(Source: N. R. P. BONSOR, Sea Breezes, January and February 1975)
We would like to thank Sea Breezes for permission to reproduce these articles and Norway Hertiage for various photographs
Publishers David and Charles kindly allowed Sea Breezes to reproduce in full this important chapter from the long-awaited second edition of N. R. P. Bonsor's “North Atlantic Seaway", which was being published in the near future in four volumes totalling 1,500 or more pages.
No fewer than 76 of the 258 chapters are entirely new; nearly all the old ones have been extensively rewritten and enlarged. We believe that all serious shiplovers, whether or not they are familiar with the first edition, will consider "NAS2" a must.
STORY OF THE ALLAN LINE
by N. R. P. BONSOR
THE Allan Line can be traced back to 1819. On May 23 that year an advertisement stated that the 169-ton brig Jean, commanded by Capt. Alexander Allan, would shortly be proceeding to Canada. She sailed on June 5 and was the forerunner of a large fleet of sailing ships placed in service on the North Atlantic by the Allan family.
Capt. Allan owned eight of the 64 shares into which, as was customary, the Jean was divided. Having been made responsible for the running of the ship and two consorts, he opened an office in Greenock, but did not forsake the sea and in 1825 took command of the Favourite, in which his second son Hugh, born at Saltcoats (Ayrshire) on September 29, 1810, emigrated to Canada in April 1826.
The 329-ton Canada was completed in 1830, the 429-ton Brilliant in 1834. the 598-ton Gipsy in 1838, the 296-ton Favourite (II) in 1839 and the 676-ton Blonde in 1841. The last four of these vessels were built in Montreal but members of the Allan family had a share in their ownership.
Capt. Allan, who retired from the command of the Favourite in 1831, established an office in Glasgow to look after the British end of their activities. James, eldest, of Capt. Allan's five sons, and his younger brother, Alexander, subsequently succeeded to the business and the style was changed to "James and Alexander Allan."
Hugh Allan had been employed as book-keeper to the firm of W. Kerr and Company of Montreal, importers of dry goods. He visited Scotland in 1830 and on return to Canada in the following year Joined the staff of James Millar and Company, shipbuilders and shipping agents, which later became "Millar, Edmonstone and Company" and, after Hugh was admitted to partnership in 1835, "Millar, Edmonstone and Allan."
Another brother, Andrew, also became a partner after the death of Mr. Millar in l938, whereupon the firm underwent a further change to "Edmonstone, Allan and Company." Finally, when Mr. Edmonstone retired in 1860 it became "Hugh and Andrew Allan." The remaining brother, Bryce, had for many years commanded one or other of the family's sailing ships, but retired from the sea in 1856 to establish an office in Liverpool under the name of "Allan Brothers."
The successful activities of the screw steamer City of Glasgow on the North Atlantic from 1850 onwards, combined with the opening in 1852 of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway between Montreal and Portland, Maine, convinced Hugh Allan that the time was ripe for steamships to be introduced into the trade between Montreal, Quebec and the United Kingdom.
The completion of the railway would enable them to make Portland their terminal during the months when the St. Lawrence was closed to navigation. He was not the first in the field however as a contract was signed during the summer of 1852 between the Canadian Government and the Liverpool firm of McKean, McLarty and Lamont for the carriage of the mails by steamship, fortnightly in summer between Liverpool and Quebec and monthly in winter between Liverpool and Portland.
The first sailing was undertaken by the 502-ton iron screw steamer Genova on April 19, 1853 from Liverpool. The line was known as the Canadian Steam Navigation Company.
Hugh Allan, undismayed, pressed on and with his four brothers and some wealthy Canadian friends, established in Montreal in 1853 the Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company - a name which remained in use officially until the closing years of the century, although from the first it was popularly referred to as the Allan Line.
The first Allan Line steamer, the 1,764-ton iron screw Canadian, was launched by Wm. Denny and Brothers, of Dumbarton, on July 13, 1854 and sailed from Liverpool for Quebec and Montreal on September 16. She had much in common with the City of Glasgow, but differed in appearance by having two closely- spaced funnels instead of one. Accommodation was provided for 80 first- class and 350 steerage passengers.
Because all their own steamers had been chartered as Crimean War transports, the Canadian Steam Navigation Company had no steamer to undertake the November sailing to Portland. The Canadian was accordingly chartered from the Allan Line, and would have been similarly employed for a second and further round voyages had not she and a newly-completed sister ship, the Indian, also been taken up as transports.
Damascus, built 1856
The Canadian Steam Navigation Company's service was withdrawn for good and there were no further Allan Line sailings for over a year - until January 24, 1856, when the Canadian was despatched from Glasgow to Boston and New York not to or via Portland as might have been expected.
Australasian, built 1857
Two months previously a new contract had been signed between the Canadian Government and Edmonstone, Allan and Company, on behalf of the Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company, calling for fortnightly sailings between Liverpool and Quebec (it was not obligatory for the steamers to proceed to Montreal, between April and October inclusive), and monthly sailings between Liverpool and Portland during the remainder of the year. The subsidy was $120,000 (£24,000) a year.
The next Allan Line sailing took place from Liverpool on April 23, 1856, when the mail service was inaugurated by the 1,715-ton North American, which differed from the Canadian by having a saloon contained in a deck-house aft instead of below deck, and one funnel instead of two.
Subsequent sailings were taken at fortnightly intervals by the Canadian, Indian and another new ship, the Anglo-Saxon. On her maiden homeward voyage the North American steamed from Quebec to Liverpool in 11 ½ days, the Anglo-Saxon in l0 ½ and the latter's second voyage to Liverpool was completed in 9 days and 23 hours.
It has been stated that on a later occasion she reached the Rock Light, Liverpool, from Quebec in 9 days 5 hours. The Canadian was wrecked about 50 miles below Quebec on June 1, 1857 when in charge of a pilot, but fortunately there were no casualties.
It was announced in June 1857 that the Provincial Government of Canada had agreed that the company should provide a weekly instead of a fortnightly service as soon as the necessary ships could be built, the subsidy being increased to $208,000 (£42,000) a year. Mr. C. B. Symes, whose firm represented the company in Quebec, and some of the other partners, thought this step premature and the outcome was that the Allan brothers bought them out.
