Plea to restore Titanic plaque

Peter Goldsmith with memorial plaque of RMS Titantic at Eastbourne Bandstand
Peter Goldsmith with memorial plaque of RMS Titantic at Eastbourne Bandstand

A PLAQUE commemorating the life of an Eastbourne-based musician who died aboard the Titanic needs replacing before next year’s 100th anniversary of the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage.

John Wesley Woodward played cello in the ship’s orchestra and was part of the outfit which famously played while the ship sank into the icy waters – waters which claimed the lives of 1,517 people that April 15 night back in 1912.

Two years later, the opera singer Clara Butt unveiled a plaque on Eastbourne’s seafront in memory of Mr Woodward, after it had been commissioned by newspaper publisher Arthur Beckett, whose family used to own the Gazette series.

The rectangular granite memorial was positioned facing the bandstand and in its centre sits a bronze portrait of Mr Woodward alongside an inscribed plaque and a second plaque showing the sinking of the ship and lifeboats.

Mr Woodward, who was born in 1879, moved to Eastbourne after landing a slot on the Duke of Devonshire’s band.

While here he regularly played at Eastbourne’s Winter Garden and the Grand Hotel with the Duke’s group, as well as further appearances as part of a municipal orchestra.

Now, 99 years after his death, an Eastbourne pensioner believes it is about time the town spruced up the memorial, which was originally designed by the sculptor Charles Godfrey Garrard.

Peter Goldsmith believes the musician deserves a new memorial that people can properly decipher – unlike the current one which has worn away with age.

And to make sure it happens, he is starting a campaign to raise the funds necessary to have the work done.

Speaking to the Herald he said, “I was born in Eastbourne and have seen this [the memorial] deteriorate over time and I got thinking that it would be gone forever unless someone did something.”

Mr Goldsmith went about contacting various groups asking for donations, including the current Duke of Devonshire and UK-based Titanic societies.

However, he has yet to hear back from anyone – anyone that is apart from the Titanic Historical Society in America.

“I got in touch with them,” he said, “and explained I had yet to get any support and they said they would start the fund off with a £400 donation, which was brilliant.”

Mr Goldsmith is now appealing to locals to contribute to the fund, with estimates for a replacement varying from between £900 plus VAT to £1,200 plus VAT.

“Next year I believe there is going to be a concert to mark the occasion [100 years since the Titanic sank],” Mr Goldsmith added. “It would not be right if we did not have a new memorial in place by then.”

Any Herald readers wanting to get involved, or to donate, can contact Mr Goldsmith via the newspaper by calling 414483 or emailing richard.morris@trbeckett.co.uk.