Questions about the Officers


Hanna Turunen

Member
Mar 23, 2004
51
0
86
I have got some questions and I hope you can answer to them.

1. Did the officers smoke? How much?
2. Did they drink alcohol?
3. How they acted with each others? Did they joke, laugh...?
4. What songs were sung in the Sunday services (Not only in the Titanic)?
5. What kind of book was White Star Line's song book? What songs there were?
6. What Christmas carols they sang (Edwardian people)? Did WSL had got Christmas Carols book?
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
Hallo Hanna -

1. Harold Lowe was very fond of pipes, and was also photographed with what seem to be cigarettes or cigars. Murdoch was also reported to have smoked, and Moody made references to the price of tobacco in Cuba. Pitman and Lightoller were also sighted with pipes.

2. Lowe was a total, lifelong abstainer who never drank. Moody made jesting references to drinking that lead me to believe he did drink on occasion, but not to excess (and was rather critical of those who did). Lightoller enjoyed gin and tonic. Murdoch is reputed to have enjoyed a pint. Boxhall was a very temperate man (as reported particularly in later life by those who knew him), but I've seen a bit of photographic evidence to suggest he may have enjoyed the odd drink.

3. They behaved as professionals on duty, but were not immune to showing a sense of humour (Lightoller's comments about the slippery qualities of the Oceanic's deck - and the results of exploiting that slidey quality - spring to mind.

I'll leave the last three to questions to others - quite a bit could be written on each one!
 

Hanna Turunen

Member
Mar 23, 2004
51
0
86
Thanks Inger! You're wonderful!

What about Smith and Wilde? Did they drink or smoke?
Did they have got some kind of disputes when they were in the Titanic?
Did the officers learn or speak other languages than English? Latin, French...?
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
No worries, Hanna.

That story about Smith and his cigar smoke is a classic, Ernie! I'm not too sure about Wilde and smoking/drinking - nothing comes to mind at the moment.

I don't think there were any real disputes between the officers - not that we know about. There is the (somewhat debatable) point of whether Lightoller went over Wilde's head in going to Smith and suggesting the lifeboats be lowered, but I don't think it was really a 'dispute' as such.

Lowe spoke Welsh, and during WWI attained a reasonable fluency in Russian (and later inadvertantly used the odd word of Russian when speaking in Welsh to his boatmen, to their great confusion). Moody knew some Spanish, picked up in South America...he could also swear with some fluency in Spanish. Sometimes he would drop the odd, accidental expletive in when conversing with Spanish-speaking passengers in their own language - particularly embarrasing when it was a Senorita. He attended a school that had Latin on the curriculum, so might have retained the odd word or phrase of that language.

I imagine most of them could speak at least a few words or phrases from the ports they visited - whether they were very fluent is another matter.
 
Jan 28, 2003
2,524
14
223
Hanna,
the questions you ask raise many issues. Not that that matters, but it makes answering them quite difficult.
happy.gif


Language:
The British have never been very good at foreign languages, and although many people would have learned Latin in school in the 1850s - 1900s, it was not 'spoken'. Rather, it was a basis for understanding the construction of the Romance languages - French, Spanish, Italian, and English (which is a hybrid language) etc. That still does not mean anyone was very proficient in foreign languages - and without knowing for certain, I would doubt that any officers were really fluent in foreign languages, especially before WW1. English has become the world's lingua franca over the last 100 years, and that does diminish the incentive for learning foreign languages. Not laudable, perhaps, but understandable.

As regards drinking and smoking...
A lot of this is down to religion - and increased leisure time. Religious people (like Mr. Lowe maybe) were against drinking because religions, along with some secular organisations, realised the dreadful problems of poverty-stricken people drinking. They campaigned - assortedly - in the 19th and early 20th centuries for less booze, more pay, more leisure, less hardship. Unfortunately in some circumstances, people responded to less hardship and more leisure, by indulging in more leisure i.e. more drinking and smoking, less Church, and less "intellectual" thought.

But even so, drinking was brought more under control during 1850-1914 - largely due to Government Exchequer regulation. It is a hugely complex issue, however.

However, in 1912, it would have been quite unacceptable for officers to indulge in any vice to an 'observable' level, with perhaps the odd exception of smoking. And many officers would have had religious beliefs which would have precluded such indulgements.

I think it fairly safe to say that the Titanic's officers were moderate and sober people on duty, and probably off-duty as well.

Bob Godfrey knows a lot about this sort of thing, and he may join in.
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,044
87
308
UK
Monica, whenever the subject of excessive smoking and drinking comes up, you always think of me
mad.gif
.
One point I can add, concerning government intervention, is that the shipping regulations current in 1912 prohibited the sale of spirits to 3rd Class passengers, but not of course to 1st and 2nd, who it seems could be trusted to maintain decorum no matter how much of the hard stuff they knocked back.

