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Maritime Tale – Lusitania Survivor

4 May 2012 by stepheng

Painting of Lusitania

A contemporary postcard of Lusitania

This is probably my last Maritime Tales blog as I voluntarily leave the museum service in July 2012 to become a freelance.

 

The Lusitania story is one of my favourites because not only does the disaster seem unbelievable to this day but because this was Liverpool’s favourite liner.

 

At my local church – St James’s in West Derby – you can see a unique glass memorial with an image of Lusitania prominently included to symbolise Liverpool’s suffering in the Great War. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Liverpool Oars

6 January 2012 by stepheng

Ship painting

Image National Museums Liverpool

I used to enjoy going for a row on the park lake but now such an experience is difficult to come by.

There are no rowing boats left on Liverpool’s lakes, which is a great shame. No longer do you hear the iconic cry: “Come in number 12!” when your half hour is up.

Many marine paintings feature them but they are often overlooked – the humble rowing boat has always been a key part of maritime life. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Blue Funnel Titan

5 January 2012 by stepheng

Ship model

Courtesy Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I remember following closely the Six Day War in 1967 when Isreal defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

 

At this time I was a 19-year-old junior reporter staying in lodgings at Preston while taking a block release course in practical journalism.

 

We did not have access to a TV so listened to the news reports on the radio. The war was one of the shortest in history but created major disruption to shipping.

 

The Suez Canal was closed for eight years, forcing operators to change their routes and commercial strategies.

 

The canal, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, opened in 1869 and slashed journey times between Europe, the East and Australasia.

 

The Six Day War and the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict resulted in an Egyptian blockade of the canal and shipping lines assumed correctly it would remain closed for a very long time.

 

The huge bulk oil tanker Titan was one of many Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) designed during this period when operators knew they could not use Suez. They were too big to go through the canal but their large size made them more cost-effective for travelling the extra distances.

 

Oil transportation was one of the most profitable shipping sectors at the time. When OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) quadrupled oil prices in 1973 it triggered a worldwide slump in shipping.

 

Titan was built in 1970 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and registered in Liverpool with the famous Blue Funnel Line (Ocean Steam Ship Company).

 

There is a superb six-foot long model of the 113,551- ton tanker on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum (pictured).

 

Titan only sailed under Blue Funnel colours for five years before being sold to Mobil Oil in 1975. Just seven years later she was sold for scrap in South Korea.

 

By 1982, when there were 577 VLCCs in the world, it was found that 326 of them including Titan were surplus to requirements.

 

Photographs show other VLCCs of the era including a deck view of BP tanker British Admiral about 1970. The main engine room of the British Mariner shows crew members dwarfed by enormous pipes and machinery.

 

Titan was the fourth and last Blue Funnel ship to bear that name. The first Titan was built in 1885 by Scott & Co of Greenock and broken up in 1902.

 

The second Titan, built in 1906, was torpedoed and sunk in 1940 by the German submarine U-47 with the loss of six lives.

 

The U-boat was commanded by Günther Prien, a notorious ace who sank more than 30 Allied ships including the veteran British battleship Royal Oak. Titan was the 18th vessel he sent to the bottom.

 

This is an edited version of the Maritime Tale that originally appeared in the Liverpool Echo.

Read more…

Desperate Sudley Wives

12 December 2011 by stepheng

Big dress

 

Sudley House in Mossley Hill, Liverpool, was the home of Victorian shipowner George Holt who amassed a huge fortune as one of the proprietors of Lamport & Holt.

 

Despite his wealth, he was a modest man who did not go in for lavish entertainment. He was married with one daughter and the family were not ones to splash the cash on themselves.

 

In fact, they were among Liverpool’s greatest philanthropists and gave away most of what they acquired – including Sudley House. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Roaring Twenties

12 December 2011 by stepheng

Painting of shi[p

Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

 

I have some fabulous foxtrot 78 rpm wax records from the 1920s which evoke the crazy days when people reacted to the horrors of the Great War.

 

This was also a time when countries such as the United States started to put restrictions on immigration after the great free-for-all when virtually any healthy person could settle.

 

The three sister ships took settlers to Canada in the closing years of the great age of emigration which lasted from 1830 to 1930. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Twice Lucky

9 November 2011 by stepheng

ship model

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

Many ships survive attacks in wartime and stay afloat and I like this story because the ship concerned was obviously built to last.

 

Some ships have a certain look about them – this is one reason vessels hold a great deal of interest to lots of people.

 

Eight men died in the torpedo attack by a German U-boat submarine but the ship stayed afloat – and went on to survive a second attack later in the First World War. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Bomb Blitz

1 November 2011 by stepheng

Painting of burning city.

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

In the early 1950s we spent our holidays at Llandonna, Anglesey, and locals would describe seeing Liverpool burning 50 miles away across the sea during the Blitz.

Whenever I look at this spectacular painting I am reminded of the vivid stories and how even distant communities felt involved.

The Liverpool Blitz brought the Battle of the Atlantic home to everyone when German bombing raids cost thousands of lives and brought huge amounts of destruction.

Although the docks were the main targets, enormous damage was caused to city and residential areas on both sides of the River Mersey. Four thousand people were killed and a similar number seriously injured. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Two Portraits

8 July 2011 by stepheng

Painting of man

Image courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I like the saying You Can’t Tell a Book by its Cover but nevertheless feel you can read a lot into a person’s demeanour if not their physical features.

I spent 30 years in the criminal and civil courts as a news reporter filling notebook after notebook with Pitman’s shorthand. During lulls in the proceedings I could study the accused closely.

Some had committed horrific crimes and their faces may have revealed their character but not their past. Read more…

Show Me the Walker

6 May 2011 by stepheng

Two male and one female competition judges

The three judges take a break.

 

I’m looking forward to BBC 2 screening Show Me the Monet from this Monday after organising and supervising the marathon filming sessions over a January weekend.

 

A film crew filled three of our galleries at the rear of the Walker Art Gallery to film this competition show being screened at 5.15 pm every weekday night from Monday 9 May to Friday 20 May.

 

In a nutshell it involves artists being grilled about their artworks by three critics – David Lee, Charlotte Mullins and Roy Bolton (pictured left to right). The aim is to be included in an exclusive exhibition at the Royal College of Art, next to London’s Albert Hall. Read more…

Maritime Tales – Ships’ Galleys

28 April 2011 by stepheng

Photo of ship's galley

Imaghe courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

I enjoy reading menus, particularly those from years ago and meals I have enjoyed in the past.

I attended many formal lunches and dinners with members of the Royal family during my years as a news reporter. I remember after one of them Princess Diana announced she had given up alcohol.

At another everybody – including Princess Margaret – was served identical steaks. Did they all come from the same tin? We didn’t care as we were then entertained by Larry Grayson, Frankie Vaughanand Harry Worth. Read more…

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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.