Thursday, March 19, 2020

Throwback Thursday - Furness Withy

The name Furness Withy has long been associated with the port of Halifax. From the 1870s Furness family ships called in Halifax. Furness Withy Co Ltd was incorporated in 1891, and branched out with many subsidiaries.

A London to Halifax passenger service began in 1900 with Evangeline, joined in 1901 by Loyalist. Other lines were taken over or started. These included the Furness Bermuda Line (built on Quebec  Steamship Co) and the Prince Line (acquired from Sir James Knott in 1919). Various other lines such as William Johnson and Warren Line were acquired and combined in 1935. Most had Liverpool and Manchester connections, so  Halifax was the closest North American port. Among other services, Furness Withy operated the Red Cross Line (acquired from Bowrings in 1929) joining New York, Halifax, St.John's and St-Pierre. Furness Withy was also a major investor in Richelieu + Ontario Navigation when it formed Northern Navigation  Co (later Canada Steamship Lines.)

The company also set up a wholly owned agency and stevedoring operation in Halifax, and other ports under the Furness Withy Stevedoring banner. During World War II the stevedoring / agency service was placed in a war footing and represented the British government. In Halifax alone it handled 7,050 ships carrying 3,638,446 tons and, despite wartime conditions, 123,341 passengers.

All this is a lead in to some ships that called in Halifax before I arrived here. They were the predecessors to the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia pictured here on January 23:

As mentioned in that post there was a previous pair of sister ships called Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. They were the second set of Furness With ships to carry the names. Built by Vickers Armstrong, High Walker, they were cargo passenger ships with a capacity of 160 passengers.

Nova Scotia dated from 1947. The 7438 grt ship was renamed Francis Drake in 1962 and broken up in Kaohsiung in 1971.

Newfoundland 7437 grt was built in 1948, was renamed George Anson in 1962 and was also  broken up in Kaohsiung in 1971.

By the early 1960s passenger numbers declined and the ships reduced capacity to 12 thus reducing catering staff from 60 to 12. The ships still continued as valuable cargo carriers however, carrying grain and generals.

Two examples: The Nova Scotia sailed from Halifax April 29, 1961  bound for St.John's. Fire was discovered in the cargo in number 1 hold, and the ship had to return to Halifax May 1 since St.John's was closed due to ice. The fire was soon extinguished. There were 110 passengers on board.
  On January 23, 1962 the ship reported fire in number 1 hold, but that it was under control. Carrying 59 passengers, the ship put into Cobh, Ireland where the fire was extinguished. Cargo included matches, firecrackers, cotton and tractors.

They maintained the bi- weekly service between Liverpool, St.John's, Halifax and Boston for Furness Warren Line, until their replacements came into service.

Furness Withy's other services included the Prince Line, of which Cingalese Prince was a typical ship.

Built in 1950 by the same Vickers-Armstrong yard, it was 8827 grt, 10,515 dwt ship. It was fitted with deep tanks and carried coconut oil, which was sent to Ontario  to make margarine.

 It was renamed Gallic in 1960, Cingalese Prince in 1962, Gloucestershire in 1964 and Cresco in 1971 en route to Whampoa where it was broken up in 1972. It also appear to have had limited passenger capacity.

Stuart Prince  of Prince Line was chartered to Furness Warren's Furness Red Cross Line as Fort Hamilton from 1951 to 1958. Its name recalled an earlier Furness-Bermuda passenger ship. However it traded on the Boston, Halifax, St.John's, St-Pierre range and also called in smaller out of the way ports, such as Sheet Harbour (to load paper pulp) on demand.

Built by Smith's Dock Co, South Bank, in 1940 it was a steamship of only 1911 grt. It reverted to Stuart Prince on completion of the charter but was laid up until sold in 1959. It became Halcyon Med for Lebanese owners but did not last long. On August 24, 1960 it was run down and cut in two in fog by the tanker Esso Switzerland, 120 miles east of Gibraltar.  The after portion sank immediately, but the forward portion sank while in tow the next day.

The ship was carrying esparto grass from Arzew, Algeria to Granton. That long forgotten trade provided material for the production of rugs, baskets, belts, shoes, paper and similar craft and clothing items.


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