Ben VarreyI was greatly saddened to learn of the demise of Ramsey SS Co which was wound up earlier this year due to the liabilities of its share of the merchant navy pension fund.

It came to an efficient and relatively painless end, its remaining ships Ben Maye and Ben Varrey being acquired by one of the other few remaining small UK based operations, Absolute Shipping, for whom they continue to trade without change of name.

Ramsey SS Co had been in business for nearly a hundred years originally with small vessels destined to serve Man’s several small harbours. Coal and agricultural freights were the staple cargoes for most of their history.

Their Maltese Cross carrying funnels are one of my earliest memories. I would think nothing of walking from my home eight miles along the beach to Whitehaven when invariably there would be a smart Ramsey boat, Ben Ain or Ben Rein, under the coal chute there. On my first visit to the Isle of Man on a Manxman excursion from Workington on the Solway, there was a Ramsey boat offloading in the inner harbour at Douglas. I have never forgotten witnessing her unloading her coal cargo by wicker basket – as recently as the late 1950s! I guess it prevented the coal from being further broken up and dusty.

I also recall the arrival of their colourful motor coasters. That seemed to set them on a more modern trajectory, ahead of their Irish Sea compatriots and rivals, John Monks or Kellys of Belfast.

It remains to be seen whether the trading patterns of the ex Ramsey boats will change radically, but as I write Ben Maye 548,’79 has recently been to Ramsey as well as Hull, Belfast, Rochester, Littlehampton and Runcorn. Ben Varrey 997,’86 is in Antwerp having recently been in the Tees and to Terneuzen, Plymouth, Belfast, Ipswich and Blyth.

Readers may recall the previous vessel sold by Ramsey SS, the little Ben Ellan, which came from the yard of Cook at Wivenhoe as the River Tamar. She was sold in 2010 to an operator in Paramaribo, Suriname, South America, and she has been reported to be moored in the river there though how active she is I have no news. Still, she must have been considered worthy of that long expensive delivery voyage because Paramaribo is a quite a way from Ramsey, and from Wivenhoe for that matter. Brian Climie’s stern view of her departing Rotterdam for the tropics clearly shows her Ramsey port of registry under the crudely painted ‘Port Vila’.

The UK coastal scene is diminished without the Ramsey SS Co.

More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - October 2014 Issue
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