T & J Harrisons

(Source: A.G. Collingwood, Sea Breezes, May 1977)

We would like to thank Sea Breezes for permission to reproduce these articles

One of the oldest and few remaining private shipowning firms in the United Kingdom, the Harrison Line can look back to 1853 when the brothers Thomas and James Harrison took control of the shipping and shipbroking interests of George Brown and Harrison. This is the story of the Harrison Line


THOMAS HARRISON was apprenticed to Samuel Brown and Son in 1830 and became a full partner in the firm of Samuel Brown Son and Company in 1839. He was joined in 1838 by his brother James who also became a partner in 1849. By this time the firm had become registered as George Brown and Harrison.

Early in 1853, the death occurred of George Brown and full control of the business was then in the hands of the Harrison brothers. Prior to 1853 the business was mainly concerned with handling cargoes of brandy and wines brought by French schooners to Liverpool, mainly from Charente, although Oporto and Cadiz were occasionally ports of loading. A milestone was reached, however, in 1857 by the purchase of its first iron ship, which bore the name Philosopher. She was built by Thomas Vernon, of Liverpool, and was of 1,329 tons.

This particular vessel is of great interest, not only because she heralded the passing of the wooden ship, but because she was the first to bear the name of a trade or profession, which has characterised the vessels of the Harrison fleet ever since. She was 230ft. in length, with a beam of 34ft. 7in. and a depth of 21ft. 9in. The vessel had two decks and three masts and was ship-rigged.

Clencher built with elliptical stern, she had an iron frame, no galleries and a male head on her bow. She traded to India throughout her whole career, which ended when she was totally wrecked on September 26, 1879, the day after leaving Calcutta.

From the year 1860 onwards, the firm extended their trade beyond the Continent, and the countries of Brazil, India and the West Indies were being served with regular sailings by sailing vessels and steamers: It was in 1860 that the steamer Cognac and her sister Gladiator were built specially to cater for the expanding trade in brandy shipments from France to this country. The two vessels were joined in 1861 by the Dragon, and in the following year the Charente was added to the fleet following the sale of the Gladiator to another concern, who employed her as a blockade runner during the American Civil War.

The Cognac was launched on October 3, 1860, having a length of 170ft., a beam of 25ft. lin. and depth of 16ft. 4in., and her engines developed 70 horse power. She met her end when she was sunk in collision off the Welsh coast on November 18, 1898. A vessel worthy of mention entered the fleet in 1865. This was the iron sailing vessel Lightning, purchased from the Black Ball Line, and built in 1863. She was of 1,206 tons and in 1864 reached a speed of 18 knots, a record which was not exceeded by any sailor steam vessel for 30 years.

It is very interesting to record that at this period, the firm had 25 vessels consisting of iron and wooden brigs, barques and steamships, with a total of over 21,000 tons, a tonnage exceeded today by that of the latest bulk carrier.

Harrisons at this time had several Coolie ships. One, the Artist of 1864 and 1,371 tons is reported by a Demerara newspaper dated November 1874, as carrying 383 men, 81 women, 17 boys, 10 girls and 19 infants from India, all arriving well and in a fit condition, a tribute to the care taken by the ship's officers and crew.

1n 1888 Thomas Harrison died, and the death of his brother James followed in 1891, but the family business was continued by Frederick James and Heath, the sons of James, and Thomas Fenwick, the son of Thomas.

Jarnac, 'brandy boat'

1n the 1860s, Mr. John William Hughes was admitted a partner, and the Hughes family have since played a large part in the development and progress of the firm until the present day.

In 1884, the Charente Steam-Ship Co. Ltd. was formed with a capital 01 £512,000 to take over the steamship business, the firm of Thos. and Jas. Harrison being the managers. Three years later, the last of their sailing ships, the Senator was sold, and from then on steamships were the order of the day.

In 1889, in order to improve their business with Calcutta, and have access to the Indian tea trade, and berthing rights under conference agreements, Harrisons bought the Star Line from Rathbone Bros. and Company for the sum of £135;000. The steamers concerned were the Mira (1875), Vesta (1881), Pallas (1888), Orion (1889), and one on order at the time, the Capella, delivered in 1890. It is interesting to note that these vessels retained their original names, and were not given the "trades and professions" that were then characterising the fleet.

