The Ruys Family of Shipowners

This famous Dutch fleet of passenger and cargo vessels with black funnels was known as Royal Rotterdam Lloyd in post-war years from 1947 to 1970, as Rotterdam Lloyd from 1883 to 1947, and as the management company of Willem Ruys & Zonen (Sons) from 1861. The founder Willem Ruys was born on 1st April 1809, the son of a clergyman, and during his long life of eighty years until his death on 5th august 1889 he operated a fleet of 23 sailing ships. He married Jeanette Ruys-los and they had three sons Jan Daniel Ruys (born 1835), Willem Ruys (born 1837) and Daniel Theodorus Ruys (born 1841). The founder began in business in 1828 as a shipbroker, forwarding agent and insurance broker, and in 1839 became the part owner of a barque on the 64ths principle. The main trade was to the Dutch East indies, but also to Mauritius, India, Singapore and with inducement to China, Japan, and to Australia. Willem Ruys announced his retirement on 15th March, 1867, and his three sons began the process of transforming the fleet from sailing ships into more reliable steamers after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

The first steamer was named Ariadne of 1,237 grt when she was delivered from the Sunderland yard of William Pile & Company in august 1870. She had a whalebacked weather fo’c’stle, two masts with sails on the foremast as insurance against engine breakdowns, and a twin cylinder simple steam engine. She was completed to carry iron ore from Spain to Holland and for service to the Mediterranean and to the Baltic in summer. She made one voyage to New York in July 1972, and was the first Ruys vessel to transit the Suez Canal en route to the Dutch East indies in 1873. Two larger three masted steamers of 2,534 grt were completed by Charles Mitchell & Company on the Tyne in 1875 as Groningen and Friesland. The opening of the New Waterway connecting Rotterdam to the sea in 1872 provided an impetus for all shipping companies based in Rotterdam.

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