Monday, 23 January 2017

Next Meeting; Sunday 19th February 2017

The book to read for next month is the "recommended by a librarian" choice from our reading list and is The Rescue Man written by Anthony Quinn, set in Liverpool during WWII.

Library reading group copies are available (see Sam if you need a copy) and are due to be returned to the library on or before 23rd Feb, so you can bring them to book club next time if that's easier for you.

And next time, we'll be meeting at the Red Lion, in Moore at 7pm.

At this month's meeting though, we were very proud to host local author Gill Hoffs, who discussed her book The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The lost story of the Victorian Titanic, a non-fiction book about a ship, one of the most talked about ships of the day, built locally in Warrington, which met with disaster on its maiden voyage.

The RMS Tayleur was built at the Bank Quay Foundry (roughly where the pink eye building is today), approximately 9 miles in land, and was, in 1853 the largest iron vessel built in Lancashire, and owned by the, now infamous, White Star Line. The Tayleur had to travel by canal, being tugged by pilot boats, stopping overnight in Runcorn, no less, before going to Liverpool, to prepare for its maiden voyage, to Australia.

The Tayleur was beset by delays and the departure was put back, but eventually, in January 1854, the Tayleur, and her hundreds of passengers and crew, many taking with them their entire life savings, set off. Just two days later, on 21st January 1854, the Tayleur was wrecked on the rocky coast of a small island not far from Dublin.

Over 50% of the men survived, but just a handful of women and children survived.

The book starts with the launch of the Tayleur, and focuses on the people, everyday people heading to the other side of the globe to start new lives, possibly never seeing their families again, some of whom had survived against all odds, only to face a life or death struggle against a tempestuous sea, and a 35 foot cliff face.

The book includes quotes from survivors, witnesses, and newspaper reports of the day, and Gill has, in the course of her research, spoken with the descendants of some of the passengers.

Pauline said; "The eye witness accounts were so vivid I almost felt I was there. I could almost see those people desperately trying to clamber onto the rocks."

On the night, Gill brought a selection of genuine Victorian ladies-wear, so that we could feel the weight of the garments, and see what was hampering the women from swimming to safety, as well as a medicine bottle, recovered from the wreck, which had belonged to the ship's surgeon, showed us reproduction maps, and told us about meeting with people who had dived down to the wreck in the century since. All of which contributed to increasing our understanding of this piece of near-forgotten local history.

Along with Gill's book, there is a display about the Tayleur at Warrington museum, for anyone wanting to learn more, and Gill has been invited to a talk by the Runcorn History Society sometime later this year.

Gill was also kind enough to give us some insight into the realities of being an author, not enough to put everyone off, luckily, and the first chapter of our group writing project has now been passed on to our second victim volunteer.

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