From the late 1880s the size and power of the ships increased from the 2,000-ton range up to 4,000 tons, but during this period they were not without their marine losses, as happens to any firm with a large fleet operating in many parts of the world.

The Commander, of 1887 was wrecked on June 15, 1884 at San Antonio, the Editor, of 1885 was wrecked on March 22, 1897 on Penryhn Point, near Holy- head while on route from Maceio to Liverpool and became a total loss, while the Legislator of 1888 was lost by fire in the North Atlantic on February 11, 1898, on passage from Liverpool to Colon.

Towards the end of the 19th century, four-masted ships of the 6,000 to 7,000- ton range appeared in the fleet. Three are worthy of mention, if only because of their long service after leaving the Harrison fleet. The Craftsman, built in 1897 by Charles Connell and Company of Glasgow, 6,196 gross tons was employed mainly on the Calcutta and U.S. Gulf trades. She served Harrisons for 22 years until sold in 1919 to the Liverpool firm of Japp, Hatch and Company and renamed Hampstead Heath, for their tramping trade, subsequently being re-sold to foreign buyers for conversion to a floating whale factory ship under the name Kommandoren I. A little later she was again sold to Argentine buyers, and renamed Ernesto Tornquist, being finally wrecked off South Georgia on October 15, 1950, a total service of 53 years.

The Politician, built in 1899 by C. S. Swan and Hunter Ltd., Newcastle, a vessel of 7,214 gross tons, successfully served Harrisons on their African, Indian and Gulf services until sold in 1922 to Christian Salvesen and Co. Ltd., Leith, who used her as a whale oil bulk carrier, under the name Coronda. During the war, she was, from 1940-1945, used as a store ship on the Tyne, until sold for scrap in June 1946, a total life of 47 years.

The Custodian built in 1900, a twin- screw vessel of 9,241 gross tons built by Charles Connell and Co. Ltd., Glasgow, was one of a class of three built to carry large cotton cargoes from the Gulf and out of season to fit in with the African and Indian trades. The other two were the Mechanician (1900) and Wayfarer (1903), the latter being the largest vessel in the fleet until the advent of the Benefactor in 1970.

The Custodian

The Mechanician

The Custodian remained in Harrison service until 1923 when she was sold to Leith buyers who renamed her Polcevera; they disposed of her in 1926 to Melsom and Melsom of Larvik, Norway, who converted her to a whale factory ship under the name N. T Nielsen Alonso. She met her end on February 22, 1943, by being torpedoed in the North Atlantic, having survived 43 years.

The Cognac (2), last of the 'brandy boats'

In the early part of the century, Harrisons had vessels built to a size to suit a specific trade, those trading to Brazil, the Caribbean and Mexico consisting of vessels of 6,000 tons dead- weight, the West Indies 7,600 tons deadweight and the India and New Orleans services maintained by vessels of 10,000 tons deadweight, although, of course, these could be switched as cargoes warranted.

The Merchant

In 1911, the fleet was increased by the purchase of the Aberdeen Direct Line, managed by John T. Rennie Son and Company, consisting of seven ships: lnyati, 1896, 2,516 tons; lngeli, 1897, 2,924 tons; lnsizwa, 1899, 2,984 tons; lnkonka, 1900, 3,430 tons; lnkosi, 1902, 3,576 tons; lnanda, 1904,4,090 tons; and lntaba, 1910, 4,832 tons, the last two being passenger vessels, engaged in the U.K.-Natal service. At this period, the Harrison fleet consisted of no less than 50 vessels of a total gross tonnage of 250,000 as compared to today with, including building, 29 vessels of approx. 3 17,000 gross tons.

The Explorer

The year 1913 saw the delivery of the passenger and cargo vessel Ingoma of 5,686 tons, built by D. and W. Henderson and Co. Ltd., Glasgow, to join the fleet of the Harrison-Rennie Line, on the South African service. For this purpose, she was painted in Rennie colours, buff funnel, grey hull, but at the conclusion of the First World War, the Inanda, Intaha and Ingoma were switched to the London- West Indies service, and the Rennie Line as such ceased to exist.

The Botanist

From the period 1910 until 1949 the Harrison steamers were, with the exception of those under 5,000 gross tons, fitted with the Admiralty or cowl top funnel, this acting as protection for the inner casing, but with the advent of the motorship in the fleet, this practice was discontinued.