In fact, and contrary to the mythology, at those wild steerage parties even the beer didn't flow very freely. Actual accounts of Atlantic crossings in 3rd class during the Edwardian period reveal that the bar did very little business. Most smokers brought their own supply of tobacco rather than pay ship prices, and the kind of people who had worked hard and saved hard to pay for their passage generally had the good sense to conserve whatever cash reserves they had left, and leave the hard drinking to the Cabin Classes who could afford to indulge themselves.
.
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,044
87
308
UK
As for the drinking habits of the crew onboard, on the one hand we have the testimony of John Hardy (Chief 2nd Class steward):

Senator FLETCHER: You did not see any members of the crew under the influence of liquor?
Mr HARDY: That is impossible to think, that is impossible to suggest, that men drink while at sea; because in the first place, if it was possible for a man to want it he could not afford to buy it; and there is no hope for him to get it, because he would not be served, anyway.

On the other hand, we have accounts which make it clear that many crew members came prepared. Baker Joughin freely admitted without prompting that he kept a bottle in his room, without any obvious suggestion that he was admitting to any negligence of duty. Stewardesses Mary Sloan and Evelyn Marsden were fortified by a glass of whisky apiece, provided in his cabin by Doctor Simpson. And stewardess Violet Jessop's memoirs provide numerous memories of smoking and drinking among fellow crew members. On Titanic, for instance, she was delighted to discover that she had been provided in her cabin with a separate wardrobe where her clothes would be free of contamination from a room-mate's "devotion to whisky and smoke".

But the behaviour of the crew in private should not be considered as a reflection on their efficiency in public. There's a world of difference between enjoying the occasional crafty smoke or quick swig and being visibly 'the worse for wear' on duty. Any crew member who made his or her liking for the weed or the bottle too obvious would not be very likely to find future employment with the Line.
.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
quote:

However, in 1912, it would have been quite unacceptable for officers to indulge in any vice to an 'observable' level, with perhaps the odd exception of smoking.
And indulge they did - Lowe's pipe is ubiqitous in photographs of aboard his ships. In one I particular shot that I like dating to a later period (the 20s), he's shown with a sextant in one hand and a pipe dangling out of his mouth.

Lowe's reasons for being a total abstainer had less to do with religion and more to do with particular circumstances in his early life. In addition, it was an asset for a merchant seaman to be able to say he was a temperate or a total abstainer. One reason Lowe reacted so strongly to suggestions he was seen drinking the night of the sinking, as he later explained to reporters, is that a reputation for sobriety was extremely important in his profession. The word 'sober' was often underlined by his masters in the written references they gave him. I think it speaks to his credit that he never interfered with the enjoyment of others (but then, I'm speaking as the Queen of the Cocktails, so I would consider lack of sanctimoniousness a desirable trait).

On the other hand, there is a wonderful in-port photo of a group of WSL officers, among them Lightoller and Boxhall, with a table and many beer bottles in front of them. Off duty, of course...and no guarantee that they were getting stuck in themselves. There is a photo of Boxhall with a wine glass, but whether it has wine or another beverage in it is difficult to determine. His family knew him as a very sober man.

Moody wrote of the ruin he had seen come to officers who had once served on some of the big liners, only to come to grief through booze. He saw first hand the effects of the local pisco on the crew in South American ports, and related some of the ugly incidents that arose as a result of them over-imbibing. At the same time, he could joke about having nearly enough money at the end of the pay period to go on a bender.

MAB, I love the idea of Smith getting nicked over his precious cigars!​
 

Hanna Turunen

Member
Mar 23, 2004
51
0
86
Thanks for everyone very much
happy.gif


Do you know answers for these:
What songs were sung in the Sunday services (Not only in the Titanic)?
What kind of book was White Star Line's song book? What songs there were?
What Christmas carols they sang (Edwardian people)? Did WSL had got Christmas Carols book?

And Inger, you said that you're making research of nicknames. When do you think that you publish that? I can't wait. And have you found Moody's siblings birthdays and whole names?
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,044
87
308
UK
Hanna, I think the closest thing the White Star Line had to a 'song book' was their basic music repertoire, which consisted of 148 pieces, divided into sections - overtures; selections; suites, fantasias, etc (including 'hymns of all nations'); and waltzes. Far too many to list here, I'm afraid. And no doubt they could range beyond that standard repertoire when required, at Christmas time for instance. Most of the carols that are popular today have a long history going back to the nineteenth century at least, so a carol service in 1912 would have sounded very familiar to us today.
.
 

Noel F. Jones

Member
May 14, 2002
857
2
0
Allow me to translate the standard phraseology used in compiling officers’ testimonials:-

“sober” = able to hold his liquor to the extent it doesn't impede the performance of his duties.

