Friday, February 23, 2018

BallylessonI am told that my passion for ships began when about two years old, whilst perched in a homemade infant seat on the back of a Great Uncle’s ancient bicycle and apparently observing departure preparations from Ayr’s South Harbour of a Clyde Steamer bound for the Isle of Arran.

I had jumped with fright when someone whom I had been watching, had reached up to sound the then obligatory three long blasts of the ship’s steam whistle to denote departure. By all accounts I had then queried “Who is he?” pointing upwards. Henceforth, I had made it known to all relatives and others when the oft raised childhood “when you grow up” question was posed; “Captain of a ship!” was my forthright response.

By age eight I had deserted my siblings, in favour of a world of ships and the sea. At my ‘homeport’ of Ayr, I would initially observe on the south side of the river, the comings and goings at the Firth of Clyde’s then main dockside fish market of the large (mainly purse netter) fishing fleet. Later and somewhat more daringly, ventures to the infinitely more interesting North Harbour was where I could get up close to ‘real’ ships – the seemingly endless flow of John Kelly’s “Bally boats”, where I would become acquainted with Ballylumford, Ballymoney, the ancient Ballyhalbert and the then only motorship in the fleet and rather more rare visitor, the all aft Ballyedward (soon to be joined by the Company’s new motorships, the Aberdeen built Ballyloran and Ballylesson).

On occasion, a Robertson’s Gem Line ship, such as Pearl or London & Rochester’s Crescent Shipping, Quiescence might arrive with a cargo of fertilizer and following discharge, load at either a river or dock basin berth the high quality steam coal brought by rail from the then numerous Ayrshire mines and destined for the ever hungry maws of the Belfast and Londonderry power stations. Ayr through the ‘50’s was the semi-permanent home for at least one unit of Caledonian Steam Packet’s excursion fleet, either the coal burning Marchioness of Graham during the earliest years or the faster Duchess of Hamilton. By 1960, the paddler Caledonia had become the ‘resident’.

CaledoniaA permanent and seemingly little used vessel within the confines of the harbour, was the 1938 Simons, Renfrew built steamer, the bucket ladder dredger Carrick of the British Transport Commission whose sole task appeared to be the maintenance of Ayr and nearby Troon waters. On very rare occasions would she stray to more distant shores, to Fleetwood for example. At that time, the bustling port of Troon, serving the needs of the Ailsa Shipyard and its two graving docks and on the north wall a never ending flow of miscellaneous vessels, large and small, merchant and naval, for demolition by the West of Scotland Shipbreaking Company, called upon the periodic attention of Carrick.

In time I began to be recognised and acknowledged by Dock staff - the affable Customs & Excise Officer for Ayr and Troon and the Ports’ Berthing master/Harbour pilots. Later and within the confines of the then ancient and pipe smoke laden atmosphere of the Pilots’ Roundhouse located at the NW extremity of Ayr’s North Harbour, I was tutored and challenged by the Senior Berthing Master, in his gentle and lilting Western Isles tones, to ‘box the compass’ to 32 points. After coaxed success, I ‘graduated’ to visits to the lower level of the building during cold and often stormy winters’ evenings, there to become practised in the mysteries of compass correction, the use of parallel rulers and dividers, leading ultimately to my laying off courses, distances and position finding on Admiralty charts. A true delight was accompanying my instructor aboard an imminently departing vessel, to discuss times, tides, drafts and other details.

CarrickBy the mid 1950’s, Ayr had developed a healthy scrap metal export business, with such cargoes usually destined for Spain and where the commodity was shipped by small (usually ex Dutch, none too tidy and well worn) all aft Spanish flag motor coasters and which without the appropriate exemptions, by regulation required Pilotage services. Whilst rare, I also experienced the joys of the Port’s ancient pilot boat. Collectively these activities were the fuel to my ever developing interests and passion for ships.

Consequent to a Glasgow schooling and acquaintance with that city, I was naturally drawn to its extensive docklands and bustling shipyards. Another enthusiast, schoolmate Allan and myself would begin our spotter expeditions at the city centre’s Customs House Quay and work our way downriver, where possible by use of the network of free Clyde Navigation Trust operated pedestrian ferries. Beginning at the 1864 Tyne built sailing vessel, another Carrick, with her cut down masts (the vessel now preserved for posterity at Port Adelaide, South Australia in her original City of Adelaide name) could be observed one or more of J & A Gardner’s small coasters such as the ageing (1920) Saint Aidan working a cargo of phosphates, sand or other bulk material, duly enshrouding the adjacent Clyde Street ‘SMT’ bus station and awaiting vehicles in a fine dust coating.

