On Monday, my third day in Ireland, we left Waterford and traveled south. One of the stops we made on this tour was to the coastal city of Cobh. Pronounced cove, Cobh was one of the main reasons I chose this particular tour. It used to be a departure point for people, either for travel or emigration across the sea.
In 1912, it was known as Queenstown, the final port of call for the RMS Titanic. The former White Star Line ticket office is now a museum, with a tour recounting the infamous ship’s final days and how passengers ranging from first to third class traveled. When you pay for the tour, you’re given a card, with the name and particulars of a passenger who boarded the grand ship, whether from Southampton, Cherbourg or Queenstown.
In the picture below is the remains of what was once the pier that allowed passengers to board their ship for destinations unknown. Titanic was the biggest ship of her time – so big, in fact that she had to weigh anchor away from the dock and her passengers were ferried out to her. In the photograph below, you can see the pier. Across the water, you can see some land masses – the closest one is a small island. Beyond that island is where Titanic waited for her passengers to either disembark or to board and check in with the purser.
Why was this such an important destination for me? When I was twelve, I read a book by Walter Lord, called A Night to Remember. A short book, it recounted the final days and hours of Titanic and the aftermath that followed. I remember looking at the photographs included in the book, particularly one of a woman who was clearly first class. The caption identified her as Mrs. J.J. Brown, but we all know her as the Unsinkable Molly Brown.
That began my life-long fascination with Titanic and the people who were connected with her and how she was built. For me, the best part about James Cameron’s Titanic was being able to see the ship in all her glorious technicolor glory. His research and attention to detail paid off – everything on that film ship came from the very same manufacturers who designed and built them for the real Titanic, down to the lifeboat davits.
In my collection of books, I have re-issued copies of diaries of those who survived the sinking, including Violet Jessop. Miss Jessop has the distinction of having served not only aboard the Titanic, but her sister ships as well – Olympic and Britannic. It was a night that still lives today – lifeboat drills are mandatory, there is enough room for everyone and icebergs are monitored, among other things.
Where I stood, taking that picture, was where one second class passenger had stood on April 11, 1912. He was waiting patiently for his turn to be ferried across the water to the ship that would, within a few days, be at the bottom of the ocean.
The passenger on my tour card did not.
Titanic Survivor by Violet Jessop
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
The Titanic Disaster Hearings by Tom Kunz