A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 02, 2009
“The ark was built by amateurs, but professionals built the Titanic”

"The ark was built by amateurs, but professionals built the Titanic” is a popular saying meaning that the accepted wisdom isn’t always accurate. The Biblical Noah built an ark and saved humanity from a great flood; the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 to New York City.

The quotation varies and sometimes mentions the ark first, or the Titanic first, or the amateurs first, or the professionals first. Variations include:

. The ark was built by amateurs, but the Titanic was built by professionals.
. The Titanic was built by professionals, but the ark was built by amateurs.
. Amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
. Professionals built the Titanic. Amateurs built the ark.

Numbers are sometimes added for emphasis: “A lone amateur built the ark. A team of professionals built the Titanic.”

The word “but” is often omitted, creating two sentences. “Ark” is often capitalized.

The quotation is often listed as “anonymous” or “author unknown.” A “Frank Pepper” is sometimes given as the author, but it’s never explained who this person is, or when he said it.

The earliest citations come from non-American sources. The Globe and Mail (Canada) has the phrase from 1979, from Globe and Mail resident wit Richard J. Needham (1912-1996). A 1981 source credits the saying to “a disgruntled British comedian.” There are two 1984 citations from England and a 1985 citation from Ireland (attributed to “John Parker"). Richard Needham (born in 1942) used the phrase in 1984 and in his memoir, Battling for Peace: Northern Ireland’s Longest-Serving British Minister (1999), but there is no reason to suspect that this Richard Needham used the saying before Canada’s Richard J. Needham’s 1979 reference.


Wikipedia: RMS Titanic
The RMS Titanic was an Olympic-class passenger liner owned by British shipping company White Star Line and built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, United Kingdom. For her time, she was the largest passenger steamship in the world.

On the night of 14 April 1912, during the ship’s maiden voyage, Titanic hit an iceberg and sank two hours and forty minutes later, early on 15 April 1912. The sinking resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people, making it one of the most deadly peacetime maritime disasters in history. The high casualty rate was due in part to the fact that, although complying with the regulations of the time, the ship did not carry enough lifeboats for everyone aboard. The ship had a total lifeboat capacity of 1,178 people, although her capacity was 3,547. A disproportionate number of men died due to the women-and-children-first protocol that was followed.

The Titanic used some of the most advanced technology available at the time and was, after the sinking, popularly believed to have been described as “unsinkable”. It was a great shock to many that, despite the extensive safety features and experienced crew, the Titanic sank. The frenzy on the part of the media about Titanic‘s famous victims, the legends about the sinking, the resulting changes to maritime law, and the discovery of the wreck have contributed to the continuing interest in, and notoriety of, the Titanic.

Wikipedia: Noah’s Ark
Noah’s Ark (Hebrew: תיבת נח, Tevat Noach) according to chapters 6-9 of the Book of Genesis was a large vessel built by Noah, at God’s command, that saved Noah, his family, and a representation of the world’s animals from a great flood.

The Genesis narrative tells how God, grieved by the corruption of the Earth, decided to destroy all life with a flood. However, Noah, a righteous man who “found grace in the eyes of God”, was instructed to prepare for this flood by building an ark and to retreat to it with his family and with male and female representatives of various animals. As the flood waters rose, those sheltered inside the Ark survived as the rest of humanity and animal life perished. As the waters reached their height, God “remembered Noah”, the waters abated, and dry land reappeared. Noah and the animals left the Ark, Noah offered sacrifice, and God vowed never again to destroy the Earth in this manner.

This narrative has been subject to extensive elaborations in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, ranging from hypothetical solutions to practical problems (e.g. waste disposal and the problem of lighting the interior), through to theological interpretations (e.g. the Ark as the precursor of the Church in offering salvation to mankind). By the 19th century, the discoveries of geologists, archaeologists and biblical scholars had led most scientists and many Christians to abandon a literal interpretation of the Ark story. Nevertheless, Biblical literalists continue to explore the region of the mountains of Ararat, in northeastern Turkey, where the Bible says Noah’s Ark came to rest.

Wikipedia: Richard J. Needham
Richard J. Needham (1912-1996) was a Canadian humour columnist for The Globe and Mail.

Many of his columns were collected in a variety of books, including The Garden of Needham and Needham’s Inferno, which won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 1967.

Needham also coined Mop and Pail and Grope and Flail as unflattering nicknames for his employer, both of which are still in use today. Needham was influenced by the work of H.L. Mencken, whose credited comments, especially about politicians and women, found their way into his columns. Needham spent most of his career on the Globe‘s editorial board.

Wikipedia: Richard Needham
Richard Francis Needham, 6th Earl of Kilmorey, Kt, PC (born 29 January 1942) usually known as Sir Richard Needham is a former Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. Prior to 1977 he used the courtesy title of Viscount Newry and Mourne.