Under the Central Station railway lines and by crossing the Glasgow Bridge at an early hour, could be seen during ‘the season’, a CSP steamer, usually the turbine Queen Mary II alongside Bridge Wharf preparing for her daily “Doon the Watter” passage to Rothesay and the Kyles of Bute. Seen also at this vantage point immediately downriver of Bridge Wharf, a member of William Sloan’s coaster fleet such as Fruin, Tay or Deveron loading for Bristol Channel and South Wales ports. A check beyond could then be made on which of David MacBrayne’s all-cargo ships Loch Ard, Loch Carron or Loch Dunvegan was on turnround in the Kingston Dock. By contrast and immediately downriver at Springfield Quay might be the rare sighting of a Paddy Henderson passenger/ cargo vessel such as the ageing Salween loading for Burma. Later, that Company’s ships including their ‘K’ class all-cargo vessels would occupy Prince’s Dock berths.

Returning to the North bank of the river, my mate and I would trudge the first mile or so down Glasgow’s Broomielaw to catch a glimpse of one of Burns & Laird’s essentially identical overnight sailing ‘Belfast boats’, Royal Scotsman or Royal Ulsterman – distinguishable only by the thistle wind vane at Royal Scotsman’s mainmast truck or the shamrock at her sister’s fore. Perhaps Lairds Loch might also be sighted preparing for her thrice weekly sailings to Londonderry. By surreptitious access to the cargo sheds we could view Irish Coast or younger and virtually identical sister, the Burns & Laird marked Scottish Coast slightly further upriver, loading for a night sailing to Dublin. Further ‘stealth’ in these sheds would be rewarded with a view across the river of one or more deep drafted ore carriers berthed at the General Terminus Quay discharging their Puerto Ordaz, Vitoria, Sept Isles, Narvik or Murmansk cargoes via grabs and a complex conveyor belt system into railway wagons for transhipment to Colville’s Lanarkshire smelters and steel works at Motherwell.

From time to time Grangesberg Oxelosund’s Swedish flag, grey hulled, beautifully maintained and somewhat uniquely designed/minimalist midships house oil/ore carriers such as the 16,000 ton Vassijaure could be seen alongside, providing interesting contrast to the rather more conventionally designed British flag Denholm, Common Brothers, Houlders, Lyle, Souter’s Sheaf Steam & Bamburgh Shipping, Silver Line, Bolton Steam’s North Yorkshire Shipping and Wm. Cory’s Garth fleets.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - February 2016 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Magellan

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2

Top 10 Books and DVDs 2017

Maritime Log

  • Pier Head Memorial to Battle of the Atlantic +

    Battle of the Atlantic Memorial A campaign has been launched to raise £2.5mn to build a national Battle of the Atlantic Memorial at the Pier Read More
  • Benefits of Shipping Power Station Parts by Sea +

    Power Station Boiler Two new 110 tonnes heat exchangers to be used in refitting Centrica’s power station at King’s Lynn, arrived at the Read More
  • Container Ship Fleet Hits 21m Record +

    Port of Hamburg The world's cellular container ship fleet reached a record 21mn teu last November, according to the analysts Alphaliner. Read More
  • Bravery Awards for Pilots’ Actions +

    Michael G McGee and Michael C Phillips Two pilots who brought a burning ship to safety, averting a major maritime catastrophe, have been presented with the 2017 Read More
  • Mammoth Crane Vessel for Obsolete Platforms +

    OOS Zeelandia The Dutch OOS International Group BV has signed a contract with China Merchants Industry Holdings for the design and building Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Ship Adrift in Port +

    Helsinki Bridge Port tugs and members of the US Coast Guard, the Massport Fire Department, Boston Police Department and the Massachusetts State Read More
  • Services Mark Four Chaplains Tragedy +

    Dorchester Services are being held in many communities in the United States this month to mark the 75th anniversary of the Read More
  • Fast Crew Supply Vessel Launched +

    FCS 7011 As part of its relationship with Damen Shipyards, of the Netherlands, the Louisiana-based shipbuilder Metal Shark is offering the new Read More
  • First Of Three Self-Unloaders Now In Service +

    Algoma Niagara The first of the Algoma Central Corporation’s three Equinox class selfunloading bulk carriers for the Great Lakes and the St Read More
  • Special US Frigate Makes Harbour Trip +

    USS Constitution The historic US frigate Constitution made a special trip to Charlestown, Massachusetts, on Oct 20 last to mark the ship’s Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Protests at Certificate for Bangladesh Yard +

    Chittagong Shipbreaking Trade Unions and non-government organisations have protested following the move by the Italian classification society RINA to issue the PHP Read More
  • Automated Port Tested +

    Yangshan Deepwater Port Trial operations have begun at the world’s biggest automated container terminal at Shanghai, China. Read More
  • MHI Splits Into Two +

    MHI Nagasaki Shipyard The Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has established two new wholly-owned companies in a major reorganisation of its shipbuilding Read More
  • Fifth Is A First For Japan +

    MOL Truth The first Japanese-built 20,170 teu container ship was named MOL Truth at a ceremony on Oct 25 at the Imabari Read More
  • Sheep Ban After Ship Fails Safety Checks +

