The Pride Of The White Star Line
by Jim Bell
(Chatham Kent UK)
THE PRIDE OF THE WHITE STAR LINE
It was a frantic day, the 31st of March,
A century ago, in 1909;
The Harland & Wolff shipyard, in Ireland’s Belfast,
Began a construction, working to a strict dead-line.
The first steel was laid, on a massive scale,
And over two years, a ship was born;
And on 31st of May, in 1911
The hull was launched, one misty dawn.
The largest passenger steam ship, to grace the seas,
Eight hundred and eighty two feet long, and ninety two feet wide,
The jewel of the famous White Star Line
Was fitted out, to combat the tides.
A colossus rose from the riveted plates,
Luxury promised to those, wealthy and rich,
One hundred and seventy-five feet high, from keel to funnel,
Construction was completed, with barely a hitch.
Boasting nine decks for passengers, to live like Kings,
This forty-six thousand tons, of floating steel,
Attracted business people of status, for it’s maiden voyage,
It’s vast size, held a strong appeal.
R.M.S. Titanic was classed as “unsinkable”,
It’s hundred and fifty-nine furnaces, fueled by coal,
Fed power to the twenty-nine boilers,
To produce the twenty-three knots, she would go.
Sea trials successful; her Captain, Edward J. Smith,
Commanding eight hundred and eighty-five crew on his ship,
Docked in southern England,
Was stocked, and prepared; fully equipped.
Her four funnels towered above everything around,
Each one stood sixty-two feet high, in relation;
Only three of them, though, were functional,
The fourth, was for ventilation.
The quayside was packed with admirers and onlookers,
Who gaped at this gigantic ship, in awe;
They wondered how such a thing could float,
And were mesmerised, by what they saw.
Her maiden voyage to New York, was a fantastic event,
As passengers boarded the ship in Southampton’s waters.
Lords and Ladies: servants and business men,
Families, with their sons and daughters.
Excitement was mounting, as their numbers increased,
Until it was time for this elite hoard,
To wave back to the crowds on the dockside…
There were twenty-two hundred and twenty-three people on board.
She had a short trip, before the main journey began,
As there were passengers in Cherbourg, in France;
A short stop, to load them and their luggage,
Having paid for their tickets, in advance.
The ropes were cast off, and sirens blasted,
Engines fired up, and the stern waters boiled;
But the wake caused by the movement of this mass of metal
Meant the 10th of April’s departure, was almost spoiled.
The S.S.New York, broke loose from her moorings,
As Titanic’s wake made her rise, and sway;
They came dangerously close to a collision,
Before the New York was towed away.
A bit of excitement for those onboard ship,
Set their hearts pounding, and pulses racing;
Privileged to be on the maiden voyage,
Looking forward to the trip they were facing.
Unbeknown to the Captain, there was a stowaway on board,
But, twenty-three year old John Coffey had a lingering doubt,
After hiding in the lifeboats, he had a horrible premonition,
And couldn’t wait for a chance to get out.
After leaving Cherbourg, Titanic sailed for Queenstown,
In Southern Ireland, where the lad escaped ashore;
Later he worked on The Mauritania”, but said
He couldn’t hide out, in fear, any more.
Titanic was too large for the Queenstown port,
So had to drop anchor, just off the land;
Tenders ferried passengers, back and forth,
And crew members gave a helping hand.
At last, the big journey – the Atlantic Ocean,
A crossing so luxurious, in their salubrious surroundings,
Surely the doubts held by the stowaway lad
Couldn’t have any substantial founding.
The drinks flowed constantly; food fit for a King,
Dinner suits escorted ladies, in evening gowns;
The curved staircase, a prominent feature,
As music and laughter sounded, all around.
They’d been four days at sea, and children were in bed,
Snuggling down, as they had been told;
Dancing still continued, at half past eleven,
The Atlantic weather had turned really cold.
From the decks, the view was of total darkness,
Wherever you looked, everywhere seemed to be black;
Couples shivered in the chill, and with wind in their hair,
Decided it was time to be going back.
From the ink-black darkness, appeared a shape,
It encroached rapidly, on the starboard side;
The man on watch shouted out a warning,
Thirty-seven seconds later, it wrecked White Star Line’s pride.
An iceberg tore into the hull of the ship,
Buckling steel plates, beneath the waterline;
A ninety metre section, popped rivets apart,
The radio transmitted it’s warning sign.
Thousands of gallons of water poured into the ship,
The crunching tremor spread, throughout it’s length;
Panic grew amongst passengers, and members of crew,
As water gushed through compartments, with tremendous strength.
The ship listed to one side, as it’s balance was evoked,
Screaming bodies fought, to reach the open air;
Decks swarmed with people, fighting for safety,
And lifeboats were launched, for them to share.
It was eleven-forty p.m. when the ship struck the berg,
1912; On April’s fourteenth day;
it only took two minutes, to cause this panic,
as the four-funnelled ambassador, began to sway.
The policy of the ship was “Women and Children First”,
As they were bundled unceremoniously, into the boats;
But the lifeboats were too few to hold everyone,
So some jumped in the sea, grabbing debris afloat.
The stern began to rise in the black of the night,
It’s propellers were exposed to the sky;
The funnels tumbled, and crashed onto the deck,
Catapulting bodies into the depths, to die.
On the fifteenth of April, the ship sank from the scene,
Two-twenty a.m. , after only three hours;
Those forty-six thousand tons, with hundreds on board,
Sank into the depths, despite it’s awesome power.
Scantily clad bodies were exposed to the cold,
Many clung to floating debris, topping the ocean;
Bodies had been trampled, in the crush to survive,
Amid the on board race, during the night’s commotion.
The ship had broken in two, as it plummeted the depths,
And sank to the bed of the Atlantic;
Hypothermia accounted for many poor souls,
The prevailing chaos was hysterical, and frantic.
R.M.S. Carpathia, was first on the scene
To pick up as many survivors as she possibly could;
Her approach was hindered by the unrestrained rubble,
Floating bodies, and section of wood.
Only seven hundred and six survived this maritime disaster,
The greatest tragedy to strike at sea;
The “Unsinkable” had been beaten, by a natural source,
That drifted the Atlantic, uncharted and free.
Memorials today, stand in several locations,
To mark and honour those who perished that day;
In Belfast, Southampton and on America’s coast,
People gather, and silently pray.
The promise of splendour, that so many enjoyed,
As they traversed the waters in that part of the World,
Never aware of the future, that faced them ahead,
As the tragedy of their sailing, unfurled.
Films have been made, to chart the short life of the ship,
As it’s voyage was recorded, in grand tradition.
Now, salvaged artifacts appear, throughout the World,
As they’re viewed, at “TITANIC” exhibitions.