I recently heard someone say that after all the fuss of 2012, we’ve forgotten about Titanic again… Well – not on my watch!
Back on 2nd April, we held an event to mark ‘She Was All Right When She Left Here Day’, walking through the Titanic Quarter and through the entire geography of Titanic’s creation – the places where she was designed, built, launched and fitted out.
The rain poured – I mean really, really poured. You had to be a serious Titanorak to stand at the end of the Thompson Dock and squint into the grey murk of Belfast Lough to imagine the Titanic steaming off into the distance 102 years ago. But we were there!
Then last Sunday, our evening service on board SS Nomadic looked at the stories of the 8 band members who so famously played until the very end as the ship sank – at first keeping the mood light with jazz and show tunes to stave off panic, and then, in the moment everyone remembers, playing hymns as the ship went down.
We looked at the various hymns and tunes that may or may not have been played – the eyewitnesses (and later the historians) disagreed, so we can’t be sure! Even the films contain different tunes to the hymn ‘Nearer My God To Thee’. We watched the version presented in the peerless black-and-white film ‘A Night To Remember’:
– before the Nomadic music group performed their own, spine-shiveringly beautiful choral version of the more familiar ‘Bethany’ tune.
And, because technical difficulties left us sans keyboard accompaniment, all our hymns that night were sung acapella (or with clarinet or sax) – which somehow made it feel even more Titanic-y!
That brings us right up to the anniversary – 14th or 15th April (depending on whether you count the moment of collision or the actual sinking as the date to remember). A wonderful gang of tireless Dock Volunteers were part of a beautiful, moving event at Titanic Belfast called ‘A Night To Remember’. (I even wore a collar, to the consternation of many.)
We listened to the story of the disaster as told by Molly Brown, Lady Duff Gordon, Thomas Andrews and many other characters from Titanic’s day – before making our way out to the slipways by candlelight to mark the moment the ship hit the iceberg at 11:40pm.
What a moving sight, to see scores of people read the names of the lost by flickering candlelight on a beautiful still night. Many of them were descendants of Titanic’s passengers who had made their way to Belfast especially for this occasion – such as the relatives of first-class passenger Dr Brewe, pictured here finding his name inscribed on the ramp on Titanic’s slipway.
Out on the slipways we listened again to Eric Whitacre’s ‘Water Night’, sung by a virtual choir for the Titanic Centenary in 2012:
So I don’t think we’re forgetting. I don’t think we’re celebrating or cashing-in either (accusations which are sometimes levelled at us in Belfast). We keep telling this story, with its infinite angles, interpretations, lessons and grace notes. Every year we find new ways to remember, and new ways for our Titanic past to shape and inspire our future.