“strictly sober” = probably efficient but a bloody bore with it.

"wet" (used less formally) = able to hold his liquor but not to the extent it doesn’t impede the performance of his duties.

‘Drink’ would not be a significant problem on an express north Atlantic run because of the amount of work needed to service a full complement of passengers. Problems might arise when ships ran part empty and work had to be found for idle hands but by and large the run was too short to facilitate delinquency.

On other runs and in ‘lesser’ ships different circumstances prevailed. On Caribbean runs it was necessary to get the ship through the rum belt without major incident.

On the skinboats, at ‘bush’ ports, lying off and loading from overside, the crowd might put the bucket down for the local firewater (Barrilito etc.) which might well be followed by local fireworks.

And rest assured, a month working cargo up a West African creek would have Jesus Christ reaching for the bottle.

Noel
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
quote:

And rest assured, a month working cargo up a West African creek would have Jesus Christ reaching for the bottle.
Does that mean Harold Lowe had more willpower than the Almighty? Or just that he wasn't as much fun at parties as the Saviour who could transform water into something more palatable?

HGL worked for the better part of four and a half years for Elder Dempster on the West African run, but remained a total abstainer.
quote:

“sober” = able to hold his liquor to the extent it doesn't impede the performance of his duties.

“strictly sober” = probably efficient but a bloody bore with it.
'Strictly sober' appeared almost as often as 'sober' in the testimonials HGL received, so he must have been an efficient closet drinker who was very dull to work with.

Although I suppose the firearms he carried might have livened things up a bit.

quote:

"I think you would also follow my lead and chew pounds of bananas, grapes, pineapples, peaches etc, instead of doing what most chaps do and drown their sorrows in beer and the Peruvian national drink called 'pisco' which tastes to me like kerasine and cough mixture stirred together." - James Moody
At least he acknowledged he'd tried it. Pity he didn't muddle some limes and a bit of sugar together...and perhaps some of that fruit. Pisco makes a very passable cocktail base.​
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,609
643
483
Easley South Carolina
>>Pisco makes a very passable cocktail base.<<

Perhaps it's what's added to it that makes the stuff palatable? If Moody's description of the stuff is any indication, I don't think I'd try it as a stand alone, though it might make an acceptable alternative to most fuels.

Some local firewaters aren't all that bad. Mojo has an especial notoriety among Pacific Fleet sailors who have ever been to the Phillipines. To call this stuff "fortified fruit juice" is kind of like calling a nuke a "fortified firecracker." The sweet fruit juices and soda pop...the recipes vary with the bars that serve it...are used cover up the heaping helpings of distilled liqour. Goes down smooth as fruit juice too, and that's what's so insidious about it. You can get thoroughly plastered on this stuff without even knowing it.
 

Noel F. Jones

Member
May 14, 2002
857
2
0
“Does that mean Harold Lowe had more willpower than the Almighty? Or just that he wasn't as much fun at parties as the Saviour who could transform water into something more palatable?”

I wouldn’t know Inger. I arrived too late on the Coast to hooley-up with Harold Lowe. I did however sail with an abstaining Third Mate on that run who wasn’t notably a bore. It was just that he found booze gave him a headache instead of the requisite anaesthesia.

“HGL worked for the better part of four and a half years for Elder Dempster on the West African run, but remained a total abstainer.”

Ah! but did he go up the creeks - or was he just a mailboat man? Even there we used to open the bar before breakfast for the ‘old coasters’ (passengers, I hasten to add) to make the ‘hard start’ to their day.

Noel
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
5,342
60
308
quote:

Ah! but did he go up the creeks
Yup - although I'm not sure with or without a paddle. He had stories to tell about learning how to navigate through the creeks by observing tidal eddies. This is back in the days so memorably described by the old hands - before the muddy banks were widened for safer navigation, and rounding bends sometimes involved driving the vessels nose on into the bank and waiting for the tide to assist.

I think a bit of gin and tonic water probably would have done him some good - it might have kept the mosquitoes at bay, and possibly saved him from malaria. I'd have at least given it a shot, anyway!
quote:

Perhaps it's what's added to it that makes the stuff palatable? If Moody's description of the stuff is any indication, I don't think I'd try it as a stand alone, though it might make an acceptable alternative to most
That's why cocktails really got a boost during the prohibition era - you needed to mix that stuff with something to make it more palatable. I've got mates in the Uruguayan community here in Oz, and they bring back Cachaça to distribute to friends - the real, quite lethal stuff. Which is promptly mixed into lovely Caipirinhas. I was introduced to Pisco by a Chilean flatmate in London when her brother brought some over for her - she turned it into a something not too distantly removed from a Caipirinha or Margarita...with limes, palm sugar and perhaps a touch of soda water, it can be quite refreshing.​
 

Similar threads

Similar threads