Who were 'Our Lads on the Titanic'?

An extended family from Penzance

Band members

It is well known that Wallace Hartley the Bandleader who went down on the Titanic was an Independent Methodist from Colne. At least three books have been written about him in recent years: Yvonne Carroll, A Hymn for Eternity (2011); Darran Ward, Playing to the End (2012); Steve Turner, The Band that Played On (2011). We also know quite a lot about the other band members – including the fact that one of them was called John Wesley Woodward and he grew up at Hill Top Methodist Chapel, West Bromwich (a 950 seat brick built Wesleyan Chapel where his father Joseph Woodward was leader and trustee).

‘Prims’ on board

But who were the ‘Prims’ on board? Certainly among their number was an extended family from Penzance, Cornwall. According to the Primitive Methodist Leader of April 1912, George Hocking at 23 years, a baker, shared a second class cabin with his friends Percy Bailey aged 18 years, a butcher’s assistant, and Harry Cotterill aged 20, a joiner. All had attended the Mount Street Primitive Methodist Chapel, Penzance.

George Hocking, also a member of the Young Men’s Christian Association Choir, was accompanied on the voyage by his widowed mother and two sisters, one of whom was rejoining her husband with two infants. The three boys, Percy Bailey, Harry Cotterill and George Hocking assisted the women and children on to lifeboat number 4 as the Titanic went down.

George’s mother was last to board the lifeboat and she begged him to come with them.   ‘No mother’, he said, ‘the men are good enough to stand back for you and I must do the same and let their wives and mothers go’. He kissed her goodbye. So the three were left on the deck of the Titanic with a number of other Cornish men – not one of whom was saved.

However, in due course Master William Rowe Richards (age 3) eldest son of Mr Sibley Richards and Emily Richards (nee Hocking), and Master Sibley George Richards (age 9 months and 29 days) younger son of Mr Sibley Richards and Mrs Emily Richards (nee Hocking), would and other occupants of lifeboat number 4 would safely arrive on land.

Who was saved?

But what of the crew who were drawn largely from the poorer parts of Southampton? How many of these were Primitive Methodists? Summing up the losses Ben Tillett of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers Union put it like this:

We trust the saving of so many first class passengers lives will not deaden the solicitude of the Government for the lives of those who belong to the wage earning classes, and call upon the members of the Labour party to force upon the Government the necessity of proper protection to the lives of all mariners and all passengers, irrespective of class or grade.

There is still a lot of this story to tell! Can you help?

Comments about this page

  • I have a 1914 PM Mission Report and it has Northam in the Southampton 1st Circuit and South Front in the 2nd Circuit.

    By W John Young (05/10/2012)
  • Many thanks. I see Northam PM Chapel was on Union Street, but I cannot identify South Front. Was it also known by another name as well? PM records have not always survived as well as Wesleyan records due to the closure of PM chapels and lack of appropriate storage of records afterwards. Is it possible to cross reference the Titanic crew list with PM baptismal and marriage registers?

    By Stephen Hatcher (04/10/2012)
  • There were Primitive Methodist chapels in the areas of Southampton most affected by the Titanic disaster, at South Front and in Northam. The Northam Primitive Methodist band played “around the streets” in aid of the Titanic Relief Fund, and members would have known Titanic crew and their families. However, the local circuit records make no mention of specifically PM victims of the disaster. A full list of the Titanic’s crew may be found on the PortCities Southampton website http://www.plimsoll.org/Southampton/Titanic/titaniccrewlist/Default.asp#11

    By Vicky Green (01/10/2012)

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