

“You did all you could, and being my own countryman, I wanted to tell you this.”

Titanic artist tells of 'spooky goings on'

OFFICIAL Titanic artist Ted Walker, 74, was putting the finishing touches to his most famous painting The Maiden Voyage when he nipped out to put the kettle on.

He returned minutes later to find the painting “spookily” on its side with the bow up appearing as if the ship was sinking.

Working painting ships for Cunard, the company that bought out Titanic company White Star Line, Ted also jets around the world to feature his top paintings in Titanic exhibitions.

Ted said: “I feel like I have a spiritual connection to the Titanic. I've been painting pictures of the Titanic for over 30 years. It started when in 1979 a gentleman commissioned me to paint a picture for him.

”He loved it and after that there was a lot of interest in it and we published the print for it.

“I believe that painting was a gift that was given to me from birth. When I was three years old I used to paint ships that used to go past the Mersey – strange looking ships but ships nevertheless.

”I first started out as an apprentice decorator so you could say I was always painting but when I came back from work I would just sit there and doodle and draw non-stop.“

Ted, who lives in Sefton, is scheduled to be featured in the New York Times newspaper next month.

One of his most famous paintings of the Queen Mary featured on a first class stamp in 2004 but he considers the Titanic paintings to be his prized possessions.

”Maiden Voyage was one of my favourite paintings, It's one of the most popular images of the Titanic and I worked all day and night on that particular one.

“There's all kinds of strange things that happened. When I was painting the ship in 1999 I went out the room for five minutes, came back and the painting had fell appeared as though the ship was sinking."

”Also, a few years ago, I went under the knife for an operation and while under the anaesthetic I had a vision about first officer William Murdoch.

“He was shooting warning shots with a pistol to try and keep some order on the ship.
”I know I was under anaesthetic but it seemed so real.“

Ted also works with historians to paint accurate pictures of the Titanic's journey.
”There's about 800 hours in every painting that I do.

“I used to paint every day and sometimes throughout the whole of the night to meet tight deadlines but now I try and limit it to about four hours a day.”

Ted, who is set for an exhibition of his work at the Williamson Art Gallery next month, dedicated his successful life and career as an artist to his loyal wife Susan.

He added: “We have been married for 40 years and I could never have managed this without her.”