1876 - 1908
Item of interest - Immigrants’ deaths at Sea, burial at Nunsthorpe Cemetery Grimsby.
‘In a lonely corner in the little Hebrew graveyard out in the country near Grimsby …’ is how the Jewish Chronicle begins their report on the burial of 5 immigrants from Russia who died on board a steamship in 1908.
The burials took place at Nunsthorpe Jewish Cemetery and the tragic incident that lead to their deaths is well reported in various newspapers of the time.
These reports give a small insight into the experiences of immigrants from Russia on their way to a new life.
At least 3 of the immigrants were from the same family: Miriam Woloff, the eldest was 19 years old, Blumah, 15 years and Michel, 11 years. The others 2 were Pesach Leib Ronin 35 years and Schije Kuperstein 32 years.
They all boarded the steam ship SS Ashton at Antwerp on Sat December 12th 1908. They were sailing to Grimsby, from where they would travel to Liverpool before embarking on the last part of their journey to USA. The Woloff’s had passage booked on the Carthaginian and the others on the Ivernia to America.
The vessel set sail on the Sat evening and they were each served tinned beef, bread and butter. They had with them some German sausages, tinned cherries and chutney.
The following morning they were each taken ill, complaining of thirst and thought to be suffering from sea sickness, despite the fact that the sea was unusually calm. By noon on the Sunday the steward found 3 of them dead and the other two died within the next hour. Officials initially thought it was Cholera but further investigation proved otherwise.
The 5 were the only steerage passengers on this journey, there had been a sixth but she had changed her ticket to first class before sailing.
The captain described the steerage conditions during the inquest saying that position of the berths was between decks and directly above the forehold with a hatchway communicating between them. The ship's cargo in the hold included nine tons of ferro silicon in barrels. The captain had been informed that if confined it would explode and be liable to fire if wet. The steerage passengers’ berths were above the hold and although the barrels did not explode they did let off poisonous gasses which killed the five immigrants.
The jury found that the victims died through inhaling poisonous gasses emitted from the ferro silicon. They exonerated the ship’s officers from blame.
So in a lonely corner in the little Hebrew graveyard out in the country near Grimsby five immigrants who had left their homes in Russia three weeks earlier bound for America were buried.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that practically the whole of the Jewish Community of Grimsby attended the funeral, the mourners having to stand knee deep in mud while the last rites were performed and the rain fell.