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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Family History - Alfred Farrell Bath Stewards

Alfred Farrell, though not a Springwood or Blue Mountains resident, married into the Greentree family who settled in the Hawkesbury district of New South Wales.  He was the paternal grandfather of Shirley Evans...this is her story.  

An example of steamers like "Cintra"

I never knew my paternal grandfather, Alfred Farrell.  He died in 1925, not long after my parents were married.  Despite his Irish surname he was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1866, parents Thomas and Sarah nee Hinchcliffe.  Thomas was a journeyman iron moulder but Alfred did not follow in his father’s footsteps.

My mother, who was a devout Catholic, remembered him as an extremely bigoted anti Catholic.  When she married my Anglican father in a Catholic Church, Alfred waited outside on the Church steps to congratulate the happy couple after the ceremony.  Of course he did not hate my mother – she was universally loved – he just hated her religion.  Ironically, three of his six sons married Catholics.

My father told me that Alfred had been a ship’s steward prior to his marriage but he had pursued a life on shore as a family man.  We believe he probably met my grandmother, Daisy Greentree, while organising his ship’s laundry.  Daisy was working in a steam laundry, contributing to the family’s upkeep.  The Greentree family had been living very comfortably on a prosperous farm at Freeman’s Reach until father, Robert, died prematurely at the age of 51.  His widow, Hannah nee Bushell, burdened by a large family, lost the farm and moved to Sydney.

Pamela Smith, my friend and colleague, was an early subscriber to and volunteered to do some research for me.  She found Alfred’s name on ships’ crew lists.  Sure enough he had been a steward – a Bath Steward!  He made a number of trips on the “Cintra”, a cargo steamer, plying the Australian coast and carrying passengers as well as cargo.
I had no idea what a Bath Steward was so I hastened to consult Google.  I found Emily Post’s 1970 edition of “Etiquette” quoted as follows:

“Steamer Tips
If you like your bath at a certain hour you would do well to ask your bath steward for it as soon as you go on board (unless you have a private bath of your own), since the last persons to speak get the inconvenient hours – naturally.  To many the daily salt bath is the most delightful feature of the trip.  The water is always wonderfully clear and the towels are heated.”

Later, under tips, she recommended five shillings for the bath steward.  It is not clear if this tip covered the whole trip or just one bath.

I also found a section on tipping in the United States “Rotarian”, June 1940:
“Passengers occupying rooms without a bath, consequently requiring the services of the bath steward to prepare a bathroom and arrange bath hours, should tip this steward from $1.50 to $2.00 for the voyage”

Also from Google I found that there were 6 Bath Stewards aboard the “Titanic”, two of whom survived the disaster.  There were also on board a number of Turkish Bath attendants.
Alfred seemed to adjust to a life on land, working first as a trolleyman carting timber and then as a mill foreman, and raising six boys in Leichhardt.

Shirley Evans

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