The legacy left by Titanic

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On Wednesday, April 10, 1912, friends John Garfirth and George Patchett boarded the Titanic at Southampton.

The pair were shoemakers from Wollaston and were headed to start a new life in Canada.

They were never meant to be on the ill-fated ship.

John, 21, and 19-year-old George had been due to sail on the Empress from Liverpool but because of a coal strike their train could not make it there, so they later decided to travel on Titanic instead.

The pair were third class passengers, having paid £14 10s each for their tickets. George’s older brother William, who had already made the move to Canada, had come back to the UK to help them organise their tickets. He was not on board.

They both died in the sinking and their bodies were never recovered.

The men were among 2,224 passengers who boarded the ship at Southampton for her maiden voyage.

Her passengers included some of the wealthiest people in the world, including millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, but also thousands of immigrants from Europe seeking a new life in America.

The ship was designed to be the most luxurious passenger ship ever seen and the most safe. But although she had advanced safety features such as water-tight compartments and remotely-activated water-tight doors, there were only enough lifeboats for 1,178 people – a third of her total passenger and crew capacity.

At 11.40pm on April 14, four days into the crossing, the Titanic hit an iceberg, 375 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada.

Over the next two-and-a-half hours, the ship filled with water. People were evacuated in lifeboats on a ‘women and children first’ policy.

At around 2.20am, the Titanic broke up and sank bow-first with over 1,000 people still on board. Those in the freezing water died within minutes from hypothermia.

The 710 survivors were rescued from lifeboats and taken aboard the RMS Carpathia a few hours later.

Also among the 1,514 victims was Charles Fardon, a carpenter from Wellingborough.

He boarded the boat at Cherbourg in France as a third class passenger, paying £7 5s for his ticket. He was heading for Canada and, for some reason, was travelling under the pseudonym Charles Franklin. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

Charles’s story is being told as part of a special exhibition on the sinking of the Titanic, which opens today at Wellingborough Museum.

It features a copy of the Evening Telelgraph from April 26, 1912, then called The News, which reports on the local death toll and the church services and collections for the victims taking place across Northamptonshire.

Jenny Whitby, the researcher for the exhibition, said: “We cover the entire story of Titanic, from the building work right up to when she sank and the rediscovery of the wreck in 1985.

“But the main idea is to tell all the local victims’ stories.”

Among the items on display at Wellingborough Museum are two boots, both for the right foot. The left boots are now all at the bottom of the Atlantic.

They were on board the Titanic with a salesman from the Northampton shoemakers Hartley who was taking them as samples to a potential American buyer.

The salesman was never heard of again.

There was also a crew member on board from Northamptonshire.

Frederick Wright, 24, was born in Great Billing and got a job as the racquet court attendant on Titanic, giving lessons and cleaning the court. He was paid £1 a week.

A survivor of the sinking Col Archibald Gracie recalled meeting Fred shortly after the ship struck the iceberg and says he jokingly cancelled his racquet lesson with Fred for the next morning.

Col Gracie did not realise the severity of the incident at the time but Fred had appeared concerned, probably because by that time he knew the racquet court was filling with water. Fred was last seen smoking a cigarette before the ship sank. His body was never found.

Rachel and assistant researcher David Town have been working on the Titanic project since January.

Some items the museum already had, while others have been brought in by staff and members of the public.

Rachel said: “You have to feel for everyone on board and everyone left behind.

“People were so proud of the ship. We will never see craftsmanship like it again. It was the most luxurious ship ever built and it was all done by hand.

“But she was also meant to be the safest ship in the world, with water-tight compartments and an experienced crew, most of who had previously served on her sister ship the Olympic. They were supposed to be the best of the best.

“But the worst case scenario, the one thing they hoped would never happen, did. It was a cruel twist of fate.”

Boats carrying clergymen and embalming tools were sent out into the debris after the sinking.

They were told to only bring back the bodies of those who had been embalmed. Supplies soon ran low so they were instructed to focus on the first class passengers.

Most of the dead were buried at sea.