Friday 7 November 2014

Fire Down Below

Very recently there has been a stack of archive material coming online and some of it is worth taking a look, if only more in hope than any actual information you would like to see.

You never know your luck, the saying goes. and chasing the past generally entails more bad luck than you want.  That ancestor who was thought to be a respected craftsman and pillar of the local community turns out to have done time for breaches of the game laws.

At least some sources will turn out to the relatively neutral  If you have someone who is known to be a mariner then the chances are that they came and went on ordinary sailings with the usual ports and cargoes.

So when the Liverpool Crew Lists appeared from the City of Liverpool archives, one tapped in the name hoping to find a ship or two and where in the world he might have been.  Not that he would have seen much, he was a stoker in the boiler room.

A couple of ships turned up and there he was among a lot of familiar looking names.  The names of the ships did not mean much either, "City of Berlin" and "City of Brussels" but they were out there on the web.

More to the point, not only was the basic information available there were Wikipedia entries.  Both of them had held Trans Atlantic Blue Ribands and the chances were that my man was one of those shovelling the coal into the firebox.

Which makes his history a lot more interesting.  What is more some of the names around him were the same and from the same locales as a bunch of names that are in the Trafalgar Roll.  Are they linked over seventy years?  There is work to be done.

The point of all this is that it was being done at home, with the odd break for cups of tea, or times out to check how the football was doing.  It did not take long at all thanks to the web and all the contributions made to it by so many people.

It is not so long when to access this information might have meant either a lot of travel, a great deal of time and expense.  Failing that would mean extensive correspondence and the hope that someone expert could do it for you, perhaps at a price.

Now instead of days or weeks or more it can be a matter of minutes for anyone with some idea of how to work the web and who knows what to look for and how.  Which raised some intriguing questions.

One is how much of our education system is now redundant?  Another relates to other professions.  A great many of these are about supposedly expert people with access to limited and complicated information.  Many of the complexities arise from the people.

If there was, as now exists in some spheres, a major effort to get the guidance, information, and other material out there, how much time, trouble and effort could be saved for very many people?

The implication is that there are many areas now wide open to major structural change and not only might this happen in some sectors it almost certainly will.

Where have all the stokers gone?


  1. Someone wrote - I can't remember who - that if you could successfully work from a Haynes car repair manual you could just as easily be a pharmacist.

    1. You could be right. See Wed' 3 Sept 2014 "Eating People Is Wrong". The person concerned is OK on cookery books rather than car manuals.

  2. After the war, my father worked in computers from the early days and always said that one day lawyers would be replaced by computers.