The R.M.S. Carmania: 1905 Maiden Voyage

I grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida. One of the childhood pastimes that I developed — and which led to a career in history and archaeology — was exploring abandoned buildings. Whether you call it “urban exploration” or “creeping” today, back in the 1970s I called it fun. My favorite spots were old houses awaiting teardown (in Daytona that meant 1930s vintage) and an old Atlantic Bank building. The bank building was the most fun: entry was gained through a broken drive-through window and from there you get to all of the other drive-through windows and the main bank building. Lying around were blank bank documents, some business records, and lots of trash left by vagrants and fellow trespassers who took up residence in this building located just three blocks from the beach.

Another favorite spot was a plain old frame vernacular house located a couple of blocks west of the bank. Once the home of a friend’s grandmother, the house spent years open to the elements and to other explorers. In a pile of moldy paperwork abandoned in a corner of one room I found an illustrated diary and scrapbook kept by Vera G. Lome (b. 1881). I never followed through on trying to find out who she was or why her diary came to be discarded in an abandoned Florida house but I did keep her diary and its contents for more than 30 years.

Vera was a second class passenger on the R.M.S. Carmania. The Carmania embarked on her maiden run between Liverpool and New York 2 December 1905. Passing through Queenstown, the Carmania came alongside of the ship “America” and Vera captured the event on her camera. The diary, titled Maiden Trip of the Cunard Royal Mail Steamship “Carmania” (Triple Screw Turbine) Being a History of her First Trip Across the Atlantic Ocean Told By Souvenirs, Notes, Pictures and Anecdotes was kept in a ruled composition book. Photographs were mounted in the book, as were scraps of stationary, telegrams, her ticket and newspaper clippings about the ship.

I thought the diary might make a good blog post, so here it is:

Extracts from my Diary on the Voyage.

December 2nd.

A horrible dull dreary day, just as dreary as I felt.  Olive and Aunt Twil, Grandma and Aunt Lotta all went to Enston Station with us, while Aunt Selma, Uncle Bertie, Mrs. Heal and Mrs. Ide and Mrs. Williams met us there to say good-bye.  I hate good-byes.  Everyone wept and made even me feel blue and weepy.  Grandma was dreadfully cut up and hated us to leave.  Mrs. Williams brought us both dear English violets as a last souvenir.  Rather a nice trip to Liverpool, although it was dull all the way.  Very nice people on the train, which was rather late in getting to Riverside Station, giving us just time enough to get comfortably on board and see about our luggage before the ship was off.  Never saw such a crowd as there was on the dock – the whole place was really covered with heads.  Beautiful night with lots of stars and a beautiful moon – but it only served to remind me of the moons on the Hillys.  Love England more than ever and hate U.S.A. just about three times as much as ever.

December 3rd.

Had a good night and managed to get up just in time for breakfast.  Got to Queenstown at 7:30.  Rather a pretty harbor, but the coast in the distance looks very wild and forlorn.  Took on a great deal of mail and several passengers.  Several Irish women came off in small boats, came onto the ship with lots of lace, shawls, etc. while the men had black thorn sticks, pipes, and such things.  If these girls are specimens of the famed “Irish Beauties” I do not think much of them.  We also took on a lot of fresh vegetables and meat, and finally got away at 10:30.  Most impressive service in the saloon conducted by the Bishop of Honduras – such a dear old man.  Struck up an acquaintance on deck with a Mr. Sainsbury of London, Can.  Rather good natured and as he informs me, “very fond of walking,” but not quite “my style.”  However, as I am fond of walking, too, I suppose I shall see him a good deal.  A most interesting informal service in the 2nd saloon in the evening, led by Mr. Shinn of Grace Church, Newton, Mass.  Very instructive addresses by Mr. Bull of Cambridge University on behalf of the Scripture Mission (particularly Canada), and Dr. Mosely, a missionary for eighteen years in Japan on the Japanese Y.M.C.A.  Also a Mr. Mathews of Buffalo, N.Y.  All splendid and everybody enjoyed the service, although a good many began to feel the motion of the boat.

December 4th.

Rather a rough morning following a night marked by a good deal of pitching.  Hard work to dress and mother thought that she never would manage it.  She felt rather ill and layed down again after dressing until about 11 o’clock.  I did not feel ill, but still did not feel comfortable or hungry, so decided not to have any breakfast, but just up on deck as quickly as possible.   Mr. Sainsbury met me as soon as I got up there, and took me for a good stiff walk, so that by the time that lunch came I was hungry.  Only 45 to breakfast out of 160.  As it was rough on deck, stayed in the cabin in the afternoon and read steadily – the consequence being that by tea time I had a glorious headache.  A Mr. Gooch of Boston, U.S.A. introduced himself to me and as he seemed to be rather nice, we tried to get up a game of whist, but by evening a great many were feeling queer and we could not get a fourth to play so mother and I retired early.

December 5th.

