Waltzing Matilda


James Lord has been Captain, Master and Commander for almost two years.

For most of this time Titanic had been under construction on her Harland and Wolff slip in Belfast. Now, four days into her maiden voyage, she lies crippled, hard down by the bow, with a ten degree list to port. But not for long.


Captain Lord is alone on the bridge. Six inches of an icy sea slurry surge around his ankle. It is difficult to stay upright. Clutching the massive spooked wooden helm, he hears the Ship’s Band strike up a strained, a drowning, “Waltzing Matilda.”

He can hear the hellish grinding of the steel hull plates, and the steady popping of the two inch rivets – she’s coming apart, surrendering herself to the unanswerable strength of the ocean. A great gash runs half her length; she is open to the sea, mortally damaged. The pumps are overwhelmed, no contest, she’s doomed.

The nightmarish screams of drowning victims, trapped in steerage, are clearly audible, even to the ‘lucky’ ones who have managed to abandon ship, and now face their own, uncertain, fates.

The Captain’s brain cannot process the screams, his mind slipping away from him. He is in the Ante-Room of Death, his former life appearing, an unrolling carpet of memories. He feels no fear, but is engulfed by a numbing abstraction, severing his link to the world. He makes a half-hearted attempt at retrieving a single little pink shoe that washes past, knee high. He finds the colour to be attractive. Pink had always suited her: in pink at that last reception in Belfast, she had been just a little bit tipsy – after only half a glass of the pink champagne.

That night, some other band, musicians from Belfast, more talented, with a softer touch than the Ship’s Band, had played some other version of “Waltzing Matilda.” Dancing to this melody he had thought “A happy song, a sad song, a song for all occasions.” As they swept over the floor, he had enjoyed her laughter, her erotic fragrance, her body, still firm and athletic.

As they left the ballroom he had offered, she had accepted assistance and they strolled, arm in arm, content and happy, into that, unusually balmy, Belfast evening, the music fading, fading into the Yard’s giant gantries, fading into the jumble of ships, buildings, cranes. It was late in the evening, and except for blue flicker of a solitary welding torch, from somewhere deep within an unfinished hull, all was dark and quiet. As they walked, a slight breeze arose from the ocean, she shivered, a few dead leaves swirled on the pavement. An almost invisible, green-eyed cat, blacker than the night, unnoticed, felt the chill and had scurried, across their path.

The walk had been a little bit longer than anticipated, she needed his support – leaning against him – a strong, handsome, successful Scot, at the apex of his career, a great ship awaiting his command. Almost heaven.

She died a few months later. Easily, without much fuss, her prognoses fulfilled with gruesome precision.

Now, tonight he steers on a nonexistent heading. He peers forward over the bow rails, now fifty feet below water. It seems that he is on the lookout for any hazard in his path, on duty and fully engaged. But the Captain’s vision is filled only with her image.

“Good that she has not been on this voyage, best that she should suffer no more.”

Sporadically, Captain Lord issues orders to an imaginary crew, but his whispered commands are not in the voice of a Master, nor of a Commander. He speaks to himself, while the biggest, fastest, most luxurious ocean liner breaks her back. The mahogany planked main deck shatters and splinters, the four massive funnels, each ten stories high, tumble into the sea, she’s done, finished, going down. Boilers, furnishings, cargo, tons of coal, beds, bodies, jewels, scatter into the starlight water.

For a while – not long – the noise is deafening. He hears nothing except for a wonderfully gentle reprise of “Waltzing Matilda” offered by that gentle Belfast band. Again, he holds her, lovingly, ever so gracefully waltzing her around that elegant ballroom, waving a greeting to his officers and their smiling wives. Almost heaven.

And now, that final descent begins, together with his eternal and beloved wife, and a thousand and a half other souls, into the abyss of the bottomless Hibernian Trench, standing alone, holding her in his arms in a wondrous dream, plunging ever faster, down, down into that darkest of ports.

“… and he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me.”


* Fan Fiction uses either actual, or fictional, characters or scenarios to create ‘new’ tales. Rather like a wardrobe based on pieces from a used clothing store. Fresh ideas can be added, but the foundation does not belong to the Fan Fiction writer. Thus, I read in the Web Bible.

Provided that appropriate recognition has been awarded, Fan Fiction is not plagiarism- it’s a sort of literary recycling. History, or the original author, has done the ‘heavy lifting’ of plot and character development – the ‘new’ author merely piggybacks along for the ride.