By Rob Allanson

Editor's Word

As I sit writing this we are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It is one of those stories that captures the imagination: the romance and glamour of the great liner age, if you were in first class of course.

I have always been fascinated with the myths and legends that surround the ship and her two sisters, fuelled I think by a family connection to her construction. My great grandfather was a riveter at Harland and Wolff in Belfast where Titanic was built.

I do feel a tinge of nostalgia whenever I arrive in Belfast by ferry. You see the huge yellow cranes dominating the wharves.

Certainly I will be raising a dram to the passengers and crew who lost their lives on that fateful night. As a family with a history of sailing and life on the sea, I can think of nothing worse than being plunged into the freezing, pitch black ocean so far from help.

One of the more unusual tributes, aired on the BBC World Service, caught my attention and imagination. It was a telegraphic narrative, the Twitter feed of its day, showing how the Titanic had been given warnings of ice by other ships, and which records the increasingly frantic calls for assistance after the collision with the huge iceberg.

Audio artist Susanne Weber used speech synthesis software to translate these Morse messages into spoken words.

These are mechanical voices recreating the exchange of wireless messages, rather than actors performing a script, and it produced an eerie representation of how these overlapping messages crackled out over the airwaves.

Unlike in the Hollywood films, these wireless messages are stoically understated. When you see pictures of them, the messages have been copied out in neat copperplate handwriting, and kept on the ships that had been in contact with Titanic, they are the actual words of the crew and passengers.

Occasionally I wonder what whisky they would have been serving in the ship's bars. Certainly there was plenty of time to load up with Scotch malt and blends and Irish whiskey, but I cannot find anything in the ship's manifests to hint at what brands may have been aboard.

We do know that London's famous wine and whisky merchant Berry Bros and Rudd had cases on board. A framed copy of a letter dated 16th April 1912, which hangs in the shop, details the loss of 69 cases.

The company ledgers show of the 24 bottles lost, 10 bottles of Berrys’ Best malt whisky were destined to be delivered to an Esmond Ovey Esq at the British Embassy in Washington D.C.

The company's connection with the liner is not just limited to product. One of the survivors was The Countess of Rothes. Accounts tell how she took the tiller and later to the oars of lifeboat No. 8 and it is said that her efforts contributed to the survival of the boats occupants. Her part in James Cameron’s film, Titanic, was played by Rochell Rose.

Fitting then that Berry's spirits manager, Doug McIvor, has created a limited release to mark the occasion. The bottles feature replica labels from the early 1900s and mimic the Edwardian style of those that were destined for Mr Ovey's drinks cabinet in Washington.

So when you have a moment raise a glass to those brave souls who still live life on the waves; and make a donation to the lifeboat crews when you can.