Captain Edward J Smith, the man in charge of RMS Titanic when it crashed into an iceberg in 1912, calls forth wildly different reactions in Stoke-on-Trent.
The man was born in the city; and at first the city bathed in the reflected glory of this ‘British hero’ who went down with his ship. But when the press started to lead the way with accusations of Smith’s incompetence, well, the city rather changed its mind.
Which is why this statue of Captain Smith is in Lichfield. With all the bad press, Stoke-on-Trent turned down the offer to host it, so the sculptor took it to Lichfield, thirty miles away - even though Lichfield has no claim on Smith at all! It remains to this day as an attraction slap bang in the centre of Lichfield's Beacon Park.
This year is the anniversary of the sinking (which happened on April 12th 1912) - and, once again, even now, the city is unsure how it feels about Smith.
Although there is to be a Captain Smith Memorial Day next month in the city centre, it will however also include a debate - in which speakers will discuss Smith’s responsibility (or not) for the deaths of the 1500 people who drowned back then.
Poor old Smith.
Link: Titanic Anniversary Events in Stoke-on-Trent