Surviving Steerage – part two

This is a continuation of part one of this story.

Isabella’s return journey across the Atlantic was only 5 years after her outward voyage and there would have been little sign of the improvements in steerage conditions that were to come over the next decade with the introduction of ever larger and grander vessels. The Mongolian (built in 1890) was around the same age as the Majestic though slightly smaller and had accommodation for 1000 passengers in steerage. Isabella must have been relieved to reach the bleak wide open space of the North Westmorland fells and her family.

Her sons George and William were quickly enrolled in local schools and in 1901 Isabella and her sons were living in the hamlet of Wickersgill, Shap just a few houses away from her Mother Mary and several of her siblings. At some stage before 1907 Isabella and children were reunited with George when he returned from Canada because on the 26th September 1907 George, Isabella and their three children boarded the R.M.S. Cedric at Liverpool.

Cedric 2
R.M.S Cedric. c. 1902

The ship docked in New York on the 5th of October. Because the family had already lived in Canada they were considered non-immigrant aliens, their entry through Ellis Island would have been much quicker. With the ROSS family free to continue onward towards their intended destination of Ladysmith, British Columbia.

The R.M.S. Cedric was a much larger and newer ship than the ROSS family had travelled on previously. Built in 1902 she could accommodate 2352 passengers, the vast majority of these (2352) in 3rd class which had by now become the more common term for steerage.

3rd class berth
White Star Line, 3rd Class, 6 Berth Stateroom c. 1909

On the Cedric the mass dormitories of the older ships had been replaced by 8, 6 or 4 berth staterooms with space for baggage.

The air was circulated by means of spaces above the cabin partitions but still one of the main complaints was the quality of the stale air and most passengers took full advantage of the open deck allotted to them.

cedric dining room
R.M.S.  Cedric 3rd Class Dining Saloon

Separate dining, smoking and lounge rooms were provided on the Cedric for the 3rd Class passengers. The general intention appears to have been a reproduction of the facilities offered to the 1st and 2nd Class patrons albeit on a far simpler and more modest scale.

cedric lounge
R.M.S. Cedric 3rd Class Lounge
cedric smoking
R.M.S. Cedric 3rd Class Smoking Room

Founded in 1898 by James Dunsmuir as a miners’ commuter town, Ladysmith had grown by 1907 into a small but thriving city. With piped water to each building, a telephone exchange and by 1910 electric lighting, Ladysmith was certainly not an isolated community.

Ladysmith 1901
1901 Plan of the town of Ladysmith, B.C.
Ladysmith 1st ave
1st Avenue, Ladysmith. c. 1904

Over the following 30 years George played a full part in the Ladysmith community, serving as a school trustee, playing for the town football team, Alderman of the City and serving as President of the Ladysmith Aerie of the Fraternal Order of Eagles for a number of years until 1927. A charitable society raising money for various good causes, the Eagles Club also served as a social and recreational organisation for its members. Isabella was also active in the community with the Women’s Institute, playing an important role in the establishment of Ladysmith’s public library.

Ross & Ross
Advertisement for George Oliver Ross’ shop in Ladysmith. 1920

In 1910 an article appeared in the local newspaper The Ladysmith Chronicle extolling the virtues of George ROSS’s tailors business. By at least 1911 he had a shop on 1st Avenue and following a hiatus during the war  he had a shop on Gateacre Street by at least 1920.

Conditions aboard the late 19th and early 20th century ocean liners varied enormously. However, in general steerage accommodations were at best simple and at their worst squalid and Isabella ROSS was far from unique in travelling alone with children. The reasons why Isabella and the children returned to England and remained there for almost a decade as well as the whereabouts of George during this time are unclear, but eventually the Ross family successfully integrated into a new community far away from home.


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