"" Writer's Wanderings: The Titanic reaches Queenstown, Ireland

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Titanic reaches Queenstown, Ireland

In 1912, Ireland was still reeling from the economic depression caused mainly by the potato famine. Many were anxious to begin a new life in the promise that America held for them. At 11:30 the morning of April 11th, the Titanic anchored just off the harbor of Queenstown(today it is called Cobh).

Can you imagine the excitement and the anxiety of those who would board her for their new life in the States? Imagine the families they were leaving behind. Many had already had a departure party--not unlike an Irish wake of sorts. That in and of itself was foreboding.

Like Cherbourg, France, Queenstown was too small a harbor for the Titanic to moor at a pier so several tenders were used to take mail, food, and passengers on board. There were several passengers who also disembarked having paid four pounds to travel from Southampton to Queenstown. Among them was Fr. Francis Browne, an avid photographer, who captured the last pictures of the Titanic as she began her transatlantic voyage.

A total of 123 passengers boarded the Titanic at Queenstown by way of the tenders, Ireland and America. There was also one deserter, a crewman named John Coffey, who jumped ship by hiding among the mail bags that were off-loaded.

At 1:30 in the afternoon, all transactions had been completed and whistles were blown to indicate the Titanic was ready to set sail on her crossing to New York City.

We have made that crossing several times aboard Cunard ships which are similar to the style of the Titanic. There are even some "class" distinctions left in that you can book higher levels, Princess and Queen, which have their own dining rooms and special services. Our real glimpse into the class structure of the old ocean liners however came when we crossed aboard the old Queen Elizabeth 2. The ship had been updated but the hallways and elevators were laid out strangely because in the beginning, the classes had been separated and you could not get to an area of the ship that was not in your class.

I'm sure the Titanic movie portrays well the types of activities that took place aboard the famous ship. Those energetic Irish who boarded in Queenstown probably kept steerage entertained.

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