THE MANNING OF THE MERCANTILE MARINE.
[To THE EDITOR OP TIM "SPZOTATOR:]
Sin,—In your issue of February 4th, and under the above heading, appears an interesting letter from Mr. Frank T. Bullen. The scheme there set out is excellent in its way, but will it really advance the end in view,—viz., the manning of our mercantile marine by British and Colonial seamen P To me it appears that such a plan alone aims at the better training of officers for the merchant navy, since it is impossible to suppose that any youngster passing from the ' Conway' or the' Worcester' training-ships would deliberately settle down to the laborious life of an A.B. in any forecastle. Did space permit, much might be said on this most important subject; but, briefly stated, the real cause of the lack of British- born seamen in the mercantile marine is as follows :—(1) The extremely inferior quality of food supplied by many ship- owners; (2) the low rate of wages prevailing ; (3) the almost total absence of suitable accommodation in sailing vessels; (4) the brutal treatment constantly adopted by men in authority. Until the merchant sailor attains the recognition afforded to soldiers and bluejackets, it is hopeless to imagine that self- respecting men will put up with such victuals, treatment, and discomfort as now prevail in most merchant ships ; and not until then can any diminution of the foreign element in cargo- carrying ships be looked for. Mr. Millen has already pointed out in several of his books the real sources of regret in this matter, and they coincide with the opinions formed by many others having connection with seafaring life.—I am, Sir, &c.,
JOHN A. RIGGINSON, Ealing, W. (late Royal Mail Steam Packet Company).
[We welcome Mr. Higginson's letter with special pleasure, because we have always felt that the view he sets forth is the true one. What is wanted is to make sea-life more attractive to seamen,—especially in the matter of food and accommodation. If our ship-owners would improve the con- ditions under which their men serve, instead of bewailing the influx of foreigners, we should soon see a great increase in the numbers of seamen of British blood.—En. Spectator.]