Ships in Canada - RMS Scythia - Cunard Line, 1920-1958 - Ships 1

1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19
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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The Immigrant Ships

From 1608 to 1960, Canada was settled, almost exclusively, by immigrants from Europe who came on immigrant ships.

Thousands of them never made it, and perished at sea, as their ships sank in storms, or went aground on reefs. Countless more died on the way to the Promised Land on ships that foundered or burned on the Great Lakes.

The single biggest immigrant group is that which arrived in Halifax in the first half of the 20th century. From 1890 to 1971, nearly 4 million immigrants landed at the immigration docks in Halifax, at Pier 2 and after World War I, at Pier 21.

A typical immigrant family was that of John Goldi, a senior Swiss civil servant, who brought his family of five to Canada, in the swell of immigration after World War II; he wanted to be a farmer in Southern Ontario.

They docked at Pier 21, at Halifax, Dec. 15, 1950, on the Cunard liner RMS Scythia.

Left and below, are some of the typical historic memorabilia items that thousands of immigrants kept in family cupboards and scrapbooks to remind them of the most exciting adventure they had ever been on, braving the gales by crossing the North Atlantic Ocean for many days without seeing land...

Ashtray - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. ashtray - Size - 10 cm
Found - Peterborough, ON
Souvenir ashtray featuring a portrait of the ship executed on a background of butterfly wings..
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Abstract Log of RMS Scythia Voyage, Dec. 8-15,1950
Orig. card - Size - 10 x 17 cm
Found - Prov - Family
The log of the ocean voyage of the Goldi Family from Le Havre on Dec. 8, 1950 to Dec. 15, 1950. It was dark when the ship docked at Pier 21. Instead of going ashore we all went to the ship's dining room for the Last Supper below. 57 years later it is still hard to put into words the wild excitement of being caught up in the lights playing about the crazy melee of people crowding about on deck at night to gaze on the concrete splendour of Pier 21. Where we all nuts or what? No, we were all caught up in a wild dream and that was CANADA. And Scythia had brought us here safe and sound...
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Passenger List - RMS Scythia, 1957
Orig. document - Size - 14 x 20 cm
Found - Kitchener, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Farewell Dinner Menu, Goldi Family - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. document - Size - 15 x 20 cm
Found - Prov - Family
A rare family treasure of the greatest adventure our family ever embarked on.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Berthing Card - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. berth assignment card - Size - 8 x 12 cm
Found - Peterborough, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Suitcase Sticker - Cunard Line, 1950
Orig. sticker - Size - 12 x 17 cm
Found - Prov - Family
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Family ID Suitcase Sticker - Cunard Line, 1950
Orig. sticker - Size - 9 cm
Found - Prov - Family
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Trunk Tags - Cunard Line, 1950
Orig. tag - Size - 8 x 16 cm
Found - Prov - Family
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Deck Plan, First Class - RMS Scythia, 1957
Orig. document - Size - 22 x 45 cm
Found - Kitchener, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Landing Arrangement Card - Cunard Line, 1950
Orig. document - Size - 12 x 16 cm
Found - Prov - Family
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Deck Plan, Tourist Class - RMS Scythia, 1933
Orig. document - Size - 22 x 45 cm
Found - Kitchener, ON
The liners were huge; to help you find your way about ship, deck plans for all the levels of the ship and the location of berths and facilities were laid out.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Daily Program Card - RMS Scythia, 1957
Orig. card - Size - 15 x 23 cm
Found - Peterborough, ON

Arthur Rubinstein and the London Symphony performed on the Scythia - but it was all recorded of course, for playing in the loudspeakers in the public rooms.

Deck games there were too; who can forget the shuffleboard on the upper deck, and the ring toss. Oh, and how many went over the side...

Then to listen to the news, and retire to the Lounge for Bingo or dancing to the Scythia orchestra...

All of course weather permitting...

We had two days of winter gales; everybody was puking everywhere! Nobody cared to do anything else...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Mechanical Pencils (including one Floaty) - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. pencil - Size - 13 cm
Found - Montreal, PQ
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Compact - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. metal & glass - Size - 18 cm
Found - North Bay, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Silver Brooch - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. brooch - Size - 2.5 cm
Found - Windsor, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Cigarette Case - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. lexan - Size - 8 x 10 cm
Found - Bowmanville, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Enamel Pin - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. pin - Size - 25 mm
Found - Winnipeg, MB
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Reverse Painted Brooch - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. brooch - Size - 30 mm
Found - Barrie, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Crystal Ashtray - Cunard Steamship Co, c 1950
Orig. crystal ashtray - Size - 5 x 15 cm
Found - King City, ON
A fabulously huge and heavy ashtray of Stuart Crystal, boxed and seated in velvet, was for the First Class passengers.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Silver Spoon - RMS Scythia, 1950
Orig. silver - Size - 12 cm
Found - Barrie, ON

The Memorabilia - RMS Scythia - Cunard White Star 1920-1958

The Scythia Ring

The one expensive souvenir Dad bought Mom, aboard ship, was the butterfly wing Scythia ring below.

