The South Shields link to the tragic stowaway

Many of us have trinkets and mementoes which we have kept down the years '“ some of which have sentimental or curiosity value.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 8:31 am
Updated Monday, 16th January 2017, 8:31 am
Three officers reading the Shields Gazette on board the vessel Nurtureton, while it was moored in Bombay in 1934/35. This is the vessel Joe R Franklin (pictured in the centre of the photograph) was serving on just prior to the publication of the stowaway story. Ann would like to know the names of the other two officers.

The latter is certainly true of a newspaper cutting presently in the safe-keeping of Ann Franklin, who wrote to me about the forthcoming meeting of the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society, which has the theme “Items Which I Have Kept”.

For there is quite a story, and indeed mystery, attached to the item that Ann possesses.

I’ll let Ann explain.

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“An item which is causing intrigue is a page taken from the Daily Express dated November 8, 1935,” says Ann.

“It features the story of a young English lady, Edith Williams, who, wishing to return to family in Liverpool and not being able to afford to pay her passage, stowed away aboard the Swedish windjammer CB Pederson when it left Melbourne, Australia, bound for Gothenberg.

“Having endured the ‘horrors’ of the hold for several days, the stowaway was discovered, and the ship’s wireless operator, Mr Uno G Ehrlund, came to the rescue by giving up his cabin for the remainder of the journey. The story goes on to say how a romance blossomed between the pair.”

Ann continues by saying that the newspaper cutting, along with a picture postcard of the vessel CB Pedersen, and a letter written to her father, Joe R Franklin, by the young stowaway, some five years later, were discovered among his papers.

“They were found after my father’s death in 1982, when, at the time, I was told by my mother that, before my parents had met and married, he had befriended a stowaway whilst serving in the Merchant Navy, and how she had stayed with my grandmother in South Shields,” said Ann.

“There is also a letter sent to my dad from Edie Lamont (Edith Williams married Bill Lamont in Liverpool in 1938), which is dated December 6, 1940, and gives the address 44 Viola Street, Bootle, Liverpool.”

Ann’s research revealed that in 1935 there were a number of newspaper articles written about both the vessel and the stowaway who found love on the high seas.

Sadly, the story did not have a happy ending, as Ann goes on to reveal.

In the letter to Ann’s dad, Edie writes with concern about “how the family are getting on” in “this awful war” and how “Gerry has been trying his hand out down here”.

“Later that month, Liverpool was bombarded over a four-day period, and on December 20, 1942, Edie became one of the many civilian war dead in Bootle, when 44 Viola Street took a direct hit from a German bomb.

“This was a story that I always meant to look at but never got round to. But now, with the advent of the internet, I have been able to trace a number of other articles, from both English and Australian newspapers, on the stowaway story and also tales about the CB Pedersen, some of which are just not ‘adding up’.

“As a result, I am now trying to piece everything together in order to find out as much as I can about the life of Edith Williams, and more so, to try to establish exactly what part my dad (who was a radio officer in the Merchant Navy at the time) played in this story, as clearly it is one and the same person.”

If you can help, please get in touch.

The society’s next meeting takes place this coming Wednesday, at 1.30pm, at St Hilda’s Visitors’ Centre, Market Place, South Shields.

Members and potential new members are asked to take along any item they have kept, and to discuss why this might have helped, hindered or inspired them to research those “elusive stories from their family history”.