Given the amount of rain we have had of late, it was questionable if members would welcome a talk with a watery theme. A rare sunny morning however, put members in the mood for a trip on board a luxury ocean going liner.
Mark Perry Nash surprised members by observing this was the first time he had travelled so far East in England, but that the venue in the Round Room at the Azur reminded him of being on the Observation Deck on the Queen Mary.
As Mark’s father worked in America he crossed the Atlantic twelve times in his youth to return to England. He felt the Atlantic was best described as moody, but the best way to cross it was in one of the Art Deco masterpieces the Queens Mary and Elizabeth.
Times have changed as in 1839 it took one of the first iron ships Royal William three weeks to cross from Nova Scotia to the Isle of Wight. In the early days ships carried mainly cargo and mail and often only 20 passengers who were often seasick.
When started as a passenger enterprise The Cunard Line considered safety more important than speed, whereas one of the competitors with less care and planning had one of its steam ships with back up sails run out of fuel some miles from Liverpool and masts and furniture had to be broken up to power it into harbour when there was insufficient wind. Even then it was not enough and it still had to be towed into harbour by a tug.
By 1852 passengers were seen as a source of profit. P and O’s first package trip offered claret for breakfast and brandy and gin at night, but they had to abandon this when passengers overindulged. The most expensive way to travel on board was port out and starboard back – hence posh. The first class menu was very extensive, but passengers often did not feel well enough to take full advantage of it. It was a very different case in steerage where passengers were expected to provide their bedding and a bowl – the bowl having a dual function!
By 1907 liners were like floating hotels. One of their key functions was to transport migrants to America. One of the most memorable liners was the supposedly unsinkable Titanic which hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage. This caused the decline of the White Star Line which was bought out by Cunard.
Mark concluded with a humorous tale about a lady who when told she had been invited to eat on the captain’s table declined as she said she had paid too much to eat with the staff!
Many members must have regretted that they had been unable to share the luxuries enjoyed by passengers in the heyday of ocean going travel in the 1930s and 1940s.
Members, who have tickets, are reminded Christmas party is at 2pm at St Peter’s on December 15. The celebratory publication will be launched at the Christmas party by Hilvary Robinson, SE trustee from The Third Age Trust is at 2pm at St Peter’s on December 15.