Ships and Memories: Merchant Seafarers in Canada's Age of Steam

By Eric W. Sager | Go to book overview

4
OFFICERS AND MASTERS

With steamships came new types of work and a more complex division of labour. But many things also remained from the era of sailing ships. In the work of officers and masters, we see most clearly how existing work roles were adapted to the new technology, thus becoming, themselves, 'traditional.'

Knowledge is power. Working relations in a ship were also relations of power, and the superior knowledge of officers and masters ensured that this would be so. The second mate, the first mate, and the master held certificates, earned only after they had served the required number of years at sea, and after passing exams for each rank. The system of certification was inherited from the age of sail -- mainly from the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1854. 1

In steamships the mates were more often referred to as officers -- this was an industrial workplace that borrowed military language and attitudes. In the memory of ship masters we find not only a vast knowledge, but the assumption that the power of command is the result of this knowledge. 'I'm the master here -- not you! You come aboard here with no experience, and I've got fourteen years in ships, and jobs you'll never hold!' 2 Ship masters remember their work very well. And they remember that their knowledge was often a mystery to those with lesser experience.

-71-

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Ships and Memories: Merchant Seafarers in Canada's Age of Steam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Yarns 15
  • 2 - Going to Sea 29
  • 3 - Work 41
  • 4 - Officers and Masters 71
  • 5 - Class 85
  • 6 - Family 97
  • 7 - Masculinity 106
  • 8 - Hazards 118
  • 9 - War 126
  • 10 - Union 139
  • 11 - Canada 150
  • Notes 157
  • GLOSSARY 167
  • SOURCES AND COLLABORATORS 171
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 173
  • Index 177
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