Other Shipwrecks

Overview of the Songs and Poems in this Category:

This category is dominated by broadsides. It is noticeable that songs about steamboats rarely mention any of the sailors apart from the occasional mention of the Captain. The songs were written for landlubbers and naturally concentrated on the passengers with whom the prospective purchaser of the song could identify. Sailors had to wait until Plimsoll's campaign of the 1860s until broadsides like 'The Unseaworthy Ship'{V20171} told of their plight.

Main Themes and Motifs

- The story of the wreck
- The fate of the passengers (With some references to individual named passengers)
  Notable action taken by members of the crew. (Usually the captain and usually, but not always, heroic)
- The grief of friends and relatives of the victims
- A concluding prayer for the dead and a plea for divine comfort for the bereaved


1830-39  056; 489
1840-49  231; 247
1850-59  592; 602
1860-69  130;
1880-89  610

Historical Background

During the 19th century, millions of working-class people emigrated. Many travelled steerageĀ¹ in large ocean liners. One of the first liners to offer steerage was the City of Glasgow which had fifty-two first class passengers, fifty-eight second class and four hundred in steerage.
For the ship-owners, steerage passengers took up less space and did not expect steward service. For the emigrants - although the cost was a little more than in a sailing ship - the journey was less uncomfortable, and much shorter with concomitantly reduced danger of epidemics.

Brown, Kevin - Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience 1807-1940 (Barnsley, Seaforth Publishing, 2017) pp57-58


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