The Ingoma

The war of 1914 caused heavy losses to the fleet, no less than 27 vessels being lost by enemy action. To replace these the company bought 12 ships from the Liverpool-owned Saint Line, managed by Rankin, Gilmour and Co. Ltd., between the years 1917-18. Three of these were subsequently lost.


Built in 1915 by Charles Connell & Co., Glasgow.
Tonnage: 8,258g, 5, 280n, 11,960dwt.
Engine: Single screw, four cylinder quadruple expansion, 720 NHP., 13 kts.
Launched on the 19th of March completed in the June.

Defender had an eventful life first surviving a torpedo attack by UB-64 when of Queenstown on the 24th of July 1918, managing to arrive there and underwent temporary repairs before sailing for dry-dock in Liverpool. In the December of 1926 she rescued the crew of the US Coastguard vessel Lincoln that had caught fire. During the war years she remained on commercial service but for her was unfortunately caught up in the worst attack carried out by German bombers to date on allied shipping when the port of Bari in Italy was devastated on the 2nd of December 1943. In all seventeen allied ships were destroyed after two ammunition ships exploded causing many fires to break out both onboard the ships and ashore. Unfortunately for all concerned one of the ships, the liberty ship John Harvey, unbeknown to the British port authorities was carrying mustard gas which quickly spread ashore killing many people both service and civilian. For a full account of the disaster the following book is well worth a read pointing out just how much was kept quiet for many years, Glenn B. Infield Disaster at Bari. New York: Macmillan, 1971. Defender later carried four hundred survivors to Taranto.

On the 8th of June 1952 she arrived at Barrow for breaking by BISCO.

With the cessation of hostilities, a big re-building programme was undertaken, and an experiment was made in turbine propulsion in the steamers Dramatist, Diplomat and Huntsman, the latter two being the last vessels in the fleet to be fitted with four masts. However, this type of machinery, not proving economical, was not repeated in subsequent steamers.


Built in 1918 by D. & W. Henderson of Glasgow.
Tonnage: 5,571g, 3,495n, 8,000dwt.
Engine: Single screw, triple expansion by builder, 536 NHP, 11 kts.
Launched on the 9th of May and completed in the July.

Originally built as a coal burner Governor was converted for oil burning between 1920 to1923 but eventually went back to coal. She suffered damage on the 11th of July 1928 when in collision with Royal Mailís Demerara when off Cobo da Roca at the mouth of the river Tagus, Lisbon. Broken up at Rosyth by BISCO in January of 1950.

In 1920 to allow for a further development in the West Indies and Guiana trade from Glasgow and London, two fleets were purchased, eight ships from the Crown Line, managed by Prentice, Service and Henderson, Glasgow and five from Scrutton, Sons and Company, of London.


Built in 1922 by Furness S. B. Co., Haverton Hill-on-Tees.
Tonnage: 7,896g, 4,896n, 11,335dwt.
Engine: Single screw, twin turbine single reduction geared; 1,004 NHP by John Brown & Co., Clydebank, 14kts.
Completed for Furness Withy as Feliciana in the May.

This one of four of her class caused something of a stir in the shipping community when her design was studied; one example being that she was the first of her type to have all her accommodation amidships. Originally designed for the London-New York service she was transferred to the groups Gulf Line becoming London Mariner in the mid twenties due to falling traffic and U.S. domestic subsidies. When that trade slackened off she transferred again, this time to Prince Line becoming Imperial Prince in 1928. During the shipping glut she became like so many other ships surplus to requirements and was laid up in the River Blackwater off Tollesbury in 1930.

Acquired by Harrison in the May of 1935, she was placed on their joint Ellerman/Clan service to South Africa and renamed Craftsman. Her end came when she was captured and sunk 300 miles east of St Paulís Rocks in the South Atlantic by the German Raider Kormoran, five of the crew were killed during the action with the remaining forty three being shipped to Germany for the duration.

The Craftsman (2)

Having disposed of the passenger steamer Inanda in 1920, a new Inanda was ordered in 1925 from Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd., Newcastle, a vessel of just under 6,000 gross tons, with accommodation for 80 first- class passengers. She proved to be a popular addition on the West Indies service from London.

This vessel remained in Harrison service until during a heavy bombing raid on the port of London in September 1940 she was severely damaged and sunk. She was subsequently taken over by the Ministry of War Transport, raised and stripped of her passenger accommodation, renamed Empire Explorer and placed under the management of Thos. and Jas. Harrison. However in this guise she was short lived, as she was sunk by torpedo attack off the West Indies on July 8, 1942.