Four new steamers were ordered from Denny, the first of the newcomers being the 2,108 ton Nova Scotian, which sailed from Liverpool on June 2, 1858, followed by the North Briton, Hungarian and Bohemian. The, weekly service came into operation on April 20, 1859, at the commencement of the St. Lawrence season.
There had been serious fires in Dumbarton in November 1858 and again in the following month. They did not originate in the Denny works, but each affected them and were no doubt the reason for the long intervals that elapsed between the launching of the Hungarian and Bohemian and their being placed in commission.
The second of a long series of disasters occurred on November 21, 1859, when the Indian was wrecked near Halifax with the loss of 27 lives. Three months later the Hungarian went ashore near Cape Sable during a gale with the appalling death roll of 237.
The 1,926 ton Canadian (II) started her maiden voyage soon afterwards so the fleet was maintained at six ships, which in theory were sufficient for the company to maintain a weekly sailing. But owing to temporary withdrawals for repair and overhaul, the 1,800-ton Palestine was chartered from the Cunard Line for four round voyages, the same company's 2,241-ton Jura for two and the 2,902-ton Australasian and the 1,254-ton Melita for one each.
The number of passengers travelling by steamship, between Ireland and North America increased by leaps and bounds during the late 1850s. The Galway Line started operations between Galway and New York in 1858 and to begin with catered for much of the traffic, but in 1859 both the Inman and Cunard Lines introduced calls at Queenstown (Cobh) en route between Liverpool and New York, as did the ,Allan Lane between Liverpool and Portland, their first sailing being taken by the Nova Scotian from Liverpool on November 30, 1859 and from Queenstown a day later.
The Queenstown call continued for a few weeks after the re-opening of the St. Lawrence service in April 1860, but , on May 30 the steamers began to call instead at Moville, the, port of Londonderry, It was probably at about this time that the mail subsidy was increased to $416,000 (£84, 000) a year, heavy penalties being imposed for delays.
The Galway Line had been awarded a contract for a fortnightly mail service between Galway and St. John's, Newfoundland, but for various reasons - in particular the unsuitability of their steamers and delays in the completion of new ones - the future of the service was in jeopardy. It was decided, therefore, to dispose of the contract to the Allan Line for a consideration of £15,000 a year.
In consequence, the Allan Line advertised that commencing with the sailing of the North Briton from Liverpool on July 11, 1860 their steamers would call once a fortnight at Galway and St. John's en route between Liverpool, Moville, Quebec and Montreal. However owing,to the intervention of the Postmaster-General these new arrangements were cancelled. It was too late to prevent the North Briton from putting in at Galway, but subsequently both companies continued as before.
The 1,888-ton Hibernian was commissioned in May 1861 and is often referred to as the first "spar deck" steamer on the North Atlantic. This claim is suspect, however, as the City of Glasgow, built in 1850, was described in a contemporary newspaper as having a spar deck and, moreover, the Hamburg-American Line claimed that their Saxonia and Austria, built in 1857, were the first North Atlantic steamers to have flush decks instead of high bulwarks, which seems to have amounted to much if not exactly the same thing.
On June 4, 1861, some weeks before the commissioning of the Hibernian's sister ship Norwegian, the Canadian (II) sank in the Straits of Belle Isle after being crushed by field ice and the North Briton was wrecked on the Kingan Islands on November 5 during a snowstorm. The fleet was again reduced to six ships - the Anglo- Saxon, North American, Nova Scotian, Bohemian, Hibernian and Norwegian. The Jura was, therefore, purchased from the Cunard Line.
Saint Andrew, built 1861
Increases in emigration from Scotland to Canada led in September 1861 to a direct Allan Line service from Glasgow to Quebec and Montreal by the newly-built 1,400-ton St. Andrew and St. George, which proceeded to Portland and New York during the ensuing winter season.
In the spring of 1862 they were joined by the 1,213-ton chartered Cunard steamer Damascus and the 1,101-ton John Bell, which had been running for the Anchor Line. After two round voyages, the latter was purchased by the company, received a thorough overhaul and was renamed St. Patrick.
The Anglo-Saxon was wrecked near Cape Race on April 27, 1863 in fog with the loss of 238 lives, the Norwegian on June 14 of the same year on St. Paul's Island also in fog but fortunately without loss of life, the Bohemian on February 22, 1864 on Alden Rock, near Portland, when awaiting a pilot and the Jura on November 3, 1864 in the River Mersey.
Thus, the fleet had been deprived of nine first class steamers in as many years, eight of them lost in Canadian waters. A contributory cause was undoubtedly the heavy penalties imposed by the Government when delays occurred to the mails, but the principal reason was that in those days the navigation of a ship across the North Atlantic to New York or Boston was child's play compared with the voyage to Montreal.
The St. Lawrence River from Rimouski to Montreal, a distance of 300 miles, contained a series of sunken reefs, shoals and flats, and to make matters worse the tide did not run true and the channel was often very narrow.
In the Gulf of St. Lawrence the hazards were, perhaps, even greater, with snowstorms and ice in spring and autumn and often fog, even in summer. The presence of iron deposits in the vicinity of the St. Lawrence also aggravated the compass deviations experienced at that time by all iron vessels. Moreover, the river as a whole was badly lit and, last but not least, most of the pilots had had insufficient experience to take charge of a large steamship.
Despite all their trials and tribulations the Allans never wavered. Fortunately, the ships were partially insured so the pecuniary loss was not very heavy, and as there was no serious competition the ships paid well when they steered clear of accidents.
The 1, 826-ton wooden paddle steamer America was the sixth Cunard unit to be chartered by the Allan Line, for whom she undertook four round voyages in 1863-64, and was notable as the only paddle steamer they employed on trans-Atlantic duties. Both the Canadian (II) and St. George were products of R. Steele and Company of Greenock, as were the next two units of the Liverpool service - the 2,549-ton Peruvian and the 2, 481-ton Moravian, completed in 1864. The former stuck on the ways at her launching and was gutted by fire when fitting out but once in service was a very successful ship.
The 1,516-ton St. David, a slightly larger version of the St. Andrew arid St. George, was completed for the Glasgow service in 1864, but her maiden voyage as well as some later sailings were made from Liverpool.
