My mother is the owner of a model ship made by her grandfather in 1903, so it is now 114 years old.

The ship is called Irkutsk and as a child, she was told it was the first ship made in Palmers Yard. Her grandfather was unable to work after an accident in the shipyard in which he sustained facial injuries caused by a rivet. The model became his hobby and it took him seven years to carve and complete. I have enclosed a photo of the model and some information we were given about the ship is below. I am wondering if any readers could possibly supply further information, or even photographs of the original ship. The model is approximately 3.5 ft in length and had recently been re-housed in a new Perspex case.

The steamer Irkutsk was built for the Danish DFDS company by R Stephenson & Co of Hebburn in 1903. With her sister ships, the Kurgan and the Wologda, she was intended to provide a trading service from Hull and Newcastle to Imperial Russia. She was a typical North Sea steamer of the day with raised forecastle and split superstructure, surmounted by a tall black funnel, on which was painted a yellow butter barrel, as much of the cargo from Russia was of this commodity at the time. Gross measurement was 2,355 tons and accommodation was provided for some 46 passengers.

The ships were actually sold to Lassmann Brothers of Moscow, and provided a weekly service from London’s Upper Pool to St Petersburg via Germany. In 1909, the Riga based firm of Helsing and Grimm became managing owners in place of Lassmann and the Irkutsk was renamed Imperator Nicolai II. After a brief spell as a French Government Troop Ship in 1919/20 she was sold back to DFDS in 1920 and renamed the Dagmar serving on North Sea routes until 1940.

She was then requisitioned by the UK Government, given the suffix 1, but whilst on-route from Malaga to Clyde with a cargo of 1100 tons of oranges and oxide, she was hit by enemy aircraft on 9 February 1941. Of her crew of 26 and 4 gunners, 4 crew’ and 1 gunner were lost. Tugs failed to locate the vessel, which was then presumed sunk. Lat 35 42N, long 14 3BW.

This model of the Irkutsk was made by Lawrence wheatley of Hebburn at the same time as the ship was being built by Stephenson & Co in what was later to become ‘Palmer’s Yard’.

24 Queens Crescent, Hebburn
Tyne & Wear, NE31 2TF

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