The Logician


Built in 1923 by Furness S.B. Co., Haverton Hill-on-Tees.
Tonnage: 7,886g, 4,934n.
Engine : Single screw, twin turbine single reduction geared, I004 NHP by John Brown & Co., Clydebank, 14kts.
Completed in the January for Furness Withy & Co., as London Commerce.

Underwent a major refit at Queenstown before transferring to Prince Line in 1928 and renamed Royal Prince for their USA-Far East service. Laid up in 1931 for four years on River Blackwater, Tollesbury. Bought by Harrison in May of 1935 and renamed Collegian. In the September of 1940 she was attacked by U-32 when 320 miles west of Malin Head, although damaged Collegian managed to escape. Broken in the December of 1947 by BISCO at Milford Haven.


Built in 1923 by Furness S.B. Co., Haverton Hill-on-Tees.
Tonnage: 7,939g, 4,947n.
Engine : Single screw, twin turbine single reduction geared, 1004 NHP, by John Brown & Co., Clydebank, 14kts.
Completed in the August for Furness Withy & Co., as London Shipper.

In 1928 she transferred to Prince Line when the USA service was terminated and renamed British Prince. Laid up as her three sisters in the River Blackwater, this brought the grand total of ships laid up due to the recession to over sixty in this particular river alone. Acquired by Harrison in May of 1935 and renamed Statesman. Sunk by a plane-launched torpedo on the 17th of May when 200 miles west of Inishtrahull, one seaman died during the attack but fifty-one others were saved.

In 1935, the fleet was augmented by the acquisition of four vessels from Furness, Withy and Co. Ltd., the Royal Prince, Imperial Prince, British Prince and London Merchant, which were renamed in order, Collegian, Craftsman, Statesman and Politician. These sister ships of 8,000 gross tons were turbine- driven, with a speed of 14 knots, and were all built between 1922-3 for the Furness North Atlantic service. On being taken over by Harrisons they were placed on the South African run in conjunction with the joint Ellerman-Clan service.

The Craftsman (3)

A bargain purchase at this time was the steamer Merchant bought on the stocks of Lithgows Ltd., Port Glasgow for £56,000; although only of the tramp type, she was useful on the West Indies and Gulf services, until lost when mined off the East coast on December 24, 1941.

At this time the fleet was rapidly expanding, and seven ships from the Leyland Line were also purchased in 1935, and placed on the West Indies and Mexico services. They were all shelter- deck vessels, strongly constructed for the North Atlantic trade, and quite out of character with usual Harrison practice, they retained their original names throughout their service.

It was also in 1935 that the first vessels for Harrisons to be built with a cruiser stern appeared. These were the Inventor and Explorer, and although slightly larger and faster, they were in other respects similar to earlier vessels built for the company. By 1937 the time had come to replace the Ingoma on the West Indies passenger trade, and this year saw the arrival in the fleet of the steamer Inkosi, a vessel of 6,618 gross tons built by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd., Newcastle. However she was to meet the same fate as her running sister Inanda, as when lying alongside that vessel in the London docks, during an air raid on September 7, 1940, she was struck by bombs and sunk. Then like the lnanda she was eventually raised, stripped of her accommodation and placed by the Ministry of War Transport as a cargo vessel under Harrison management, and given the name Empire Chivalry.

The Planter

Surviving the war she was repurchased by Harrisons, given the name Planter and served until September 1958, when sold to Belgian shipbreakers at Ghent.

The Inkosi (2) 1937

Renamed Planter, after being bought back from the M.W.T. in 1946.

When war broke out in September 1939, Harrisons had a fleet of 45 ships, but were to lose 29 before hostilities ended in 1945. The first casualty suffered was the capture on October 10, 1939 of the Huntsman. One of the largest vessels in the fleet, she was on voyage from Calcutta to London, when she was intercepted by the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. All but four of the crew were transferred to the Altmark, from which vessel they were released in losing Fjord in December 1939.

After sinking the Huntsman, the Admiral Graf Spee was in action with British warships off Montevideo, where the four remaining crew members were also released.

The next loss occurred on December 2, 1939, when the steamer Chancellor was sunk in collision with the tanker Athelchief off Halifax.

A loss much nearer home took place when the Counsellor sank after striking a magnetic mine off the Mersey Bar on March 9, 1940.

