Did you hear? The Titanic sank


One hundred years ago today, to be precise.

1,514 people lost their lives. They died. Hypothermia was the biggest killer.

As well as being one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history, the order of life on board the Belfast built ship displayed the ultimate in the division of the classes. The poorest were at the bottom. The richest were at the top.

I couldn’t help thinking about the tragedy of it when I watched a well-fed-looking Irish woman in turn of the century costume screeching in excitement about getting on board the luxury cruise retracing the path of the ill- fated Titanic on Monday.

She was beaming about the fact that it was a celebration of life.

I wondered how I’d feel now if I was getting on a luxury liner only for it to sink resulting in my death. I wouldn’t really want to think that in 100 year’s time some girl would be recreating my Topshop outfit and hopping and skipping about keen to retrace my steps, saying that this was the best way to mark my death.

Ironically enough, the celebrations on MS Balmoral were delayed due to bad weather. The ship was kept behind because it was considered too dangerous to send it to sea in such strong winds.

I’d have sent it on. I mean, if you’re determined to relive the whole Titanic experience, what’s wrong with a bit of being thrown around your cabin and fearing for your life when the boat threatens to capsize at two in the morning.

In for a penny and all that.

Some of the Titanoraks, in fairness, were a bit more sedate about the whole thing. But they were still in costume. Still a bit strange. Unless you’re a seven year old or an adult drunk at a Hallowe’en party, there’s no real need for the fancy dress. Usually I’d say each to their own but to dress up and then try and dress up your dressing up as commemorating people who died a horrible painful death is a bit of a stretch.

I wonder in 100 years’ time will people be flocking to the site of the World Trade Centre dressed in their best corporate gear wanting to head to the 100th floor and try and relive the moment of impact? Surely not.

Titanic wasn’t an act of terrorism but it doesn’t make the loss of life any less tragic.

Of course the construction and subsequent sinking of Belfast built liner is of huge historical significance and, quite rightly, the glaring incompetence and poor organisation of the evacuation has always been recognised.

Of course we should remember Titanic. It is in the history books as a massive tragedy. The organisational failures that ultimately doomed the rescue efforts have also been catalogued. There is absolutely no reason why any rightminded person should feel the need to pay £8,000 for a ticket on a memorial cruise to relive what turned out in the end to be a horrific event.

So as the excited Titanoraks gathered in Cobh last week, clutching their fake moustaches and showing off their period costumes ,it was probably anything but reminiscent of the many Irish who were forced by poverty to endure the conditions in steerage in the hope of a new more prosperous life in America, only to find that those few days in cramped conditions would be their last.

But sure it was all so romantic, wasn’t it? They all had a ball playing their fiddles and taking part in ceili dances while the rich folks enjoyed their fine dining upstairs. James Cameron has a hell of a lot to answer for.

Here are a few numbers that might demystify the Kate Winslet effect: Six - the number of warnings of icebergs Titanic received before the collision. Sixty four - the number of lifeboats the ship was equipped to carry. Twenty - the number of lifeboats carried. Twenty eight - the number of people on board the first lifeboat, which had a capacity of 65. Minus two - the temperature of the sea water.

The costumes might have been beautiful and the stair case a great backdrop for a photo but there’s nothing to celebrate. All of it was created and existed in an era blighted by poverty and deprivation where you were never allowed to forget your place.

We should remember those who died, and how they died. But as for dressing up and having a big celebration...erm, the ship actually sank, you know.