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Time to move on; Maritime Tales by Stephen Guy, Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Byline: Stephen Guy

EMIGRATING in the 19th century was a hard and demanding process with lots of hurdles to jump before you even went to sea. People seeking new lives had to raise the fare, plan the journey, pack up all their worldly possessions then set off into the unknown.

Once they arrived in Liverpool - probably the greatest emigrant port in world history with nine million people passing through between 1830 and 1930 - they were beset with a number of hazards.

Just arriving in the port could be a bewildering as well as an exciting experience for emigrants, who came from all over northern Europe as well as Britain and Ireland. Many had never left their homes before and found the place both frightening and dangerous.

It was a large, bustling metropolis with hoards of people speaking many different languages.

Tired and hungry from long journeys, many of the emigrants were accosted by rogues known as runners who worked for dishonest ticket sellers and lodging house owners. Often emigrants were forced to accept offers to carry luggage and faced exorbitant charges for the service.

Not everyone was bad and Liverpool's economy benefited hugely from the emigration trade. It generated business for many including shop owners, brokers' agents, shopkeepers and lodging houses.

Emigrants could spend up to 10 days waiting to set off because journeys were at the mercy of the weather. Most of them spent the time in squalid, overcrowded lodging houses. Even respectable establishments offered only boards to sleep on - and no blankets.

Insanitary accommodation was an ideal breeding ground for diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Some emigrants died before they embarked on their journey while others unknowingly carried disease on board ship.

Conditions eventually improved in line with improvements to ships fuelled by competition between ship owners. Better facilities included a depot which opened in Birkenhead in 1852 for British emigrants who had their passages to Australia paid for by the Government.

By the late 19th century emigrants could stay in lodging houses owned or supervised by shipping companies. Displays in the new emigrant gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum include a print depicting a government inspector's office in 1850 where passengers were checked for diseases.

But these were hardly rigorous examinations - as many as 3,000 people could be seen daily by just three doctors.

In the exhibition's life-size Waterloo Road display there is a sign saying "Maurice Dalton. Emigrant Lodging House. Good Beds. 4d per night". A weary emigrant enters the lodging house, confronted by a fierce-looking dog.

Buy the Maritime Tales book (pounds 3.99) at the Merseyside Maritime Museum open seven days a week, admission free, and at bookshops, newsagents and merseyshop.com.

CAPTION(S):

HEALTH CHECKS: Emigrants in 1850s Liverpool at the government medical inspectors' office to be checked for sickness and disease; LODGINGS: Reconstruction, below, at the Maritime Museum of an emigrant lodging house
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 21, 2009
Words:482
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