Tag Archives: Streatham

Lambeth and the Titanic

It’s 100 years to the day since the Titanic disaster. Hours after the unsinkable Titanic sank, the Cunard liner Carpathia had arrived on the scene and picked up the 710 survivors from the inadequate number of lifeboats provided by the White Star Line (20, with a capacity of 1,178 people). 1,514 people had perished.

This appeared in the next edition of the Streatham News to be published.

It refers to a Mr J D Hahn, of Streatham, who was thought to be a victim of the disaster. This presents something of a mystery, as there is no J D Hahn recorded as passenger or crew. Looking through subsequent editions of the paper, the story of Mr Hahn doesn’t appear to have been followed up.

What’s certain is that a number of people died who had a connection with the area we now know as the London Borough of Lambeth.

Victims

A definite victim from Streatham, which in 1912 was part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth, was Mr Richard William Smith, a 57-year-old widowed tea broker (for Reinach-Nephews and Co) residing at 53 Stanthorpe Road. He had embarked from Southampton on 10 April, occupying first class cabin A-19. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

It is recorded that the Titanic’s musicians played their instruments on deck to help keep passengers calm as the lifeboats were being swung out and the ship listed in the water, and it is said they played the hymn ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as the Titanic sank and they died with it. Two of that band were Lambeth residents. Percy Cornelius Taylor, aged 32, was a cellist. He lived at 9 Fentiman Road, Oval. Georges Alexandre Krins, a 23-year-old Paris-born violinist, lived at 10 Villa Road, Brixton. Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified.

Also living in Brixton was W H Egg, 34, a Third Class steward, of 1a Trent Road, off Brixton Hill. He had previously served on the White Star liner Majestic. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

At 8 Lynton Mansions, Kennington Road, lived Rome-born Roberto Vioni, 18, a Waiter working in the panelled splendour of the A La Carte restaurant (located between the third and fourth funnel on B-Deck, managed by Signor Gatti). The Titanic was Roberto’s first ship. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

27 Tenison Street, Waterloo, was a lodging house which  20-year-old Jean Monoros, a Spaniard, gave as his address. He worked as an Assistant Waiter in the A La Carte restaurant, the Titanic being his first ship. His body was recovered by the Cable Ship Mackay-Bennett, which was chartered by the White Star Line to search for the dead. He was buried at sea on 21 April.

At 12 Mead Street, Kennington, lived 18-year-old Maurice Emile Victor Debreucq, Assistant Waiter in the A La Carte restaurant. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. He is buried in Mount Olivet cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, far from his native France.

At 22 Albert Mansions, South Lambeth Road, lived 28-year-old Sauce Cook (in the A La Carte restaurant) George Baptiste Bietrix. The Titanic was his first ship. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

25-year-old Adrien Finnin Chaboisson, Roast Cook in the A La Carte restaurant, lived at 17 Kennington Park Gardens. The Titanic was his first ship. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

Survivors

Harry Senior, aged 31, a stoker, of 17 South Road, Clapham Park, survived the sinking. He gave an account of his experiences to the New York Times on 19 April:

“I was in my bunk when I felt a bump. One man said. ‘Hello, she has been struck.’ I went on deck and saw a great pile of ice on the well deck below the forecastle, but we all thought the ship would last some time, and we went back to our bunks. Then one of the firemen came running down and yelled, ‘All muster for the lifeboats!’ I ran on deck, and the Captain [E J Smith] said:

” ‘All firemen keep down on the well deck. If a man comes up I’ll shoot him.’

“Then I saw the first boat lowered. Thirteen people were on board, eleven men and two women. Three were millionaires and one was [White Star chairman, J Bruce] Ismay.”

The fact of Ismay entering the first lifeboat, putting himself before his passengers, would lead to him being reviled for the rest of his life, labelled as ‘The Coward of the Titanic’. He died, disgraced, in 1937, the same year as Harry Senior.

Newlyweds Daniel and Mary Marvin (nee Farquarson) gave their last address in London as 58 Acre Lane, Brixton. They were both 18, from wealthy families and First Class passengers. Daniel died in the sinking, after helping his wife into boat 10, saying “It’s alright, little girl. You go. I will stay.” Mary would later remarry and lived until 1975.