Moravian, built 1864
Some weeks previously the 2,259- ton Hammonia had been purchased from the Hamburg-American Line to help replace recent losses and was renamed Belgian.
The Liverpool service was back again at six ships - the North American, Nova Scotian, Hibernian, Peruvian, Moravian and Belgian - while the Glasgow service was undertaken by the four "Saint" steamers plus the Damascus, which was purchased outright in 1865.
In the autumn of 1864 one or two of the Liverpool steamers proceeded on from Portland to New York. Twelve months later this became a feature of the winter service every other week, and judging by the fact that the average number of passengers landed at New York in November-December 1865 was 338, one might assume that the arrangement was a success. However the last, extended sailing took place in March 1866 and winter sailings from Glasgow to New York were also discontinued at about the same time.
The 2,466-ton Nestorian and her sister ship Austrian were delivered by Barclay, Curle, of Glasgow, builders of the St. Andrew, in 1867 and marked a turning point in Allan fortunes in that, for the first time, they possessed more steamers than were actually required to maintain a weekly service from Liverpool.
During the year the North American stranded on Anticosti Island and was one of the few ships to be refloated after such an experience. She was towed to Gaspe and later to Quebec for repairs and was out of service for over a year, this being her fourth serious mishap.
The 1,810 ton Ottawa commissioned the British Colonial Steamship Company in 1865 to run between London and Canada, was purchased by the Allan Line in 1868 and detailed to the Glasgow service. The 3,244 ton Germany, laid down for the National Line me, has already been acquired by the Company, as was the 2,629- ton William Penn from the London and New York Steamship Line in 1869, the former retaining her name and the latter becoming the European. They usually acted as "extra" steamers for the Liverpool service. The St. George was wrecked on Seal Island on April 29, 1869.
Following the lead of the Anchor Line , the company commissioned the 900-ton Sweden and the 1,297 ton Norway in 1869 for a feeder service between Newcastle and Norway, passengers being conveyed by rail between Newcastle and Liverpool or Glasgow. In the following year the Sweden was transferred to a new service between Leith and Christiania (Oslo) one week and between Leith and Gothenburg the next. Both feeder services were withdrawn at the end of the 1870 season; the Norway subsequently made two North Atlantic round voyages and the Sweden five.
The 2,794-ton Prussian was completed by A. and J. Inglis of Glasgow early in 1869, followed in 1870 by the 2,840-ton Scandinavian by R. Steele and Company and the 2,728-ton Caspian by the London and Glasgow Company, the last-named having been purchased on the stocks.
It was at this time that the Damascus was taken out of service; lengthened from 77.11 to 87.87 metres (253 to 288 ft.), fitted with compound engines and renamed Corinthian. She was preceded on the North Atlantic by only a handful of steamers having this greatly improved type of machinery. In 1871 the Hibernian was also lengthened and fitted with new boilers but was not compounded.
Between January 1868 and June 1871 the Inman Line had carried the mails every fortnight between Queenstown and Halifax, but commencing with the sailings of the Peruvian June 30, 1871 the contract was transferred to the Allan Line, whose Liverpool-Baltimore steamers began to call at Queenstown, Halifax and Norfolk (Virginia). A direct Liverpool- Baltimore service had been inaugurated by the Caspian on December 8, 1970. In 1871 the, Canadian Government at last agreed to exempt the Allan mail steamers from penalties for delays caused by fog, and it is significant that none of their steamers were lost during the next 10 years.
The 3,647-ton Sarmatian started her maiden voyage to Quebec on August 31, 1871. She was considerably larger than any of her predecessors, was the first of the fleet with a straight stem and the first to be completed with compound engines, which had two vertical and two horizontal cylinders, thereby giving her a good turn of speed but making her extravagant on coal. The 3,983-ton Polynesian was launched on February 12, 1872 and sailed from Liverpool on October 3, but a third ship, the 3,211-ton Circassian is rather a mystery.
Built like the other two by R. Steele and Company, she was launched on June 6, 1872 but did not start her maiden voyage until April 24, 1872. The reason for the delay in completion was that she was damaged by fire when fitting out, but this does not explain why, unlike her two predecessors, she had a clipper bow and was propelled by single-expansion engines.
Laurantian, built 1872
The explanation may be that there had been delays between the time she was laid down and the date of her launch. At any rate, less than two years after she was placed in service, she was lengthened and her engines compounded, which implies that she was out of date before she was ever commissioned.
When the Liverpool and Mississippi Steamship Company entered the Canadian trade in 1872 they changed their name to Mississippi and Dominion Steamship Company. In retaliation, the Allan Line started a service from Glasgow and Liverpool to New Orleans, the first sailing being taken by the Corinthian in November 1872. But when the Germany, which followed in December, was wrecked near Bordeaux a few days later, the service was abandoned.
Business between the United Kingdom arid Canada had been usually brisk during the summer of 1872, with the result that the company despatched an extra steamer from Liverpool once a fortnight. The Nova Scotian was lengthened and compounded in 1873, and at about the same time the North American was laid-up in Montreal. She was sold in the following year, her new owners removed her engines and she ran subsequently as a sailing ship.
Further improvements on the Glasgow route included the commissioning in 1873 of the 2,911-ton Canadian (III) and the lengthening and compounding of the Ottawa, which was renamed Manitoban. In the same year, the St. David, after receiving similar treatment, became the Phoenician, and in 1874 the St. Andrew became the Waldensian.
The Glasgow service was subsequently undertaken by the Canadian, Waldensian, Phoenician, Manitoban and Corinthian. The St. Patrick's engines were removed in 1875, but she ran for the company for another four years as a sailing ship.
Since 1870 the Glasgow-Quebec- Montreal steamers had called at St. John's Newfoundland, once or twice during August and September. In April 1873 the company was awarded a mail contract under which the steamers of the Liverpool- Halifax- Norfolk- Baltimore service were to call fortnightly at St. John's except during January, February and March, when navigation between St. John's and Halifax is dangerous because of ice.
The Caspian, Hibernian and Nova Scotian were regularly employed on the route until well into the 1880s although the intermediate call at Norfolk was discontinued in the autumn of 1874. The 919-ton wooden screw steamer Newfoundland was specially built to run between Halifax and St. John's during the three difficult months.
