MEMORIES of a former Machars resident and Titanic survivor will be to the fore this weekend as the world recalls the tragic sinking of history’s most famous vessel.
For the ship’s fortunate junior signalman, Harold Bride, and his wife, Lucy, from Stranraer, spent their married years in relative seclusion at Glasserton Manse while she was a teacher in the years after the Titanic tragedy.
And local rumour had it that Bride, who passed on to Titanic’s captain from the ship’s wireless room 23 warning messages received over three days from nearby vessels while approaching the treacherous ice field of the North Atlantic, had taken a gratitude payment from a wealthy passenger he saved from the icy waters on the night of April 14/15, 1912.
Bride’s wife Lucy was from Stranraer although he was born in south London and the pair didn’t meet until after the fateful night. But after having served on several ships in the wake of the disaster, he married her in Stranraer on April 10, 1920, before taking up residence at Glasserton, where they had three children – Jack (John), Jeanette (who moved abroad after first teaching at Droughduil Primary School, Dunragit) and Lucy.
James Conlan, a former pupil of Lucy Bride’s who now lives in England, was reminded of her amid media coverage of the disaster’s 100-year anniversary in which 1514 people died.
After spotting a photo of Bride in Monday’s edition of The Times newspaper being carried off the gangway of the rescue ship, the Carpathia, with frost-bitten and injured feet, he contacted The Galloway Gazette to share his memories.
He said: “Certainly when I was a boy the rumour was that Mr Bride saved a rich lady from the Titanic and thus they were able to live at the Manse in some comfort. If so, he deserved it. They had a large white dog, a Samoyed, which appeared similar to a husky and which Mrs Bride brought to school on occasion.”
Some residents may also remember telegraph poles cropping up in Bride’s garden as he continued his keen interest in radio. Bride had completed telegraphy training in Liverpool and was employed by the Marconi International Communications Company, which was chosen by White Star Line to direct the radio communications aboard the Titanic.
A 22-year-old Bride and his senior officer, Jack Phillips, were in the wireless room fielding messages to and from wealthy passengers using their state-of-the-art radio which boasted a 400-mile radius on the night of April 14. Each time an ice warning came, it was passed on to Captain James Smith, who took the blame for ignoring them and went down with Titanic.
At the inquest into the sinking, Bride spoke candidly of what he saw and described how he and Phillips stayed in the wireless room frantically sending out help messages until water engulfed them.
He managed to make his way to a collapsible lifeboat but was washed away by a wave. However, he clung to an oarhook and clambered on to the hull of the upturned raft where his feet became wedged between wooden slats and a fellow passengers lay on them, crushing them. Together they watched the enormous ship slowly and quietly disappear with “just the slightest bit of suction”
He later saw the frozen body of Phillips aboard the Carpathia as he was being helped aboard. Bride and Lucy named their only son after him.
An account from the inquest, as spoken by Bride, recalled: “I was standing by Phillips when the captain entered the cabin.
“ ‘We’ve struck an iceberg,’ the captain said. ‘Send the call for assistance,’ said the captain, barely putting his head in the door.”
Continuing to man their posts, communicating with ships and desperately requesting assistance, Bride and Phillips were soon released from duty by the captain who told them it was “every man for themselves now”.
He and Phillips were separated as the ship began to list badly. He later saw Phillips’s frozen body on the Carpathia as he was being assisted on with damaged feet.
He said: “The way the band kept playing, which was a noble thing. I heard it first while still we were working the wireless, when there was a ragtime tune for us, and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on the deck, playing ‘Autumn.’
“How they ever did it, I cannot imagine.
“That and the way Phillips kept sending after the captain told him his life was his own, and to look out for himself, are two things that stand out in my mind over all the rest.”
Lucy’s last known address in Stranraer was 17 Victoria Place, and she died in Prestwick in 1973 after her husband’s death from lung cancer in 1956.
Their great-grandchildren have recounted Bride’s memories to school pupils and groups over the years.