At around 9pm on the evening of the 16th December 1908, the pulling and sailing Lifeboat ‘Queen Victoria’ under coxswain John Holbrook answered signals of distress made from a vessel which had grounded on the ledge at…
In 1908, the Canadian government passed an order-in-council which prohibited the immigration of people who did not “come from the country of their birth or citizenship by a continuous journey and or through tickets purchased before leaving their country of their birth or nationality.
”This “continuous journey” regulation was a masked attempt to restrict the entrance of immigrants arriving from India, a lengthy journey which necessarily included a stopover in Hawaii or Japan at the time.
The exclusionary law faced several legal challenges and was amended a few times. Its most high-profile controversy came in 1914, when Gurdit Singh Sandhu decided to challenge it directly. Singh was a Punjabi man who had become…
Originally posted on The Slog.
My great-aunt Lizzie was a mill-girl with aspirations to better herself. Whereas in 2015, ‘aspiration’ is really a euphemism for material greed, back in 1908 it wasn’t. A hundred and seven years ago it meant becoming respectable through marriage. Neither is that attractive as a trait, but in terms of anthropology, the latter is both more natural and not entirely dysfunctional. At the turn of the century before last, it was entirely understandable: if you worked a ten-hour day six days a week and would receive no compensation for falling into the machinery as a result of fatigue, then eschewing the need to do that was a highly desirable step in the right direction.
Like most members of my family, Elizabeth didn’t like her given name. When still very young, she opted for Lilly (or Lil) as a suitable nickname, and to her dying day intensely disliked being called Lizzie. One rather suspects that – given the racy success of the Jersey Lilly as Edward VII’s mistress – she saw this as part of her single-handed attempt to climb the socio-demographic mountain put in the Lower Order’s way in those days. The mountain still exists, the main difference now being that…
Fascinating post by toritto about the 1908 earthquake that destroyed Messina, Sicily. You might also like to read about the experiences of my great-grandparents who were travelling from Algiers to Florence by sea at the time: Sicilian Earthquake 28 December 1908.
On December 28, 1908 at about 5:30 in the morning the greatest earthquake to ever strike the European continent in modern times struck Messina in Sicily.
Messina was home to about 180,000 at the time. It was Italy’s 3rd largest port of trade and the commercial center of Sicily.
Sicily was far away from the “new” Italy. In the Piedmont, birthplace of the Italian royal family people spoke of “going to Italy” when they had to leave their provincial home. Turin would become the industrial capital with Agnelli building cars and Gramsci leading the Italian Communist Party. Socialism was on the rise.
The intellectuals of Milan viewed Rome as a “city of waiters and prostitutes”, catering to German and English tourists who disdained them. Venice was considered a “tomb” which “should be shelled into the sea”; it represented only the past and not the future of a greater Italy. The…
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At 5.20am on 28th December, 1908, an earthquake of a 7.5-magnitude struck the coast of Sicily and shattered thousands of lives.
The death toll of over 100,00 people comprised Sicilians and mainland Italians, and destroyed several towns, most notably, Messina, a city of 158,000, where ‘about one in every three perished‘. As with so many disasters in the last hundred years, and doubtless before, it was the quality of construction work that proved Messina’s downfall. And while new codes were put in place to make sure buildings would no longer collapse so easily, it is horrifying to note that by the end of the 50s, there were families still living in temporary accommodation that had been built soon after. The quake was felt throughout the mainland, and as far as Montenegro, Albania and the Ionian Islands.
The tsunami that followed saw waves almost as high as 40 feet, which crashed ashore at Reggio di Calabria on the mainland before hitting the island of Malta.
‘Experts long surmised that the tsunami resulted from seafloor displacement caused by the earthquake. However, research completed in the early 21st century suggested that an underwater landslide, unrelated to the earthquake, triggered the ensuing tsunami.’
It was this tsunami that affected the ship that was taking my great grandparents, Dora and Benedict Hoskyns, from Algiers to Florence. In a letter to her mother, Dora describes the journey.
We have just got here & at present still feel so stupified by all we have gone through that I hardly know how to write. As you know we left Algiers on Sunday night last at 11, & were timed to get to Genoa on Tues. morning at 3 in the morning.
Everything went well till Mon. morning when at about 10, the wind began to cut up & got worse & worse so that by the time it was dark it was blowing a hurricane. I can never describe to you that awful night. The groaning & straining of the ship, the crack of breaking things, the screaming tearing wind & the great terrible waves thundering against the ship & the sea racing up & down past our port-hole. Our luggage was hurled down & tore backwards & forwards across our cabin all night. Darling it was the only time one had ever been face to face with what might have been the end of everything & the horror of it was simply appalling.
We were 24 hrs. in the Gulf of Lyons, instead of 10 & were 18 hrs. late in getting to Genoa where there was intense anxiety as to our fate. Of course we knew nothing then of the terrible catastrophe at Messina, but it was all at the same time & was evidently part of the same fearful under the sea convulsion.
Dear Ben was in the berth above me & whenever it was more than usually terrifying I saw his hand come down to hold mine & I said to him at last “well anyhow we are together.” We felt calm on the whole but I was terribly terribly frightened, but it was the next day when things had got better that we felt utterly worn out & shattered.
I hear that the Lord Mayor has started a fund & as it may be closed before we get back wd. you send £3.3.0 from “D.K.H.” “a Thanksoffering”. I shd. like to give something & Ben is going to, but I want to at once & I will give you the cheque as soon as we get home.
Half-way through the night we cd. tell by the way the waves broke that the Capt. had altered the course of the ship & he let her run before the storm or I don’t think she cd. have lived. He was on the bridge all night & it was a wonderful thing to think of, the safety of the whole ship in the hands of one or two men.
People on board who had been through typhoons, terrible Atlantic storms, said they had never had such an experience. I simply lay & said my prayers & all the hymns & psalms I cd. think of & we do feel more than thankful & grateful to have been brought safely through it all. I shall never as long as I live forget it. Looking back only makes it seem worse.
The joy of getting to this dear place [Villa Medici] was immense. The quiet & peace & stillness is beautiful & we are just going to sit still & recover. Poor Ben is dreadfully tired of course but I think he will sleep well & need do nothing but rest & try to forget. Will you let Moley & Geraldine see this. I can’t write often of it all.
Goodbye my precious darling. How how thankful I am to think we shall see you all again.
Fondest dearest of love,
Yr. own most loving grateful child,
Sarah Vernon © 2 June 2014