Still very rough and as I continued to have a joyous headache.  I elected to stay in bed nearly all the morning.  Mother tried to dress, but after being tossed from one side of the cabin to the other, decided that bed was the safest place and came back to keep me company.  Only 30 at breakfast.  As soon as we got upstairs, I went out on deck to get the cobwebs blown out of my brain.  Mr. Sainsbury kindly acted as anchor and piloted me about the deck.  Dreadfully rough sea, but simply glorious.  Every one nearly, looked awfully queer and as if they wished there was a nice bit of land in sight.  Retired very early and had a great time getting undressed – talk about battledor and shuttlecock – it isn’t in it with a storm at sea.

December 6th.

Still a rough sea and awfully cold, but by wrapping up well, managed to have a walk nearly all the morning with Mr. Sainsbury and in the afternoon with Mr. Gooch.  In the evening had a good game of whist.  Mr. Gooch and I against Mr. Churchill and mother – and the opposite side won!  Mr. Churchill is a jolly little fellow who has been through the South African War, and is going to New York to make his fortune – perhaps.  After the card game, had a little musical evening with Mr. Bull as the leading spirit – it was very jolly and a Mrs. Harvey who played for me is a splendid accompanyist.  In fact we had such a very good time that we did not retire until 11 o’clock.

December 7th.

Awfully windy but a glorious day.  People began to look better and not quite so reserved.  On the deck nearly all morning, although it was windy enough to knock you over.  A Mr. Meyer of Colorado (over six feet tall and generally very big) piloted mother about while I was looked after by a little fat old man from Brooklyn.  Had great fun, but mother soon got tired.  A Mr. Groves who sits at our table very kindly introduced me to Mr. Sargent, the senior Marconi officer of the ship – he ought to be very nice according to first impressions.  We went for a splendid walk and as he is very interesting to talk to I enjoyed it immensely.  In the evening we had a jolly good general sing-song.  It was great and as people began to thaw out, some not half bad talent was unearthed.  When we went down to supper, to my surprise, Mr. Sargent came down, sat beside me and made himself very agreeable.  Practiced my songs with Mrs. Harvey ready for the concert on the next evening.

December 8th.

Still rather rough, but a great deal better than the three previous days.  On deck nearly all morning and wrote letters during afternoon.  Nearly everyone practicing for the concert and the greater part of the afternoon the air was made hideous by the playing (?) of a small boy from Chicago on a poor long suffering violin.  It was worse than the howling of the wind.  Three concerts on board. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Sang twice and as Mr. Sargent came in to part and sat next to me, I had great fun.  The violinist of course broke down, and Mr. S. assisted him in trying to tune by turning his glass.  We cut the last two numbers and had a good walk on deck, (getting as a souvenir a Marconi button.) The concert collection amounted to 6 pounds 7 shillings 4 ½ pence.  Not a very good collection.  During the interval, Dr. Shinn presented Mr. Hague, the head steward, with a testimonial (signed by all the passengers) thanking him for his unfailing courtesy.  He replied with a short speech, and then all joined in singing “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.” (“Rippin’ ”) After dinner was introduced to junior Marconi officer Mr. Robinson.  Very coy!

"Marconi Room"

December 9th.

Wind shifted at last and helped instead of hindering us and consequently we made the best run on this day.  Rather cold during the day, but got much warmer in the evening as Mr. Gooch and I kept step so well, we had a jolly long walk in the afternoon and as usual had a long argument upon things English and American.  As neither one would give in, neither one lost, but each claimed victory.  Mr. Groves tried to get up a second concert, but the air was so soft and comparatively warm that it made the deck too tempting and so the concert did not “come off.”  Had a long promenade with Mr. Sargent during which we discussed all kinds of subjects both ancient and modern, seen and unseen.  Saw a large ship quite near us, by as she was traveling very slowly we soon passed her.  Also for the first time on this trip saw the phosphorescence which looked very pretty indeed against the side of the ship.  During the evening Mr. Gooch came out for a walk and I then listened to one of the funniest debates that I ever have heard – subject, “The Supremacy of English or American Manufactures.” Also, “English v. American Business Methods.” It was great and I never laughed more in my life.  Both Mr. S. and Mr. G. were so good-tempered that it was simply delightful to see them, and they ended by shaking hands most cordially, although neither would acknowledge himself beaten.

December 10th.