The building programme of the early 1870s was completed with the commissioning in 1875 of the 4,349-ton Sardinian, which had an exceptionally long life but, like the North Atlantic, was an unlucky ship. On May 10, 1878 an explosion of coal gas caused her to catch fire off Moville. She had to be scuttled but was back in service by the end of June; on a later occasion she lost her rudder in mid-Atlantic and had to be towed home.
Sardinian, built 1875
Later still, she was in collision with a schooner, lost her propeller and had to be towed to Halifax. There was a happier side however and in June 1879 the Sardinian landed the mails at Rimouski in 6 days 23 hours from Moville which was easily a record.
During the next few years the steamers on the premier service from Liverpool to Canada were the Sardinian, Circassian, Polynesian, Sarmatian, Moravian and Peruvian.
In November 1876 the Canadian was dispatched from Glasgow to Montevideo and Buenos Aires. The Phoenician and Waldensian followed, and during subsequent years there were regular sailings to South America in autumn and early winter. It has been said that this service was started in retaliation for the entry of the Donaldson Line into the Canadian trade, but as this did not happen until more than a year later the statement is incorrect.
First of a series of steamers completed with an eye to the requirements of the River Plate trade was the 1,925 ton Lucerne, which was purchased on the stocks and sailed in September 1878 on her maiden voyage to South America. She is sometimes wrongly referred to as a twin-screw steamer. In subsequent years she usually made one or two round voyages to South America, the remaining months being spent on the North Atlantic.
Apart from the short-lived extension to New York in 1864-66, the main features of the Liverpool-Portland winter service remained unchanged until December 1877 when, owing to a dispute with the Grand Trunk Railway, Baltimore was substituted for Portland as the terminal.
Gallia, built 1879
In November 1880 the winter itinerary became Liverpool-Halifax- Boston, but there was a further change in 1881 when the steamers terminated at Portland and Boston alternately, intermediate calls being made in each case at Halifax as well as Moville.
Parisian, built 1881
Trade card featuring Parisian
The Boston sailings were discontinued in December 1882, and for many years subsequently winter sailings were to Halifax and Portland. It should be added that on July 1, 1876 the Intercolonial Railway was opened throughout between Halifax, Quebec and Montreal. This certainly helped to bring Halifax into the picture, although the distance by rail from Halifax to Montreal was much greater than from Portland.
These changes in the Liverpool service had their repercussions on the Glasgow route, the winter destinations of which were changed early in 1879 from Halifax and Portland to Halifax and Boston. In April 1880 the company introduced a fortnightly all-year-round service on the latter route, with a separate weekly service to Quebec and Montreal in summer and to Portland in winter.
Twenty years after the lone Allan Line sailing in July 1860 from Galway to Quebec and Montreal, the Austrian put in at Galway on June 11, 1880, en route from Glasgow to Boston and this was the first of numerous calls there for the purpose of embarking emigrants destined to the United States and Canada, the last taking place in 1905.
The 4,005-ton Buenos Ayrean, of 1879, was the first North Atlantic liner built of steel. Her maiden voyage was from Glasgow to Montevideo and Buenos Aires, but she subsequently spent most of her existence on the North Atlantic, making as a rule one voyage a year to South America.
The 3,613-ton Grecian, built of iron, was completed in 1880 for the Glasgow-Quebec-Montreal route. She was followed in 1881 by Corean, but another sister ship, the Hanoverian, was detailed to 'the Liverpool-Baltimore, service when commissioned in 1882. Unfortunately, the Moravian was wrecked near Cape Sable on December 30, 1881 and the Hanoverian, near Cape Race on September 2, 1885.
Some months before the completion of the Buenos Ayrean the company had invited tenders for a steamer of about 6,000 tons. As, however there were doubts about the renewal of the mail subsidy, already greatly reduced in value, an order was placed in due course with R. Napier and Sons, of Glasgow for the 5,359-ton steel single- screw Parisian, which sailed from Liverpool on March 10, 1881 on her maiden voyage to Halifax and Boston, her second voyage, on April 28, being to Quebec and Montreal.
For a short time she was the largest steel steamer afloat, but perhaps her chief claim to notability was that she was the first North Atlantic steamer to have bilge keels. She was considerably larger and faster than any predecessor in the Allan fleet, her best performance being in July 1882, when she proceeded from Rimouski to Moville in the record time of 6 days 14 hours 38 minutes. She could accommodate 150 first-class, 100 second and 1,000 steerage passengers.
Pomeranian, built 1882
The company suffered a grievous loss on December 9, 1882 in the death of their founder, Sir Hugh Allan, who had been knighted in 1871 in recognition of his services to Canada. It should be added that the Dominion of Canada had come into being in 1867 by the confederation of the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Hitherto, the company's activities in the United Kingdom had been confined mainly to Liverpool, Glasgow and Moville, but in February 1883 they broke new ground by becoming London agents for the newly-established Twin Screw Line, which operated between London and New York. This enabled them to build up a London clientele in preparation for the establishment of their own service from London to Canada.
An experimental sailing was made from London to Halifax by the Hanoverian in March 1883, and in summer of 1884 a regular service was started to Halifax and Montreal by the Lucerne and the newly-acquired Norwegian (II), formerly the Inman Line's City of New York. The itinerary was changed to London-Quebec- Montreal in 1885, a fortnightly service being provided by the Corean, Canadian and Lucerne.
Carthaginian, built 1884
Glasgow sailings were further strengthened in 1884 by the addition of the 3,904-ton Siberian and the 4,444-ton Carthaginian, enabling the Hibernian and Phoenician to inaugurate a new service every three weeks from Glasgow to Philadelphia. From 1888 onwards, and from time to time previously, this service was increased to fortnightly.
Hitherto, it had been necessary to allot six steamers to the company's weekly service from Liverpool to Canada, but it was found possible in 1885 to reduce the number to five - the Parisian, Sardinian, Polynesian, Sarmatian and Circassian.
Following the introduction of the London services, the company tried the experiment, in the autumn of 1886, of despatching the Phoenician and Grecian from London to the River Plate. This was not a success, but in 1887, for the first time, the service from Glasgow to South America ran monthly throughout the year instead of being seasonal.
The 3,100 ton Rosarian and Monte Videan, completed in 1888, were notable as the first units of the fleet to be fitted with triple-expansion engines. Like the 3,204-ton Brazilian which followed in 1891, they took part as required in the South American trade although for many years subsequently most of their activities took place on the North Atlantic.
