Things are busier than ever with our attempt to move and live on a boat at the moment. I haven’t time to devote to well-researched thought-out posts. Instead I have found a lot of what I want to write about already out there.
Four years ago Southampton had a big commemoration – 100 years since the sinking of The Titanic.
Why is it so important to us? Well, out of over 900 crew members 750 were from Southampton. Unless you were in charge of a lifeboat – most of them drowned.
Repercussions of that event over a Century ago are still felt in Southampton today.
If you are interested here is a BBC Documentary presented by Bernard Hill, the British actor who played Captain Smith in the Cameron film. It’s about 25 minutes long, so unless you are interested in Southampton or The Titanic, you are forgiven if you don’t click:
There is a plaque on a large anchor outside a derelict church in Southampton’s High Street (QE2 Mile) which reads: The Church of Holyrood erected on this site in 1320 was damaged by enemy action on 30 Nov 1940. Known for centuries as the church of the sailors, the ruins have been preserved by the people of Southampton as a memorial and garden of rest, dedicated to those who served in the Merchant Navy and lost their lives at sea.
There are many memorials in this peaceful place to those lost at sea. From mediaeval captains that went down with their ship to those bombed while bringing supplies during WWII.
There is a special corner dedicated to the crew who drowned when the Titanic sank. Of her 1,517 victims, Southampton was home to 538 of the 685 crew members who died on this White Star liner’s fateful crossing to New York on the 15th of April 1912. It was like our 9/11 – our city lost a generation.
I have been meaning to write about the Holyrood neighbourhood of Southampton for some time. In the 1960s a new area of council flats were developed on that which was raized to the ground by the Blitz. In the last decade Southampton council has employed mural artists and sculptors to reveal the history of the area. However, Marie Keats, another Southampton blogger I follow, has been able to do this so much better than I on her ‘I Walk Alone” wordpress site – so if you are interested in her lovely mural walk around the area please do visit her blog: http://www.iwalkalone.co.uk/?p=22590
When two Sotonians meet, inevitably they will start talking about ships. The Port is a big part of our culture and important to those born here. However the majority of people living here are not from Southampton. They never even get to see the Port of Southampton, unless they love sailing, go on a ferry or cruise, study at the University’s Oceanography Centre or work at the Docks. So like trainspotters, if an interest is shown, the shipping conversation will delve into anything from tonnage the state of boiler rooms. So hopefully not being too big a bore, here is my experience of our wonderful Port vistors in 2015:
Bramble Bank is a shallow area between Southampton shipping lanes and a cricket match takes place there on Boxing Day at low tide and in August.
Hoegh Osaka is one of the worlds largest container ships at 51,000 tonnes. Last January it had to ground itself deliberately on Bramble Bank in Southampton Waters when it got into difficulties after loading 1,400 new luxury vehicles from the Port of Southampton. Hoegh Osaka also made it to the BBC’s Year in Pictures for 2015: http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-35102257.
In March, the Queen officially launched the P&O cruise ship Britannia from Southampton. in May the crowds came to see Cunard’s three Queens: Victoria, Elizabeth 2 and Mary 2 all set sail together from Southampton – an event that was later repeated in Liverpool.
I took part in The Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyard this year. If you have ever wandered why so many British actors get the best parts in Hollywood movies, then perhaps take a look at this year’s festival slide showon YouTube (by photographer Steve Spurgin): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mPDpbDtbO8
With very little rehearsal, over 400 volunteers dressed in Victorian costume to bring this attraction to life, for thousands of tourists from all over the globe.
In the UK, we live and breath theatre from an early age, starting with making costumes to take part in the school’s nativity play. History is now taught by people dressing up and re-enacting the period they are learning about, be it Romans or WWII. To learn Shakespeare for exams we do not just read the play, we act it. More people belong to amateur drama groups in Britain than sports societies.
Portsmouth is the birthplace of Charles Dickens. The Historical Dockyard is where centuries-old ships, such as Nelson’s Flagship The Victory, HMS Warrior and The Mary Rose etc are moored.
The dry dock is also where parts of Les Miserables was filmed. So all these scenes were brought to life by costumed actors, singers, school groups, historical and Victorian interest societies such as steam-punks or the Victorian Strollers.People from 5 to 80 years-of-age played famous Victorian or Dickensian characters for three full days and with very little breaks. It was in the open air while the tale-end of Hurricane Desmond was blowing a gale and in addition there were a few down-pours.
First visitors are greeted by carollers, then those in Victorian Uniforms, dockyard workers, stilt-walking-police, postal clerks, servicemen, sailors. Then by beggars, prostitutes and suffragettes – undertakers, a ruthless judge in a courtroom setting, prisoners, gliding angels, pearly kings & queens singing cockney musical hall ditties, workhouse children being enticed to steal by Fagin and the Artful Dodger, chimney sweeps, a green-gowned Father Christmas. There were snow machines, carousels, a Downton-Abbey type dinner table set with turkey and trimmings, various stage sets. There were three a pubs – one mock, one real with bands singing sea shanties and even an inflatable one. There was a market selling Christmas crafts and fayre from mulled cider to hog roasts.
I was part of Groundlings Theatre that organised around 200 of us. I played an aristocratic snob preaching Victorian manners. “It is the height of rudeness to have one’s elbows on the table.” At the end of each sketch, Charles the Butler pushes a custard pie in my face. I endured around 40 of those!
The finale each year is a parade lead by a full pipe band in kilts and bear-skins and headed by Queen Victoria. We were not allowed to carry phones and cameras, so I could only took a few snap-shots in the Green Room. Most of these photos are from Portsmouth News.
Firstly: A winking ‘Smiley’ sign to let people know that they are being watched by close circuit television, and not to get up to mischief on Bognor Regis beach in England, UK
Secondly: A large sailing dinghy in Southampton, England. Still popular, especially in Europe, a Phoenician Eye on each side of the bow of a boat is believed to ensure safe guidance through the seas. The Phoenicians were the first that we know of to use eye symbols in this way. It was later adapted by the Egyptians who named it the Eye of Horus.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Victory.”
HMS Victory was Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Built in 1758, she is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission and is one of the most visited museum ships moored at Portsmouth, England, where I took these photos.
27 British ships led by Nelson onboard The Victory, defeated 33 French and Spanish ships under French Admiral Villeneuve just west of Cape Trafalgar, Atlantic.
The Franco-Spanish fleet lost 22 ships, without a single British vessel being lost. The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the 18th Century and was mainly achieved because of Nelson’s new style of naval tactics.
Nelson was shot by a French musketeer during this battle and died shortly after.
To this day Nelson is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest war heroes and his statue on tall pilar stands in London’s Trafalgar Square.
To visit Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyard visit http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk
Further photos I took accompany my poem ‘Portsmouth’: https://southamptonoldlady.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/portsmouth/