Our venues


Posts by Sarah Starkey

Movember Moustaches

4 November 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Black and white photograph of W Roberts, shipbroker

W Roberts, shipbroker, from the De Wolf photograph album (Maritime Archives reference DX/2243)

 As the leaves fall from the trees and the nights draw in my thoughts turn not towards Christmas, but to moustaches.  We have again updated our gallery of moustached maritime men in support of the Movember health campaign. Read more…

Moscow Cables

16 October 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Photograph of workmen cable laying in Moscow

British Insulated & Helsby Cables
Company installing electricity cables in Moscow, (ref: BICC/VII/4/1/2b)

No this isn’t evidence of an early, unsubtle, attempt by the west to spy on the Russian government, although you never know.  This is a photograph from our British Insulated Callendars Cables (BICC) archive and shows the then named British Insulated & Helsby Cables Company installing electricity cables in Moscow. Read more…

Merchant Navy Day

29 August 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Image of a seafarers discharge certificate

Discharge certificate of Charles Yates, Maritime Archive reference DX/1977

Merchant Navy Day is celebrated on 3rd September to commemorate the contribution the merchant navy has made, and continues to make, to Britain.  This year the Maritime Archives & Library is holding a drop-in family history helpdesk Read more…

High Seas not SW19

26 June 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Photograph of tennis game on deck of ship Araguaya

A game of deck tennis on board Araguaya, Royal Mail Line, 1924 (MAL reference DX/1201)

Well it’s not quite the green grass of Wimbledon, but a lack of space isn’t going to put off these tennis players.

Actually this is deck tennis on board the Royal Mail Line vessel Araguaya in 1924. The game was played by throwing quoits, rather than with rackets and balls, which presumably had a high probability of being lost overboard. This picture was taken by Miss V. Maughfling on a cruise around the Mediterranean. The Maritime Archives & Library holds a number of her photograph albums which show images of cruising and tourism in the 1920s. Read more…

Does anyone write letters these days?

8 May 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Handwritten letter

Letter from Major Caleb Huse to Charles K Prioleau, November 1862 (Maritime Archives and Library reference B/TF/BOX1/27).

Palaeography, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the science or art of deciphering and interpreting historical manuscripts.  It normally refers to ancient manuscripts in long dead languages, but I will make a case for applying it on the many handwritten letters within our collections.  The technique is more or less the same.  You need to know a bit about the context (in this case the American Civil War) and a bit about word and letter forms (for example, initial lower case ‘p’s that go both above and below the line) and the right balance between thinking what is likely to be being said and putting your own words in the mouth of the author.  Then the squiggles turn into prose before your eyes.  Read more…

Here be dragons!

18 April 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Drawing of a dragon on the back of a playing card.

Blue Funnel playing card, 1960s (Maritime Archives Reference OA/25/4/2/8)

The recent posting about the St George’s festival in Liverpool this weekend made me think about dragons.  These spectacular dragons are on the back of a pack of playing cards made for the Blue Funnel Line (Ocean Steam Ship Company) in the early 1960s.  Shipping companies, especially those that carried passengers, put a lot of effort into corporate branding, producing items such as ashtrays, crockery, menus and calendars. 

The Ocean Steam Ship Company, commonly known as Blue Funnel for reasons I’ll leave you to work out on your own, were a large Liverpool shipping firm who sailed predominately, but not exclusively, to the Far East and China.  The Maritime Archives & Library holds a large collection of records from the company, including examples of their marketing material.  These playing cards would have been a useful distraction during long hours at sea. Read more…

Letters from Mother

8 March 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Photograph of young man in maritime navy uniform

Willie Dailey, apprentice, c1886 (Maritime Archives reference DX/1924).

This handsome young man is Willie Dailey of Stafford who decided he wanted a life at sea and persuaded his parents to apprentice him on a voyage of the ship Benares, from Dundee to Chile and San Francisco, USA.  It was 1886 and he was 16 years old.

The Maritime Archives and Library hold some letters by Willie and his family and the ones from his mother would be achingly familiar even today.  His worried mother, Jane, tells Willie to mind his manners, wash his clothes and eat well.  She hopes his Captain is kind, his crewmates friendly and that he is warm enough, dry enough and not sea sick.  She tells him off when he fails to write.  Read more…

Happy Birthday Formica!

18 January 2013 by Sarah Starkey

Drawing of proposed cocktail bar on ship Caronia

Drawing and material sample sheet for a bar on ship Caronia, Cunard Line, c1947 (reference DX/1394)

Anniversaries are very helpful when writing for a blog and what better one to celebrate than 100 years since the invention of Formica, everyone’s favourite kitchen worktop surface, and still going strong today.  Our photograph doesn’t really do this item justice but, trust me, it is lovely. Especially if you have an interest in interior design and the wonders of plastic – and who doesn’t?  I’ve not been able to find a photograph of the bar in the Caronia so I don’t know if this suggestion by White Allom Ltd was accepted.  Read more…

Flying Elephant

7 November 2012 by Sarah Starkey

Photograph of an elephant being moved from one ship to another

Transferring an elephant on the Irrawaddy River, Burma (MAL reference D/IR/Box3)

Now I could use this image to draw some metaphor with the American Republican party as their symbol is an elephant, but I’ve heard quite enough about that election, so I’ll just tell you a little bit about the photograph.

This lovely image is from an album held by the Maritime Archives & Library of photographs taken and collected by Captain H J Chubb who worked for the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in Burma.  The company ran a fleet of vessels along the difficult waters of the Irrawaddy River until 1950 when its assets were transferred to the newly independent Burmese Government. Read more…

Merchant Navy Day

30 August 2012 by Sarah Starkey

Image of document belonging to seafarer Thomas Crone

Mariner’s Register Ticket, issued to Thomas Crone, reference DX/850

Whilst remembering the contribution the merchant navy has made, and continues to make, to Britain, you may be tempted into a little family history research on your seafaring ancestors. 

Merchant seafarers are well documented compared with other professions.  Most of the records are held at the National Archives although to complicate matters the documentation changes over time as each system set up by the Board of Trade was overwhelmed by the growth of Britain’s merchant fleet.  The Maritime Archive & Library has an information sheet that explains how to track the records down.  Read more…

About our blog

Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.




We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.