AS THE SS Waratah, vast flagship of the Blue Anchor Line fleet, set sail from Durban for Cape Town on July 26, 1909, Walter White felt his chest swell with pride. It was wonderful to work as a steward on such a prestigious vessel.
Of course, he was eager to get back to London to see his wife Sybil and to give his three-year-old son Raymond the rocking horse he had promised.
Also see a moving post on Mole's Genealogy Blog:
106 years ago, the pride of the Blue Anchor Line, SS Waratah, made excellent time on her voyage across from Australia to Port Natal, Durban. The weather was fine and the flagship, steady. 92 passengers, enjoyed a modern array of amenities and 119 crew ensured that all was well. Walter White was one among the compliment of 211 who looked forward to the Waratah reaching her final destination, London. I imagine the rocking horse was safely and carefully stowed, a gift intended to bring instant joy to the face of young Raymond.
There are many personal anecdotes such as this which give us, the modern reader, a rare insight into the people who depended on the Waratah to bring them safely to Cape Town and London. Captain Josiah Edward Ilbery was master of the Waratah and commodore of the Blue Anchor Line. His extraordinary career at sea culminated in one simple fact; the Waratah and her souls were in the best possible hands.
I choose to imagine that on the 25th July, 1909, the vast majority of passengers and crew were proud to be a part of an extraordinary ship, servicing the route between the UK and Antipodes. Life holds no guarantees, and circumstances were about to turn on the Waratah and her precious cargo.
“The moment you have is priceless, how rich you are with it! When tis almost gone- you'll remember this.”
― Adeosun Olamide
My wish is that each and every person on board the Waratah had a moment, before the disaster, to reflect on the richness of their lives and those loved ones waiting on distant shores. For the time being on the 25th July, life thrived on the decks of the Waratah, a buzz of communal energy undaunted by the fragile fine line between man being master of his own destiny, and the simple, incontrovertible truth - perils of the sea.
|Captain Josiah Edward Ilbery|