These are the actual words of Charlotte Collyer, one of the passengers on board the Titanic when it set sail from Southampton a century ago. They sum up the excitement associated with starting a new life in America, leaving England behind, accompanied by her husband Harvey and young daughter Marjorie along with all their worldly possessions.
‘The day before we were due to sail [our neighbours] made much of us, it seemed as if there must have been hundreds who called to bid us goodbye and in the afternoon members of the church arranged a surprise for my husband. They led him to a set under the old tree in the churchyard and then some of them went into the belfry and, in his honour, they rang all the chimes that they knew. It took more than an hour and he was very pleased. Somehow it made me a little sad. They rang the solemn old chimes as well as the gay ones and to me it was too much of a farewell ceremony… The next morning we went to Southampton and then my husband drew from the bank all his money, including the sum he had received from our store. The clerk asked him if he did not want a draft, but he shook his head and put the notes in a wallet which he kept to the end in the inside breast pocket of his coat. It came to several thousand dollars in American money. We had already sent forward the few personal treasures that we had kept from our old home so that when we went on board the Titanic our every earthly possession was with us. We were travelling second cabin and from our deck which was situated well forward, we saw the great send off that was given to the boat. I do not think that there had ever been so large a crowd in Southampton and I am not surprised that it should have come together… The Titanic was wonderful, far more splendid and huge than I had dreamed of. The other crafts in the harbour were like cockle shells beside her, and they, mind you, were the boats of the Americans and other lines that a few years ago were thought enormous. I remember a friend said to me ‘Aren’t you afraid to venture on the sea?’ but now it was I who was confident. ‘What on this boat!’ I answered. ‘Even the worst storm could not sink her’.
The collision that took place in Southampton harbour with the New York failed to dent her confidence:
‘Before we left the harbour I saw the accident to the New York, the liner that was dragged from her moorings and swept against us in the Channel. It did not frighten anyone, as it only seemed to prove how powerful the Titanic was.’
Harvey wrote to his parents, shortly after they had set sail:
‘My dear Mum and Dad,
It don’t seem possible we are out on the briny writing to you. Well dears so far we are having a delightful trip the weather is beautiful and the ship magnificent. We can’t describe the tables it’s like a floating town. I can tell you we do swank we shall miss it on the trains as we go third on them. You would not imagine you were on a ship. There is hardly any motion she is so large we have not felt sick yet, we expect to get to Queenstown today so thought I would drop this with the mails. We had a fine send off from Southampton and Mrs S and the boys with others saw us off. We will post again at New York then when we get to Payette.
Lots of love, don’t worry about us. Ever your loving children
Harvey, Lot and Madge’
Charlotte and Harvey’s tale will resume on 14 April.
To read the full collection of stories from the doomed vessel, you can order a signed copy of ‘Lost Voices from the Titanic’ for £10 including postage and package (Overseas £5 P&P)
- Titanic Centenary Commemorations in Southampton (shinesquad.wordpress.com)
- The Unsinkable Millvina Dean (punchdrunkinsomniac.wordpress.com)
- Southampton Marks Titanic Milestone, 100 Years After Setting Sail (newsfeed.time.com)
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