YORKSHIRE DAY PRESENTATION AND LADIES NIGHT

Andrew Slater (r), and Bob Guard(l), President of the Rotary Club, in front of a picture of the SS Lusitania docked in New York harbour the year before her final voyage.

Andrew Slater (r), and Bob Guard(l), President of the Rotary Club, in front of a picture of the SS Lusitania docked in New York harbour the year before her final voyage.



The Yorkshire Day meeting of the Rotary Club of Wakefield Chantry, was just a little different this year but was a night enjoyed by all who attended. Combined with the Yorkshire Day presentation the meeting was also celebrated as a Ladies night and attended by 50 members and guests.


The evening commenced with a minutes silence for quiet reflection on the life of our member, Stuart Wardell, who passed away suddenly only days before the meeting.


The presentation was given by member Andrew Slater, who, until his recent retirement, was the postmaster at the Walton Post Office, who came to talk about the ill-fated Cunard liner, the LUSITANIA. What, most members were asking themselves, had the Lusitania to do with Yorkshire Day. Wait and all will become clear was Andrew’s reply.


Built and launched in 1906 the Lusitania made 202 transatlantic crossings before being sunk by German torpedo’s on May 7th 1915 with the loss of 1198 lives, from the total of 1962 on board, just 11 miles off the coast of Ireland.


Andrew told the tale of Leslie Morton, born in 1896 from Kirksatall in Leeds, a crewman on the vessel, who had lied about his age at 13 to go to sea on the 3 masted sailing vessel Beeswing. By the time he was 17 Leslie had been round the world 3 times and had been around Cape Horn 6 times. He signed onto the crew of the Lusitania with his brother, Cliff, in New York just before the vessel set sail on that fateful day. It was Leslie Morton who called the warning of torpedo’s to the bridge just before the vessel was struck. He went over the side in a lifeboat with his brother only to see his brother go into the water. He went in after him only to have the lifeboat he had left, destroyed by a second lifeboat that had been lowered onto the first killing nearly all of the occupants! He lost track of his brother, who couldn’t swim, in the chaos. Together with another crewman, Joseph Parry, Leslie is credited with saving around 100 passengers including the wife of a vicar who had been travelling with her husband.


When eventually picked up and transported back to land he started the grim task of trying to find his brother’s body in the temporary morgues that had been set up. In the middle of one morgue Leslie came across his brother, Cliff, very much alive doing the same thing – trying to find his body! He also found out that Cliff had been instrumental in saving the life of the Vicar who’s wife he had saved.


Leslie gave evidence at the enquiry that followed the tragedy. He married and lived in Bradford for most of his adult life although still going to see with the Blue Funnel Line. He also became a well-known maritime broadcaster on TV and radio. His autobiography “the Long Wake” was published in 1968 shortly before his death. Leslie was awarded the Silver Board of Trade Medal of Gallantry for Saving Lives at Sea which was presented to him by the King, George V. That medal now resides at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. He passed away in Surrey in September 1968 at the age of 72.


At the end of his presentation Andres Slater advised the members that Leslie Morton was his Uncle!


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