In 1887 the Wilson Line of Hull took over three of the "Monarchs” of the Monarch Line which had been running between London and New York and had gone into liquidation. The Allan Line purchased the two remaining units of the fleet - the Assyrian Monarch and Grecian Monarch, which were renamed Assyrian and Pomeranian.
The Austrian, Waldensian and Phoenician were taken out of service at this time for re-engining. The first two received triple-expansion engines, but the Phoenician was fitted with quadruple-expansion and remained until 1893 the only North Atlantic liner to have this type of machinery, which subsequently became quite common.
The company announced in March 1891 that they intended to start a new weekly service between Glasgow, Moville and New York with the Assyrian, Corean, Siberian, Peruvian and Pomeranian. Before it could be brought into operation however they purchased the fleet and goodwill of the State Line, which for many years had been running between Glasgow and New York via Larne and had recently gone into liquidation. The purchase price of £72,000 included six steamers, of which the State of Alabama and State of Pennsylvania were sold immediately.
Numidian, built 1891
The State of Indiana and State of Georgia made only one and two round voyages, respectively, for their new owners, but the State of Nevada was retained until 1893 and the newer and larger State of Nebraska until 1902.
Mongolian, built 1891
At the time of the purchase the 4,244-ton State of California was nearing completion and was later taken over by the Allan Line. The New York service was continued under the description "Allan-State Line', the only change of importance being the substitution of Moville for Larne as the Irish port of call.
Ten years had passed since the commissioning of the Parisian. Meanwhile, many larger and faster ships had been built by North Atlantic lines running, primarily, to New York, but she was still a notable ship, particularly on the Canadian run.
This could hardly be said of some of her consorts, but the company was not to blame as the Canadian Government was obsessed with the idea of introducing an "express" service, a favourite slogan of theirs being "Twenty Knots to Canada".
The company wisely refused to think on similar lines, with the result that the Canadian authorities entered into long and unprofitable negotiations with several less-experienced contractors. As the Allan Line could not look forward with any degree of confidence to the renewal of their mall contract They were unwilling to commit themselves to an extensive programme of new construction.
The 4,800-ton Mongolian and Numidian were however completed in 1891 to run as consorts to the Parisian, Sardinian and Circassian. The Polynesian was withdrawn from service and reappeared in April 1893 as the 4,522-ton Laurentian, having meanwhile been extensively modernised and fitted with triple-expansion engines. Her first class accommodation was reduced to 36 berths, but steerage was increased to 1.000.
The year 1891 marked the peak of the company's activities and for a short time the trans-Atlantic fleet consisted of no fewer than 37 ships, totalling 120,000 gross tons. Eight distinct services were being maintained during the summer months, namely: Liverpool-Quebec-Montreal (weekly); Liverpool-St. John's N.F.-Halifax-Baltimore (fortnightly); Glasgow- Quebec-Montreal (weekly); Glasgow-Boston (fortnightly); Glasgow-Halifax - Philadelphia (fortnightly); Glasgow-New York (weekly); Glasgow-Montevideo-Buenos Aires (monthly); London-Quebec-Montreal (fortnightly).
In addition, the Allan Line were agents for the Wilson-Hill Line between London and New York. No other British North Atlantic line, before or since, has provided anything like this variety of passenger services. Nevertheless it was obvious that drastic changes would soon be inevitable as practically half the ships in the fleet were 20 years old or more and several were over 30.
The first step was taken at the end of 1892, when the Liverpool-St. John's-Halifax-Baltimore service was withdrawn. Instead, from April 1893 the steamers of the Glasgow- Philadelphia service began to make intermediate calls at Liverpool, St. John's and Halifax.
These changes enabled the old- timer Nova Scotian to be sold. It was also at about this time that the last of the company's once-extensive fleet of windjammers disappeared from the scene.
The Allan-State Line service from Glasgow to New York was maintained in 1893 by the State of California, State of Nebraska, Norwegian, Corean and Siberian: The Pomeranian started what turned out to be her last voyage on the service on January 27, 1893 and had an alarming experience in mid-Atlantic a few days later, when she was struck by an enormous sea which carried away the bridge, chart-house and fore-deck saloon. Ten people were drowned and the captain and a passenger died from their injuries.
By superb seamanship the chief officer succeeded in bringing the ship back to the Clyde, where she received an extensive refit. The State of California was transferred to the Liverpool-Canada service in the spring of 1897; in the following year she was renamed Californian.
An Allan Line advertisement of 1894 stated: "Steerage passengers supplied with bed, bedding and mess utensils free of charge, and in the New York steamers of this line such passengers have the special advantage of being carried in four-berthed rooms." The provision of bedding and mess utensils for steerage passengers was a recent innovation for an Allan Line sailing bill dated April 12, 1890 stated: "Steerage passengers provide their own bedding and mess utensils, but these can be hired on board 'Allan' steamers for 3s 6d."
Wilson's and Furness-Leyland Line was formed in 1896 to take over the London interests of the three companies mentioned in its title. This resulted in the abandonment of the Wilson-Hill service, but the Allan Line acted as agents for the new company's London-New York service until it was sold in 1898.
The 4,000-ton twin-screw steamers Tower Hill, Ludgate Hill and Richmond Hill were advertised for sale in the spring of 1897 by W. B. Hill and W. R. Nott and were purchased by the Allan Line, who renamed them Turanian, Livonian and Roumanian respectively. The Tower Hill - but not the other two - made one round voyage between Glasgow and New York before renaming.
The greatly-increased size and cost of ships caused considerable financial embarrassment to many North Atlantic lines during the 1880s and 1890s. For this and other reasons the Allan Line underwent a major reorganisation on June 19, 1897, when the original title "Montreal Ocean Steam Ship Company finally ceased to exist and a limited liability company named Allan Line Steamship Co. Ltd. was formed with a capital of £600,000.
The beneficial results of the move were apparent early in the following year, when it was announced that orders had been placed for three large ships. It should be added that in March 1898 the firm of Allan Bros. and Co., Liverpool and London, Ltd., was registered in Liverpool with a capital of £25,000 to take over the business of Allan Brothers' and Company, successors to Allan Brothers, founded in 1856.