But somewhere during the hard days of work on the farm, hoeing tomatoes, picking beans, or topping sugar beets it fell off and she lost it.

She never found it and would speak of its loss, wistfully, for decades to come...

So powerful were these ship mementoes to New Canadians...

They reflected the Dream in its purest form, at its most intense, unsullied and uncompromised by experiences that were to follow, as in life it always happens.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Cunard Liner RMS Scythia, Liverpool, Aug. 1950
Orig. photo - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Liverpool, UK
The Scythia became all the rage in 1920, when, after the the destructive interruptions caused by World War I, Cunard decided to bring out a new line of modern passenger ships to serve the immigrant traffic across the North Atlantic. The result was sister ships Scythia, Samaria, and Laconia, single funnel, oil turbine driven, twin-screw ships offering every luxury, but on a smaller scale than the grand three and four funnel liners of the prewar era.

RMS Scythia, 1950

The Scythia leaving Liverpool in Aug. 1950, immediately after finishing her post-war refit. In only a few months she would pick up the Goldi Family to take to Canada. (This is the same location as the first postcard painting that follows.)

Photos and postcards were, by far, the most common mementoes kept by Canadian immigrants, of their transatlantic crossing.

Cunard would issue new cards over the years, hiring Britain's top marine artists to try to meld the dream with machinery - the result: the rare mystique of a voyage by ocean liner, which still sends an incomparable thrill coursing through the body, decades later.

Royal Mail Steamships Scythia, Samaria, Laconia - Cunard White Star 1920-1958

Great Canadian Heritage Treasures
Postcard - Scythia c 1920
Postcard - Scythia c 1925 - Walter Thomas (1894-1971)
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Newcastle, ON
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Washington, DC
Postcard - Scythia c 1925 Postcard - Scythia c 1925
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Halifax, NS
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Barrie, ON
Postcard - Scythia c 1925 - Odin Rosenvinge (1880-1957) Postcard - Scythia c 1925
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Montreal, PQ
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Montreal, PQ
Postcard - Scythia c 1938 - Kenneth Shoesmith (1890-1939) Postcard - Scythia c 1955 - Kenneth Shoesmith (1890-1939)
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Prov - Family
Orig. postcard - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Cambridge, ON
The postcard looking a bit 1930ish but quite dramatic... The modern look with the old-style features stripped away.
Postcard - Laconia c 1938 - Kenneth Shoesmith (1890-1939) Postcard - Samaria c 1938 - Kenneth Shoesmith (1890-1939)
The same postcard did triple duty for the three sister ships; only the name on the card was changed. The Samaria had much the same life experience as Scythia, being a cruise ship in peace, a troopship in war, and was broken up in 1956.
RMS Laconia Incident
The Laconia Order - The Laconia operated on the Atlantic service and the Mediterranean cruise circuit like her sister ships.

With World War II she became armed as a troopship.

At night, on Sep. 12, 1942, she was sunk by Capt. Werner Hartenstein, on U-156, in the South Atlantic off Ascension Island, some 500 miles off the west coast of Africa. He believed he was sinking a troopship; in fact she was carrying some 2,500 Italian POWs, as well as British civilians, including women and children.

When he realized his mistake he approached and started pulling hundreds of survivors from the sea, as well as calling for assistance in the rescue. His U-boat was crowded with Italian, Polish, and British civilians, inside and out, with more in lifeboats that he was towing behind below.

Hartenstein radioed his position in English to all announcing his cessation of hostilities to permit the survivors to be delivered to friendly ships.

The German High Command, agreed with his decision, in fact Grand Admiral Doenitz sent two more German subs to help. So for two and a half days the three German subs ferried the survivors closer towards the African coast and safety.

Suddenly, an American bomber, based on Ascension Island, flew over the subs, and saw their decks covered with a mass of humanity, displaying conspicuous Red Cross flags, and rendered totally helpless by towing the lifeboats full of people. The pilot turned away and radioed for instructions.

The American CO, Capt. Robert Richardson III, ordered an immediate attack, and, in the bombing, a lifeboat and hundreds of people were blown apart. The subs immediately disconnected the lifeboats and ordered people off the decks into the water.

