THE PICTURES THAT CREATED OUR COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF A TRAGEDY
April 2022 marked 110 years since the unthinkable tragedy of the sinking of the Passenger Liner, Titanic on its maiden voyage. To mark the anniversary, a new edition of Travelling on Titanic – with Fr Browne has just been published, including historically accurate colourised photographs and updated text. The book features images of the ship in all its magnificence – the splendid suites, the lavish ballroom, the attention to detail in every aspect of design and of course the passengers, enjoying the novelty and the luxuries of life aboard one of the largest and most opulent ships in the world. Poignantly, this edition has been printed by GPS Colour Graphics, a Belfast-based print company that was incorporated in April 1912 – while the Titanic was actually on the ocean, sailing towards its doom.
The pictures were taken by an unassuming Jesuit priest, Francis Browne SJ, now recognised as one of the most important Irish photographers of the twentieth century. They may have never seen the light of day, had not Fr Browne been ordered by his Jesuit Superior to ‘get off that ship!’ at Cobh, the last stop before crossing the Atlantic. Fr Browne obeyed the instruction and his photographs now form a rare and precious account of the four days of the Titanic’s journey before over 1,500 lives and the magnificent ship itself were lost to the Atlantic ocean.
Some of the images linger in the mind, particularly when we hear the backstory of those featured. For example, p. 74 features a photograph of a young boy, Douglas Spedden spinning a top while his father Frederic watches. Both would survive the sinking; however Douglas would be struck and killed by a car three years later and Frederic died by drowning in a swimming pool in 1947.
Travelling on Titanic – with Father Browne, edited by EE O’Donnell SJ was published in April in Ireland the UK by Messenger Publications, priced at €25/£23.