Friday, 27 April 2012

Titanic connections

Last week the name of the Titanic was on everyone’s lips, as the 100th anniversary of the sinking was marked on April 15th. There were many poignant radio and TV shows to pay tribute to those who were lost, and even an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
Last Friday I was at Greenwich Maritime campus and made a quick visit to the Titanic exhibition. There were a few really well known artefacts there, for example; Elizabeth Mellenger’s cloak (which was used to save the soaking wet Officer Lightoller from hypothermia); Edith Russell’s ‘lucky’ toy pig and a whistle used to attract the attention of rescuers from the Carpathia.

The exhibition is free and worth a visit if you get the chance:

In my home, in the extreme south of Cornwall, much attention has been focussed on Edgar & Fred Giles of Porthleven, two brothers who were lost on the Titanic. All the stories in the press made me dig something up from the very deepest depths of my memory...  I was sure that my Mum’s elderly neighbour (the late, much loved Betty) had mentioned to me that a couple from our home village had been on the Titanic. A quick google search proved this to be true. Their names were Annie (nee Hill) and Stephen Hold. Annie and Stephen were second class passengers who had emigrated to America from Cornwall, but had returned for a short break to visit family in Cornwall and Devon.

As the Titanic sank, Stephen and Annie were separated when Annie was asked join lifeboat number ten. Sadly Stephen did not survive the sinking, he was not alone though, as another local man John Jago Smith of Lanarth (a radio telephonist on the ship), perished with him.  No trace of either of their remains were found after the sinking.

Annie’s lifeboat was rescued by the crew of the Carpathia, but without Stephen, she did not stay in America for long. In fact,  she returned home to Cornwall and settled in St Keverne (close to our home village). After some years she remarried a local man and had a family of her own.
Thinking about Stephen, Annie and John Jago, perhaps it is because ours is such a tiny community, that no remembers their connection with the Titanic. Annie passed away in 1960 and rests in the St Keverne churchyard, John Jago’s employers provided a memorial for him in the church, but there is nothing I could find to commemorate Stephen.
Researching a little bit about Annie’s life in our village, I discovered that she was the granddaughter of the famous and heroic James Hill, the coxswain of the village lifeboat.
Among many rescues and selfless act of heroism, James’ quick thinking on the night of the Mohegan disaster in 1898 ensured that 42 lives were saved in very challenging conditions.

On the night of the Mohegan disaster, James Hill looked out to sea and noticed that the ship was on the wrong course. He mustered the crew and launched the village lifeboat before the collision had even taken place, and as a result forty-two people were saved. This is quite an achievement, considering that the Mohegan sank in under ten minutes, at least a mile away from the lifeboat house, and that the lifeboat was powered by oars!

J’s record of the week:
‘Sailing by’
composed by
Ronald Binge

I thought that with all this maritime talk this week, we needed a maritime tune. Sailing by was written in 1963, and accompanies the night time BBC shipping forecast. I still have many friends living and working in the fishing communities of Cornwall (fishing is officially the most dangerous job in the UK), and one once said that when all hell is breaking loose on a trawler in the darkness, the shipping forecast music always brings a measure of comfort ! Jerushah X