Inquiries and Reputations

10 February 2012 by Rebecca

Coutroom sketch- Ismay being questioned.

Bruce ismay being questioned by the attorney general. Copyright Julia Quenzler.

This illustration is taken from the Inquires and Reputations presentation in the forthcoming Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum. It was created by the artist Julia Quenzler who sketches real life court room scenes for the BBC and shows Bruce Ismay being questioned at the British inquiry into Titanic’s sinking. This part of the exhibition looks at accounts from crew and passengers given at the inquiry in 1912.

The aftermath of the sinking is a key theme in the exhibition. The world’s reaction and disbelief to news of Titanic‘s loss are highlighted in newspaper reports and film which will be on show in the exhibition. Often fickle and inaccurate press reports were released as families waited anxiously to hear if their loved ones had survived. In this part of the exhibition we tackle these difficult and emotional responses to events which lasted a mere 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Reputations were made or ruined during the immediate inquiries into the loss of Titanic – firstly held in America and later in London. Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line received much of the blame for the disaster. American cartoons represented Ismay as a cruel businessman when in fact he had been left traumatised by the disaster. One of the telegrams to be displayed in the exhibition was sent from Captain Rostron of Carpathia (the rescue ship), dated 15th April 3.10pm. It described Ismay as ‘under opiate’ due to the loss of Titanic and many close friends and colleagues.

Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story opens at Merseyside Maritime Museum on 30 March 2012.

  1. Bill Harrison says:

    Surely Bruce Ismay was exonerated by both inquiries. His "blame" came from a hostile American press.

  2. Rebecca Watkin, curator says:

    Dear Bill,
    Many thanks for your comment, yes Ismay was exonerated and he received much of the blame by the American press before Carpathia even reached New York. The newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst disliked Ismay and a series of unpleasant cartoons followed.

    Lord Mersey rejected the suggestion ‘that Ismay had a moral duty, as chairman of the company, to wait until the vessel foundered’.
    He wasn’t the first person to jump into the lifeboat, he was rescued in one of the last lifeboats after providing assistance to many passengers.

    Ismay was very distressed about the sinking and on days 16 & 17 of the British inquiry alone he answered more than 800 questions about Titanic- from the construction to his own survival. After retiring from the company he threw himself into charity work and founded the National Mercantile Marine Fund, which made provisions for the widows and children of merchant seaman.

    In the Aftermath section of the Titanic & Liverpool: the untold story exhibition, the inquiries are explored in more detail including Ismay’s testimony. We have loaned a copy of one of the Inquiry reports from the British inquiry which is also on display.

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