The magnificent vessel is lying on the sea bed

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In the second part of the Guardian’s feature commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster and its links to Chorley, Robert Kelly looks through our archives to discover how the tragedy was reported

A century ago the Chorley and Leyland Guardian was a very different newspaper. It was adverts, not stories, that dominated the front page. So when news of the dramatic sinking of the Titanic started shocking the world, it did not even make page one.Instead, there were lots of advertisements publicising the J W Turner World for the Renowned England Opera Company, and a series of concerts running throughout the week, not to mention the National Tea Company on Market Street trying to sell tea for two shillings.

It is not until you get to page five that you see any mention of the incident with the headline of ‘Appalling disaster at sea – Wreck of the Titanic.’

It mentions that the early reports of the loss of life was 1,635, saying the ‘magnificent vessel, the pride of her builders, her owners and all who glory in Britain’s shipbuilding supremacy is lying on the bed of the North Atlantic’.

It states that the loss constituted the most ‘appalling catastrophe in maritime history of the world’.

The column-length article mentions that the number of people rescued stood at 868, claiming there were hopes for more survivors to get on another other liner. The calamity, it claimed, ‘created consternation not only in this country and in the United States, but also on the continent’.

Interestingly, the Guardian claimed that aboard the ship was promising engineer WHM Parr, who left Horwich two years previously to take up a position as assistant manager of the electrical department of Harland and Wolf.

It goes into detail that the 29-year-old was the son of Mr and Mrs J T Parr of Hill View, Horwich.

He got married to Miss Poole of Northwich, and they had a three-month-old baby.

He accompanied the boat on its maiden voyage with a small team of men to work on the equipment.

Unfortunately, in the next couple of weeks, there was no mention of Mr Parr. What happened to this local man? - the paper never mentioned him again.

A week later, the Guardian’s top story reports on a meeting of the Lancashire section of the British Association of Managers for Textile Works, while Chorley FC were celebrating a 3-1 against Colne.

It is only at the bottom of page five that we find the first mention of the Titanic.

Under the heading ‘The Titanic Disaster – A Native of Chorley saved’ comes the story of Commander Charles Herbert Lightoller, who was the second officer on board.

It reported that he was the son of Fred J Lightoller and was educated at Chorley Grammar School.

It also talks about him giving evidence at the inquiry into the incident. He was quizzed why so many members of the crew survived.

On May 4, the newspaper continued to cover the disaster with news of ‘the American Inquiry’, and reported that Captain Moore, of the steamer Mount Temple, said he had “altered his course and steamed to the spot indicated by the Titanic, but there was no wreckage or survivors.

He expressed the opinion that the Titanic gave a wrong indication of their position”.

It also covered the week-long inquiry, with accounts by the White Star Line chairman Bruce Ismay.

More importantly, the article had a sub-headline of ‘Survivors arrive in England’ after 167 people returned on the Red Star Liner Lapland to Plymouth.

There was more coverage in the paper than ever, with a column of the broadsheet newspaper.Finally on June 1, a small piece appeared reporting how the local community had responded to the disaster, as a concert at the Theatre Royal had managed to raise £52 for the widows of the people who had died. This was the last edition where the Guardian prominently produced an article under the headline of The Titanic Inquiry, focusing on the submissions for the London stage of events.

Lord Mersey listened to the evidence, taking the accounts of four survivors of the crew, fireman George Beauchamp, quartermaster Robert Hitchens – who was at the wheel when the crash happened – William Lucas, and Frederick Barratt.

One of the strange things about the coverage is that such a disaster would dominate the front pages today, but 100 years ago, it was only on page five or seven.

To read part one of our Titanic feature see