By the time this has been posted my friend Jeff and myself should be on our way to Montreal on the train – the first leg of our trip down the St Lawrence River. Later today we’ll board the Crystal Symphony, settle into our cabin and prepare for seven days of cruising the maritime gateway from Central Canada to Europe. We’re heading to St Pierre-Miquelon with stops along the way at Sept-Îles , Îles de la Madeleine and on the return to Montreal la Ville de Québec. However this is not the first trip I have done on the River except the last time we continued on past the Gulf of St Lawrence and across the Atlantic to Belfast and I was only two and a half at the time.
In 1949 my mother decided that she and I would make a trip to Belfast to visit my recently widowed Grandmother. The war had been over for three years at that point and maritime travel and commerce had returned to normal. Many of the troop ships had been converted back into passenger liners include the Cunard White Star HMS Ascania which took us from Montreal to Belfast and back. The Ascania was christened after a German Royal House that dates back to 1036 and included amongst it’s members Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg better known by her Russian title Catherine the Great. She was 4,013 gross tons – the ship not Catherine – with one funnel, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 15 knots, Being a Cunard Class A her configuration as 200 First class and 500 tourist class passengers. Prior to her service as a troop ship in the Second World War she had served primarily as an Immigrant ship and carried considerably more passengers – 500 cabin class and 1200 third class. She served the Liverpool – Montreal route (with stops in Greenock an Belfast) until 1956 when she returned briefly to war service as a troop ship during the Suez Crisis. She was scrapped in January of 1957.
I was hoping to find some specifics of the voyage but other than that it occurred sometime between April 25, 1949 when my mother’s passport was issued and October 7 of that same year when Canadian Immigration stamped our return at Quebec I have no dates. I do recall my mother saying we were gone for almost six months so that could put our departure from Canada sometime in May. What I do have are some pictures that were in a box brimming over with memories of times past. Unfortunately many of them are of people that I do not recall, and anyone who could recall them is long gone. However there is not mistaking either my mother or myself in these photos take at some point on our journey.
I would dare say those photos were taken with an old Brownie Box camera of my mother’s that was used to capture every family event. I have not found many photos once we reached out destination but that may because Ulster was still under Wartime rations at that point – and would be well into the 50s – and film would have been scarce and developing expensive. On the trip I’m starting today no doubt too many photos will be taken and I say a better attempt will be made to immortalize the where, what and who but we shall see. In the meantime next stop – the Saguenay River.