Oct 14, 2003
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What was the purser's job? Did he have keys to all of the cabins?

Come to think of it, did the stewards and stewardesses have keys to the cabins?

Also, there is a guy with the job of Assistant Printer on the Titanic Victualling crew. What was this job and what did it entail?

Thanks,

Christa.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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The Purser was the head of the Victualling Department. In particular, he was responsible for the ship's money, as well as passenger's cash and property entrusted to him.. His name comes from the word purse and ultimately comes from the Latin for a bag. He would have had keys to just about everywhere. Luckily, he had assistants to help keep track of them.

The printer printed anything needed, menus, crew assignments and the like. There's a thread somewhere that tells how to tell real Titanic menus from frauds. The printing process was evidently quite elaborate and produced an effect of raised lettering.
 

Noel F. Jones

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May 14, 2002
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The Duties of the Purser:-

What was the purser's job? Did he have keys to all of the cabins?

Come to think of it, did the stewards and stewardesses have keys to the cabins?


The purser is the senior non-executive officer. He is, or should be, the master's confidante in all shipboard social and political matters.

Bedroom stewards and stewardesses would have pass keys restricted to their particular sections. Although the purser was ostensibly in charge of all passenger accommodation, pass keys and stateroom keys would necessarily be controlled from the chief steward's office.

In passenger vessels the purser reports to the master in the following functions:

Engagement and discharge of crew ('signing on' and 'signing off' articles)
Crew wages
Maintaining official log
Compiling of accident and casualty reports
Maintaining account current with owners (analogous to 'chief cashier')
Compiling port entry papers
Attendance upon boarding parties (pratique, customs and immigration)
Obtaining port clearance outwards
Reconciling passage tickets with passenger manifest
Issuing of passenger tickets at wayports
In charge all passenger accommodation
Operates safe deposit facility
Operates banking facilities for passengers
Arranges oncarriage for passengers (boat trains)
Seats the Captain's Table
Organises and oversees the ship's entertainments programme
Compiles ship's stationery indent for next voyage
Collects passengers' individual bar accounts
Collects cabin service accounts ('room service')
Collects passengers' and crew radio traffic accounts
Collects officers' bar accounts
Collects crew 'slops' (canteen) accounts
Collects medical bills
Receives and delivers incoming passenger and crew mail
Stamps and despatches outgoing mail
Corrals and delivers effects of crew members deceased or landed sick
Oversees onboard trading concessions - shops, hairdressers, bank etc.

Chief Steward reports in re:

Staff matters
Menu compilation
Bar cash
Victualling stores useage (food & beverage control)
Stores indents
Passenger special requests
Shop stock

Baggage Master reports in re:

Stowage and breaking out of passengers' baggage
Access to baggage room
Loss and damage to baggage and claims potential

Printer reports in re:

Menus, passenger lists, invitation cards etc.

Surgeon reports in re:

Port health concerns
Passengers' medical bills

Due to variation in practice between companies and runs, the above may not be complete or definitive.

Depending on size of ship, the purser will be assisted by a staff of assistant pursers and writers.

The ship's surgeon if carried may have responsibility for pratique (health clearance).

On an express service some of the purser's work will necessarily be done by shore staff, i.e. passenger list compilation, restaurant seating plans, stateroom allocation. On large vessels proprietory bank staff have responsibility for banking transactions and 'bureau de change' etc. There may also be a post office. The larger vessels usually run a cash economy which relieves the departments from compiling, and the purser from collecting, individual accounts.

Pursers' staff were traditionally recruited from shoreside office staff – and not a little nepotism prevailed!

In some companies and on some runs the jobs of Purser and Chief Steward are combined in the form of Purser/Chief Steward or latterly Purser/Catering Officer or 'Hotel Manager'. The incumbent will be qualified appropriately.

There were also cargo pursers on many runs who, in addition to accruing many of the above duties, primarily took care of the documentation of the stowage and outturn of general cargo.

Noel
 
Oct 14, 2003
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Wow! Thanks Noel.

So they reported all this sort of stuff to the master (captain?)?

So when Alfred Nournay chucked a paddy and wanted to be put from 2nd class to 1st class would this have been taken to the purser?

And did the purser deliver passenger's telegrams or did the have to go and pick them up from somewhere?

Thanks,

Christa.
 

Noel F. Jones

Active Member
May 14, 2002
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'Reporting' in the administrative sense. I'm sorry, I thought that was understood. The less the master knew about the purser's routine duties the happier he would be!

Transfer of passengers between staterooms and certainly between classes is definitely the prerogative of the purser.

The bellboys would deliver telegrams etc. on instructions from the purser's bureau. There was usually a duty bellboy standing-by the bureau for this and other duties.

However, it might be that on some ships the bellboys would take telegrams directly from the radio room at the behest of the radio officers.

Noel
 
Oct 14, 2003
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Thanks Noel,

So a bell boy was kinda like a gofer?

Also, I saw some passengers that embarked at Belfast. Do you know if this was allowed for passengers in general or just for special passengers?

Thanks,

Christa.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
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Most of those who embarked at Belfast had some official connection with the ship, notably the Harland and Wolff 'guarantee group'. According the the British inquiry, somebody from the firm that adjusted the compasses was also on board. I've not bothered to track them down. The only ordinary passenger was Mr Wyckoff Van der Hoef, a first class American passenger, bound for New York. (He didn't make it).
 

Hitch

Member
Jan 6, 2006
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Did the purser also give messages to passengers? (Like if someone wanted to meet someone on deck on that time)

Or is that someone ells his job??
 

Hitch

Member
Jan 6, 2006
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Thanks Bob.

But where did you had to go, for a personal messages? Did they had a special desk?? And did they bring the messages to each room??
 

Frank McElroy

Member
Dec 31, 2003
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Noel, Your the first person I've come across who knows most of the duties of a Purser aboard ship.

(This is off my web site)
Stewards were given their printed lists of names, 1st Class Steward, William Faulkner read the words “First Class Passenger list, per Royal and US Mail”￾. The staterooms of those of whom he had responsibility had been ticked with a pencil
mark by Chief Purser Hugh Richard Walter McElroy.

Chief Purser McElroy suddenly appeared at Faulkner’s side. He was accompanied by a passenger who wanted a cabin other than that allocated. Mr Howard B. Case, an oil magnate
with interests on both sides of the Atlantic, had been given accommodation down on E deck (E66), he was none too pleased.
He had specifically asked for C deck (C11) and wanted to switch cabins, even if it meant sacrificing space.

The purser had found one more to Mr Case’s liking; handed the steward his note of authorisation for the changeover and asked
him to attend to the matter, Faulkner read the note, pocketed it and carried out the instruction, Another happy passenger.
(The 69, by the way, is the number of the page he tore out of his notebook.)

Many Thanks Noel.
 

Frank McElroy

Member
Dec 31, 2003
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Hi Bob,
We seem to come from the same town, we also have a lot of Titanic people living in or around Colchester.(see my homepage)
Just got back from Liverpool - seeing friends and tyding up Hugh's grave.
 

alan ward

Member
Feb 12, 2004
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Noel,I spent 10 years at sea as a Purser where I learned that the quickest way to describe a Pursers duties was to tell the interested party that`We put jewels in the safe and danced with the passengers`
 

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