The last Lambeth-connected survivor I know of was also the last survivor to be rescued from the water. Thomas Whiteley was an 18-year-old Saloon Steward. On 27 April he told the Stevens Point Journal:

“I floated on my life preserver for several hours,” he said. “When the sun came up I saw the collapsible raft in the distance, just black with men. They were all standing up. Mr. Lightoller, the second officer, was one of them.
‘It’s 31 lives against yours,’ he said, ‘you can’t come aboard. There’s no room.’ I pleaded with him in vain, and then, I confess, I prayed that somebody might die so I could take his place. I was only human. And then someone did die and let me aboard.”

Whiteley, from a stage family, would later take to the boards in the USA giving talks about the Titanic disaster and how he survived it. In World War One he served in the Royal Flying Corps. In the twenties he was back in America appearing in musical comedies and later in several Hollywood films.  In 1932 he returned to the UK, married and lived with his wife Isabel and their two daughters in Streatham. At the outbreak of World War Two he rejoined the RAF, 87th Squadron, and served as a Warrant Officer until his sudden death in 1944, aged 50. He is buried in the Ancona War Cemetery in Italy.

London Nautical School, situated in Stamford Street in Lambeth, between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges, was founded in 1915, as a consequence of the official report by the Board of Trade into the loss of RMS Titanic. The school is a selective boys’ secondary, with an ethos aiming “to educate and prepare pupils to meet the needs of society either at sea or in any other occupation where responsibility, attention to duty and regard for others are valued equally with academic and practical skills.”

Postscript

This poem, The Wreck of the Titanic, appeared in the Streatham News of 20 April 1912, penned by someone named Honor Drury. For context, there was much scorn being poured on the Suffragette movement in the Streatham News at the time, and it was obviously hard to resist having a swipe at the Suffragettes in the middle of lamenting a huge maritime disaster.

The Titanic has sunk in her glory

With over a thousand souls,

The greatest liner in story –

And o’er her the broad ocean rolls!

The broad ocean rolls on for ever

While England sorrows aghast.

For her brave ones returning never

Who stayed with the wreck till the last.

For the rule of the sea prevailing

The women and children they save,

While in chivalry ever unfailing

The men found a watery grave.

Ye mothers and wives of England,

Who for women’s rights now pray,

Think on the wrecked Titanic –

Ye had your rights that day!

Rights ye have held through the ages,

Rights which still hold sway,

Though fiercely the Suffragette rages,

Think, will ye throw these away?

But the children of earth will struggle,

And labour and toil away,

While their newest and proudest achievement

Nature destroys in a day!

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Streatham On The TUC March For The Alternative

Over a hundred members of Streatham Labour Party took part in the TUC’s March for the Alternative on Saturday 26 March. Here is a video I made on the day.

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Will Lambeth Move Towards Transparency?

Lambeth Town Hall

I was listening this morning to edited highlights of a recent Lambeth Council planning meeting (yes, I know, it sounds sad for a Sunday morning but it concerns an important development issue for my patch), recorded by Streatham resident Mark Oxley. It’s almost an hour long (much shorter than the actual meeting) and you can listen to it here.

A fair summary of a contentious meeting, recorded by a resident of the borough. Mark has said elsewhere that he intends to ‘find out just what rules govern taking notes of meetings.’ He was technically breaching the rules. I’ll explain why, and then explain why the rules should be changed.

Rule 20, one of the briefest rules in Lambeth Council’s lengthy constitution, has this to say:

‘No-one is allowed to take photographs of or record using any audio and/or visual equipment the proceedings in meetings unless permission is given at the meeting.’

The chair of a meeting can in theory adjourn a meeting if the rule is being broken, be they the Mayor (Full Council), the Leader (Cabinet meetings), a scrutiny chair, the chair of a scrutiny commission, or the chair of any other formally constituted meeting being held in public (note: council meetings are meetings in public rather than public meetings).

On occasion, ‘standing orders’ have been suspended (by agreement) to allow photography and audiovisual recording, as for example with the Full Council when civic awards are presented, or the rare occasions when public galleries are full and a video link is provided to an overflow room.

Quite frankly, Rule 20 exists for no good reason. How long it has existed and why it exists is a mystery to me. Why Lambeth councillors should not be photographed or recorded in town hall meetings when we can be photographed or recorded anywhere else is indefensible.

