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 steerage┬╣ 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


3 across Articles in this Category: click a link

From Peter Strongbow, New York, to His...

bar056: Dates 1835~1841|

In order to escape the police and bailiffs, Peter takes a steam ship which is wrecked. He is washed ashore in America and found by Yankees who...

Loss of the Governor Fenner

bar231: Dates 1841~1841|

Governor Fenner sank in the Mersey following collision with steamship Nottingham.

The President Steam Ship

bar247: Dates 1841~1841|

Loss of transatlantic paddle steamer President.

Rothsay Castle Shipwreck

bar489: Dates 1831~1832|

Translation of a welsh song telling the story of the wreck of the paddle steamer Rothsay Castle

Burning of the Montreal

bar048: Dates 1887~1857|

Story of the tragedy

Collision of Dublin and Belfast steamers

bar592: Dates 1856~1856|

story of the accident.

Foundering of the Hibernia,

bar130: Dates 1868~1868|

24 Nov 1868, foundered 700 miles from the Irish coast as a result of accident to propeller shaft, 78 lives lost

Unfortunate Victims Scalded to Death on...

bar602: Dates 1853~----|

 Story of the disaster of June 1853

The Burning of the Steamer City of...

bar610: Dates 1887~1887|

Macgonnagal's poem on the disaster

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