A letter from a little girl to her father forms one of the most personal and poignant exhibits of the newly opened exhibition Titanic and Liverpool – The Untold Story.

May McMurray was a schoolgirl of ten when, in April 1912, she wrote this – ‘my first letter’ to her father just about to board the ill-fated liner at Southampton. William McMurray, a first-class cabin steward, didn’t receive the letter; nor did he and May ever see one another again. William was one of the unfortunate souls who perished when, on the night of 14 April, Titanic struck an iceberg.

On Friday 20 April the 30-foot Little Girl Giant will start out on a three-day enactment of a story loosely based on the letter of May McMurray. This spectacular puppet show entitled Sea Odyssey can be followed around the streets of the city centre.

No maritime disaster has gripped the imagination of the public as that of the Titanic and there has been so much spoken, written and filmed about the tragedy that one can only wonder at the ‘untold’ element of the exhibition title.

It is true there is much here that an interested visitor might have encountered before: items recovered from the wreck site; archive film from the period; lists of passengers who survived and those who perished; and props from Titanic, the 1997 James Cameron film – but there is much too that is either being shown for the first time or is rarely seen.

May McMurray’s beautifully handwritten letter is exhibited for the first time. The original boarding card of Rev. Stuart Holden is unique and rarely displayed. An original copy of the British Inquiry proceedings, before which no second- or third-class passengers were called to give evidence, is on show as also original telegrams from the rescue ship Carpathia. Lady Duff Gordon, a first class passenger on board Titanic and a dress designer who exhibited under the name Lucile also has a number of her rarely-seen creations on display.

Children are not overlooked in this exhibition for there is a ‘dressing up’ box with an opportunity for photographs, there are films to watch and interactive question flaps which may be raised to reveal answers.

Titanic and Liverpool – The Untold Story is a compelling and moving exhibition about ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances and pitted against extreme, and for many, overwhelming forces.

For the visitor it provides one of those occasions where he ‘puts himself in the other man’s shoes – and thanks God he hasn’t been tested in this way. Like the recent Shackleton exhibition, the Maritime Museum’s take on the Titanic story is one not to be missed.

Titanic and Liverpool – The Untold Story
Maritime Museum
30 March 2012 to 21 April 2013

Philip Quinn