Bell boys What did they do during the trip and the sinking


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Timothy McCulloch

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In movies that I've seen, books I've read and documentaries that I've seen. The BellBoys and LiftOperators are there doing there job. But during the sinking there is nothing about them.
My question is: Is there any surviver saying anything about them or facts about them during the sink?
Knowing that they must have gone down with the ship.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Located only in First Class, they had basically the same duties as the bellboys or 'bellhops' in land-based hotels. They ran errands and delivered messages and telegrams, and might have helped carry luggage at the beginning and end of a voyage. There were three bellboys, aged from 14 to 16, and had the return trip been completed they would have been paid just £2.
 

Vicki Logan

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May 15, 2003
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Two pounds hardly seems worth the effort. Do you know if the bellboys also received tips like modern day cruise employees? Also would their families have received compensation after the disaster? I appreciate the information.
Vicki
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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To our eyes £2 doesn't seem much, but in terms of modern purchasing power it was about £120. And not too bad for a youngster when compared, for instance, with the £3 wage of stewardess Lucy Snape, a young widow with a child to support.

Yes, tips were relied upon by stewards and many other members of the 'hotel' staff to help make up a living wage. The families of crew lost in the disaster did not receive compensation from White Star, but dependents could get help from the Titanic Relief Fund. In this case it's likely that the boys' mothers received a small weekly or monthly payment from the Fund to help compensate for the loss of their sons' contribution to the family income.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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They probably got some tips from first class passengers. For years staff in contact with passengers were underpaid on the theory that they would get tips. Violet Jessop made some cutting remarks about stewards whose life revolved around tips. It still goes on today, both at sea and on shore, especially in the USA.

£2 per month was about half the pay of an adult labourer on shore and they were fed and housed. By the standards of 1912 they were OK.

The dependents of the crew received compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act. I've never seen records of how many claimed. It seems to have been handled locally, with the compo for individuals being paid into a handy court. Presumably the parents of the boys could have claimed. If they did, they would have got peanuts, because compensation was related to wages. They would have received no more than about £100.

By the way, some sources wildly exaggerate the number of bell boys. In Mersey's court, Sir Rufus Isaacs praised the heroic eight bell boys and in the US a preacher delivered a sob story about the poor little 60 bell boys. The version supplied by Bob Godfrey is correct.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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The bell boys might have been envied by other boys. In 1912 an award for Northumberland miners was handed down. It included a wage for boys aged 14 to 16. It was hailed by a union president as "one of the greatest reforms we ever have had" especially for the boys. The boys' wage was two shillings per day, presumably for a six day week. No natty uniform, no tips and no food and lodging and a fair chance of getting killed.

The award was handed down by none other than Lord Mersey, during a break from the Titanic inquiry.
 

Vicki Logan

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May 15, 2003
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Thank you Bob and Dave for the information. I'd forgotten about the valuation differential between current and past wages. Violet Jessops comment and her wages does make me wonder if women were also underpaid because of gender.
 
B

Brian R Peterson

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For the sake of the experience and also survival, I'd rather be a First Class passenger who disembarked at Queenstown
wink.gif


Best Regards,

Brian
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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I have said that there were three bell boys, but I should include 16-year old Charles Turvey, who did the same kind of work as a page boy for the A La Carte restaurant. The barman and a number of the waiters were not much older. None of them survived.
 
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Renae Barrett Salisbury

Guest
I read in a book that listed 882 1/2 facts about the Titanic that bellboys were also called "buttons." Can anyone substantiate that? And if so, why were they called that?

I also read in Walter Lord's book that they were seen smoking before the ship went down. In another book that was entitled Titanic: Dream Lost, I think, Franky Goldsmith was reported to have seen some teenage crew members playing games, perhaps hide and seek, as he was lowered in the life boat. Does anyone know of other stories of their heroism, pranks, experiences, etc?
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Renae, if you look at pictures of them, they had shiny (brass?) buttons all over their uniforms, so I expect that is why they were called 'Buttons' - bit like in Cinderella. This is just the sort of thing Bob Godfrey would know about, maybe he'll reply. I have a vague idea that one of them said wistfully to Beasley that he wished he could leave his post and go on deck - so maybe the night of the sinking was the first time they were free from supervision, and able to do as they liked - uncomprehending of what was happening.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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The only story I can think of which gives a speaking role to a bellboy came from stewardess Mary Sloan: "I went on deck the second time, and one of our little bell boys recognised me, and pointing to a crowded boat said, Miss Sloan that's your boat No 12. I said, child, how do you know, I will wait for another." Mary did get away in boat 12, but of course the boy perished. We don't know his name, but either he or one of his mates might have been the young lad who was refused admittance to the adjacent boat 14.

Hi, Monica! The Beasley story concerned the 2nd Class lift attendant, another of Titanic's doomed teenage crew 'men'. You're right about the origin of 'buttons' - here's a pic which smokers might recognise:

84651.jpg
 
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Renae Barrett Salisbury

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This is amazing! I can't believe I received such a quick response! I thought the nickname probably referred to the boys' uniforms, but I have not been able to find a picture of them. Thank you so much for your input!
 
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Renae Barrett Salisbury

Guest
Oh, I do remember this pictured ad provided by Bob Godfrey even though I'm not a smoker! Are there any pictures of Titanic or other White Star Line bellboys? Again, thanks! This is so much fun!
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Hmm. Rather trenchant strap-line above the Button's head on the cigarette advert. Could be more effective than the SMOKING KILLS emblazoned on the UK packets.
 

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