History buffs pay their respects to Chorley’s links to the Titanic disaster


Members of the Chorley Civic Society paid their respects to the 1,500 passengers and crew who lost their lives aboard the Titanic – 100 years after the disaster.

They gathered outside Albany Science College, where six months earlier the Civic Society had placed a plaque to commemorate the birthplace of Charles Herbert Lightoller, the most senior officer to survive the disaster.

Rosemary Boyd, civic society member, said: “We felt that, as a tribute to those who drowned, and to honour the courage of those who survived such a horrendous ordeal, we would meet at the exact time the iceberg hit the Titanic.

“There has been so much in the media, including personal accounts of the survivors, that I have been struck by their braveness in the face of possible death,’ added member Kath Almond.

“It also brought home the large change we have had in the class system since then.

“I am particularly impressed with the Belfast Titanic Memorial which has just been unveiled, where the names of those lost are in alphabetical order.”

The plaque was unveiled by Louise Patten in memory of her grandfather Commander Lightoller last year, and we caught up with her on the anniversary.

As a little girl, she would sit for hours mesmerised by stories of her Chorley-born grandfather.

And decades later, tales from the ill-fated ship continue to fascinate as the world geared up to mark 100 years since the tragedy.

Charles Lightoller was Second Officer on board the Titanic, and was the highest ranking officer to survive the maritime disaster, which claimed the lives of 1,503 passengers and crew.

Lady Patten, 58, claims her grandfather told his wife an order to steer the ship away from the danger was misunderstood, a secret the family kept for years.

She said at the time, different steering systems were used for steam ships and sailing ships, and her grandfather maintained this caused confusion when an order was given to turn the ship to starboard, refuting the claim the iceberg had not been spotted.

The mother-of-one said: “There’s been masses of speculation about what went wrong.

“They knew the conditions. They know that in those conditions, they would see an iceberg at two, three, four miles.

“It’s like Jenson Button driving along and, whoopsie, hitting a wall. It was just a straightforward, understandable mistake, but a lethal one.

“I’ve always known about the Titanic because I was brought up with it. In the 50s and 60s, people were not very interested in it, so I didn’t really talk about it that much.

“It was really post the film with Leonardo DiCaprio in it.”

Speaking of the 1997 Hollywood blockbuster Titanic, she said: “It got my grandfather wrong. He was a Lancashire man and they portrayed him as an upper-class twit.”

Cmdr Lightoller was the last survivor to be plucked from the wreckage and went on to serve in the First World War, for which he was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross. He died in 1952, at 78.

Lady Patten, who is writing her third book, said: “My grandfather had been a great hero. He and my grandmother adored each other. It was one of those amazing, happy marriages.”

Louise decided to weave the family secret into her fictional 2010 novel Good As Gold, the tale of a banker branded a coward after escaping the sinking ship.

Last week, the Guardian reported how we covered the disaster and we have been inundated with messages about our appeal to find out more about WHM Parr, who was aboard the ship at the time.

John McGuigan contacted us with some information that he managed to dig out about Mr Parr.

He claimed that William Henry Marsh Parr was a member of the Harland and Wolff “Guarantee Group”, which sailed on the Titanic.

The Guarantee Group was a group of nine individuals selected to attend a ship’s maiden voyage, in order to record the performance and any problems that might arise with the ship.

The members were deemed the best in their respected fields at that time. There were nine members on the journey and all of them perished in the sinking.

Mr Parr had been travelling in first class, and had left Horwich prior to the disaster to take up the position of electrical department at Harland and Wolfe. He was married to a Miss Poole, of Northwich, and they had a three-month-old baby.

People just have time to make a nomination for any initiatives that bring historic interest to Chorley as part of the Civic Society’s 2012 Awards. See the website at www.chorleycivicsociety.co.uk.