All the subs dove and escaped, but hundreds of Italians, Poles and British women and children were killed by the American attack.

Subsequently, Admiral Doenitz issued the "Laconia Order," that henceforth U-boats were not to stop to give assistance to survivors, which German submariners had often been doing.

At the Nuremberg Trials, in 1946, Doenitz was charged with war crimes over issuing the Laconia Order; but probably out of embarrassment to the Americans the charge was stayed. In fact many considered Richardson, not Doenitz, guilty of war crimes but he was on the winning side so nothing came of it. His attack meant that only some 1,100 survived out of 2,700.

For his heroic action Germany issued Hartenstein its highest military decoration, the Ritterkreutz. Six months later he and his heroic crew perished when U-156 was sunk off Barbados.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Cunard Liner RMS Scythia, Aug. 1920s
Orig. photo - Size - 8 x 14 cm
Found - Liverpool, UK

RMS Scythia, 1920-1958

The Scythia started life as a Cunard liner. In 1934, because of the Depression in ocean travel, Cunard merged with the fabled White Star Line, becoming the Cunard White Star Line, till 1949, when Cunard bought out its partner and reverted to using its old name Cunard alone.

The Scythia served in the 1920s and 30s on the England to New York run. In the summer she became a Mediterranean cruise ship taking Brits and Americans to exotic places like Egypt, Italy, and Greece.

In Wold War II she ferried troops across the Atlantic.

In 1943, with 4,000 soldiers aboard she was torpedoed off Algiers harbour during the Allied landings in North Africa. But she made it to shore, was patched and repaired in Gibraltar and the US.

After the war she brought troops home from the theatres of war in Europe and India.

Then she became a transport for Displaced People from war-torn Europe.

In 1948 she became an immigrant ship for the North Atlantic trade.

In 1950 she was extensively refitted and modernized. This was completed in August, 1950 photo top and she began the Europe to the Canada run.

In December, the Goldi Family climbed aboard.

Scythia would continue this ferry service for eight more years.

But the airplane was now starting to bring in immigrants in 7 hours instead of 7 days.

So in 1958 Scythia was retired and broken up at Inverkeithing in Scotland.

But she still lives in the hearts of thousands of Canadians and the memorabilia she left behind.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Cunard White Star Liner RMS Scythia, Aug. 1930s
Orig. photo - Size - 9 x 14 cm
Found - Liverpool, UK
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005

The Immigrants - RMS Scythia - Cunard Line, 1920-1958

Insight Canada

The Missing Million - The sign posted by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board is of course, mostly incorrect in tone, interpretation of an event, and the facts, purporting to explain "Postwar Immigration."

Some 1,504,033 came to Canada from 1946-1961 and certainly did not, as the plaque falsely claims, consist solely "of dependents of returning Canadian servicemen and people dislocated... blah, blah, blah..."

Nothing could be further from the truth - in a word "bureaucrapese." (Whaaaat! And that last sentence; don't the people they contract to write these things have to pass a basic literacy test, or have some background in communication? Or English?)

Most immigrants were probably, like our family, people of means, who were chasing a dream, not escaping a nightmare...

In fact to be accepted we had to prove we had a lot of money to buy a farm outright or we would have been denied entry.

Officially, Canada was doing horrendously shameful PR work in Europe - not just the soldiers, conning the reluctant women to leave their mother country - promising wealth and riches untold to the dreamers. Many took the bait. And more than a few War Brides regretted allowing themselves to be dragged off in spite of their better judgement. They certainly were "dependents;" on their own, they would of course, never have chosen to emigrate to Canada at all...

The War Brides group, which is prominently mentioned here, and given another entire plaque all to themselves elsewhere, was a tiny, insignificant group, of some 70,000 - only 48,000 of whom were decision-making adults - and hardly merit the prominence they are given on a sparsely worded plaque to a million plus...

And Canada certainly did not seek out the destitute and impoverished masses - the dislocated - though many were willingly accepted.

On the contrary, it was the carrot, not the stick that brought the vast majority of immigrants to Canada, in the late forties and early fifties, and the overwhelming majority were not Brits. Yet neither they nor their dream receive any mention on this plaque.

Had the historian who wrote the plaque been aboard Scythia in 1950 he would not have heard of tales of doom and gloom about the old country, but eager and joyful embracing of the idea of Canada that resonated in the hearts of all aboard ship.

(In fact the first English word I learned, as a nine-year-old, aboard ship, was "Saskatchewan." It was where a young man was going that I met in the tea room. Saskatchewan he repeated, was where he was eager to go. Saskatchewan - my mother loved to say that word; we all did. I wonder what dream he fulfilled there; sixty years later the province still loses more people annually than arrive. One look and... Alberta bound...)

