I should like to bring to the attention of readers of Sea Breezes the fact that this painting, by Kenneth Denton Shoesmith, has, for many years, been stored away in the archives of the Ulster Museum, Belfast, where it still sits today, unseen by and inaccessible to the general public.
Between 1906 and 1908, Shoesmith was a cadet in the training ship HMS Conway, moored, at that time, on the River Mersey. There, in 1907, he would have witnessed the maiden voyage of the Cunard liner, RMS Mauretania, from Liverpool to New York. This vivid image stayed in his memory for many years until, in 1933, he committed the image to canvas and the finished painting that we see here was exhibited that year at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
If you study the painting closely you will see the figure of an officer leaning on the rail at Conway’s stern window. This is her Captain Superintendent, W H Broadbent, the founder in 1922 of The Seven Seas Club. For some time now, I have been campaigning to have this picture brought back from archive storage in Belfast to be on public display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool. The connection of this painting to that City will be obvious.
On speaking with the Curator of Art at the National Museums of Northern Ireland in Belfast, I know for a fact that they would be more than willing to loan this Shoesmith painting (and others by the same artist) to Liverpool, but will only do so upon hearing directly from the Merseyside Maritime Museum. There will obviously be a cost involved so, does the MMM have the funds necessary to borrow the painting? Last year the original builders’ model of Mauretania came up for sale by auction and the MMM, anxious to acquire it, raised by public subscription, the sum of £50,000, this being the auctioneer’s top estimate. In the event, the model sold for the staggering sum of £162,000, leaving the MMM without the model, but with a healthy sum to invest in some other Mauretania-related way. What better way could there be than to acquire on loan this fabulous painting?
I would like to enlist the help of Sea Breezes readers to write to the MMM giving voice to their support for the return of this painting to public display at its most suitable venue, Liverpool, a home-coming almost. Mauretania was registered in Liverpool and carried that name on her stern. Cunard Line had their headquarters at that time in the Cunard Building on Liverpool’s waterfront at the Pier Head. The building survives today as one of the ‘Three Graces’. Readers should please write to; Ian Murphy Esq, Curator of Maritime History Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AQ.
Already, there is a great deal of support coming from the Conway Club (consisting of former cadets in HMS Conway) and from the Liverpool Nautical Research Society. I feel that further letters from Sea Breezes readers will prove to be influential in achieving the required result. Do please contact me if you have any queries.
GLYN L EVANS