New lives

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Black and white photo of an old lady in a public park

Sarah Jane Parsons in Bridlington, 1950. Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.

Homesickness is like seasickness – you only feel better once you’ve stopped travelling. I have suffered from both and hope I never experience them again.

Longing for home gnaws away at the soul and is almost impossible to eradicate. I found that it was just as much the loss of my cultural roots as the absence of family and friends.

The logistics of moving huge numbers of emigrants through Liverpool involved everything from supplying cabins to the plates they ate off – it was very big business indeed.

Around nine million people moved abroad through Liverpool between 1830 and 1930 making it probably the greatest emigration port in world history. It was often very emotional for the passengers as they left their old familiar homes behind for new lives in unknown countries.

Many descendants of those emigrants still have strong emotional attachments to Liverpool because it was the last place their families saw before taking the leap into the dark.

However, some did not like their new lives and returned home. There were a number of reasons for this including work and financial issues but often it was simply homesickness.

The new emigration gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum focuses on many different aspects of this mass migration.

From the tail end of the era there is a fascinating model of the Blaco portable cabin from around 1920-30. They were made by F C Blackwell & Co of Crosby, Liverpool.

Portable cabins were used by shipping companies involved in emigration from the 19th century onwards. The detailed wood and metal demonstration model was used when shipping companies such as Cunard and Canadian Pacific employed Blaco cabins. They could be quickly installed to cater for individual needs of emigrants.

A wooden trunk was used by the Parsons family when they emigrated from Liverpool to the United States in 1906. Oliver Charles Parsons and his wife Sarah Jane were originally from Wakefield, Yorkshire.

After arriving in the USA they lived with their young family in Tennessee, Kentucky and Wyoming before returning to England in 1914.

Oliver died during the flu pandemic of 1918 and Sarah had to raise here five children alone. She kept the wood and metal trunk with its many memories until her death in 1965.

Photographs show Sarah at Bridlington in 1950 (pictured) and her daughter Minnie Chesters in 1954. Minnie was the couple’s eldest child and had emigrated with her parents.

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, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1.50 p&p UK).