It is 1917. William J. Pirrie, Chairman of Harland & Wolff, has agreed to an interview in England about his nephew Tommie Andrews – Thomas Andrews, chief designer of RMS Titanic, a ship whose name Pirrie is loath to speak.
He recalls Tommie’s boyhood, his beginnings as an apprentice aged 16 at Harland & Wolff, the world’s greatest shipyard. He re-lives the feverish inquiries after the sinking, the scorching sermons, the excited finger-pointing – and Tommie’s last moments aboard the stricken liner.
But Pirrie has another agenda, for he wishes to combat the heated defeatism and accusing anger that greeted the disaster. Just as Pirrie was and is the neglected cast-member of the Titanic tragedy, so his version of events is in conflict with the received notions and judgements still in place a century after.
Yet his manifesto of success – a Victorian philosophy for the 20th-century Machine Age – is tempered and threatened by his rediscovery of grief and loss.
Ian McElhinney is Lord Pirrie, master shipwright.
A Better Boy will be re-mounted in the Brian Friel Theatre (Queen’s University Belfast) on December 5 and 6, 2013.
Contact the Brian Friel Theatre on:
Tel: 028 9097 1382
Tickets: £10 / £5 Conc.