The loss of the Titanic was an incredible story even looking back 101 years to 1912 but to the people of the time it was the equivalent of 9/11 and then some.
I am reminded of that time by a copy of the Cork Examiner from Monday, April 13, 1912 which a friend brought back after visiting the Cobh Titanic exhibition in Cork where the ship last sailed from.
The complete newspaper is moments in time, when a disaster of incredible magnitude had just occurred and stunned local people in Ireland were trying to make sense of it.
The type in the newspaper is miniscule compared to today but the story is as big or bigger than almost anything we have seen since in peacetime
Among the stories is that of the “Lucky Stoker” A young local man called Coffey who made a miraculous escape.
He signed on to the Titanic in Southampton but jumped ship at Queenstown, as Cobh was then known, as he did not like his job.
Lucky stoker indeed.
Much sadder is the flood of inquiries at the telegraph office at Queenstown and personal visits from worried relatives desperate to confirm whether or not their beloved ones were on board.
“The White Star Co’s agents here, Messrs Scott and Co- continue to receive shoals of telegrams and letters making the most pathetic enquiries,” the story runs.
“Enquiries at Queenstown ---Pathetic messages” runs the headline.
“Pathetic in the extreme were those enquiries “Do you know if—is amongst the people saved.” “Did you hear if the family – was saved,” runs the copy
Incredibly the story was not on the front page, that was saved for advertisements such as “Neck Wear, latest designs” Royal Worcester Shape Fitting Corsets” (“Grand demonstration this day by Miss Wass”) and “Suttons Coal reduced in prices.”
As well on the front page was all the shipping news announcing Liverpool to Philadelphia and Liverpool to Australia and Liverpool to Canada sailings,
The Home Rule for Ireland debate also took up many column inches “Home Rule Bill Debate Resumed, Mr. Balfour’s Attack” was the main headline.
There was also a speech by Joseph Devlin MP who claimed it was “the Irish vote, which abolished flogging in the British Army and navy”
Fascinating story too about an M.J. O’Connor of Broadway, New York, obviously a successful exile, who rushed home to buy the “town of Leitrim” and a massive mansion house at Drumberney where the paper reported, “as he put it himself his life may be extended by twenty years as against living in New York”
Wade through all that and you finally get to the biggest story of the century on page 7 and there it is.
“Sensational news; World’s largest liner in collision off Newfoundland. Titanic strikes an iceberg on her maiden voyage.”
We are still living in the shadows of it.