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Remembered Today:

Mercantile Marine - Fireman?


depaor01

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I have just downloaded a medal card from the NA for a recipient of a Mercantile Marine pair I have in my collection. I can now 100% identify him, Bernard McDonnell, as having lived in Queen's square Dublin. My question is about his stated profession in the census returns which is "Fireman". Did this profession exist within the Mercantile Marine? My only alternative is that he was a member of the Dublin Fire Brigade who underwent a career change.

 

Thanks,

 

Dave

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9 minutes ago, depaor01 said:

I have just downloaded a medal card from the NA for a recipient of a Mercantile Marine pair I have in my collection. I can now 100% identify him, Bernard McDonnell, as having lived in Queen's square Dublin. My question is about his stated profession in the census returns which is "Fireman". Did this profession exist within the Mercantile Marine? My only alternative is that he was a member of the Dublin Fire Brigade who underwent a career change.

 

Thanks,

 

Dave

Firemen stoked the furnaces in the ships boilers

Craig

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13 hours ago, ss002d6252 said:

Firemen stoked the furnaces in the ships boilers

Craig

 

Thanks Craig, I thought they were Stokers which put me off slightly.

 

Are the two titles interchangeable?

 

Dave

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3 minutes ago, depaor01 said:

 

Thanks Craig, I thought they were Stokers which put me off slightly.

 

Are the two titles interchangeable?

 

Dave

I'm no expert on the matter but it would seem so from what I have read - there may be some subtle difference somewhere but it appears there's not much in it.

 

This link suggests (certainly in the White Star line) that they referred to them as firemen when they were the supervisors and stokers when they were bottom rung - http://forum.wordreference.com/threads/fireman-vs-stoker.2380215/

 

This also suggests the names were used interchangeably and may be more use - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivalent_Royal_Navy_ranks_in_the_Merchant_Navy


Craig

Edited by ss002d6252
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If I remember correctly there was a hierarchy

A Trimmer took coal from the bunkers and ensured that the loading remained equal in the bunkers, under supervision.

A Stoker fed the boilers, but was not responsible for the level of the fire or maintaining the correct steam pressure.

A Fireman maintained the correct level of the fire. ensured there was constant steam for the likely requirement, but he too was under the supervision of the grades of Engineer Officers.

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Generally speaking, the Engine Room Ratings in the Merchant Navy in the days of steam were Trimmer, Fireman, Greaser, Donkeyman and Storekeeper, the latter two rates being Petty Officers, rates of pay and job descriptions were reflected by these positions.  Stoker was a term used more by the Royal Navy and was comparable with a Fireman.  BUT.... it did depend on which Merchant Shipping Company one worked for as to what you were called, some liner companies like White Star and Cunard did like to do things differently, so some Merchant ships may well have had Stokers but I think it would be unusual.  Oil fired boilers improved their workload and as diesel engines took over from steam, the trimmers and firemen obviously disappeared.  Safe to say the "blackgang", as they were collectively called, could be a pretty rough bunch, very much a law unto themselves and were known for hard living and heavy drinking.

 

TH

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.......of course, as this is a WW1 forum I should have correctly called it the Merchant Service as the term Merchant Navy was only bestowed by Royalty after the armistice.

 

TH

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Great information lads. I had been revisiting some medals in my collection, checking on Ancestry if anything further could be gleaned from new records there. Having subsequently paid to get this chap's record from Kew I now have a great deal more about him. He was married with no children and the address he lived in was a quite salubrious one.

 

When I bought his medals they came with an Authority to Wear document and a Board of Trade letter. Most poignantly, they came in a very battered brown envelope that shows (to me) signs of a lot of handling. It is faintly stamped "Our Lady's Home, Henrietta Street, Dublin". I've just found out that this institution was run as a laundry for women who had fallen on hard times.

 

Looks like there is a lot more to this story, especially with MerchantOldSalt's observation about hard living and heavy drinking.

 

Thanks again,

 

Dave

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