First of the newcomers was the 7,441-ton single-screw Castilian, which left Liverpool for Halifax and Portland on February 23 1899 and had the misfortune to be wrecked in the Bay of Fundy during her maiden homeward voyage.
This unexpected loss placed the company in a quandary as a few weeks previously the Parisian had been withdrawn for a major overhaul. She had made more than 150 round voyages across the North Atlantic and carried nearly 125,000 passengers without mishap.
Even more remarkable was the fact that in June 1898 she broke the record for the passage from Liverpool to Montreal via Cape Race with a time of eight days, 21 hours, 30 minutes, which included delays of eight hours at Moville and Quebec. Her land to land time - from Tory Island to Cape Race - was only four days 22 ½ hours. She was fitted with triple-expansion engines by Workman, Clark and Co. Ltd., of Belfast and her second funnel was removed, as were her yards.
As a temporary expedient, the 5,086-ton Tainui, built in 1884 for Shaw, Savill and Albion, was chartered for six round voyages between Liverpool, Quebec and Montreal and the 4,809-ton Gallia, formerly of the Cunard Line, was purchased from the liquidators of the Beaver Line. She stranded near Sorel Point, Quebec, on her first voyage, was salved and scrapped at Cherbourg.
The Manitoban was chartered from the company early in 1898 for an unusual voyage. She sailed from Alten (Norway) for New York on February 4 with 537 reindeer, 418 reindeer sleds, 511 sets of harness, 3, 500 bags of moss for feeding the animals, together with herders, drivers and their families numbering in all 113 people. After proceeding by rail from New York to Seattle, the entire company embarked for Alaska to start the U.S. Government's reindeer herd.
Scandinavian, built 1898
Scandinavian dining room
Scandinavian smoking room
The 10,376-ton Bavarian, whose maiden voyage took place from Liverpool on August 24, 1899, was the first new unit of the fleet to have twin screws, which gave her a service speed of 16 knots; her tonnage was 3,000 tons greater than that of any predecessor. Accommodation was on a hitherto unheard of scale of luxury, berths being provided for 240 first-class, 200 second and 1,000 steerage passengers.
Bavarian, built 1899
At the conclusion of her second round voyage to Montreal she was taken up by the British Government to carry troops to South Africa and did not return to the North Atlantic until October 9, 1902. A sister Ship, the 10,576- ton Tunisian, entered service in April 1900.
Three 6,000-ton single-screw steamers were the next to appear, but the first, the Sicilian, was taken up immediately for Boer War trooping and did not start her North Atlantic career until February 1901. In addition to the Sicilian and Bavarian, other Allan Line steamers on transport duties were the Mongolian, Siberian, Carthaginian, Sardinian, Laurentian and Pomeranian, most of them for one round voyage only.
The 6,227 -ton Corinthian (II) and the 6,948-ton Pretorian were detailed to the Liverpool-Quebec-Montreal service in May 1900 and August 1901 respectively. They were welcome additions, as the Californian had grounded outside Portland in February 1900 and at one time had seemed likely to become a total loss. She was eventually refloated and, upon completion of her "improvements", made four round voyages for the company between Glasgow and New York before being sold to the New York and Puerto Rico Line.
Tunisian, built 1900
Reference has already been made to the withdrawal of the Liverpool- Baltimore service in 1892 and the substitution of a service from Glasgow via Liverpool to St. John's N.F., Halifax and Philadelphia. The intermediate call at Liverpool was temporarily suspended in 1896 but revived in 1901, when it was arranged that the Furness and Allan Lines should share a weekly mail service to St. John's, the steamers employed as the Furness contribution being the 1,800-ton Ulunda and Damara. The service became known as the Furness-Allan Line. The majority of Allan Line steamers proceeded through to Philadelphia.
The 8,268-ton twin-screw Ionian, delivered by Workman Clark in November 1901, came half way in size between the Pretorian and Tunisian, but having four masts instead of two differed considerably from either in appearance. She commenced her career on the Liverpool-Canada service and was one of the best dividend-earners ever owned by the company.
Pretorian, built 1901
Pending her completion they chartered the 7,801-ton Ruapehu, which had not yet started her maiden voyage for the New Zealand Shipping Company, renamed her Australasian and ran her between Liverpool, Quebec and Montreal for five round voyages.
The Canadian authorities had long been anxious that the Liverpool mail steamers should use a Canadian winter terminal in place of Portland. During the winter of 1898-99 approximately every other sailing terminated at St. John, New Brunswick, instead of Portland, but the company subsequently reverted to the Liverpool-Halifax-Portland winter itinerary until November 1901, when it was permanently changed to Liverpool-Halifax-St. John, N.B..
The 3,546-ton cargo steamer Ormiston was acquired in 1899 from R. and C. Allan and placed in service as the Orcadian. A year later the 4,309- ton Ontarian was purchased on the stocks as was, in 1901, the 6,859-ton Huronian, which a year later had the unenviable record of being the only Allan Line steamer to disappear without trace. The Admiralty despatched the cruisers Thames and Bellona to search for her in the North Atlantic, but without success.
The 4,500-ton South Point and. Orient Point were purchased from the Norfolk and North American Steamship Co. Ltd. in 1903 and placed in service as the cargo steamers Hungarian (II) and Hibernian (II). The latter had a narrow escape from disaster on May 18, 1904 when she stranded on the Newfoundland coast.
When the Bavarian returned to the North Atlantic in the autumn of 1902 she shared the company's premier Liverpool service with the Tunisian, Ionian, Pretorian and Parisian. It was soon found however that owing to their high speed four of these steamers were capable of maintaining a weekly service and the Pretorian was consequently transferred to Glasgow. Unfortunately, the Bavarian had a short life as she stranded in the St. Lawrence near Quebec on November 3, 1905. She was broken up where she lay.
Between 1896 and 1903 no fewer than 12 steamers were sold for scrap -the Circassian, Nestorian, Caspian, Prussian, Manitoban, Scandinavian Hibernian, Assyrian, State of Nebraska, Waldensian, Canadian and Norwegian. The two senior were the Waldensian (ex-St. Andrew) and Hibernian, both of which had been built in 1861 and the former was thus over 41 years old when withdrawn from service in 1903. Two more ships -the Lucerne and Roumanian - were sold for further service.
