Blair Beed Guest Post: Titanic Week

Written By: Kellie - Apr• 09•12

I am Blair Beed and I am a Halifax tour guide. As with any good tour guide I am a storyteller of the history of my city. (Well there are some that are joke tellers and restaurant critics or read from company notes-but that is another story). I have been telling the story of Halifax and Canada for 39 years and realize you have to be interesting to the listener just as a book has to be interesting to the reader.

It happens that my grandfather was an undertakers assistant helping with preparing the Titanic dead when they arrived in Halifax. So I grew up with that story and also live quite near the three cemeteries where the Titanic dead are buried. Taken together that was a natural story to tell on the motor coach tours of Halifax.
Over time I gathered information on Titanic and after a good response to my book ‘1917 Halifax Explosion and American Response’ I wrote a book on the victims of the Titanic buried in Halifax.
Halifax was in the news from the vary time that it was known that Titanic hit an iceberg. First stories were that Titanic was being towed to Halifax, then survivors were going to Halifax. Then it was the dead being taken to Halifax.
Halifax was the closest mainland port to the sinking disaster with rail access for friends and family to come to identify the dead, people to prepare the bodies and places for the mourners and the newspaper reporters to stay. The White Star Line decided that many of the bodies brought to Halifax would be buried in one of three graveyards in the city. The 150 victims buried in Halifax is the largest burial of victims other then in the sea. Walking in the graves gives reality to the story.

The sinking of the Titanic is not the largest or worst disaster in numbers of dead in the history of the sea. However it happened in a period in history when the world had time to notice. It was the maiden voyage of the largest moving object in the world and the time it took to sink gave survivors vivid stories to relate to the waiting world. The lights were on, the band was playing, some of the richest people in the world were on board. Families were separated and the ocean was calm and clear.
What people do not know about the Titanic was that during and after the two world wars it was almost forgotten until Walter Lord wrote his book ‘A night to remember’ which was followed by the British and American movies. Since then it has been a story kept very much alive.

Never quite clear in the movies was that the Titanic was not racing to win a record for speed in crossing the Atlantic. It was not built for speed to match faster ships of other passenger lines. However the Captain was directing a ship that was going too fast for conditions and even though the course was changed to go futher south if all the ice warnings had been received and treated more seriously the disaster might have been avoided.
Finally many believe the sinking made the rule lifeboats for all. In actual fact the passenger lines had planned on having lifeboats for all passengers and it was not until crews and their unions protested that lifeboats were provided for all on board the ship, passengers and crews.

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