Saturday, 14 April 2012

Titanic - revisiting distant lives


The picture above is of my grandmother's family, she is the young woman on the far left of the photo, with her hand on her father's chair. I think this picture must have been taken about 1917 because Jennie (the baby) was born in 1916 and looks about one year old in this photo. I have blogged before about my family history and in particular Jennie and Elsie who never married but devoted their lives to Methodist mission and ministry. My grandmother's life was very different; she went on to marry and have five children. The reason I am posting this today is that before her marriage my grandmother was a fairly prolific writer of religious verse and tracts and one of the earliest poems we have is a reflection on the sinking of the Titanic which happened in her early teens and which (partly because it is fairly unsophisticated) we think may have been written at the time of the disaster. It is certainly not great literature, but it is an interesting example of religious / didactic verse and of interest to me because it is family history. It is also distinctive because many of the poems inveigh against the evils of alcohol rather than topical or historical events.

The Wreck of the Titanic

The Titanic grand sailed out to sea
One smiling April morn
Two thousand peple were on board
Swift oe'r the ocean borne.

She was the finest ship afloat
That ever eye did see
But this monster of the mighty deep
Was wrecked and sunk at sea.

She ran into some floating ice
That's what the papers say
And hundreds found a watery grave
Before the break of day.

The cottage and the mansion grand
Of grief each had its store
And mourners there in vain will wait
For friends they'll see no more.

The gospel ship is sailing now
I'm a passenger, are you?
If not, why not? Come on friends
And join our happy crew.

Jesus is our Captain friend
He'll manage things quite nice.
He'll look out for the danger points
And keep us off the ice.

He'll land us safe when morning breaks
On a bright and shining shore
      And together friends, "Hallelujah!" we'll sing
                                                   For ever and evermore!

We have no writings from after my grandmother's marriage, they all bear her maiden name. It is hardly surprising that she gave up writing given her responsibilities as a farmer's wife and the fact that she went on to have five children and faced health problems. The only writings we have from after her marriage are some rather amusing lists of household rules (keeping your fingernails clean and not wearing clogs in the house feature among them) and programmes for the Sunday school that she ran (below.)

 Needless to say, Sunday involved two trips to church, cold meals to avoid working on the Sabbath and the only book which could be read was the bible. However, my grandmother was far from joyless; she was devoted to her children and organised many  village activities and events at Christmas, Easter and Bonfire night.  I never knew my grandmother because she died  of cancer aged only forty-five when she still had a growing family to bring up, ranging from teens to a toddler of eighteen months. I think this must have caused her great anguish and I guess it felt like her personal disaster. I hope the strength of her faith went some way to steer her through those difficult waters. I am sure it did.

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