He was an unsuccessful candidate for the safe Labour seat of Pontefract and Castleford in 1974

At the 1979 general election, Needham was returned as Member of Parliament for Chippenham in Wiltshire. That constituency was abolished for the 1983 general election, when he was returned to the House of Commons for the new North Wiltshire constituency. He held the seat until he retired from Parliament at the 1997 general election.

He served as a minister for Northern Ireland 1985-1992 and Minister of State for Trade 1992-1995, instrumental in transforming Northern Ireland’s economic base and the UK’s export strategy under Michael Heseltine.

Needham now works for Dyson. He has written two books: Honourable Member and Battling for Peace: Northern Ireland’s Longest-Serving British Minister (1999); an account of his years in Northern Ireland and his contribution to peace.

13 June 1979, Globe and Mail (Toronto), “When Canadians feel tired, they go away for a holiday, from which they return totally exhausted” by Richard J. Needham, pg. 6:
It started with the notion, carefully cultivated by the “educators”, that you need a diploma or degree to get a good job. This notion then linked hands with the notion, carefully cultivated by the politicians, that every body has the right to a good job. A third notion logically followed - that everybody, regardless of intelligence or achievement, has the right to be given a diploma or degree. The end of the process, now well in sight, is that all have diplomas, all have degrees, and all are illiterate.

John Robert Colombo had a collection of Parkinson-style laws in this paper the other day, and was kind enough to include three that I dreamed up. By way of thanks, I’ll print a few such laws that I ran across recently; I’ve sent their various origins to Mr. Colombo in case he wants to bird-dog them down. Any time you don’t want anything, you get it. A lost article invariably shows up after you replace it. Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence. The other line moves faster. If there isn’t a law, there will be. Insanity is hereditary - you can get it from your children. If you aren’t confused, you’re badly informed. If there’s a harder way of doing something, someone will find it. The Titanic was built by professionals, the Ark by amateurs. If you find something you like, buy a lifetime supply; they’re going to stop making it.

Google Books
Managing Student Affairs Programs:
Methods, models, muddles

By William L. Deegan
Published by ETC Publications
1981
Pg. 20:
“Noah was an amateur, the Titanic was built by professionals.”
A Disgruntled British Comedian

Google Books
Counterweight: the neighbourhood option
By Tony Gibson
Published by Town and Country Planning Association
1984
Pg. 113:
Nailed to the masthead is their motto:
Professionals built the Titanic.
Amateurs built the Ark.
L

Google Books
The World Economy
By Trade Policy Research Centre
Published by Basil Blackwell for the Trade Policy Research Centre
1984
Item notes: v. 6
Pg. 406:
However, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the Ark was built by amateurs, but professionals built the Titanic.

Google Books
Management
Published by Irish Management Institute., 1985
Item notes: v. 32, no. 11
Pg. 10:
“The ark was built by amateurs but professionals built the Titanic”—John Parker

Google Books
The New International Dictionary of Quotations
By Hugh Rawson and Margaret Miner
New York, NY: E.P. Dutton
1986
Pg. 83:
Professionals built the Titanic — amateurs the ark.

11 November 1990, Sunday Times (London), “Richard Needham—The witty MP who was too relaxed” by Tim Rayment:
If any minister were to term his leader a cow as he spoke on an insecure telephone, it was likely to be Richard Needham. He is one of Westminster’s most popular and relaxed MPs, a “wet” whose frivolity probably delayed his appointment to the government.
(...)
His words seconding the Queen’s Speech in 1984, which he used to urge more help for the young unemployed—“the Ark was built by amateurs, but professionals built the Titanic”—are still remembered. So is his book Honourable Member, a source work for parliamentary gossips.

Google Books
And I Quote:
The definitive collection of quotes, sayings, and jokes for the contemporary speechmaker

By Ashton Applewhite and Tripp Evans
Edition: revised
New York, NY: Macmillan
1992
Pg. 216:
Professionals built the Titanic; amateurs built the Ark.

Google Books
The Great American Bathroom Book
By Stevens W. Anderson
Published by Compact Classics, 1992
Item notes: v. 1
Pg. ?:
Professionals built the Titanic - amateurs the ark.—Frank Pepper

Google Books
Battling for Peace
By Richard Needham
Published by Blackstaff Press
1999
Pg. 56:
However, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the ark was built by amateurs, but professionals built the Titanic.

Google Books
The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Card
By Linda LaTourelle and C C Milam
Edition: 2
Published by Bluegrass Publishing Inc.
2005
Pg. 221:
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.

Zazzle.com
Amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
T-shirt by ZaysGirl
It’s true..(in my opinion)
created by ZaysGirl (12/12/2006 9:24 PM)

Amazon.com
Amateurs Built the Ark Professionals Built the Titanic Bumper Sticker
by BumperArt.com

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Tuesday, June 02, 2009 • Permalink