Other councils, quite rightly, offer a webcast of virtually every meeting. Here is a link to the feast of local democracy that Maidstone Borough Council has to offer.

That is a sensible way to provide the official record, so that residents who are unable to be at a meeting can catch up with it online. A live webcast which would be placed in an online archive for retrieval seems to be a sensible way forward. Some councils do this, and some, like Lambeth, don’t.

What about the unofficial record, like Mark Oxley’s podcast? Well, if councillors like me can tweet away merrily and even blog from council meetings (whilst paying due attention and guided, of course, by the Code of Conduct), why on earth shouldn’t the public be able to tweet, video, photograph and otherwise relay the meeting to a wider audience?

Neighbouring Southwark has recently agreed to allow people to make recordings in some of its meetings. Well done Southwark. It’s time for Lambeth to follow suit and abolish a pointless rule.

Across the country, councils have varying attitudes to how their meetings are recorded. Some have full, almost verbatim written minutes, some have literally bullet points. Some do webcasts, some don’t appear to be aware of the existence of the internet.

Surely there is a case, given growing concern about the democratic accountability of councils in a time when cuts are being made to services, to establish a national common level of transparency about where and when, and with what level of debate, decisions are made.

Some councils may, given their financial situation, not see investing in webcasting and fuller minuting as a priority. But allowing the public to transmit the words and actions of councillors beyond the town hall costs nothing and would be an important step towards greater transparency and accountability.

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On coming 93rd without trying

It’s a very strange sensation, coming 93rd in the Total Politics poll of the 100 favourite Labour blogs. It means I’m fractionally more popular than Austin Mitchell, who came 99th. I am unsure how to deal with this level of celebrity.

What feels most strange is I really don’t deserve to be in the list – though of course I’m grateful to whoever voted for me. I’ll try to blog more regularly to justify the touching optimism of their votes. But, truth to tell, the Total Politics poll wasn’t on my radar, and nor was this very occasional blog.

My glittering 93rd place was effortless. Literally effortless. I did absolutely nothing to win any votes, and seeing myself propelled to the coveted 93rd spot came as a bit of a shock. I had one of those almost-falling-off-chair moments. It felt a bit like winning a school prize for not doing any homework.

I’m reminded of the time I was in a team representing my (comprehensive) school in a public speaking competition. We finished second, defeated by our hated rivals, a grammar school. Finishing second – silver medal, general glow of achievement, better luck next time – it doesn’t sound that bad I suppose. But there were only two teams taking part. Young man, they were better spoken, said one of the judges. We woz robbed.

But life goes on. I have, I must admit, had a very off and on attitude to blogging, to the extent that my blog posts in the past year have been about as frequent as panda sex. In the autumn of last year I rediscovered a love of messing around with a video camera. Armed with the editing software on my computer, I’ve turned out some YouTube videos I’m more proud of than anything I’ve written in a blog. So maybe that explains why I haven’t been doing words – I prefer making movies.

But as there are clearly innumerable numbers of people out there with an eager interest in what I have to say as 93rd most popular Labour blogger, I’ll try to overcome my blog-block and write a bit more.

Meanwhile here’s a video I made of Streatham Labour’s hard-fought campaign this year that saw Chuka Umunna elected as our MP, and some Labour councillors of some merit (one is 93rd most popular Labour blogger believe it or not) re-elected.

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November Videos

You’ve seen my little film of the London to Brighton Vintage Car Run, and I know it has been posted elsewhere. I’m glad it has pleased so many people.

I’ve been taking the camera out to some other events this month. Not every event I attend, but some of the highlight occasions I’d like to record in my own way. At some events I attend, it’s not always appropriate to appear with a camera.

A few films are still in the pipeline (‘post-production’ as the professionals say) and when they are complete I’ll post them here. I have some others planned for what I call my spare time. I edit them together myself, and generally do the filming.

I can’t always do all the filming, for example when I have a role at the event, as with this film about Remembrance Sunday in Streatham where I was laying a wreath. The film explains who else was behind the camera. One person, a friend, I can thank – but the other is anonymous and probably long dead.

I did film all of this one, which was fun and challenging. It’s the firework display on Streatham Common. If you’ve ever tried to film or photograph fireworks, you’ll understand why. You never quite know whether you have the pyrotechnics framed properly from one moment to the next.

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