Grief and remembrance


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Jan 2, 1997
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Hello, all. I've been asked to take part in a radio show about public expressions of grief (oh, I get all the fun stuff, me)

To give you an idea... the premise of the discussion is that mass expressions of grief, such as those which followed Diana's death and the recent tsunami, are modern things.

My contention is that they aren't, and indeed, there were just as effusive outpourings of public distress when the Titanic sank.

So, a couple of points for quick debate so that I can look very clever on the radio - what are your feelings about the public reaction to the sinking? Do you think it matched the sort of thing we have seen following, say, the tsunami? Money - I am aware that some money was raised for the families of victims of the Titanic, but does anyone know what was done? I'm assuming that it was charity balls, concerts and collections - does anyone know of anything unusual that happened to raise money?

Hope you don't think I'm cheating - but I thought this was the quickest way to get the most information!
 

Bob Godfrey

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The fund raising took every form from basic collections in the streets, in shops and workplaces, to large-scale newspaper campaigns and to concerts, sporting events and even individual sponsored 'happenings' of every kind and by people of all ages. There were relatively large donations from prominent people, but most of the money came in tiny amounts from people who could hardly spare what they gave. The total raised for the Titanic Relief Fund was over £400,000, a huge amount in 1912. If people today gave the same proportion of their earnings, the equivalent figure would be around £125 million.

And that money was carefully administered and put to very good use as the backbone of a long-term commitment to serving the needs of Titanic dependents. Many Southampton children were 'raised on the Fund', and relied on it for many years for everything from basic living expenses to payments even for holidays and, when the time came, for the training and apprenticeships needed to allow them to follow a chosen trade. It was almost 50 years before the local Committees which had administered the Fund were finally wound up, and there was still money in the kitty right to the end.
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Dave Gittins

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I would argue that the public grief over Titanic was more genuine, expecially when compared with the media-driven frenzy over Diana, whose death was of little consequence. You might like to look at the influence of the news media's reporting of disasters and pseudo disasters.

To add to Bob's remarks, the money raised for Titanic's victims is still doing good things. It is now held by the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners’ Royal Benevolent Society.
 
Jan 2, 1997
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Excellent, chaps. Bob - many thanks for this - I'll try to get your name to give credit where due (you don't get a lot of time on these shows, but I do talk fast!)

The generousity of ordinary people is always staggering.

Dave - I couldn't agree more. I believe that the grief shown over the Titanic was genuine - Diana was a freakshow, manipulated by the media. It's a really good point you raise about the media - do you think the media was less or more intrusive then than now (given the restraints of technology) These days, I get the horrible impression that rolling news teams have no scruples about dwelling on peoples grief on camera - usually whilst asking the weeping bereaved how they are feeling. How fast did the press get to the survivors in 1912? I have a dim memory of a story about press attempting to get aboard the Carpathia - even before she had docked. Would anyone in 1912 have been paid for their story?

And thanks for the info about the funds and the Mariners fund - might give them a call/drop a line.
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Susan -

Another interesting 1912 event that long-predated the Diana reaction was the loss of the Scott expedition to the South Pole. When news that their bodies had been found reached England there was a tremendous outpouring of grief, both public and in the media. A huge service was held at St Pauls, and newspapers ran extensive coverage - not just in Britain, but all over the world. At the time, reactions were compared to those that met the loss of the Titanic

The press certainly did pay for stories. We know that Bride and Cottam were paid to relate their experiences, for example. The man who boarded the 'Carpathia' after sneaking aboard from the pilot boat was not allowed to interview survivors on board - he was confined to the Bridge by Rostron. As soon as the surviving passengers landed, however, they were besieged by reporters. The crew were bustled over to the Lapland, but even there at least one reporter was able to sneak aboard and converse with them.
 
Jan 2, 1997
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Hi all - thanks for all of this, the chat went very well (managed to sneak in the website) and I don't think I let the team down!

Hi Inger - 1912 -not a good year for the empire, huh? There must have been a fair ammount of breastbeating and godbothering going on. There was a very good article in a history mag a few years ago that raised the suggestion that both these blows to national pride actually contributed to the First World War ie the Empire had taken a beating and prestige a nosedive, so they played up the building of the big battleships and 'innovations' on the armaments front. This added fuel to the fire of the arms race going on between the British and the Germans - you see where this is going.

Dave - your suggestion about the medias handling of disaster got me thinking before the programme started - just as well, because one of the contributors was a retired editor, who said that he felt that journalism has always been intrusive. He could only remember two stories story where the press laid off, the first was the Aberfan disaster, and the second, the shooting at Dunblane. On both ocassions the press stayed (he he put it) 'a wee bit farther back'. On all other disasters, he himself could recall rdering his people in closer for that photo/interview. HE even hired a boat within hours of the Herald of Free Enterprise turning over, to see how close he could get his photographers. But, he said, we want to read this stuff, so, really, it's our fault 'cos we buy the newspapers and watch the rolling news channels. But on your point about Diana, Dave, he pointed to the geniune wave of grief that swept America when the both Kennedys were shot, and even the death of Roosevelt, as opposed to the Diana thing. Just before her funeral, he was in Hyde Park, and there were people selling one-shot cameras, so you could capture that golden moment when the coffin passed by and your kids are grinning at the lens - the whole thing had turned into a giant one-day tourist attraction. People were fighting to be there, yes, but so they could see Charles, William and her brother (forget his name)

There was one point raised that I found really interesting - I am assuming that the survivors of the Titanic simply left New York, and got on with their lives - these days they'd be neck deep in councelling and therapy. Does anyone know (and if anyone does, Inger, it'll be you !) how these people coped after the tragedy? Was there a higher suicide/depression/alcohol misuse rate amongst the surviving seamen, for example? Did anyone in 1912 know or suspect that surviving a disaster can sometimes be as dangerous as dying there and then?

BTW,Inger - you don't happen to know how much the press shelled out for these stories, do you?
 
Jun 11, 2000
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No worries, Susan - I really moved it because you needed information quickly and I thought you'd find more in this folder.
 

Inger Sheil

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Here's Bride's evidence on this point, Susan:
Senator SMITH. Mr. Bride you were sworn in Now York; and I hoped to have some of my colleagues here to examine you. There are one or two things I want to ask you. First, I would like to know how much you received for the story you gave to the New York Times.
Mr. BRIDE. I received a thousand dollars.
Here's Cottam's evidence on the chequebook journalism:


Marconi also answered questions on the matter of payment for the operators stories.

Re stories of journalistic intrusiveness...I'm reminded of Hearst's offer of thousands of dollars to Emmet Dalton, aid to Michael Collins, to be interviewed about Collins' death in 1922. Poor Dalton was indignant.

1912 was indeed a bad year for the Empire! Although the last members of the Scott Polar Party perished (as near as we can determine) at the end of March that year, the bodies weren't found until 12 November, and news didn't reach the outside world until the Terra Nova reached New Zealand on 12 February 1913. The blows certainly had a cumulative effect, no matter what attempts were made to promote myths of glorious heroism in the face of disaster.
 
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