    Al Messilah A livestock carrier lost her licence to carry sheep from Australia after failing port state control checks at a livestock Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • New Patrol ship for Danes +

    HDMS Lauge Koch Danish News On 11 December, in a ceremony held at Naval Station Korsør, the Royal Danish Navy commissioned the third Read More
  • Royal Navy ‘Cannibalising’ Ships for Parts +

    HMS Artful UK News Once again, the Royal Navy was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the closing months Read More
  • New Oiler for Canada +

    Asterix Canadian News The Royal Canadian Navy’s long wait for a new replenishment oiler for the fleet is nearly at an Read More
  • HMS Queen Elizabeth Arrives at Home Port +

    HMS Queen Elizabeth British News An event following the 2010 Defence Review many thought would never happen occurred on Wednesday 16 August when Read More
  • Work Starts on Three Warships +

    Type 25 British News After an almost unseemly wait, the Royal Navy can breathe again having held its breath waiting for the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Lake Cruising +

    Western Belle In the English Lake District, on several of the Lakes, there are lake operations all year round. Read More
  • Wrestling Gales +

    Pride of Kent The sight of the familiar P&O ferry Pride of Kent blown aground while leaving Calais for Dover, is a shock. Read More
  • Indonesian Focus +

    Doro Landa To the Far East – PELNI (Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia) is Indonesia’s national shipping company, state-owned and operated, serving the entire Indonesian Read More
  • New FSG Builds +

    WB Yeats Readers will recall Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG), delivered the Ullapool-Stornaway ship Loch Seaforth to CalMac in late 2014, as well as Read More
  • Nostalgic Scout Trip Remembered +

    South Shields Scouts A morale boosting and nostalgic story from not long after WW2 came to my notice. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Ocean Troll +

    Ocean Troll Meanwhile, as the oil price is showing signs of recovery and the future of other oil and gas fi elds Read More
  • West Coast Drama +

    Fame High drama off the coast of Harris in December, when the small Norwegian flag freighter Fame, long a familiar presence Read More
  • Pickle +

    Pickle After the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson in 1805, the Royal Navy sent their fast schooner Pickle Read More
  • Cargo by Sail +

    Tres Hombres and Morgenster At the beginning of October the brigantine Tres Hombres sailed from Den Helder, North Holland, to Zaandam, Amsterdam before beginning Read More
  • From Rix To Stevie Clarkes +

    “Ronrix” leaving for Hull The name Rix is long associated with Humber ports with origins traced to Hull businessman Captain Robert Rix in the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • International Salvage Union: Challenging Times +

    Costa Concordia The International Salvage Union (ISU) is the global trade association representing marine salvors, its members provide essential services to the Read More
  • Hunterston Port Secures Energy Decommissioning Investment +

    Hunterston Port Hunterston Port and Resource Centre (PARC) in Ayrshire has been awarded grant funding from the Scottish Government that could pave Read More
  • British Antarctic Territory – Royal Research Ships +

    British Antartic Ships Stamps One of the good news stories of 2016 was that, against strong international competition, the famous Merseyside shipbuilding company, Cammell Read More
  • MV Glen Sannox, The UK’s First LNG Ferry +

    MV Glen Sannox Tuesday 21st November 2017 marked a very special occasion when Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the UK's first LNG Read More
  • P&O Report Strong Larne-Cairnryan Freight Demand +

    European Causeway Having spent over twenty years in shipping operations between Loch Ryan (South West Scotland) and Northern Ireland, I still take Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Slice Of The Action +

    YachtQuarters For those who find reading about yachts is not enough, and seek a slice of the action, here is news Read More
  • Innovative Itineraries That Make The Difference +

    Scenic Eclipse Whilst it is true that the majority of new cruise vessels emerging from the world’s shipyards fit into the category Read More
  • Hamburg Highlights its Harbour and Cruise Callers +

    Grand Hamburg Cruise Days Parade There are a number of ports around the globe who promote and celebrate their harbours on a fairly regular basis. Read More
  • Pedal to the Metal? +

    Norwegian Bliss NCL has announced that their new build, the Norwegian Bliss, the company’s 16th ship, is set to launch in June Read More
  • Classic with a Twist +

    Project 697 Reminiscent of the beautiful Aurora B dating from 1992, the newly launched 47-metre and somewhat secretive Project 697 from Feadship Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

National Maritime Museum of Ireland Interior

National Maritime Museum of Ireland

The National Maritime Museum of Ireland is located in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin. It is housed in the 180-year-old Mariners Read More
Loch Morar

Empire Ships - An Early Experience

During World War Two, the losses of Britain’s merchant ships rapidly overtook their replacement rate, either from new construction, or Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Endeavour

Clews, Bunts & Reefs

With celebrations being planned next year for the 250 year commemoration of Captain Cook’s first landfall in New Zealand, I Read More
Encounter Bay

Shipping Services between Europe & Australia

In 2019 we will mark the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of the first oceangoing container ship, the Overseas Containers Read More
  • 1
  • 2