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Broken Hill's Titanic connection


Not far from the Synagogue, situated in Sturt Park, sits a curious memorial built with money raised by the Amalgamated Miners Union in 1913 and the townspeople of Broken Hill.

The memorial is dedicated to the Titanic bandsmen who heroically continued to play as the liner sank in 1912, helping in this cause were the City and Salvation Army Bands.

Why was such a memorial built in an Outback city so may kilometres from the ocean and half a world away from the site of the Titanic disaster?  It is believed that strong union connections between the unions of Broken Hill and those in England played the major part in the decision to build the monument. There was mutual support given during industrial disputes including the major strikes in Broken Hill.

Ben Tillet, a prominent English Union official also had a connection with Broken Hill. He laid the foundation stone of the Trades Hall building on Blende Street. (The outstanding heritage building is another site not to be missed by visitors to Broken Hill). Ben took a stand, in particular questioning the treatment of the bandsmen and steerage passengers during the Titanic disaster. Perhaps his concerns were also communicated to fellow unionists in Broken Hill.

Brass banding was a popular recreation of those times in Broken Hill.  Many unions formed and maintained bands; music was a great outlet for men who worked in harsh conditions in the mines.

Because the bandsmen of the Titanic belonged to the Amalgamated Musician’s Union U.K., the Amalgamated Miners Union of Broken Hill decided to erect a memorial in honour of the bravery they showed by standing at their post as the ship went down.

The memorial was to be constructed at the local hospital grounds, but when funds were unavailable for the original grand designs, a less expensive but equally important version was commissioned in Sturt Park, the town’s central park, and the site where many brass bands played to appreciative local crowds. This was the first memorial built in Broken Hill. 

Whatever the exact reason, the people of Broken Hill were obviously moved by the heroism of the bandsmen and were motivated to erect the memorial. It illustrates the solidarity of workers that was a crucial part of surviving the harsh working conditions in the town. It also illustrates the spirit of initiative and independence that has inspired the Broken Hill community to achieve so much. 

The Synagogue houses a fascinating display of The Bradley Wayne Falappi Titanic memorabilia in the research room at the rear of the building. Visitors can stroll in Sturt Park, sight the memorial then visit the Synagogue and ponder the question of the Titanic connection to Broken Hill.

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