That’s the official number of souls who went down with the R.M.S. Lusitania on 7th May 1915. But I continue to wonder whether that number ought to be adjusted by one, the one who went down but came back; the one who escaped being recorded, whose name appears on neither list, of those who perished or those who lived to wonder why they hadn’t.
That number comes to mind this morning as I rummage for a couple coins from what I’m reluctant to call a collection. Somewhere hereabouts are two coins struck by Martin Coles Harmon while he was “King” of Lundy, during 1925-1929 when its status was as a “micronation”. The 1,100-acre island lies off the coast of Devon in the Bristol Channel. Harmon had his own coinage struck in 1929 — the puffin and half puffin — which got him in deep difficulties with the British government and resulted in some jail time. Whether the notoriety was just compensation you’ll have to ask Mr Harmon, but that’s another story for another day. During this quest (as is often the case at our house), I ran across something else misplaced among the detritus: a piece of medalic [spellcheck doesn’t like it with either one “L” or two] art or what coin collectors are wont to call exonumia [spellcheck doesn’t like this either].
When the RMS Lusitania (the ancient Roman name for their province which is now Portugal) sank, the Germans took considerable pride, more than sufficient to strike a commemorative medal, a piece of both medalic art and propaganda. That medal — I’ve not seen one for sale or auction until curiosity overcame me today — was recast in 1916 by Selfridge’s to benefit St Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Hostel; 250K were cast, which makes it considerably less than rare, but the point is made: there was no honor in this bald-faced act of savagery.
Our copy of the British restrike retains is commemorative box and single-sheet brochure. But it also contains a handwritten letter from F. Luerson of #83, Amhurst Rd, Hackney E8. Google.earth will take me there in a few moments. The note is addressed to “My Dear Ruby” and dated Christmas, though the year is missing, torn or worn from top and bottom of the single foolscap sheet. It’s just like me to wonder about the writer: Who were the Luersons? And would the period of their residence provide a clue to which Christmas it was that seemed appropriate to remind a friend of such a disaster. Seems an odd gift, given that Ruby might well have known someone who might have known someone whose name was on the list. The list which might have included Anson Curtiss Tennant, if only he’d been real.
Tomorrow, maybe, the story of the puffin and half-puffin and the aforementioned Mr Harmon. And WTH that could have to do with a fictional town in Iowa.
PS [a few minutes later]: Mr Frederick Luerson (son of Frederick Luerson and Anne Fenner) had two sisters and did himself serve in the British military. The Luerson home may have become lost in street renumbering, The current premises are either: 1) Yori Sushi, 2) Supreme Boutique, a unisex salon, or 3) Noodle Express, none of which are likely to be anywhere near my Bucket List.