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TITANIC - CONTINUED...



Titanic fever is in the air. Not only is the film set to become one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, but is is sure to make two previously relative unknowns - Leonard Di Caprio and Kate Winslett - into houshold names.

Everything about the film is vast. The budget was so large that two film makers, 20th century Fox and Paramount had to enter into partnership to share the costs. To achieve the degree of realism he desired, the imaginative director, James Cameron, insisted on building a model of the Titanic almost nine-tenths of the size of the original 882 feet long vessel. Harland and Wolff's archives were trawled continually to ensure that every little detail of the layout, structure and decor of the luxury liner was just right. The result is stunning - an impressive piece of filmmaking that may, even at this early stage, expect to enter into the annals of cinema history.

What is it about the Titanic that continually grips our imagination ? How can a disaster that occured when most of us were not even born still evoke such intense emotion in people? Quite simply, the Titanic was not a ship. It was a symbol. A symbol of an age of grandeur and splendour when mankind was on the up and up and a felling of 'invincibility' was in the air. Man could do anything, achieve anything and nothing could interfere with progress. So they thought. Until the news broke on the morning of 15th April 1912 and grown men wept in the streets at the loss of life, and the end of an era.

The passengers on the Titanic symbolised all of mankind. The rich were there. Fifty-seven millionaires were on board. The first class one-way fare cost over 800 and included a lavish eleven course meal every evening of the journey. The poor were there too. Artisans and labourers from various arts and parts, including many Irish, who embarked at Queenstown, now Cobh in Co. Cork and paird 2 each for their ticket for the hope of starting a new life in the brave new world.

But the icy waters of the Atlantic made no distinction as rich and poor both perished in the inky blackness of the night. it is the individuals who fascinate me. Men like Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line who escaped on a lifeboat but who was a sad and persecuted man for the rest of his days. Men like John Jacob Astor, a wealthy American playboy businessman, who had spent the winter in Europe to escape the glare of publicity in the American media, after marrying a bride considerably younger than himself. As a wedding gift he promised his young bride that they would return home in the most luxurious way possible, enjoying the plush surroundings on the Titanic's maiden voyage.

Men like Thomas Andrew, the ship's designer, who stood motionless in the drawing room as the great vessel sank, staring blankly at the painting above the mantlepiece, ironically called, " The Approach to the New World" When asked by a junior crew member, " Are you not going to make a try for it Mr. Andrews?", he made no reply but stood transfixed on the painting on the wall.

But my Titanic hero is one John Harper, pastor of a Baptist church in Glasgow, who was travelling to America for a course of study in Moody Bible Institute. His ministry in the Scottish city had been peculiarly blessed of God as Harper's evangelistic gifts were utilised to the full. Souls had been saved and the church had been considerably built up. As the Titanic sank Harper swam in the icy waters urging the perishing all around him to seek the Saviour, before he also succumbed to the cold and exhaustion. The Glasgow church which he pastored was later renamed Harper Memorial and to this day hardy souls venture out regualrly on a four hour shift of reaching the perishing in the icy waters of the city - addicts, down and outs and prostitutes - before they too perish for all eternity.

Harper's story and thos who follow in his soul-winning foot-steps might never be told. It deserves to be. Why no seize the opportunity given by this renewed interest in the Titanic ?

Talk about the evangelist John Harper and the Saviour that John Harper trusted, even unto death in the frezing cold Atlantic Ocean.



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