Thus, the 37 ship fleet of 1891 was reduced to 23 passenger steamers, plus the cargo steamers Orcadian, Ontarian, Hungarian (II) and Hibernian (II). Owing to a temporary shortage of tonnage, the 4,548-ton City liner City of Bombay was chartered for a total of nine round voyages between Glasgow, Liverpool and Philadelphia in 1903, 1906 and 1907, and the City of Vienna for three in 1906.
Allan Line Office at Trondhjem
After a disaster-free period of over 13 years from 1885 onwards, the company again had a bad patch. Following the loss of the Castilian and Gallia, and the damage to the Californian, the Turanian stranded on the Cape Verde Islands in November 1899 and although salved was sold to Italian shipbreakers. The Grecian was wrecked near Halifax on February 9, 1902.
Principal shipping event of 1902 was the formation of the International Mercantile Marine Company, one of whose components, the Dominion Line, was able considerably to improve its Canadian service. In 1903 an event of even greater importance to the Canadian trade was the purchase by the Canadian Pacific Railway of the North Atlantic fleet and goodwill of the Elder Dempster Line.
Contrary to expectations, Canadian Pacific did not take any immediate steps to challenge the Allan Line's predominant position in the trade and, in fact, the first move was made by the Allan Line who, in January 1904 were awarded a new mail contract providing a subsidy of £2,000 for each round voyage of the two new steamers then under construction, £1,000 for the Bavarian and Tunisian and £500 for the Ionian, Pretorian and Sicilian. This enabled the company to advertise, themselves as “the only line with Government contract for Canadian mails". A further contract was secured in February 1905 for a direct service from France to Canada. In effect, this meant that the steamers of the London-Canada service called intermediately at Havre.
It was announced in October 1903 that orders had been placed for two steamers of well over 10,000 tons and that they would be propelled by Parsons' steam turbines. The 10,635-ton Victorian, a product of Workman, Clark of Belfast, sailed from Liverpool for St. John, N .B., on March 23, 1905 and was not only the first turbine to be laid down for the North Atlantic trade but was also the first steamer with triple screws. Her trial speed of over 19 knots made her one of the fastest steamers afloat.
The 10,757-ton Virginian entered service on April 6, 1905. In May 1906 she set up a new record of five days 20 hours, 40 minutes for the voyage from Liverpool to Rimouski, the Eastbound record also being won by her two' months later with a time or six days five hours from Rimouski to Liverpool.
The completion of these outstanding ships enabled the Peruvian, Phoenician and Austrian to be scrapped, the first two being a little over and the third just under 40 years of age.
A further reduction in Allan activities followed the sailing on September 28, 1905 of the Numidian from Glasgow to New York. The reason for the discontinuance of this service was the expiry of the lease of the New York pier, but the company undoubtedly welcomed the excuse as the service had never been very profitable. Moreover, the recent introduction of the second of a series of large twin-screw steamers by the rival Anchor Line made future prospects exceedingly poor.
Virginian, built 1905
Virginian as Drottningholm
Victorian, built 1905
The company would undoubtedly have liked to lay down one or two more steamers to compete with the 14,000- ton Canadian Pacific "Empresses", commissioned in 1906, but high building costs made a postponement necessary. Instead, the 11,419-ton Corsican was placed in service in November 1907 as a replacement for the Bavarian - hence her triple- expansion engines.
The need to improve the Glasgow- Canada service became urgent in 1905, when the Donaldson Line fitted the 8,600-ton Athenia with passenger accommodation and ordered a consort. The 10,900-ton Grampian and Hesperian were accordingly laid down by A. Stephen and Sons Ltd., and when commissioned in 1907-08 were a considerable improvement on all predecessors in the Glasgow service. They had a speed of over 15 knots.
The mall contract from Havre to Canada did not bring about any immediate improvement in the company's London-Havre-Canada service, which was being undertaken by the passenger steamers Pomeranian, Sardinian and Sarmatian, assisted by the cargo steamers Hibernian, Hungarian and Ontarian. However, in 1908, owing to recent additions to the Glasgow fleet, it was possible to transfer the Sicilian and Corinthian to London, together with the still-popular' Parisian, replaced in 1910 by the chartered Canadian Pacific Lake Erie, which made a total of 23 round voyages for the company, mostly from London but a few from Glasgow.
Once again the time had come to dispose of a number of obsolete ships, the Sarmatian, Corean, Rosarian, Monte Videan, Buenos Ayrean and Siberian being scrapped during 1908-12 and the Brazilian sold for further service. The Laurentian was wrecked in Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, on September 6, 1909. She was the 20th Allan Line steamer to be lost.
The chartering of the Lake Erie from Canadian Pacific gave rise to rumours that the two companies were to amalgamate. These were repeated later the same year when it became known that the Allan Line had appointed Canadian Pacific. as subcontractors to the mail contract, but it was pointed out that the real reason was a shortage of "express" steamers and that the Allan Line was proposing to overcome this handicap by building two 20-knot vessels.
It. is now known, of course, that the rumours were substantially true and that Canadian Pacific had acquired complete control of the Allan Line in 1909. Incidentally, it is surprising that the occasional chartering by Canadian Pacific of the Tunisian, Corsican, Hesperian, Grampian and Scotian, which made a total of 11 round voyages for them between 1907 and 1914, attracted very little attention.
Hesperian, built 1908
The Glasgow service was further improved in 1911 by the addition of the 10,322-ton Holland-America liner Statendam renamed Scotian. In 1912 she and the Ionian were transferred to London as the company had, meanwhile, purchased the 12,099-ton Romanic from the White Star Line and placed her in service between Glasgow, Halifax and Boston as the Scandinavian (II).
During the St. Lawrence season she proceeded to Quebec and Montreal. It had been decided that she should carry two classes of passengers only, namely, 400 second-class and 800 third - a state of affairs that by this time applied to all other units of the company’s fleet except the Victorian, Virginian, Tunisian, Corsican, Grampian and Hesperian.
For some years past the South American service had been on the decline, and. latterly many of the vessels taking part were cargo steamers chartered from other companies. The goodwill of the service was sold in 1913, and a lot of interest was aroused when it became known that the purchasers were the Donaldson Line, whose South American service had ceased a few years after the establishment, in 1876, of the Allan service to the River Plate.
