AN exhibition on the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic drew the crowds on St Antony's Catholic College's Irish Night.
Painstakingly pieced together over two decades by naval historian Tony Maguire, this particular exhibition drew on part of his collection to focus on the fate of the 130 Irish passengers, who boarded at the ship's last stop before New York, Queenstown, now Cove, in southern Eire.
Only 12 who embarked at that stop survived, most were third class passengers and many died in their beds not even warned of the impending disaster.
In total 1517 lives were lost on April 14, 1912. Tony Maguire's memorial of photographs, replica menus, costumes, dinner sets and sea faring paraphernalia has graced the House of Commons and Merryport the home town of the former owners of the Titanic and was the first stop for many of the St. Antony's pupils, parents and staff on a night designed to help raise £13,000 for the Urmston school's annual trip to Romania.
Each year a party of volunteer teenagers and teachers act as support workers in the local orphanages and schools to find out about life in one of the poorest regions of Europe and how best we can help.
But it was the fate of a ship that was thought unsinkable that captured the imagination on a night otherwise of song, dance and good old fashioned Irish craic.
Tony said: “There were other terrible seafaring tragedies of that time, The Lusitania and The Empress of India which went down in the St Lawrence with more passenger lives lost than on the Titanic, but they are not remembered to any where near the same degree.
“The Titanic continues to resonate with people of all ages and where ever I take my exhibition it draws huge crowds. It is perhaps because of the rich Americans who embarked in Calais. There were 14 millionaires, billionaires to us now, and it is probably that celebrity factor that has drawn so much press and media attention ever since. However, for the St. Antony's Irish Night I focused on the ordinary men and women from Ireland who perished and their own personal histories.”
He added: “The story of Jack and Kate made famous by Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslett was just an imaginary love story between a rich American and a humble Irish boy using the disaster as a backdrop, but nonetheless it was a great film and and was faithful in the detail of the ship, the sequence of events and some of the minor characters in the film were key to the real events.”
He added: “For me no one was to blame; not the designers, nor the captain, the only place to point any finger of blame might be at the Captain of the Californian who disregarded reports from his crew of flares on the horizon as standard signals, and left it to the Carparthia to complete what they could of the rescue mission which came from 50 miles away, after an alert signalman had intercepted their SOS messages.”
St. Antony's P.E. Teacher and Year 8 Progress Leader Emma Doherty, who helped organise the Irish Night, said: “Tony's attention to detail and efforts to honour those on the Titanic drew praise from all quarters and provided a serious educational counterpoint to what was an immensely enjoyable, typically Irish night at St. Antony's.”