Maritime Tales - Roaring Twenties

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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.


In 100 years nine million people set sail from Liverpool for new lives, making it probably the greatest emigration port in world history.


The Andania, Antonia and Ausonia were A Class liners built by Cunard in the 1920s for the Canadian service. All were about 14,000 tons and carried about 1,700 passengers.


In Merseyside Maritime Museum’s emigration gallery there is a fascinating 1923 film called Travel Cunard Line. This would have been shown at the ever-increasing numbers of cinemas as well as trade fairs and other promotional events.


There are views of the new Cunard Building with trams rattling outside, ships on the river and passengers embarking on liners at the Princes Landing Stage.


Stage hands skilfully handle ropes securing a liner, people hurry to board as crowds wave from the stage. A ferry boat scurries nearby.


Third Class passengers make their way up the gangplank, smartly dressed for the voyage to new lives. They hand boarding passes to Cunard staff. Two young travellers are framed in a lifebelt marked Andania Liverpool.


Kitchen staff work hard over huge ranges in the galley of the Ausonia. Third Class passengers are seen at breakfast.


An oil painting by Arthur J Burgess is also on display in the gallery (pictured). It represents one of the three A Class liners. She is pictured at sunset heading out to sea with two yachts off her port side.


The Ausonia was built in Newcastle by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co and made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Montreal in August 1921. She had a fairly uneventful career and was requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1939 and converted into an armed merchant cruiser.


She ended her days as a repair ship for the Mediterranean Fleet from 1958 to 1964. Ausonia was scrapped in 1965.


The Antonia, built by Vickers at Barrow, followed a similar career path before being scrapped in 1948.


Andania, built by Hawthorn Leslie & Co of Newcastle, was not so fortunate. After working on the Liverpool – Montreal route, she also became an armed merchant cruiser at the start of the Second World War. She was torpedoed and sunk off Iceland in June 1940, fortunately without loss of life. 


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