History Page 11

Great Canadian History

The Great Eastern at Heart's Content, the end of the cable in Newfoundland. The road from civilization comes into what is still a sleepy village at top left. The cable ends still stick out of the water in front of the cable station, today a museum.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Many other types of memorabilia were produced to mark this great event in Canadian and World history.

Left is a fabulous, and extremely rare, Sunderland lustre plaque made in Staffordshire, in 1863, which has survived 150 years in mint condition.

It was once in the Great Canadian Heritage Collection of Elizabeth Collard.

Sadly the Great Eastern, which had been the great idea of a fine mind who was ahead of his time, came to a sad end, being shunted about for various hauling jobs till she was broken up in 1888.

It took 200 men working full time for two years to do it.

As the years passed and her legend passed into history, those people and ships who challenged her claim to greatness came to grief...

Lustre Plaque, The Great Eastern Steamship, c 1863
Orig. Sunderland ceramic plaque - Size -24 x 24 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Prov - Estate of Elizabeth Collard
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Reverse Glass Painting, Sinking of the Lusitania, May 1915 - Anonymous
Orig. reverse painting on glass - Image Size - 46 x 61 cm
Found - Dundas, ON

They Dared to Challenge

Not till 1899, when the RMS Oceanic was launched, was the Great Eastern's length exceeded in a ship - by 15 feet.

RMS Oceanic was built by Thomas Ismay - who died that year.

His son Bruce below built Titanic, ten years later, was aboard on her tragic maiden voyage, but did not - like his three personal assistants, the ship's architect, and her captain - go down with the ship, along with 1,500 mostly poor folks.




Instead Ismay used his position of privilege, as the ship's owner, to sneak a "job" in among women and children in a lifeboat. He told the enquiry, it was not his choice, that he was asked to help...

Ismay would never make the Top Ten List of the Greatest Britons; he quite possibly would rate #1 of the Top Ten Worst British Knaves of all time.

Guilt, probably, drove him to make a permanent statement that he was a decent sort, when he paid for a modest stone, in a Halifax graveyard - with his name prominent for all to see - to one of his assistants who went down in his place.

Oceanic drove up on a reef in Scapa Flow in 1914, and became a wreck.

An not until the great Cunarder Lusitania was built in 1906, was the Great Eastern exceeded in displacement tonnage. Only nine years later, in 1915, the Lucy was torpedoed with a loss of 1,100 souls, off Ireland, where Bruce Ismay was living the last 25 years of his life, as a virtual recluse, hiding in shame. (There is talk that Tony Blair - a close second among the Worst British Knaves of all time - may be interested in renting his old digs there...)





Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Lithograph, The Great Eastern Steamship, 1857
Orig. print - Image Size - 45 x 68 cm, Frame Size - 74 x 97 cm
Found - Halifax, NS
Prov - Oland Estate
Supplement, Illustrated London News, Sep. 17, 1859, drawing by Edwin Weedon
The brain child of Britain's engineering genius, IK Brunel, the Great Eastern was the biggest ship of the second half of the nineteenth century, and built of iron plates fastened together with over 3 million rivets, over five years, from 1853-1858. She had five funnels, and was powered by sails on six masts - named after the days of the week, Monday, Tuesday, etc. - as well as by steam driven paddle wheels, and a screw propeller. Brunel built her so large that she could carry enough coal to drive her engines even to Australia and back, without recoaling. She could carry 4,000 passengers, or 10,000 soldiers, but could not find enough paying customers to make her transatlantic trips economical. She rose to fame as the only ship big enough to carry the cable needed to make a telegraph connection between the Old World and the New in 1865-1866. (Roll over - Currier & Ives print)

The Great Eastern Lithograph - This fabulous heritage treasure is one of the earliest colour lithographs to be found in Canada, and is remarkable in a number of ways:

First, it is old, published in 1859, and absolutely in its original frame and glass. It does have faint vertical bars - overly emphasized because of digital photography - where the cedar shakes on the back, come together, though they are hardly noticeable on this fabulous print.

Secondly, this once belonged to the Oland family of Halifax, and Nova Scotia, brewery fame. Which is one reason it has survived intact for over 150 years in such remarkable shape, possibly in one of the downtown offices or in an Oland mansion.

This litho is also huge, and absolutely dwarfs your typical early Currier and Ives prints that started to appear at the same time..

Right, leaning against the chains of the great ship, was the great man who built her, and much else, out of iron, in early Victorian Britain: Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), voted the Second Greatest Briton of All Time in a recent BBC poll.

And no wonder! When so many engineers and scientists are hard at work designing new machines to do mass killing in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, here was a giant of a man who dedicated his life to civil engineering. His daring engineering triumphs transformed western England and Wales. 150 years after his death, his railways, his bridges, even a ship, still survive, as powerful testimony to the Greatest Briton, of all time, in peacetime.

si monumentum requiris, circumspice

Actually the great iron ship killed him; the stress of its construction difficulties created health pressures that ended his life in 1859.

No matter. A century and a half after his death his memory, and his contribution to mankind, is still fiercely cherished in the hearts and minds of millions of Britons...

It will not be so, in another century and a half, for Tony Blair... It is all about, why, while lesser men continue to come and go, Britain continues to be Great...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The Oland Mansion, 1900
Orig. mansion -
Found - Halifax, NS
Prov - Oland Estate

Probably the finest house in Halifax is the fabulous Oland mansion - the Oland Brewery people had set up in Dartmouth, across the harbour, in 1867 - which shows the prosperity that seemed to be everywhere in Nova Scotia at the end of the 19th century. This stunning stone house was built in 1890-91 for the Olands in the grand Richardsonian Romanesque style, with stones that were cut in Scotland and shipped over to be reassembled on site.

Probably the Great Eastern print hung in the drawing room. Victorian Canadians of the prosperous classes did not display Royal Doulton figurines, redware, or petty trinkets however pretty. They knew they were part of history, part of something more momentous than grubbing for daily bread.

They surrounded themselves with memorabilia of people, places, and events, that exuded the march of History, that they were proud to be a part of. (They sent their representative Lt. John C. Oland left to Africa to fight the Boers.)

It was a grand time, when men were men, the women knew it, and the house decoration and furnishing reflected the wider world, and did not echo, as most do today, the bland, the narrow, the pretentious, and the petty preoccupations with the pretty and the self.

Go to Oland Mansion

Below the Oland Brewery destroyed on the Dartmouth shore, on Dec. 7, 1917, during the Halifax Explosion, and the same site today, with foundation stones from the old building on the right. Land fill on the right has changed the topography.

Great Eastern Steamship - 1853-1889 - 2

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