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Making a Landing at Liverpool

Steamship at the Liverpool Landing Stage circa 1910

IT was an experience, of course, for many aboard the boat. Liverpool has stood synonymous for England's marine greatness since the birth of the eighteenth century, and now that landing here was at hand, newcomers to the port, and even those come before, were eager for first sight of the dock.

Here on the Irish Sea, at hand, numbers of herring-boats dotted the water, each with its sails a dark maroon, and recalling, at once, the sardine-fleet of the East Adriatic. Off on our left, another liner was making for harbor, and we wondered whether aboard her, too, folk had dressed up for the landing as here.

The day was a splendid one, and the air of the clearest, so that already 10:34 by the watch, due ahead, out the sea there rose England's latest pleasure-ground, the far-famed New Brighton Tower. It seemed much like the Eiffel of France. On its left hand no land was met in sight, while on the right dim blue mountains lay; these hidden, now and then, from view by the smacks on the dark blue sea.

Dinner-time came early as interruption, and just as folk returned to the deck from this, the pilot was climbing aboard, from a curious, yellow skiff, in which four men, in yellow slickers and caps of red, manned an oar apiece. The bos'n of this crew had a blue sweater on; otherwise all dressed alike.

Off a bit;, the pilot-boat itself lay pitching, a curious structure of yellow and black, with a stubby fore and rear mast.

Gulls innumerable circled around as we stopped here, one of six huge smoking steamers, awaiting the pilot-boats picking them up. On our right a side-wheeler passed, on the Isle of Man crossing, it unique for the two smokestacks bent very far back. On ahead, a low yellow coast had put in appearance, on the right the Tower continued to grow.

Creeping onward, a lightship with two queer balls went, behind us other ships passed by and saluted. Far out in our prow meanwhile, a lone woman took her position, eager indeed for the first glimpse of the dock. She was coming home from Vancouver for the first time in six years to visit her parents in Belfast and had been on the way three full weeks.

By and by, on the left a froth covered the water, whitecaps dashing over the reef forming the Liverpool Bar. Several steamers, oil - vessels they seemed, were hovering near ship, with another red-painted lightship looming near, to warn with its single light.

Quarter to twelve found us just across from the Bar proper. Below we could make out the dangerous reefs, and the scene on the surface recalled the Rapids of Lachine.

The sight of the Bar made the English folk merry, and they chatted of home, now so near at hand. Suddenly again, though, came an interruption, a magnificent yacht with huge white sails spread, tugging up and down at its anchor.

Behind it followed the Leviathan a monster dredge boat, this vessel of but a single stack, and having at its sides innumerable iron beams extending out, like the oars to a Roman galley. We could see the water pouring out below from the sides of the vessel, leaving the sand within to be dumped where they would.

On our left, still no land had been sighted; ahead, yellow sand flats and dunes reached to low green hills. Whistling buoys and others dotted the water here, warning off the long sand reefs on our nearer left, which lay, broad and yellow, almost flat in the water.

Over at right, by and by, hills came dimly, till suddenly, due ahead, the city appeared, a pall of smoke over it, and New Brighton seeming to join to the further right still, with the tower rising over all else. The morning had grown quite windy now, and the skies were clouded over.

Action began to fill the prospect. Once a lightboat, with a curious mast at its center, tempted many to snapshot. Then a swift side-wheeler, the Mona's Queen, darted by, on its trip to the Isle of Man; this a single-decked vessel, bearing on its side the queer insignia of the island, three human legs, gilded and joined at their tops, much like spokes to some wheel.

On our left another great dredge-boat was working, and this one fitted with a covered incline for the sand, that rose from the deck to a derrick, up to which the filled buckets rose.

Fine, modern homes, red-roofed and tidy, plain to view on our left now, and church steeples peeped over the edge of green lawn that topped the yellow beach. Long rows of residences, three-story and eave-form, supplanted the first lot, these houses the prettier, for their stuccoed fronts. Manufacturing establishments also came into the prospect, so that one might survey all Liverpool as the boat came in.

Twelve-twenty found the vessel right off the Tower and whistling as if in salute. Tongues were loosed in farewells by that time. Folk admired the homes built in Queen Anne style, facing the river, and the factories, just beyond these, excited their wonder, until the company tender was attached to the boat and together we passed on up the Mersey.

