Saturday, April 07, 2012

Radnorshire and the Titanic

Two subjects which seem to fascinate amateur historians are Jack the Ripper and the sinking of the Titanic. There are websites and forums examining those events in mind-boggling detail. Now, with the centenary of the sinking of the White Star flagship, the mainstream media has also gone overboard with numerous television programmes and books about the ill-fated liner.

The Western Mail's Lefi Gruffudd quite rightly complains about Welsh television's rather pathetic desire to join in this festival of remembrance while ignoring historical events of far more significance to Wales. Will Senghenydd, he asks, be remembered in 2013? Well perhaps not, but then Kate Winslet hasn't starred in a film about the Glamorgan mining tragedy.

If some of the Welsh connections to the Titanic story are ridiculous - according to the Western Mail the first class passengers ate off silverware made in Wales - at least Radnorshire can claim a more substantial link with the aftermath.

I wonder if the legal representative of the Dockers' Union and stout defender of the working class Clement Edwards took a particular pleasure in cross-examining Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucile at the Board of Trade Inquiry into the sinking of the doomed vessel. Through their links to the Lewis family - their father was a first cousin of George Cornewall Lewis - Cosmo's brother Henry had recently taken possession of Harpton Court near New Radnor, a locality that Edwards, the son of a Knighton draper,* knew well.

According to the popular press the lifeboat in which Duff-Gordon and his wife had escaped the Titanic was know as "the money boat." It was suggested that the crew had been bribed to get away from the sinking vessel rather than pick up survivors, even though there were just 12 occupants in the 40 seater craft. Despite some obvious inconsistencies in their evidence highlighted by Edwards, the Board of Inquiry found the couple quite blameless. They would suffer from the gossip of less generous sections of the public for the rest of their days.

Within a year Clement Edwards - he was the MP for the East Glamorgan constituency which contained the village of Senghenydd - would be representing the bereaved families at the inquest into the Universal pit explosion.

* Clem Edwards' Llangynllo born mother Sarah bore the fine old Radnorshire surname of Tudge - it dates back in the county until at least the 1690s. At the time of the 1911 Census and by then a widow, Mrs Edwards was keeping a boarding house, Penithon, in Llandrindod.

1 comment:

ludlow-eye said...

Hi, interesting material.

We live quite near Harpton Court, once home to the infamous "Duff Gordons".

Perhaps the narrative to The Sinking of the Titanic should be re-examined, with the premise that it was insurance fraud in which no one died (and the "Duff Gordons" were, at best, just a couple of actors, if not outright fabrications!)

Mindful of that premise, perhaps we should cast a critical eye over more recent transportation "disasters"; most recently the losses of flights MH17 and MH360.