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The servant's story

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 23 March 2012

In the final programme of the term Gemma Hunt finds out more about Titanic and hears more about the lives of the people on board the ship in April 1912.

  • A grand staircase for First Class passengers

    A grand staircase for First Class passengers

  • Notes for programme 10: The servant's story

    Themes: The Titanic disaster; courage in desperate circumstances; remembering those involved in the disaster.

    Programme content:

    SONG: Come & Praise, no 51 – ‘The Lord’s prayer’ (whole song)

    FEATURE: Rebecca Watkin from the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool talks about what life was like on the ship for those in first class

    STORY: Ellen Kyle’s story by Rob John.

    REFLECTION: … today’s reflection includes listening to the memories of Titanic survivor, Commander Lightoller, describing how he felt as he escaped the sinking ship

    Pre-programme questions:

    • Recap your knowledge of the Titanic disaster 100 years ago and the last two programmes about it.
    • What have been the most memorable and moving parts of the programmes about the Titanic so far for you: perhaps the stories of Walter and Mary or something from the visits to the museum?

    Story synopsis: Ellen Kyle’s story by Rob John. Read by Alex Rivers.

    Ellen Kyle is a maid for the extremely rich Mr and Mrs Unwin travelling in First Class. Ellen is worked very hard and spends her days looking after every wish of Mrs Unwin.

    When the ship hits an iceberg and starts sinking Mrs Unwin is quickly evacuated and given a place on one of the lifeboats. However, she refuses to get on the boat without her husband - who is refused a place - and then insists Ellen should take her place. As the boat lowers to safety Ellen wonders if she will ever see the Unwins again.

    After the programme:


    • Who did Ellen Kyle work for and what was her job?
    • Why did Ellen enjoy the voyage so much and can you remember how she described her employers’ room and her own room?
    • What event was Ellen talking about when she said, ‘I think at that moment I started to hate her.’
    • What happened to Mr and Mrs Unwin and why do you think that Mrs Unwin behaved as she did at the end of the story?


    • Think about everything that you learned about Mrs Unwin in the story. As a class, discuss what sort of person you think she is. Did any of her actions surprise you? Why did Ellen say, ‘I thought I knew that woman but it turned out I didn’t know her at all.’

    • Write a short story called ‘I thought I knew…’ about someone who surprises you by behaving in a way that you don’t expect. It could be that they surprise you by doing a good thing in the way that Mrs Unwin did by staying with her husband; but it may be that they behave in a bad way that you don’t expect. You could set your story in school or sports team for example. In each case you get the wrong idea about someone and they behave in a way that you don’t expect.

    • Imagine that you are the designer of a book all about the Titanic and what happened to it. Design the cover of your book. If you open out a book while looking at the cover you’ll see the front cover on the right, then a thin strip which is the side of the book (called the spine), then the back cover on the left. Divide a sheet of plain paper into these three areas
    so that when you’re finished you can fold it like a book cover. You’ll need to think about:
    - The title of your book
    - Any extra words on the front (don’t forget to add the name of the author)
    - The picture and design on the front
    - The words and any small picture on the spine (usually the title or short version of it, the author’s name and the publisher’s logo)
    - The words on the back – the ‘blurb’ or ‘back cover copy’: a short piece of writing that gives an idea of what the book’s about in an exciting way
    - The design on the back


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