site unseen; The Stella Memorial, Southampton

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The Independent Online
Every town and city in Britain close to the sea or beside a major river is stuffed full of memorials with liquid connections. Usually the commemoration is sad, such as the one in Southsea, Portsmouth which honours the 46 crew members of a vessel who all perished from yellow fever. A Titanic memorial is to be found in Liverpool, while the victims of the Marchioness disaster are remembered in nearby Southwark Cathedral.

Southampton contains a particularly fine collection of tributes. It also has its own Titanic commemoration, tucked away in a corner of East Park and honouring the ship's 38 "Engineer Officers", none of whom survived the disaster on 15th April 1912. Two panels depict engineers hard at work, while the inscription in the middle quotes the lines about lay- ing down one's life for one's fellow beings.

Another plaque in St Mary's Church remembers the ship's musicians who gallantly "played on" as the liner sank.

But not all the tributes are sad. On the other side of the city, for instance, one finds the Mayflower Memorial which recalls the departure from the West Quay of the Pilgrim Fathers on 15 August 1620, as they made their perilous way to America. Erected in 1913, the memorial is crowned by a copper replica of the tiny vessel which looks too fragile to survive even an outing on a small pond. Over the busy road is the Mayflower Park.

My favourite, however, stands just a few yards away from the Mayflower. Called the Stella Memorial, it is a charming octagonal structure with rounded arches. Read the inscription and even the most stony-hearted can hardly stifle a sob.

It tells the story of Mary Anne Rogers, a stewardess on the Stella, which was shipwrecked in March 1899. Rogers felt it her duty to ensure that all the female staff under her command were safely lowered into the lifeboat, at one point giving up her own lifebelt to a colleague who was unprotected.

Not wanting to endanger the heavily laden boat, the inscription continues, she cheered the departing crew with the friendly cry of "goodbye, goodbye". And now the denouement: "She was seen a few moments later as the Stella went down lifting her arms upwards with the prayer `Lord have me' then sank in the water with the sinking ship."

In a more cynical age it would be easy, but wrong, to snigger at the fate of Mary Anne Rogers. But I for one would feel much happier when travelling by ferry to the Continent to know that the self-sacrificing Ms Rogers was the chief stewardess and that the Titanic's engin-eers were down in the boiler room.

The Stella Memorial is to be found close to Cuckoo Lane, by the junction of Western Esplanade and Town Quay in Southampton