Awfully rough night, sleeping tossing from side as well as sometimes varying the monotony by sticking her nose in the sea and the trying to stick it in the sky.  Dreadful wind which blew down one of the Marconi wires (which was very rude to say the least.)  Service in the first saloon in the morning conducted by the Bishop of Honduras.  Very few people present as it was very hard to stand or walk.  (Just before breakfast time, two tables were wholly cleared, breaking much crockery, and hurting the tempers of the stewards.)  No collection at the service and only one lesson read, while the sermon was very short.  Weather a trifle calmer by dinner time and so was able to be out on deck soon after.  Saw the Highlands about 2 p.m. and got to Sandy Hook at about 3:30, but owing to the rough weather did not go up the bay that night.  Although such a heavy wind the sun shone beautifully during the afternoon and had a long walk with Mr. Churchill.  Put my foot in it by telling him I always liked tall men, but he was kind and only laughed with me.  The moon came out beautifully in the evening and immediately after tea had a long walk with Mr. Robinson.  As Olive would say, “He is a minx!”  He had to report for duty after about an hour and before I got back to the sitting room, Mr. Sargent came down for a walk, so I stayed out with him and we promenaded the whole length of the deck.  It was literally freezing cold as the exposed parts of the deck were coated with ice, but we were dressed for the weather and so it was very jolly.  The Bishop of Honduras gave a lecture in the 2nd saloon, but the moon was too tempting and I stayed out to admire it and the coast of New Jersey.  Mother went to the lecture and said it was most interesting.  There was also a series of short talks afterward by several good speakers – Mr. Bull, Mr. Davis of the Alexander-Torry Mission, Dr. Shinn, Mr. Moseby, etc.  We had orders to have all baggage ready that evening so went to out staterooms early.

December 11th.

Breakfast very early and all luggage on deck by nine o’clock.  Mr. Robinson gave me a Cunard button for a hat pin, and also one of the White Star Line for a souvenir.  For a wonder was on deck before breakfast, and had a short walk with Mr. Churchill.  Decorated the end of our table with the English and American flags much to everyone’s enjoyment.  Had the joy of passing the N.J. officials and then declaring our luggage.  Managed to get nice officers, so had no trouble.  Had a farewell walk with Mr. Gooch.  Landed about 11:15 and we were met by Dad and Uncle Charlie.  Displayed my flags as a signal and was noticed immediately by Dad.  Had a long wait for our trunks by finally got them all and then by jollying the N.J. customs inspector got them through nicely! We then went direct to Aunties and reached there at 1:20 p.m.

© 2010 David S. Rotenstein

7 thoughts on “The R.M.S. Carmania: 1905 Maiden Voyage

  1. Dear Mr. Rotenstein:

    I want to thank you for taking the time to put these extracts from Vera’s diary on this website. I’m researching my grandfather’s immigration from Sweden and he came to the U.S. on the same same voyage Vera took when she returned from England to New York. It really makes it come alive for me to hear some of the details of the voyage (sounds like a rough trip). I looked Vera up at ancestry.com and found that she went from NY to Liverpool on the ship Caronia on 21 June 1905 (according to the ship’s manifest). She is listed in the Carmania manifest as Vera Gwendoline Lome, age 24 (the index mistakenly calls her Nera Gwendoline Lomeka!). She is traveling with Elizabeth Margaret Lome (age 47). They are going to 603 Halsey Street in Brooklyn (I believe this was their home address). It was a thrill to find these extracts from Vera’s diary about the voyage.

    Paula Lundstrom

  2. One of my relatives Alice, nee Hampson-Kellett, went over to America (British Colombia) on the R.M.S. Carmania, though probably not on its maiden voyage. She and her husband (Tom Fairhurst) settled there and probably never came back. Thank you for putting up extracts from Vera’s diary – it has been wonderful to read them all. God bless.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this wonderful diary
    .
    My Swedish Grandfather traveled to Hull, England, boarded a train for Liverpool, and ultimately embarked on the RMS Carmania for New York, arriving in June, 1906. It was wonderful reading this diary and having a better understanding of what the voyage may have been like for him (although, he most likely did not enjoy first or second class!).

  4. Vera was my great grandmother and she was indeed a joy. Thanks for posting this diary excerpt. You mention that you had her diary for many years, what became of it? She and her family lived in Daytona in the 1940′s.

  5. Vera Gwendolyn Lome is my grandmother!!!! Please, please, please – is there any way I can get this diary? I have another one of hers written on a trip she and her mother took to England – can’t remember the date or locate the diary right ow. I have documents to prove my relationship!!! I can guess what the address was where you found this and probably provide a picture of me on the front steps. Although they did live in a couple of houses in that neighborhood around WWII I know where they were the longest.

  6. I’m so excited I can’t read all of this now especially since it is almost 1 am – but did look at the first paragraph. In the second sentence that should be Aunt Twit – her real name was Harriet Elizabeth “Twit” Barnes and she married Fred Arnold. The Lome family moved to NYC in 1886; then lived in New Jersey; then several places where Vera’s husband was working, then she and the four children moved to Kissimmee about 1933 because of Vera’s health. My mother moved to Daytona Beach about 1935 and after she married the rest of the family moved there. Vera and her husband moved to Pensacola to be with us about 1958 and both of them died there – as well as my mother and father.

  7. How exciting to find out about this diary. Vera is my grandmother, and I lived the first 18 years of my life in Daytona Beach, several of them with Vera. It would be so wonderful to read all of this, and to share it with my herds of children and grandchildren. Leslie and I will meet you anywhere, anytime to get a peek at this priceless part of our family history. Thank you immensely for rescuing it and taking the time to post the transcriptions.

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