Monday, 18 May 2009

Great Homer Street v Sea Road

Lowry's book Ultramarine opens with a scene where Dana Hilliot the main character signs onto Oedipus Tyrannus the ship which takes him on a voyage to the Far East. The story is based on Lowry's own similar voyage which he made as a mess boy on the Blue Funnel ship Pyrrhus.

This opening scene immediately sets the tension between Dana (Lowry) and his other shipmates. Though Dana, Andersen the cook and Norman the galley boy all have Norwegian roots, they are set apart by their home addresses. Andersen and Norman live in Great Homer Street in Everton which was a poor working class area of Liverpool in the 1920's.

In contrast, Dana lives on the Wirral and for some reason Lowry doesn't place his character in Caldy where Lowry lived at the time of his sea voyage in 1927. However, Lowry's choice of Sea Road Port Sunlight is significant. There is no such road in Port Sunlight but Lowry places Dana in a road named after the sea which was so important to Lowry. Port Sunlight was a model village for workers built by Lord Leverhulme ,which can bear comparison to the upper class idyllic community created in the village of Caldy built by David Benno Rappart, in that both were visions of alternatives to the slums and deprivation of Liverpool.

The tension Lowry creates in that scene is that Dana is different from the rest of the crew. The Wirral is seen as an alternative to Liverpool which is a theme Lowry continued to develop in other works.The Wirral was Lowry's first Eridanus, the name he gave to his later Dollarton home, and Liverpool which Lowry called "that terrible city whose main street is the ocean".

The photograph above shows the Everton/Kirkdale areas of Liverpool, with Great Homer Street running through the middle of the photograph from left to right, and New Brighton Lowry's birthplace can be seen in the background across the River Mersey. This photographs contrasts with the highly stylised postcards of Port Sunlight below which demonstrate the "paradise" for workers created by Lord Leverhulme.

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