The Dalesman

Another matter worthy of mention concerned the exploits of the Dalesman. Built in 1940, she commenced her career under war conditions and during the German attack on Crete in 1941, was engaged in taking British troops off the island. She was badly damaged by German bombers and sunk in Suda Bay; fortunately all her crew were saved although a number were taken prisoner.

Later, the ship was salved by the Germans, who repaired her, renamed her Pluto and employed her in troop-carrying operation in the Mediterranean. During an attack on Trieste harbour, by R.A.F. bombers, the ship was again severely damaged and sank, and remained in this condition until after the war, when she was once again raised and completely re-built at Trieste.

On completion the Ministry of War Transport renamed her Empire Wily and she returned to this country to trade for the Ministry under Harrison management. Eventually, in November 1946, she was repurchased by her former owners, renamed Dalesman and remained in service until 1959, when, superseded by more modem tonnage, she was sold to Belgian scrappers.

During the shortage of passenger- carrying ships, the company was approached by the Ministry of War Transport to supply three vessels for conversion for this purpose. The ships chosen were the Settler, Adviser and Strategist, which were fitted out in the bridge deck to carry 60 passengers.

Although the accommodation was distinctly primitive, and the deck space limited, they managed to serve successfully as such to the end of the war, when this temporary accommodation was removed, and the vessels resumed their normal careers as cargo liners.

A Liberty ship, owned by the Harrison Line and showing how the companyís funnel colouring is carried down onto the superstructure which is in itself a distinctive feature of these vessels.

Early in 1941, in the days of few aircraft carriers and restricted land-based air cover, the idea was born of having catapult-armed merchantmen or CAM ships as they were called. One of the vessels chosen was the Novelist which had been built as recently as 1940. The equipment consisted of a catapult runway fitted on the bow of the vessel, which held a Hurricane fighter. When placed in an appropriate position in a convoy, she was able to engage any Condors or Heinkels that attacked.

Unfortunately the plane could not return to the ship, but had to make for the nearest landing strip, or to ditch itself in the sea, certainly a hazardous job for the pilot. The Novelist happily survived the war, and served until May 1961, when she was sold to Lebanese buyers, who renamed her Phoenix and re-sold her to Hong Kong shipbreakers.

The Philosopher.

With the end of the war in 1945, Harrisons embarked on the replacement of their heavy losses, and purchased between 1945-1949 10 American "Liberty" and six British-built "Empire" vessels. These proved successful until the company's own building programme made them surplus to requirements.

The Herdsman

The first of the new vessels to be delivered was the Herdsman in 1947, which marked a departure in that she was a motorship, and with her sisters Interpreter and Factor had accommodation for eight passengers. These vessels retained the lines common to the others built just prior to the war, except for an additional deck under the bridge structure for the passengers, but many other new and improved features were introduced. Three steamers of this class were also built but without the passenger accommodation, the last in 1949 being the Biographer, which differed from the others by being turbine-driven.

The Craftsman (4)

From 1951, there was a complete break with tradition, in that ,all future ships were built on the shelter deck principal with raised forecastle and with the exception of the Forester and Crofter, built by John Readhead and Sons, Ltd. of South Shields, they were diesel-driven.

The first of the new type to enter service was the Astronomer, to be followed by the sister ships Arbitrator, Wanderer and Wayfarer, all 13-knot vessels, built by Doxford of Sunderland, having all the crew housed amidships, and the standard of accommodation 1hroughout in keeping with the other many improvements adopted.

Between the years 1952-4, four more similar, but slightly faster vessels were added to the fleet, the Governor, Diplomat, Barrister and Journalist all from Doxfords, to be followed in 1955 by the Defender: The latter ship differed from the previous vessels by having a shortened forecastle, a practice followed in all subsequent new tonnage.

Three more, the last of this type, were delivered in 1958-9, these being the Author and Administrator, built to the order of the Ruthin Steamship Company of Bermuda, a subsidiary company, although they bore Liverpool as port of registry, and the Plainsman, all 15-knot vessels, fitted with two heavy lift derricks of 70 tons capacity.

At this time, it had become the trend to favour 1he machinery-aft type of vessel, this principle allowing the greatest beam 10 be used for cargo, and providing the maximum width of hatches and deck- carrying space. To this end the Adventurer was designed. It was to Doxfords once again that the order was entrusted in 1959, and on delivery the following year this vessel had the distinction of being the first British ship to be fitted with the patent Stulcken derrick of 180 tons lifting capacity, at that time the heaviest in the world.