The Ontarian, Orcadian and Livonian (ex-Ludgate Hill) were due to be taken over by Donaldson, but the latter won an arbitration case regarding the Livonian, which was thus excluded from the deal.
The statement early in 1910 that the company was proposing to build two 2O-knot steamers was followed a few months later by a correction that the ships would be three in number, 700 ft. (213.35 metres) long, with a speed of 22 knots. Further postponements took place, along with a decision to build only two much smaller and slower 'ships, and it was not until March 22, 1913 that the 18,481-fon Alsatian was launched at Glasgow. She had a length of 174.15 metres (571.4 ft.) and a speed of 1.8 knots, her maiden voyage from Liverpool to St. John, N.B. starting on January 17, 1914.
The 17,515-ton Calgarian left Liverpool for Quebec (she was considered too large to proceed to Montreal) on May 8, 1914. Notable features of both ships were their quadruple-screws driven by four sets direct-acting steam turbines, and their cruiser sterns, the first on the North Atlantic. They were second to none in the Canadian trade for size, speed and luxury of accommodation.
During the spring of 1914 the Liverpool-Canada service was maintained by the Alsatian, Calgarian, Victorian and Virginian, with an additional sailing each month by the Tunisian; the Glasgow-Canada service by the Scandinavian, Corsican, Grampian and Hesperian and the Glasgow- Boston service by the Pretorian and Numidian. The Sardinian, Mongolian, Pomeranian and Carthaginian sailed from Glasgow via Liverpool to St. John's, N.F., and Halifax or Philadelphia and looked after the Allan share of the Furness-Allan Line service.
Alsatian, buuilt 1914
The Scotian, Ionian, Corinthian and Sicilian were responsible for the London-Havre-Canada service. The 33-year-old Parisian was scrapped earlier in 1914. The Virginian was chartered by Canadian Pacific after the loss of the Empress of Ireland by collision on May 29, 1914.
Soon after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Alsatian and Calgarian were taken up as armed cruisers, the former becoming flagship of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron, to which the Victorian was later attached after a spell of duty with the Ninth. The Virginian was one of seven Allan Line steamers - the others were the Corinthian, Grampian, Scandinavian, Scotian, Sicilian and Tunisian - to assist in transporting the Canadian Expeditionary Force from Canada to England in August 1914. The Virginian, too, became an armed cruiser in November 1914, and for several months the Tunisian and Scotian lay anchored off Ryde, Isle of Wight, as accommodations ships for German prisoners of war.
The Calgarian was detailed to blockade the port of Lisbon and later performed similar duties in the vicinity of New York. The remainder of her short career - she was torpedoed and sunk in March 1913 - was spent as an armed convoy ship. Three of the company's oldest units - the Livonian, Numidian and Mongolian - were purchased by the Admiralty, the first two being used as blockships.
During the autumn of 1914 the Scandinavian, Corsican, Hesperian and Grampian maintained a regular service from Liverpool to Canada. The Sicilian, Corinthian and the Furness liner Digby sailed from London, the remainder of the fleet taking care of the Glasgow services as best they could. As the war progressed, further ships were taken up for special duties and there were many changes in the company's sailing schedule.
Although it had been officially denied in 1909-10 that the chartering of the Lake Erie by the Allan Line indicated that Allan and Canadian Pacific were to be amalgamated, no attempt was made to hide the fact that there was a close understanding between them.
As time went on co-operation became more and more intimate. For instance, a joint victualling department was established in Liverpool and, in due course, a joint maintenance department. One reason behind these moves was undoubtedly to save expense, but it became increasingly obvious that there was more to it than just that.
Finally, it was made known in 1915 that Canadian Pacific was to absorb the Allan Line, and a new company, Canadian Pacific Ocean Services Ltd. was established on October 1, 1915 to operate the combined fleets.
What has never been satisfactorily explained is why, although Canadian Pacific had purchased all the capital stock of the Allan Line by September 7, 1909, the matter was kept secret until 1915 and, for that matter, why their financial interest in the Allan Line was repeatedly denied.
Canadian Pacific Railway Bulletin No. 80, dated September 1915, stated:
"Canadian Pacific Ocean Services Ltd. is the title under which the combined fleets of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Allan Line Steamships will be operated commencing October 1, 1915.”
But this statement was misleading as an independent report said: "With reference to the announcement we made last week concerning the fusion of interests between the Canadian Pacific Railway steamers and the Allan Line, it is now stated that each will continue to operate under their present name. So far as the services in which the public are concerned, these will be conducted as formerly under the management of Allan Brothers and Company in Great Britain and H. and A. Allan in Canada.
That the Allan Line did, in fact, continue in operation is amply borne out by an Allan Line circular dated January 1, 1916 and addressed to their passenger agents. It makes no mention of Canadian Pacific or C.P.O.S. and says, inter alia:
"We hope to maintain regular services to Canada and the United States during the coming year. Meantime we have pleasure in renewing your agency for 1916."
The circular ended by giving a complete list of the Allan Line fleet.
An article dated July 17, 1917 stated:
"The recent fusion of Canadian Pacific Ocean Services Ltd. and the Allan Line was formally completed yesterday, when the former company took over in their entirety the management, control and general operation of the Allan Line steamers, together with the head and branch offices of the company.
Thus, it is clear that the Allan Line continued to exist until July 16, 1917. Had it not been for the war the takeover would undoubtedly have received infinitely more prominence than it did, and as likely as not the methods adopted would have been entirely different.
At the outbreak of war the Allan Line owned 20 trans-Atlantic steamers. Of these, three were sold to the Admiralty and two had been lost by enemy action – the Hesperian on September 4, 1915 and the Carthaginian on June 14, 1917. The Canadian Pacific therefore took over 15 Allan Line ships of 151,925 gross tons, plus 233-ton tender Mersey. Eleven of the trans-Atlantic ships survived the war.
Many people regretted the passing of the Allan Line red funnel with its black top and white band. Others less sentimental mourned the company on account of the great part it had played in the development of Canada.
In conclusion, tribute should be paid to the progressive outlook and initiatives which invariably kept the Allan Line in a prominent position amongst the North Atlantic lines and led to such notable advances as the steer liner in 1880 and the steam turbine in 1905.