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27 December 2010 by stepheng

cross section diagram of a liner

As the freezing weather continues I can understand why people want to get away to warmer climes over the festive period.

However a permanent move is a different matter. I am told homesickness really kicks in at Christmas and New Year – we often have rosy memories of Christmases past, in particular.

Someone celebrating Christmas in the tropics may long for the ice-cold weather of home and vice versa.

Liverpool helped change the world by providing the means for millions of emigrants to settle in distant lands.

The impact of emigration was huge and the port was the gateway to a new world. Many parts of the globe were enriched as cultures were transplanted and flourished in new communities.

Liverpool was probably the biggest emigration port in world history, with nine million people passing through between 1830 and 1930. The port offered the best deals and people travelled from all over northern Europe to board the emigrant ships.

On display at Merseyside Maritime Museum’s emigration gallery is a Steerage inspection card for the emigration officer at the port of arrival in Canada. It belonged to Ellen Rogerson who sailed from Liverpool with her family aboard the Megantic on 27 May 1911, arriving on 4 June.

Liverpool’s role in the emigrant trade and as a transatlantic passenger port began to decline after the First World War (1914 -18). One factor was Cunard’s decision to transfer services to Southampton.

In the 1920s the United States introduced new laws to reduce the numbers of immigrants but emigration to Australia and Canada continued largely through Government assistance programmes.

After the Second World War, partly due to the growing popularity of air travel, the numbers emigrating through Liverpool continued to fall.

The third Empress of Canada is seen in the Mersey in 1961. This ship made the last North Atlantic passenger voyage from Liverpool on 7 November 1971.

A finely-detailed cross-section plan of the Aquitania (pictured) shows the functions of different parts of the ship including areas used by First, Second and Third Class (Steerage) emigrants.

Visitors can explore a full-sized reconstruction of a Liverpool quayside and wooden emigrant sailing ship of the 1850s.

These sailing ships had only the barest of facilities for Steerage passengers – a world away from the steam floating palaces of 50 years later.

Emigrants were accommodated not in a cabin but a large dormitory where families and groups hired a big pallet to sleep on. These could be curtained off to provide some privacy.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents and bookshops.

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