In Memory of Titanic #6

Today’s poems are from Peter Wyton. It seems he too is fascinated by the musicians on Titanic.


William Hartley, bandmaster on the Titanic

He has resurfaced in Colne, Lancashire,
leadership duties appropriately fulfilled,
discipline maintained, morale boosted
by the slender point of his baton,
until the ocean’s cold ovation
swamped him and his gallant band.
Now firmly anchored to his plinth
on the sloping deck of Albert Street,
awash in Blues Festival revellers,
rag-time favourites he might have played
swirling around his sculpted ears,
he seems threatened by the white bulk
of the First World War Memorial,
bearing down on him at a rate of knots,
crewed, amongst others, by twenty-three
bearers of his surname.

(first published in an issue of Smiths Knoll magazine)


They played, as good musicians should,
wherever they could find an audience.
‘A’ Deck, initially, the First Class Lounge.
Later, Grand Staircase, on the Boat Deck Level.
Lastly, the stricken liner’s canting deck,
as lifeboat after lifeboat crawled like beetles
across stark Atlantic swell. Applaud
a literally gallant band, not one of whom
survived to turn this unique booking
to career advantage. Their choice of music
still provokes conjecture, decades on.
‘Nearer My God To Thee’, the headlines screamed,
much more concerned with sales than common sense.
These troupers plied their trade to boost morale,
not reconcile their audience to a watery grave.
Rational survivors spoke of lively tunes,
contemporary hits from London and New York,
like ‘In The Shadows’’Alexander’s Ragtime Band’
and ‘Songe d’Automne’, most plausible contender
for the dubious accolade of
what the band was playing when the ship went down.

(First published in Chimera)




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3 responses to “In Memory of Titanic #6

  1. Merryn Williams

    Dear Angela,You have certainly discovered some memorable poems!  Here is one of mine which I hope may interest you – originally published in Seren’s anthology THE BLOODSTREAM: SURVIVORAll her life, the seven-year-old rememberedher father leaning over the railof the ship as her boat was lowered(seventy-five feet into the glassy freezing ocean)and saying, ‘Be good; I’ll see you in the morning.Keep still.  Hold your mother’s hand’. But all her life she never learned to swim.And when the Thames on stormy nightsinched higher, and the radio spokeof floods engulfing London,she shuddered, dressing in her tower flat.Her lifeboat kept well clear of the thrashing men in the water. Blue whales swam over the spot.  But no warm-blooded creaturecould breathe at the soundless depth where the great ship lay.And the divers’ hearts beat slowly,the circulation halted,as pressure slammed their sides, and the cold crept in. In her eighties, she sawunderwater cameras moving through the wreckage,coal scattered along the seabed,rusted metal, a flagonstill clamped on its thin sour wine,but no trace of the smashed bones of the steerage children.Incessant bubbles rose and burst on her television screen. She had lectured in crowded hallson both sides of the sea; arrivedsome seventy years too late, in a foreign city,to walk alone about the streetsthinking, ‘Yes, I would have lived here,grown old here, spoken with a different accent,survived with no passion and no headlines’ -and glimpsed what might have been her life,the shadow-side, the blue-black rear of the iceberg,globe-cracking, nudging her into a changed world.                                                        Merryn Williams

  2. Thanks Angela for wonderrul and touching poems , enjoyed reading them