The Adventurer

Following the success of the Adventurer, three more of similar type were ordered, the Custodian and Tactician in 1961 from Doxfords, and the Inventor in 1964 from Charles Connell and Co. Ltd.


Built in 1961 by William Doxford & Sons SB Ltd., Sunderland.
Tonnage: 8,971g, 4,794n, 10,900dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 6 Cylinder 2S. SA. Doxford, 8,000 BHP @ 115rpm, 16kts.
Launched on the 21st of April 1959 and completed in the February of the following year.

Designed with machinery aft and bridge well forward of the superstructure to give maximum cargo capacity. First British ship built with Stulken and at the time had the heaviest lift possible afloat. Fire broke out in a cargo of chemicals stowed in number five hold on the 26th of April 1963 when at Assab in Eritrea. This was eventually extinguished with the use of C02 after thirty hours. Sold to Prospel Maritime Ltd., of Greece with European Navigation Inc nominated as managers in 1979 becoming Eleftheria. Her owners changed to Eleftheria Navigation Co., Ltd., for the breakers voyage to Gadani Beach in 1985, work commenced by Haji Abdul Karim & Co., on the 11th of May.


Built by William Doxford & Sons SB Ltd., in 1961, Sunderland.
Tonnage: 8,850g, 4,650n, 10,920dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 6 Cylinder turbo charged 2S. SA. Doxford, 8,000 BHP, 16kts.
Launched on the 5th of October 1960, completed February the following year.

Custodian made her maiden voyage on the 11th of March and had been fitted with lower masts and accommodation to enable her to transit the Manchester Ship Canal. During a voyage to Durban in April of 1963 she suffered a cargo fire and had to anchor in Walvis Bay to extinguish same. Sold out of the Harrison fleet in 1979 to Petralia Navigation Co., with Patmos Navigation Co., as operators, renamed Sea Pearl. Sold to Cactus Shipping Co., of Cyprus in 1982 and renamed Mighty Pearl, went aground in the February south east of Inagua Island, Bahamas when en route Montreal-Kingston. The tug Fairplay 1X attempted to drag her off but having been holed in three separate places she was eventually abandoned to the insurance underwriters, fortunately for them her cargo was recovered.


Built in 1961 by Nederland Dok & Schps Werks, Amsterdam.
Tonnage: 7,200g, 3,754n, 8,850dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 2S. SA. Sulzer, Winterthur, 6,500 IHP, 15.5kts.
Launched 15th of June and entered service in the November of 1961.

On the 19th of November 1965 she caught fire in No. 2 hold requiring her to make port at Corrunna where the fire raged for three days before being finally extinguished on the 22nd. Sold to Tembo Shipping Co., of Greece in January of 1979 becoming Adrianos. Became Ioannis for the Oceanpride Marine Corporation of Piraeus in 1981 and her ownership was transferred to the Shipping & Commercial Corporation during the same year. Laid up at Piraeus in 1982 and travelled to Haungpu early 1984 for breaking arriving on the 5th of April.

The Dalesman (2)

Two vessels worthy of mention were delivered in 1961 from the Netherlands Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company of. Amsterdam, the Dalesman and Explorer, each with a gross tonnage of 7,000, thus enabling them to be placed on any of the various services operated by the company.


Built by William Doxford & Sons SB Ltd., in 1962, Sunderland.
Tonnage: 8,850g, 4,650n, 10,920dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 6 Cylinder turbo charged 2S. SA. Doxford, 8,000 BHP, 16kts.
Launched 16th of February and completed in the June.

Unlike her sister ship Custodian she was fitted with a crane on the aft deckhouse. In October of the same year of launch she was caught up in a hurricane when at Belize and rendered invaluable assistance such as medicine and food until relieved by rescue ships of the Royal & U.S Navies. In 1968 she suffered an engine room fire which disabled the ship requiring her to be towed into Ponta Delgada by Ellerman Wilsonís Rapallo. In 1972 yet another fire and explosion disabled her again and she had to put into Walvis Bay for repairs, this time the conflagration killed two men. Renamed Sea Luck in 1979 for Petralia Navigation Co., of Cyprus and moved on yet again the following October becoming Kero for Naviera Neptuno S.A. of Callo, Peru. She arrived at General San Martin of Peru for breaking on the 15th of May 1987.

