Shortly after the Titanic sunk in 1912, a fund was established to raise money for the families of those lost at sea. As part of the fund-raising effort, a song called ‘Be Britsh’ was written and recorded and profits from the sales of the sheet music and gramophone records were donated to the fund. The melody of the song is rather mournful and the words very patriotic and stirring, a bit too xenophobic for modern ears maybe but, at the time, we had the World’s largest empire and our Navy ruled the waves, so attitudes were different. They go like this …..
What a glorious thing it is to know that the breed is just the same
as it was when the Anglo-Saxon race first gained immortal fame.
What a glorious thing it is to know when danger’s hour was nigh,
when the mighty liner sank to her rest, our men knew how to die.
In rode the feeling of courage, of duty to be done and men behaved like men should do, all heroes every one.
Millionaire and poor man’s son, when she was sinking fast, worked like Britons, side by side, all faithful to the last.
And though they found a cold, cold grave beneath the icy seas, up on high these words were heard, ‘Nearer My God to Thee’.
With men like these we still can boast and as of old can sing, “O death, where is thy victory, O grave, where is thy sting”.
“Be British” was the cry, as the ship went down, every man was steady at his post,
Captain and crew, when they knew the worst, saving the women and children first.
“Be British” is the cry to everyone and though fate has proved unkind,
show that you are willing, with a penny or a shilling, for those they left behind.
Never slow to capitalise on an opportunity, Bamforths, one of our largest lantern slide makers, published a set of slides called ‘The Loss of the Titanic’ to accompany the song. Together, the tune, lyrics and slides form a deeply moving presentation which still affects audiences today and would have tugged at heart and purse strings when first shown.
Raising money for people affected by man-made and natural disasters is often considered to be a modern phenomenon but it isn’t, as this story demonstrates. We can’t stop these things happening but, as in the Manchester and London tragedies, they are followed by acts of selfless bravery and expressions of kindness and generosity which remind us that most people on the planet are good and caring.
The slides shown here are just three from the set, all of which can be seen in my YouTube video.
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