Of Rats and Men Titanic Survivor Sleeping Rough


Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
Finally had a moment to read Senan's latest article. I think I'll carry around the closing lines for the rest of the day...every now and then the irascible researcher reminds us of why he's a professional writer. The perfect cadences of the conclusion represent one of the most beautiful passages on the death of a man that I've read in a long time.

I was very interested to read about the conditions in the Sailor's Home in London. I've had a bit of an interest in these institutions since reading letters written by James Moody when staying at the original Sailor's Home in Liverpool early in his career. The history of why this instituation was established to prevent the exploitation of merchant seamen is one of the great Liverpool stories, and it's one of the original landmarks of the city I wish still existed (although there are superb photos and material connected with it still extant). Most of the Titanic's deck crew would have been familiar with it in some capacity, many from their earliest days, either as residents or in availing themselves of the many services the Home provided, such as outfitting, postal, etc.

The Sailor's Home Thomas Ranger resided in - alongside the rats - in London's East End is familiar territory as well. I've walked along that Dock Road many a time! Sad to read about the conditions Ranger experienced there. The Homes all over the world provided many much-needed services as well as accomodation, and I know that many seamen such as James Moody benefitted from them and the important professional and volunteer work done by those associated with them.

There's a very attractive Sailor's Home down in Sydney's Rocks - it was used by sailors until the 1970s, but is now home to the Sydney Visitor Centre.
 
S

Stephen Patrick Mckay

Guest
I'm writing a history of The Liverpool Sailors' Home and would love to hear from anyone who worked or stayed there.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
I never lived or stayed there, Stephen, but I'd be happy to send you some information on Moody's time there. I'd be fascinated to read the completed work, too!
 

Noel F. Jones

Member
May 14, 2002
857
2
0
Liverpool Sailors' Home:

I sometimes had the duty of escorting West Indian and West African crewmen to the sailors' home when I was 'working by' in the port.

Inside I recall a distinctly spartan place, galleried round with wood partitioned cubicles with wire mesh across the top to discourage any hanky-panky. The saving grace was the ornamental ironwork on the balconies, all neptunes and roiling dolphins etc.

I knew a man wot knew a man wot done the demolition in 1976. Apparently he tried to give away these ornamentations but there was no interest and it all succumbed to the sledge hammer.

The ornamental gates are a happier story however. Apparently they've turned up at a factory in the midlands and arrangements are under way to return them to Liverpool.

The Liverpool Sailors' Home was opened by Prince Albert no less in 1854. It would have been OK for the packet rats of the day but when I knew it it had been largely superseded by better facilities such as the Gordon Smith Institute and Kingston House.

There was also a facility at Woodside on the Birkenhead shore but I think this was for Norwegian seamen. The site has been redeveloped. Back on the Liverpool side, to my knowledge the site remains vacant apart from an advertising hoarding. The 1960s Nautical Catering College building alongside it is still in situ although now devoted to some worthy community useage. The NUS offices next to that are long gone, the current office being further up in Paradise Street.

Canning Place itself is now dominated by a large municipal building and the area is little more than a gigantic traffic island and bereft of whatever character it ever had.

Here are some weblinks you might find informative:

http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/expats/localhistory/tm_objectid=14211123&method=full&siteid=50061&headline=historic--welcome--gates-returning-to-li verpool-name_page.html

http://www.mnwb.org/socdetails.php?id=43

http://www.gtj.org.uk/item.php?lang=en&id=4683&t=1

http://www.mersey-gateway.org/server.php?show=ConNarrative.70&chapterId=399

Noel
 
S

Stephen Patrick Mckay

Guest
Dear Noel,
Thank you very much for replying to my request for information. Could you please let me know roughly what year you visited the Home. I know that the home was used mainly by African seamen in its latter days but I have no indication when this trend started. I'm told that it was the political situation back home that finally deprived the Home of its last few patrons forcing its closure in the late 60s. There is good news and bad news about the famous iron railings. They were nearly all stripped out prior to the demolition but were given away or sold off and only the whereabouts of a few examples are known (The Museum of Liverpool Life and Portmeiron Village in Wales have the majority.) One of my quests is to locate the other sections that have been scattered to the four winds and I'm keen to hear from anyone who may have seen them. (e-mail me stevemck@blueyonder.co.uk for photos.). The whole of the historic Canning Place site is soon to be covered by the massive Paradise Street Development and I've given a couple of "last chance to see" talks at the Sailors' Home Site - The 60's development on the Customs House Site was demolished some time ago and the former Nautical Catering College will be next to go. I've been involved with a project to preserve that carvings that once stood above the entrance to the 'Home which were abandoned in Canning Place when the building was demolished and am urging the Liverpool City Council to consider these in any plans to repatriate the Sailors' Home Gates to Liverpool. (The gates have been safe in a Museum in Birmingham for 50 years while the carvings have been left to rot in a hole in Liverpool for 30!). Please send me any reminiscences about the Liverpool Sailors' Home you have - I didn't know that there was wire above the individual cabins - I thought the only wire was "suicide netting" across the central hall. Thanks again Steve Mckay
 

Noel F. Jones

Member
May 14, 2002
857
2
0
For some reason the following pertinent paragraph was omitted from my post:

The ground floor used to house the Shipping Federation office (the 'pool') and its medical facilities before these were moved to a nondescript 1960s building fronting Mann Island.

Noel
 
S

Stephen Patrick Mckay

Guest
I have a note that the Shipping Federation Ltd vacated the Sailors' Home in December 1956 and that new tenants were to move in in October but I don't know who the 'new tenants' were. Any ideas?
 

Noel F. Jones

Member
May 14, 2002
857
2
0
Stephen,

Sorry to take so long to get back on this and I doubt I can help beyond what I've already said above. You are clearly now much nearer to the subject and the sites than myself. My 'working by' reminiscences would be late 1950s - early 1960s. Apart from a few hours a couple of weeks ago I haven't been back to Liverpool for some five years.

I remember the 'suicide netting' and seem to recall the netting over the cubicles but it was a long time ago.

In any case, what with rushing around in the inevitable driving rain between the town office, the ships, the dock office, rose cottage, the shipping office and trying to fit in a lunch rendezvous with one's cloth at the usual watering hole, one didn't stick around to admire the local architecture.

Incidentally I have a 1960s prospectus for the Nautical Catering College which now seems under threat from this 'Paradise Street Development' you mention.

I once wrote an article about Liverpool (and Merseyside in general) but didn't field it for publication. Since it read like a dirge of divested assets and was provisionally entitled 'Death Wish City' I considered it too sensitive a subject at the time.

It seems the city is resurgent (yet again!) but is continuing a tendency to obliterate its maritime and architectural past in favour of populist ephemera. It's no longer the 'city of departures' we all experienced.

Please keep us informed of your research.

Noel
 

Similar threads

Similar threads