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15th April, 2023

Titanic and The Beatles

Liverpool is famous, of course, for being the home city of the world’s greatest band, The Beatles. It’s less famous, however, for its strong connections to the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic, which sank on her maiden voyage on April 15th, 1912, unfortunately taking the lives of over 1,500 passengers and crew. On today’s anniversary of the sinking, we explore the overlapping stories of two of Liverpool’s most famous exports.

Perfectly capturing the overlapping histories of the Titanic and The Beatles is Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock, which is home to exhibitions dedicated to both subjects: The Beatles Story, and Merseyside Maritime Museum’s ‘Titanic and Liverpool: The Untold Story.’

The Titanic was owned by the Liverpool-based ocean liner company White Star Line, whose head office building still stands on James Street in the city centre. Although the ill-fated liner never sailed into Liverpool, the city’s name was proudly displayed on her stern.

The old White Star Line head office on the corner of The Strand and James Street, Liverpool 2023.


Bruce Ismay, managing director of White Star Line and Titanic survivor, was born in nearby Crosby, and the ship’s captain, Edward Smith, lived in Cambridge Road in Liverpool in the late 1800s, with his wife and children.

Titanic’s history can be seen throughout the city, not only in the Maritime exhibition and the office and houses mentioned above, but also in other sites such as the The Memorial to Heroes of the Marine Engine Room located at the Pier Head, the building in which the booking agents for Titanic’s bands were located down Castle Street, and of course the Titanic Hotel on Stanley Dock. References to the White Star Line aren’t a new thing in the city, and The Beatles were paid for their early Cavern Club shows in a pub named after the company!

The Memorial to Heroes of the Marine Engine Room located at the Pier Head.
Unveiled in 1916, this was the first monument in the UK to depict the working class.


Now we know a little more about Titanic’s links to Liverpool, let’s explore the overlapping stories the liner shares with The Beatles.


Harold Harrison

George Harrison’s dad Harold, as well as working in the Merchant Navy, worked for a while at The White Star Line. It was while working as a first-class steward on White Star Line liners that Harold met George’s mum Louise in 1929. The story goes that Harold and his shipmates were larking about on the streets of Liverpool one day when they met Louise and her friends. The boys proudly exclaimed that they were headed to Africa in the morning and would send the girls perfume if they gave their addresses. Louise wrote her address on a cigarette packet and Harold grabbed it from her hands, promising to write to her.

Sure enough, a couple of weeks later Louise began receiving love letters from Harold to her family home at Albert Grove, written on official White Star Line letterheads. The couple married on May 20th, 1930, and their first child Louise was born in 1931.

An original White Star Line envelope.


Without the White Star Line, Harold and Louise would probably never have met, and ultimately George Harrison never would have been born. Imagine a world without George’s contributions to music! Would we still have The Beatles?


Dates in History - April 10th

April 10th has proven to be a dark day in Liverpool’s history in the stories of both the Titanic and The Beatles. In 1912, April 10th was the date the RMS Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton, travelling to Cherbourg in France and Queenstown in Ireland, before sadly sinking before reaching her final stop in New York.

April 10th marked not only the beginning of the end for Titanic, but coincidentally it was the date in history that marked the end of The Beatles. It was April 10th, 1970, that Paul McCartney announced the end of the band, breaking the hearts of millions of fans worldwide.

April 10th, 1962, was also the day that Stuart Sutcliffe, The Beatles’ original bass player and promising young painter, sadly and suddenly passed away. He was just 21 years old.

From Instagram 10th April 2023 @beatlesstory:
Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bassist for The Beatles, passed away on this day in 1962. Rest in peace, Stuart.


Percy Street, Liverpool

While studying at Liverpool College of Art in the late 1950s alongside classmate John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe lived for a short time at 9 Percy Street in Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter with another classmate Rod Murray.

Eight decades prior to Sutcliffe living at 9 Percy Street, Hugh McElroy was born in the same building at number 3 Percy Street on October 28th, 1874. McElroy was the Chief Purser on the Titanic, a senior role in charge of the liner’s administration. A Chief Purser is fundamentally the onboard business manager and accountant.

 

Scotland Road, Liverpool

The Crew Alleyway on the Titanic was a long corridor running from either end of the ship and was used by crew members and steerage passengers to quickly move between areas of the liner. With so many crew members hailing from the city of Liverpool and its surrounding areas, the corridor quickly adopted the affectionate nickname ‘Scotland Road’ as its length and purpose reminded staff of the road in North Liverpool with the same name.

It was along Scotland Road that a young Cilla Black and her family lived during her childhood, before she was whisked away to fame and fortune as a prominent figure in the Merseybeat scene and beyond.

The site of Cilla Black's childhood home on Scotland Road is now a McDonalds carpark.


The Titanic and The Beatles are two histories that are intrinsically linked to the city of Liverpool and because of this, the stories of both overlap and interlink in very interesting ways.

As we reflect on the anniversary of the sinking of the infamous Titanic, and on the recent anniversary of the sad and premature passing of Stuart Sutcliffe, it seems appropriate to learn more about these histories, and to take a moment to keep alive the memory of all those who were lost.

Mason Griffiths

Mason is the Content and PR Manager at The Beatles Story.

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