The plaque's incorrect and heavily skewed Anglo-centric view of a key event in Canadian history neglects the million plus immigrants of Italian, German, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian, Scandinavian, and many other European backgrounds, including French, Greeks, Swiss, Austrians etc. who looked upon Canada as an ideal to go for, not as something to escape to... or, like the War Brides, a place to be dragged to...

The overwhelming majority of Europeans stayed behind. The immigrants could have too. But they chose Canada instead...

Prisoners of War

A great Canadian myth, what with all the hoopla about War Brides, is that they chose Canada! They did not; they chose a man, who happened to be from Canada, and insisted they come to the Promised Land with them. They were carted back to Canada as Prisoners of War bound with ties of love to a man who, in many cases, it turned out, seemed to have seriously misrepresented both himself and his country...

The immigrants who came were not losers at life, but strivers, reachers, dreamers... And were people with technical skills, education, and money, like the parents of the Goldi kids, photographed before leaving, to chase their father's dream in Canada. They discovered that their professional skills - educational, technical, clerical, linguistic - were above the level of the average Canadian-born into whose communities they integrated.

John Goldi was tri-lingual (besides English), had been Switzerland's top athlete, an international businessman, a senior civil servant, and won the top exhibition prize in the country with his prize Mechelner chickens.

John's wife, Ruth, was no slouch either. In an age before tape recorders, Dictaphones, and computers, when Executive Secretarial skills were highly prized - careful note-taking, short-hand accuracy, and lightning-fast typing - Mom was second to none in Switzerland.

In 1939, after a national competition, she was Honoured as the Top Executive Secretary in Switzerland

Over the coming years many immigrants were to discover - and say out loud - that they had it better in the old country. That those who had stayed behind prospered more and sooner. As countless wives would bemoan in later life - including many War Brides - "Don't Fall in Love With a Dreamer."

The Historic Sites & Monuments Board should change its sign to reflect the true history of Canada not some romantic twaddle... And properly represent the million plus non-Anglos who came in search of the Canadian Dream as a primary choice, not because they had no option but to make the best of a bad deal in the old country.

The Start or the End of a Life

John Goldi stands at (2) below at the centre of one of Canada's most historic transportation hubs, on the very spot where, almost sixty years ago, his family mounted a train just a few metres from where they had disembarked from Scythia. They had crossed via the skyway below (1) from Pier 21 on the right, to the immigrant sheds left, to be deloused. Then they were off, down the track, to start a new life in Ontario.

There were once some eleven parallel railway tracks here, so busy was the immigration traffic, between 1927-1970, of over one million foreigners hoping to start a meaningful life in Canada.

































Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Railway Spikes, Track Tie Plate, Pier 21, Halifax, NS c 1930
Orig. spikes & tie plate - Size - 19 x 28 cm
Found - Halifax, NS
These spikes and tie plate - now part of the rusting legacy of railway tracks that served a people for half a century - once held a railway track firmly in place on a wooden cross-tie, right at (2), as, overhead, generations of Canadians rolled by on the way to their destinies.

Perhaps it once held the very track the Goldi's train passed over.

(TOP - Troopship Queen Mary docked Aug. 20, 1943, at the same spot where the Scythia dropped the Goldis seven years later.)

It was extremely late at night, or after midnight, that we boarded a train here and started down the track. But our adventure was not over. Somewhere in the wilds of Nova Scotia the train suddenly braked to a jarring stop. Police came bustling through the cars looking for - what else - saboteurs among all these DPs...

All they found was Dad, in the toilet... From years of living in France he had looked for the pull chain, usually located near the ceramic tank near the ceiling. Spotting the pull cable there, and clearly marked Emergency, he pulled it. "Well," he often used to grin in later years, "this was an emergency!"

In 2007, this is a lonely and forgotten place. Who now recalls that, over many decades, these neglected rail heads once resounded to the shouts and laughter of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children? So many dreams, so many hopes, started here...

But what was the start of the track for some was the "end of track" for countless others - some 500,000 Canadian soldiers dismounting from trains on this very spot in World War II, before boarding troopships that now docked in place of immigrant ships. They were often the same ships.

For thousands of Canadian soldiers this ground is sacred; it is the last place they ever walked on Canadian soil. They now lie, far from home, on foreign shores.

Three typical "lousy DPs" from Europe: John (also above), Heidi, and Fred, photographed just months before leaving Switzerland for the last time.

Their parents would never return to the old country and would never see parents or brothers and sisters again.

Both had only one passion in their hearts, beside each other - KANADA!

Go to the Goldi Farm


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