Liverpool's famous docks lay on our left by this time, mighty quays all these, with their heavy stone walls rising to support the long buildings, and often ending in a wee lighthouse. On the right, New Brighton climbed its hill, the houses, with their endless rows of roofs, seeming unbelievably clean to American comers.

The tower, one saw, rose from an ornate three-story red-brick structure that stood, a thing of beauty, amid trees. Flags flew from its lower pavilion, the top seemed to mock the heavy clouds now over all.

There was a theater and a dance-hall in the tower, some one told us, the fee was but six cents to the top. Along its foot we could make out the promenade, leading to the tip of the cape, where an old fort, built in a feudal style, still stood.

A ferry-boat crossed the Mersey here; ahead, in the river, four funnels in line announced the Lusitania at anchor. Liverpool's streets, sloping in curves landward, caught the notice when one wasn't watching the medley of boats lying here. Where, on the left, the great docks continued the stacks of still other vessels rose over the sheds.

These wharf houses were built stanchly on the stone walls of the piers, and familiar names, Cunard and so on, told the owners. High above the rest a tobacco warehouse rose here, a monster structure of a very dark brick; behind it stood a chimney as to some pottery, but serving another end.

Factory buildings came to hide whatever else of shore the docks did not conceal now, while out in the river another Isle of Man boat passed, laden with the pleasure-seekers thronging the place. The fare for the four-hour journey is but $1.50 around.

Liverpool's heart lay just off from the steamer. On our left the Liver (pronounced Ly-ver) Office Building arose, a handsome gray structure boasting the largest clock in the world for its tower aft from it.

New Brighton's fine sandy beach lay now, ranging back to the seawall, and a street hung, in its turn, with flags. Above this avenue, lawns, rich in shrubbery, sloped to the top of the palisade, where other splendid homes were built.

Aboard-ship, folk kept turning right and left now, to see all. On the Liverpool shore giant grain elevators towered, these buildings likewise of the dark brick. Between them, now and then, one caught sight of the street-cars, rounded, English fashion, at each end.

Just past the Liver Building stood the smaller home of the Dock Board, domed like St. Paul's in miniature. A sailor recounted how our ship might go from here on to Manchester, through the Canal; when another liner, the Carmania, a Cunard, diverted attention from his tale.

Near her a boat of the Clyde line was anchored; beyond lay a White Star liner. Now and then, rather seldom, one heard a boat-whistle. Americans missed the tugs and the railway-car ferries that one saw in the New York Harbor. Instead, a queer ferry-boat passed us, laden with freight, while we turned in the near-by slip.

Every incident now excited interest. Watches of the passengers still showed 12:42; on the Liver clock it was precisely noon. In Montreal, whence we'd come, a traveler showed us, it was 8:24 a.m. Some tourists were consulting Baedecker as to this harbor; others took occasion to jot into their diaries the item of it's being twelve to the second, on the world's greatest clock, when their vessel came to its journey's end.

Gulls came circling 'round the ship as she settled. Things on shore were not half so lively by far as they would be at a steamer's landing-time in New sYork.

Just off the stately white towers of the Liver we came to rest, finally. Long wooden docks were stretched at this place, edged in their turn by an ornate wooden shed, the roof of this painted a splendid black, rounded out and over to form an arcade, which wore, on its outer side, signs innumerable, done in distinctive English shades of all colors.

Here the refreshment and luggage rooms of the Riverside Railway Station were located.

The cleanliness of it al! won its praises from the strangers; so, too, did the order with which the crowds on the wharf had been held back to give room for the newcomers to reach customs at least.

Out over the arcade, from the top of its roof, a passage of iron had been built, and from this another gangway was shifted, allowing of passing from ship's deck to stairs and then shore.

Landing here, in fact, was easier than we'd found it anywhere else at the great ports; in fact, both in this and in arrangement for customs and railway, Liverpool, as a port, can teach many harbors a lesson indeed.

Koch, Felix J., "Famous Ports as Laymen See Them," in The American Marine Engineer, Volume VII, Number 3, March 1912, Pages 7-8.

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