The year 1964 saw the delivery of the first of the five medium-sized motorships specially designed for the West Indian and Gulf trades, all coming from the yard of Lindholmens, of Gothenburg, Sweden. The first was the Discoverer of 5,583 gross tons with a deadweight of 7,400 and a speed of 16 knots, to be followed by the Philosopher, Statesman, Novelist and Naturalist, the last two delivered in 1965. The following year, two more of similar size, but of different design were ordered from the same yard, and were named Trader and Linguist, having accommodation and machinery arranged entirely aft, with two continuous decks, forecastle arid long poop, and with the upper deck over No.1 hatch upraised.


Built in 1964 by Charles Connell & Co., Glasgow.
Tonnage: 9,171g, 4,833n, 10,945dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 8 Cylinder 2S. SA. By Sulzer, Winterthur, 12,600 BHP, 16kts.
Launched on the 21st August 1963, completed May 1964.

An engine failure on the 28th of December 1965 off Cape Agulhas required the dropping of both anchors to prevent the ship from being driven ashore, after repairs, which took forty five hours she was able to make port at Cape Town. Sold out of the fleet to Penta World Pte of Singapore becoming Penta World in March of 1981. Laid up in Singapore in the July of the same year she was eventually sold for breaking to Ging Ya Enterprise of Kaohsiung arriving there on the 17th of May 1985.


Built in 1964 by A/B Lindholmes Varv., Gottenburg.
Tonnage: 6,162g, 3,200n, 7,725dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 7 Cylinder 2S. SA., by builder, 5,800 BHP, 16kts.
Launched on the 22nd January 1964 and completed June of the same year.

On the 4th of November 1965 she collided with Royal Mailís Durango when on passage in the River Thames, both vessels were able to continue. Sold to the Peoples Republic of China in 1977 becoming Jianchang later changed to Jian Ghang. Although still listed in 1988 the site doesnít know her eventual fate.


Built in 1964 by A/B Lindholmes Varv., Gottenburg.
Tonnage: 6,162g, 3,200n, 7,725dwt.
Engine: Single screw, 7 Cylinder 2S. SA., by builder, 5,800 BHP, 16kts.
Launched 18th of March 1964 completed September of the same year.

On the 27th of July 1977 she was sold as her sisters to the Peoples Republic of China and left Glasgow as Yongchang later to become Yong Chang. Home port Canton. On the 24th of September 1982 she was in collision with the Japanese ship Seiko Maru, a small coaster two miles out of Yokohama, the coaster subsequently sank. As her sisters still listed in 1988.

The Philospher (3)

The two vessels are propelled by two Pielstick turbo-charged oil engines, each developing 3,200 b.h.p. giving a speed of 17 knots on trials. They are also fitted with a Stulcken derrick of 70 tons lifting capacity, serving the two main hatches, the others being served by electric cranes.

With the building of specialised tonnage, the time came to dispose of the older units, and the first of the post-war built ships to go was the turbine-driven Biographer of 1949, sold in 1964 to Panamanian operators, who placed her under the Liberian flag and renamed her Tolmi. She lasted until December 1973, when she went to Taiwan scrappers.

Following her, the pioneer motorship of the fleet, the Herdsman of 1947 was sold in 1965 to Hong Kong buyers, who renamed her Hock Aun. However she only bore this name for four years, being re-sold to Singapore buyers who gave her the name Kota Selamat, and she finally went to Eastern ship breakers in 1973. There followed in succession the Linguist (1947), Craftsman (1947), and Interpreter (1948), all sold between 1966-67 for further trading.

The building of new tonnage continued and in 1968 two vessels were designed primarily for the African trades. They were the Magician and Historian, ordered from the Pallion yard of The Doxford and Sunderland Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. Ltd., Sunderland, vessels of 8,454 gross tons with a speed of 18 knots, fitted with a Stulcken derrick of 150 tons lifting capacity.

The Inventor (4), fitted with Stulcken derrick.

An opportunity arose in 1970 to add to the fleet by purchasing a large fast vessel which had been launched by Doxfords for Greek owners. Named Ion she was of 11,299 gross tons and was given the name Benefactor, thus reviving a name that had been absent from the fleet for 35 years. Also in this year, two additions were made by the purchase of the Cunard vessels Samaria and Scythia of 7,600 gross tons. Given the names Scholar and Merchant respectively, they proved very suitable for the West Indies trade.

