Tuesday 17 October 2023

Guest Time Tunneller Lindsay Littleson on Travelling in 3rd Class on TITANIC

Hi I’m Lindsay Littleson and I’m the author of The Titanic Detective Agency. One of the main characters in the novel is Johan Cervin Svennson a 14 year old Swedish boy who was travelling alone in 3rd Class on the ship.
I had to do a lot of research for The Titanic Detective Agency and some of that research involved finding out what it was like to be a 3rd Class passenger on RMS Titanic. For example, what were the cabins like, did they have enough to eat, what was there to do on board ship and what were the disadvantages of being in third class when the ship started to sink? In most other ships at the time, third class passengers were known as ‘steerage’ and the passengers often slept in large dormitories in very basic, uncomfortable conditions. But on Titanic, the passengers in 3rd Class slept in proper cabins, some 2-berth, others 4 or more.
The cabins were located on the lower decks, at the ends of the ship where engine noise was an issue. The beds had White Star bed linen and some of the cabins even had washbasins. Unlike in 1st and 2nd Class, the 3rd Class toilets were self -flushing on Titanic. This was because the designers were concerned that the passengers wouldn’t know how to work a flushing toilet. There were only 2 baths for over 700 3rd Class passengers. There was a large dining room where passengers could eat together. While it was nowhere near as luxurious as the dining areas in first class, the tables had white linen cloths and the room was spotlessly clean and bright. The passengers could choose what they wanted to eat from menus. They could have porridge and bread and marmalade for breakfast, soup and roast beef with boiled potatoes for lunch and cold meats and cheese with bread for their tea. It wasn’t fancy, but the food available on Titanic was in stark contrast to conditions on other ships, where often steerage passengers had to bring enough food of their own to last the entire voyage.
The third class passengers had a common room with a piano where they could gather to chat and socialise. On the night of the sinking a party was held there, where passengers played instruments and danced together. The party ended about 10 o’clock. An hour later, Titanic hit an ice-berg and started to sink. 61 children aged 14 and under died in the Titanic disaster. 2 were young crew members. The rest were almost all 3rd Class passengers. 3rd Class passengers had several major disadvantages during the sinking. Many spoke languages other than English, and that night all instructions were being shouted in English. The lifeboats were located on the Boat Deck and there had been no lifeboat drills to show passengers how they should get there in the event of an emergency. To get to the Boat Deck the 3rd Class passengers had to access 1st and 2nd Class areas that they’d previously been told not to enter. Some were told by stewards to stay in the cabins and await further instructions, which never came. The high locked gates shown in the Titanic movie are there for dramatic effect -the gates between the Aft well deck where 3rd class passengers gathered and the stairs to the boat deck were only waist high and even if they were locked, could easily be clambered over. But many passengers didn’t realise the terrible danger they were in until it was too late and most of the lifeboats had already been lowered. Passengers like Frederick and Augusta Goodwin, who were travelling in 3rd Class on Titanic with their six children. Tragically, the whole family died in the sinking. The body of the Unknown Child, buried in Halifax Cemetery after the Titanic disaster, was finally identified as little Sidney Goodwin in 2007.
WRITING CHALLENGE Write a postcard from 3rd Class passenger Johan to his mother in Sweden on the first day of the voyage. Think about images and font style on the front of Titanic postcards from that time and use them for inspiration.
Describe • The 3rd class cabin. • Johan’s first meal on board Titanic • How he is feeling about leaving his mother and four little brothers in Sweden

Lindsay Littleson is a children’s author living in East Renfrewshire, Scotland.

She is the author of Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, a middle-grade novel starring the unicorns of mythology and legend.  Another of her novels is The Titanic Detective Agency, a fresh retelling of the tragedy with a Scottish twist.  Secrets of the Last Merfolk came out in 2021 with Floris Books and The Rewilders and Euro Spies have both been recently published by Cranachan Books.

Her first children’s book, The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean, won the 2014 Kelpies Prize and is published by Floris Books.
The sequel to The Mixed Up Summer, The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean, was published in March 2017 and A Pattern of Secrets, a Victorian mystery set in Paisley, was published by the fabulous Cranachan Books in 2018.

Follow Lindsay on twitter @ljlittleson

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