Letters to the Editor published in the March 2015 issue.
From: Captain Laurence H. Stroud, Master M.N. Retired. by email
I have just had the privilege of reading the Shipping magazine of October 2013. I served as a Master in that company for two years from 1985. I was Master of Jemrix after she was lengthened and took her on her first voyage from Hull after she had been lengthened. I note from my notebook, that lengthening of 10.37 metres took place in September 1985, her keel being laid in 1964. Our first cargo was from Sunderland where we loaded 1,760 tons of sea sand for Wick. However, my Discharge Book (R 534629) gives the date of signing articles as 21st October 1985 whereas the photograph information states that she was lengthened in 1986.
I signed off to leave on 23rd April 1986 in Gunness having traded up into the Baltic to Gdansk and Gdynia as well as other continental ports. She was quite a fast vessel and the extra length certainly helped. In a following sea-state similar to the photograph, someone said that she was like a motorised surf board. I have a painting of her by an artist who’s name is Norris. He came aboard in Sharpness looking for business and asked if it should be painted as is, in dock, or at sea. My wife, who used to sail with me, asked if he would paint it in rough weather as we’d just had a bit of a ride from Blaye up the river Dordogne in France. He took a small paint chipping from the vessel’s side to get the right colour. This man did a great job and had never received any art training. He told me that when he went to the art school he was told that the theory and art lessons would not benefit him and likely destroy his natural talent. Norris only had one arm after losing his left arm in a motor accident.
I am sorry to read that Jemrix had such a sad end. I was also relieving Master on both Robrix and Timrix and had previously sailed as Mate aboard Salrix back in 1975. The Jem of Jemrix was named after John Rix’s wife June Elizabeth Marshall (her maiden surname). This snippet was given to me by Mr. John Rix as we were swinging compasses prior to going to sea after the lengthening. His father-inlaw, Mr. Marshall, was also with us. Happy memories!
From: A. D. Frost, Sunderland
Having read Norman Middlemiss’s article “Coastal Queens” I would like to add a correction on Island Queen, built 1920, which was said to have been built on the Tyne. She was actually built on the Wear by Swan, Hunter. This yard was set up in WWI to built concrete tugs and barges and was originally called Wear Concrete Yard of which one of its products was the Cretehawser which to this date is a semi submerged hulk in sight of her birth place. After the War the yard was taken over by Swan, Hunter as a overflow yard, after which it was taken over by Aito & Co. Ltd. (Derby) pipe works for the manufacture of ships heating coils etc. before being absorbed into Austin & Pickersgills for the production of SD14’s etc. and now individual work units.
From: Roger Emtage, by e-mail
Re: Brasil and Argentina
I’m writing to thank you for the summary of the subject ships in the October edition. Please extend thanks to Mr Middlemiss. I had the enormous privilege of growing up in Barbados in the 1950s and 1960s and have extremely fond memories of both sets of ships, the pair retired in 1958, and their successors. I visited them many times, and even have some old cine film of a visit to the elderly Brasil in 1957. This is now on DVD! A dear family friend was returning to Buenos Aires and we were seeing her off.
I can see the Brasil or Argentina in my mind’s eye steaming southeast away from the island in the late afternoon sun. They always sailed promptly at 1600 hours and the track south to Rio and B.A. took them along the south coast of the island. They were a low lying pair, especially as designed, before the added cabins (and the sun lounge was removed), and the hull was soon dipping below the horizon. As they gathered speed for the long voyage south, spray could be seen whipping over the bow, and the wake churning at the stern. Wonderful, sturdy ships. Many years later as Volendam and Veendam they returned on numerous occasions to my homeland and I was at this time their Pilot. Very deep drafted and slow to react, but you knew you were handling a real ship!
I knew those ships so well. While the American construction was outstanding and extremely robust, it could be said that the interiors were not their greatest asset under Moore McCormack. They were more elegant under HAL management. But the design and space is all to the credit of M. McC. “The Good Neighbour Fleet.” Thank you to Mr Middlemiss for charting such a tangle of ownerships, managements, companies. I really hope someone will write a whole book about this pair one day.
From: Henry Aitken, Norwich
Thank you for the article on the Windsor Castle. I lived in Durban the whole time that the Windsor Castle called at the port. Before the liner made her maiden voyage there was a flurry of promotional material to advertise the ship. The ship arrived in Durban on Tuesday 6th September 1960 on her maiden visit. I remember going down to the ship on sailing day Thursday 8th September as my parents had good friends who were returning to the UK. We were allowed on board to say goodbye, quite a difference to today. I received a post card from them posted in Cape Town on 12th September when the ship was berthed there after her return from the coastal trip. The Windsor Castle met the Winchester Castle, which she was replacing and which was on her last voyage, in Port Elizabeth on 3rd September 1960.
As mentioned the ship served on the mail run for 17 years until she left Durban on 31st August 1977 on her final voyage. She received a tremendous send off with the North Pier being packed with cars and crowds of people. Attached is a photograph of the ship leaving Durban for the last time.
I travelled on the Windsor Castle on a coast wise trip from Durban down to Cape Town and enjoyed the voyage. The Union Castle liners are still remembered in South Africa but it is hard to realise that it is 54 years since the ship arrived in Durban and 37 years ago that the liners departed the mail service.
From: David Aris, by e-mail
I was most interested to read, Readers Corner regarding the “unknown ship”, in the August issue as my father was Chief Engineer officer of MV Greystoke Castle when she ran aground on Verde island on 26 November 1938. One reader described this ship as a latex carrier, well she did have two tanks to carry liquid latex but she was a general cargo carrier with accommodation for 12 passengers.
Chambers of Liverpool ran a liner cargo service (known as the Dodwell Castle Line) around the world with their home port being New York. They were a technically progressive company and foresaw the introduction of the diesel engine and whilst most of their ships were built at Cammel Laird in Birkenhead they worked closely with the North Eastern Marine Engineering Company in Wallsend on Tyneside for their main engines. Hence the Dutch designed Werkspoor engines, built under license, in the twin screwed Thurland and Greystoke Castles. They were also the first company to have installed the NEM reheat triple expansion engines in their steamers. The very last ship they had built was the SS. Bolton Castle (Bolton 2nd) by James Laing at Sunderland, with a NEM triple expansion reheat engine from Wallsend. As a child of 10 I saw this ship launched, sadly she only lasted until June 1942 when she was sunk by German aircraft as part of the ill fated convoy PQ17 bound for Murmansk.
My father served in the following “Castles”, Hornby, Bolton (1),Penrith, Thurland, Muncaster, Lowther, Greystoke,and Bolton (2). His First Class Board of Trade Certificate, First Class is dated 19th June 1908 (only Steam in those days!) but anticipating the introduction of diesel engines into the Chambers fleet and whilst serving as 2nd engineer of the Penrith Castle, he sat an examination in Singapore and obtained a Motor (diesel) endorsement to his certificate, this on 29th May 1930. A “round the world” voyage in the Dodwell schedule, New York to New York, took six months and my father was expected to serve for five round trips, i.e. 2.5 years, before coming home to the UK as a Cunard passenger for leave!
This remarkable service, ceased of course at the outbreak of WW2.