Activity: Participating in or organising an event types › Participation in workshop, seminar, course
‘All were in the same boat’: Sister Mary Paul Mulquin and Brunel’s ‘Greyhound of the Seas’
This paper examines the diary of Sister Mary Paul Mulquin, which she kept during her 1873 voyage from Liverpool to Australia on board the ss Great Britain: a steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and affectionately known as ‘the greyhound of the seas’ owing to her speed. The vessel can now be found fully restored as a museum ship dry-docked in Bristol harbour. Sister Mary Paul, together with six other members of her religious order, left their convent in Limerick in order to found a school in Australia and the account she left of their journey is one of the best known of the passenger diaries associated with the ss Great Britain owing to the author’s elegant prose style and observational acuity. For the purposes of this event, this paper will focus on the ways in which Sister Mary Paul describes the intersection of shipboard and devotional culture and the nature of the temporary community created by the journey. As a member of a religious order, she occupies a fascinating place in the ship’s society: for, as she writes, ‘when we first arrived everyone was afraid to approach thinking, as they tell us now, we would freeze them with long austere faces – soon the ice melted and they consider us quite social to use Mr. Engall’s expression – “the brightest lights on the Great Britain”’.