Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Holt's Mutual Aid Society Booth, Cathcart Street, Birkenhead
The Holt's wharf was based at the bottom of Cathcart Street in Birkenhead adjacent Vittoria Dock in the East Float section of Birkenhead Docks. In the 1930 photograph above, you can see the wharf in the centre of the photograph on the far left. The map below shows the position of the wharf with Cathcart Street running all the way down from Conway Street in the west to the Great Float in the east.
Holt's "Mutual Aid Society Booth" according to the Kelly's Directory 1927 a clothier manufacturers on the right side of Cathcart Street on the dock side of Corporation Road. In 1927, Holt's Mutual Aid Society Limited was managed by Captain Alfred B. Pightling who was a Marine Superintendent. It is possible that Holt's had a "booth" nearer to the dock but I have not found one indicated on any map, in a trade journal or a history of the company. Certainly, the uniform Lowry obtained for the journey and proudly wore during his time at Cambridge University was manufactured in the above building.
Lowry refers to the company in his novel Ultramarine; "After agreeing to meet Nikolai on the Oedipus Tyrannus, he had gone with some of the sailors to a "Mutual Aid Society Booth" in Cathcart Street, near the berth of the ship, a street dreary in the grainy rain, and loud with the clatter of shunting dockside engines and the shouts of floury stevedores...(Pg. 20). Lowry lists the items Dana collects at the booth which possibly replicates his own experiences; "He had bought....a sea jersey, two singlets, a shanghai jacket and dungaree trousers, and a pair of sea boots..". (Pg. 20); later Norman ridicules Dana at the booth; "While Andy, pursuing logically his conduct in the Mutual Aid Society Booth, usually went out of his way to be cruel. He had called him 'Miss Hilliot'. Hurry up there, Miss Hilliot..." (Pg. 22)