Saturday, 23 May 2015

Everything’s connected in the end

Belfast and Ramsgate.

There aren't many obvious major connections between the two places.  One is a major city on the Island or Ireland, the other is a medium sized harbour, now devoid of it’s ferry service, on the Kent coast.

However, within a week I've found the same name crop up in both locations, and it was so far out of left field that I spotted it almost instantly on walking into the Maritime museum, despite the name being in small type on a sea of information.

It’s also a tribute to the type of person that they don’t appear to make anymore, and made all the more poignant as there is currently a key anniversary going on.

Ramsgate is currently bustling to the commemorations of the 75 anniversary of Operation Dynamo, the desperate but eventually incredibly successful evacuation of soldiers from the beaches of Dunkerque in 1940.

The story is all the more remarkable for the flotilla of little ships, tug boats and yachts that were the mainstay of the evacuation.

However, one of those motor yachts – the Sundowner – was possibly even more remarkable for the man who was at the helm, and bringing me back to last weekend in Belfast the ship in 1912 he was the second mate on.

To be a hero once in a lifetime – by rescuing thousands of Soldiers from the beaches – would probably be enough for most people, but Charles Herbert Lightoller had previously saved lives as he guided women and children to the lifeboats on the Titanic and after the ship sank keeping a group of 30 alive on an upturned collapsible lifeboat.

A key part of Operation Dynamo and the last Titanic survivor brought on-board the Carpathia – that’s one hell of a life, and one hell of a connection between Ramsgate and Belfast.