Surrounded by Titanic memorabilia in their Rushpark home, newlyweds Lynn and Derek Chambers are still buzzing after their experience on the “voyage of a lifetime”.
The couple travelled on The Balmoral, as it retraced the first and final voyage of the ill-fated Titanic, stopping on the way to New York at the location where the ship went down exactly 100 years before.
“The reception in Cobh - our final port of call before we headed out to the North Atlantic - was unbelievable with hundreds of people lining the streets and bands playing us in,” said Lynn.
The liner docked at the old White Star Line offices to a mix of celebration and solemnity, were the Mayor of Cobh, Jim Quinian and the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins spoke, followed by a short memorial ceremony.
Of the ship’s 1,300 passengers Derek and Lynn were among only eight people from Northern Ireland and the newlyweds were the centre of attention for the onboard media from around the world.
Throughout the trip there were various lectures on the Titanic as well as dancing, and entertainment in the opulent surroundings.
“But on the Saturday morning of April 14 you could sense a more subdued atmosphere,” said Derek.
“Even that evening at dinner we both sensed a more muted atmosphere, everyone knew what was ahead.”
At 11.40pm passengers gathered on deck, under a starlit sky two-and-a-half miles directly above the wreck. The ship sounded its whistle to mark the precise time Titanic hit the iceberg, followed by a two-minute silence and then a tribute roll call to remember those who had lost their lives was shown on the ship’s television screens.
At 2.15am the memorial service started with the blessing of the memorial wreaths. The ship’s whistle then sounded at 2.20am the precise time when Titanic sank, and the wreaths were cast into the sea and the service concluded with the hymn ‘Near my God to Thee’.
“That was very emotional,” Lynn added. “In my imagination I could hear the dying screams in the icy waters as the great liner went down. At that exact moment, when the wreaths were cast into the sea, a strange thing happened. A crescent moon appeared on the horizon for no more than 30 seconds and slipped away under some cloud cover. I thought my eyes were playing tricks. Everyone had their own reason to be there and some were crying. Being there made it a night to remember,” she said.
Lynn and Derek paid their respects by leaving two roses from her wedding posy and a message in the Ship’s library which was later sent to the maritime museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia
The following day the couple had their wedding blessed onboard by Rev. Huw Mosford in the presence of many of the ship’s passengers and it’s owner Miles Morgan.
“It was a fantastic afternoon and we both will cherish it forever,” said Derek.
The ship travelled onto Nova Scotia where most of the Titanic victims are buried in three separate cemeteries, located in the middle of a run-down housing estate.
“The perception we had from books and films was that it sat in private grounds. It is also quite small, totally different to what we had imagined to be,” Derek added.
The final leg of the trip was to Titanic’s intended destination of New York where Derek and Lynn took time off for some shopping and, of course, a Titanic tour, which included a surprise talk given by Isidor and Ida Straus’s great grandson Paul Kurzman.
Straus was one of the owners of Macy’s department store in New York, and he and his wife had a first-class berth on the Titanic. When the ship began to sink, Ida refused to leave her husband’s side despite being offered a seat on a lifeboat. They were last seen sitting in deck chairs as a wave washed over them.
“It was a voyage of a lifetime, one will we never forget,” said Lynn.