Children on titanic


Jan 28, 2003
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We have 'modern apprenticeships' here now. Nobody pays the employer anything, and I don't think anyone signs years away - they may sign something to say the agree to do the work properly etc. I think it's just a scheme to get kids into trades on a p/t college attendance basis, and I suppose the attraction for the employer is a trainee, on trainee wages, who is also going to college a couple of days a week to get the usual IT, numeracy and literacy skills. There aren't that many of them about though, good idea though they probably are. So - no Dickensian sleeping under the counter next to the coffins, then.... individual learning plans and counselling instead which, for some reason (!) the students seem to find fairly oppressive too...
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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The crew listing of the Carpathia reveals several crew members under the age of 17 and makes an interesting comparison with Titanic:

Many teenage Waiters, including one just 14 years old.
3 Steward's Boys, aged 14,15,15.
The Bugler, aged 16.
3 'OS' (Ordinary Seamen?)- 16,16,15 - all on their first voyage, so surely under training.

There was also (Iain please note) a Bosun's Boy, also on first voyage but aged 18. Did this perhaps mean an apprentice Seaman as opposed to other first-timers in the deck crew who were not formally indentured?
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Glancing back over my response, I realise I should have been more specific in who the apprentice positions applied to - it was boys who were progressing towards sitting for their BoT mates' and master's tickets who entered the service as indentured apprentices.

I don't know what the drop-out rate was for apprentices, but anecdotal evidence from writers such as Frank Bullen suggests it was quite high. Education largely depended on the master and mates, and while some looked after the teenagers and tried to teach them the ropes (literally), others largely left them to their own devices or utilised them as a cheap form of additional labour. Bullen wrote how many boys - often unaccustomed to looking after themselves - lived in conditions that quickly became squalid. Some jumped ship at the earliest opportunity.

I think I've written before about James Moody's first horrific voyage in sail, where - after several days of storm - the master found it necessary to utilise the apprentices on deck. He had ordered them to stay put on the poop deck for the first few days, but after that he needed to send some of them - Moody included - aloft. So grim was the voyage - due in part to the bullying of the 2nd Mate - that one of Moody's young colleagues committed suicide. Moody also knew of at least one other friend, another ex-Conway boy - who fell to his death from aloft in these early years.

Lol, Mary! If I were in your position, I'd be swinging my reg around over my head and doing a 'Nyah Nyah' dance too! No need to tell you to go and enjoy yourself - what bliss to escape from January into a bit of the old gin clear water. I don't know how feasible the Maldives plan will prove...given the ages of the two kids, it will be necessary to book land based accomodation, and I'm more of a liveaboard fan (have only ever used one land based dive operator on holiday, and that was in Yap). Sister has contacts in Papua New Guinea through WWF, so we've tossed around ideas there as well - but whether it's a good holiday destination for the kiddies is another question.

New baby is a gorgeous gem, adored by everyone (including her 18 month old brother, who delights in showing everyone the 'Bah-bie!') They've opted for Gabrielle as a name.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hi Kyrila,

I also saw that segment about the Queen Mary 2 with the bellboys. I was shocked at first when I saw them too, but I realized that they must be older than they look.

As Monica said, sixteen is the law.

Best regards,

Jason
happy.gif
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Now I've seen these bellboys on cable TV. I think Cunard have done it deliberately - hired 16 year-olds who look and sound much younger. Sort of throw-back to previous liner eras. I suppose you could call it attention to detail...
 
Jan 28, 2003
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No bellboys? What's the world coming to? I bet they've got those disembodied voices instead - the ones which say calmly "Doors opening" when you're already staring into the vestibule, and "Doors closing" when everyone's been standing around claustrophobically, avoiding eye contact, and punching level numbers on the control panel for the last 30 seconds.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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My son, a demi-chef, has been pondering a job with Cunard, but he's not 21 yet so that's in the future. His colleague, who has worked for Cunard quite recently, says the worst job is the bus-boy (spelling?). These are the lowliest in the kitchens, working 14 hours a day for 7 days a week for four months at a time, and being bawled at constantly by every other kitchen staff member. Ben was told that there have been suicides among these employees in recent years. Anyone know anything about this? I would have expected a scandal to follow if this is true, but apparently these lads are not either English or American as a rule ... hmm.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Monica, I would expect that any suicides would have been handled very descreetly. They family would be notified, the remains of the decedant returned home if possible, assorted administrative concerns would have been quietly taken care of and that would be the end of it. For obvious reasons, this is not the sort of thing that the lines would want the media to get a hold of.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Yes, Michael, I'm sure you may be right. But it sounds awful, doesn't it? And poor Ben doesn't fancy being one of the bawlers, especially if those being bawled at are not native English speakers and don't have the cultural back-up that we do to assert decent working conditions. Still, as I said, Ben is a little bit too young yet. But he's a bit shocked by such stories.... which, of course, is all they may be.
 
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Jeremy, yes the suicides were reported to have happened on board ship - if they happened at all, that is. One cannot always believe everything one hears, but knowing what I now do about kitchens, I would not be that suprised. They are fairly brutal places.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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When a suicide occured aboard one of James Moody's ships in 1904, the event was covered up. The entry in the marine death's register stated that he had 'fallen' overboard, and the Captain told a newspaper that the boy must have fallen when the ship took a sudden lurch. Moody spoke very frankly of the circumstances around the incident in a private letter, and indicated that this was the boy's second attempt. He seems to have taken it almost for granted that the incident was covered up, even though it involved his fellow apprentices - including Moody - having to give a whitewashed version of events to the Consul in NY.

Of course, that was in 1904. One would hope that a rash of suicides among a particular group of crewmen would draw more comment today, but then again...look at what has happened in recent years at military camps, and how slow authorities have been to look into the spate of deaths. What nationality do the boys tend to be, Monica? Philipinos?

And yes, kitchens are brutal places...even in a country with rather good workplace practices such as Australia, I have a friend working as a chef who tells hair-raising stories of the abuses that go on within the industry.
 

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