Archibald Currie Line

4th October 2005, 12:27
Captain Archibald Currie started in a small way with sailing vessels of approximately 400 Tons, after some 15 years in this trade he could see that the future lay with the steamship and in 1882 Captain Currie travelled to the United Kingdom with the view to purchase new craft.

It was Captain Currie's almost poetical notion to name his new fleet in Alphabetical order and that each should end in the classical "us". The first of these ss Argus was delivered in 1889, ss Bucephalus, ss Clitus, ss Darius, ss Euryalus, ss Fortunatus, SS Gracchus, ss Hymetus, ss Itonus and ss Janus followed over the next 21 Years. In all 10 steamers were aquired (not all in service at the same time), the average speed of which was 10 Knots.

Founded in Melbourne Australia, the line advertised there a monthly service to and from India (Colombo, Madras, Calcutta). As well as the monthly service, Currie also ran a service to Java and Singapore via Sourabaja and Samerang in competition with the Royal Dutch Packet Co, leaving Australia on regular five weekly intervals.

The ships were fitted to carry horses but were also suitable for fruit, meat and butter. One of the major cargos was Australian Brumbies supplied as remounts for the Indian army. Although the carriage of horses to India was taken up by many lines including the British India Steam Navigation Co, the credit for inaugurating this trade goes to the Currie Line. Not only did Curries start this trade, they were also the most efficent. As their competitors awkwardly loaded and unloaded their charges via a cumbersome derrick and sling arrangement, Curries simply walked the horses on and off the ship via bulkhead doors let into the hull of the vessel. This innovation was designed and implemented by Captain Colin Mc Donald (my Great Grandfather), Currie's Senior Master. The line was also known to have carried a load of 400 camels from Karachi to South Australia. Ironically, many generations later Australia has the world largest population of camels which are now exported back to the Arabic nations of their fore fathers.

The early years of the new Century saw the line dispose of three of their vessels, First to go was Bucephalus in 1901 floowed bu Clitus in 1904 and Argus in 1905. The Boer War saw the Currie Line enter military service with Euryalus. Under the command of Captain Colin Mc Donald Euryalus trooped the second Victorian Contingent to South Africa. After the war Currie's advertised vessels for Deloga Bay, Durban, East London and Capetown carrying valuable livestock for the countries reconstruction.

Hard times were to follow, in a cruel twist of fate, Fortunatus - so unhappily named in reality - on July 31, 1907 she mysteriously caught fire in her jute cargo. Unable to extinguish the blaze she had to be abandoned 600 miles south of Colombo. Her master, Captain Murdoch Mc Donald (Colins brother) and his crew endured six and a half days in open boats as they made for Mauritius. Later a naval board of inquiry commended Captain Mc Donald for " upholding the best traditions of British seamanship". Captain Currie was obviously satisfied with the boards finding as in 1908 he gave Murdoch command of the stricken ships replacement Itonus (ex Anglia), at 5'340 Ton, the largest vessel in his fleet. Darius was sold to the Australian Government's State Shipping Service where she was renamed Kwinana. A stout new ship, Janus entered the trade in 1910 Under the Command of Captain Colin Mc Donald, however the writing was on the wall for this small Australian Line. In 1913 the Archibald Currie Line was sold and the remaining vessels passed to the British India Steam Navigation co, ending a very interesting and colourful chapter in Australian Shipping.

4th October 2005, 12:46
sea_dog what a great post about what is probably a relatively unknown bit of Australian history. The ships are beatiful and I loved the rake of the masts and funnels...congratulations and thanks for an enjoyable post

4th October 2005, 13:13
Your more than welcome Derek, as I am sure you have guessed "Currie's" has a special place in my heart, not only due to my families involvement but also because many of these very important smaller lines do get lost in the bigger picture.

4th October 2005, 13:17
Oh forgot to mention I have posted a few more of the Currie ships in the cargo ship gallery

4th October 2005, 13:20
Oh forgot to mention I have posted a few more of the Currie ships in the cargo ship gallery
Yes I saw the photos in the gallery Ron. I wonder if the name has any bearing on the number of Currie streets there are in Australian cities, Adelaide in particular comes to mind.

Jan Hendrik
4th October 2005, 13:32
What an exceptional story Ron, during a period of great maritime achievement.
Regretfully a great part has disappeared in this country todate.
So now we know where the camels came from.

4th October 2005, 13:40
Yes Jan, not sure if my Great Grandfather was directly responsable for the Camels, however I do know he brought "Queenie" to Australia. For those who are too young (or not from melbourne), Queenie was a very famous Asian Elephant at Melbourne zoo. I believe in his later years (before my time) he would visit Queenie and said that she still recognised him :)

Cam Carter
24th June 2013, 07:47
Hi Ron, I came across your post researching my ancestry. We have always been told my Great Grandfather died in a shipwreck off the Western Australian coast somewhere taking horses to India. The closest shipwreck matching the description I can find so far is the Fortunatus. I have found information saying the crew and passengers were rescued and taken to Mauritius. However, I have also found an old newspaper saying one fireman was missing. I'm wondering if this might be my Great Grandfather. I'm hoping you or someone else might know how I could find a crew list for the Fortunatus on that trip or the name of the missing fireman. The year 1907 matches with his death. Thanks Cam.