The Mercantile Marine Service Association was founded in 1857 to provide private organisations and individuals employed in the merchant marine a voice to counteract the government’s powerful Board of Trade. Open to any master or officer sailing from any British port it was founded in association with shipowners and merchants and did not define itself as a trade union. It had a strong interest in the education and professional development of merchant navy officers and in their welfare especially on retirement from the sea. In a diverse industry a number of similar organisations representing officers were also founded, including the Imperial Merchant Service Guild in 1893. As the sector suffered decline and weathered change there were a number of mergers. The MMSA and Imperial Merchant Service Guild amalgamated in 1936.
In 1985 the organisation merged with a numbers of others to form the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers (NUMAST), later Nautilus International representing seafarers and inland navigation workers. See the Nautilus International website for a full history of the organisation (www.nautilusint.org, in March 2016).
The collection reflects the MMSA’s interest in welfare and includes cash books and reports of many of its welfare fund and institutions. Annual reports of the organisation from 1936-1984 are also included as are some records relating to Captain Lord of Californian. Captain Lord was charged with not going to the aid of Titanic. In the late 1950s he attempted to ‘clear his name’ and requested and received the help of the MMSA, especially its secretary, Leslie Harrison. The records date from 1866 - 1990 with the majority dating from 1930s onwards. The collection comprises some 154 volumes, 4 boxes of files and 38 items.
The collection was donated to the Maritime Archives & Library, National Museums Liverpool in 2003 by NUMAST Welfare Funds, Nautilus House, Mariners’ Park, Wallasey.
The collection is held in an offsite store. Please contact the Maritime Archives & Library to arrange access.
The Maritime Archives & Library holds some related material which can be consulted at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. This includes pamphlets relating to the MMSA within the library collection and records relating to HMS Conway (D/CON and D/CON(A)) and Leslie Harrison’s work on behalf of Captain Lord (D/LO).