I’M sure, by now, every one of us must have seen a film about the sinking of RMS Titanic. Whether it be ‘A Night to Remember’ in 1958, which was a docudrama starring Kenneth More & Honor Blackman, or the 1998 multi-Oscar-winning box-office hit ‘Titanic’ starring Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio.
But how many of us realized that we were watching stories relating to people from Mexborough and its area?
At the beginning of the 20th Century the Mexborough and Swinton Times, later to become the South Yorkshire Times, was not just a newspaper. Its offices on High Street were used by W. Turner, the proprietor, as a Booking Office for ships used in travel, tourism and emigration, and he became an agent for the Emigration Office.
It was at this time that two important personalities, to this story, appear in the form of advertisements in the Mexborough & Swinton Times. The first being that of a small mail steamer which carried only 2nd & 3rd class passengers, the majority of which were emigrants to the new world. This being the heroine of our story the Cunard Liner Carpathia. The other couldn’t be more different to her homely sister. On 22nd April 1911 they carried another advertisement this time for the construction of a huge new luxury liner, by Cunard’s rival ‘The White Star Line’, The Titanic.
On 10th April 1912, the palace of the seas, as some called her, setting a southerly route to avoid seasonal icebergs, began her maiden voyage to New York, calling firstly at Cherbourg and then Queenstown, in order to pick up additional passengers.
The journey went well, with everyone excited to be part of a new venture, and first class passengers thrilled to hear the ships’ officers, at dinner, stating that the magnificent ship was the safest ever built and was so high out of the water that no heavy sea could wash over her and that she was unsinkable.
Captain Arthur Rostron, of the Carpathia, tried to coax as much speed out of the old steam ship as he could. He ordered: lifeboats to be readied; electric lights hung around the ship; all gangway doors, in the ship’s side, to be opened; ladders, nets and ropes to be dropped over the side; hot drinks, including soup, to be made; blankets and warm clothing collected; then lastly first aid stations to be set up in the dining rooms with doctors in each. At 4.00a.m., after a search, a green light was seen from the deck of the Carpathia and the first of the lifeboats was discovered.
It didn’t take long for the terrible news of the sinking of such a beautiful, new, luxury liner, with the loss of 1,503 souls, to reach the Times Office in Mexborough. The Mexborough & Swinton Times which had: been the local agent for the White Star Line through which residents had booked their tickets; promoted the Titanic by broadcasting news of its construction, launch, trials, and maiden voyage, only a few days previously; now had the horrific prospect of telling its readers that most of the 2,200 passengers and crew, some of which must have been local, had died. The journalist, in his article dated 20th April 1912 states “ the disaster to the biggest liner yet known has commanded the attention of a horror-struck universe” he also goes on to say “The Titanic and her sister-vessels were scientifically judged gale-proof; but when they were pronounced unsinkable, the experts were probably thinking of typhoons”.
The news of the sinking of the pride of a seafaring nation particularly in an area like Mexborough, where so many still worked on the waterways, sent shock waves through the populous. Our local citizens mobilized immediately, the following Sunday memorial services were held in all our local churches and chapels, to packed congregations. Following which meetings were held in order to plan how they could help the survivors. Funds were established locally to help the widows, orphans and dependent relatives, the proceeds of which were sent to the Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund, London.
In the Mexborough area rescued passengers from the Titanic Disaster must have began to filter back and I have received information, from two sources, that a survivor lived in, or close to, Adwick Road and also heard, from one person, another survivor of the tragedy lived in Swinton. In an endeavor to discover what survivors returned to the Mexborough area I have consulted www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor, which gives a complete list of survivors, but only mentions their addresses at the time they embarked on the Titanic. This is where I need your help. Can you inform me of more survivors, or information as to who these people, mentioned above, may have been please contact the Secretary of Mexborough and District Heritage Society J.R. Ashby on firstname.lastname@example.org.