The Merchant (4)

In keeping with several other well- known liner companies, Harrisons sought to diversify their trade by entering the bulk-carrying business and ordered in Japan three large bulk carriers, vessels of 16,317 gross tons and 27,135 dead- weight, giving them the names Wanderer, Wayfarer and Warrior.

Following the success of these bulk carriers, all let on voyage or long-term charter, two more of even larger tonnage were ordered from the Danish builders Burmeister and Wain, named Strategist and Specialist. They are of the Panamax standard series, of 35,715 gross tons and 58,795 tons deadweight and are showing the Harrison flag in ports and countries never before visited by the company's ships.

Although containers have in the past been carried on deck by conventional vessels, the firm are now supplementing the Caribbean service with two specially constructed vessels built in Poland, of 27,867 gross tons and it service speed of 21 knots named Astronomer and Adviser. These two vessels are to run in conjunction with Hapag Lloyd A.G. Hamburg, Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij B. V. of Amsterdam, and Compagnie Generale Maritime of Paris, and will consist of a consortium of six vessels forming the Caribbean Overseas Lines (Carol) serving Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Tilbury, Le Havre and Liverpool.

The South African trade will also be served in the not too distant future, by a container ship of 42,000 tonnes dead- weight with a speed of 2l knots, building in Germany at the yard of A. G. Weser, to be jointly owned by Ellerman-Harrison Container Lines, of which Ellermans, having the larger stake will be the senior partner. The vessel will bear the name City of Durban.

The story of Harrisons, a firm that started with little brigs engaged in the wine trade 150 years ago, is one of continuous progress, carefully planned, and fully capable of holding its own in a world of growing competition.

Having been written in 1977 this is where the article finishes but we have the following information to end the tale. Our thanks to Geoff Topp.

In 1978 CGM formerly known as French Line joined the CAROL consortium bringing the groups sailing's up to a weekly service, also this year a new container consortium commenced a single container ship operation to South Africa. Harrisons had a one third share with the remaining held by Ellerman's, the two company's shared the manning and the first ship for the new venture was the City of Durban. The final ship built for Harrisons was the December, 1980 completed Author that was sold to Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance and renamed Benarmin and placed on a wet boat charter to Ben Line, Harrisons remained managers.

On April 4th 1982 the Argentineans invaded the Falklands in the misguided belief that the United Kingdom would not retaliate, unfortunately for those that died this was not to be the case and a task force was dispatched within a mater of a week or so and the Islands were retaken by the June. Three container ships were converted for use as aircraft supply and transporters during the May of which Astronomer was finally purchased by the government and refitted, including a flight deck becoming a helicopter base ship with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and renamed Reliant. She continued in that role until being sold on for further trading to a Panamanian concern in 1986.


As Reliant

Also in this year finance provided by Harrison's was used to purchase the Hong Kong company of Blairdale Shipping Ltd from Charles Connell & Co, their two ships, both bulk carriers, were named Lamma Forest and Lantau Trader and remained with their then current ship managers Denholm, technical and operational management transferred to Harrison. In 1983 as its fleet declined Harrison's made nearly a third of its seagoing employees redundant, this was the first time its history that the company had to resort to such draconian measures, even during its worst year, 1931, it had sought to re-employ its men as and when trade revived, this time there was to be no way back for its former employees. Further bad news followed when the nine company consortium, South Africa Europe Container Service had to withdraw City of Durban and charter her to OCL, she later transferred to Associated Container Transportation becoming ACT 8.

In 1984 Harrisons took over the management of Pisces Pioneer and Pisces Planter, two new ships belonging to Crossfish Ltd of Hong Kong and the following year the company chartered out Adviser along with its crew to Cie General Maritime for its South Africa Gulf of Mexico service the ship being renamed CGM Provence. By 1987 the Charente Steamship Company Ltd fleet stood at only three ships with others either chartered in or being managed, the three were Author, Warrior and the chartered out Advisor, by 1988 the sum total stood at ten vessels with its office still located at Mersey Chambers, Liverpool.

In the Epilogue - The Final Chapter - It says that 'in October 2000 Thos J. Harrison Ltd, on behalf of the Charente Steamship Company, relinquished all rights and privileges in the management of the liner trades which were transferred to P & O Nedlloyd.'