Old P&O ferry, St Clair - any images?

trawler_models
7th January 2006, 13:46
When P&O ran the service to the Shetlands from Aberdeen there was a succession of ferries over a number of decades called 'St Clair'. The later vessels were ro-ro, and pictures of these can be found on P&Os site.

Prior to the ro-ro, there was a ship that I barely remember as I was too young to take much notice at the time, but she used to dock in the Shetlands near the old berth in Lerwick, before the ro-ro facilities were built at Holmsgarth.

All I can recall was vehicles being lifted in and out of her holds using nets under the wheels. As a kid I stood in fascination waiting for one of these dangling vehicles to come to grief, but they never did, much to my boyhood disappointment.

Dad says she was a lovely looking ship with nice lines, but I can't find any photos of her. She was running (I think) late 60's and early 70's, and I believe there's a static model of her in the Shetland Museum, but it's a bit far away now (I live in Hampshire now).

Has anyone come across this particular ship?

Edit I see Jim Pottinger has a rather excellent painting of St Clair here (http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/9389/sort/1/cat/502/page/1) that may be her. Can you tell me which St Clair that one is Jim?

Bruce Carson
7th January 2006, 14:58
Hi:
There are photos of the North Company's 'S. Clair' and other ships of the company at the Simplon postcard website.

Built in 1960 by Ailsa at Troon.

http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/NorthCo.html#anchor322331

http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/NorthCo.html
Take a look at the 'St. Sunniva' of 1931---perhaps the most elegant coastal liner ever built.

Bruce C.

trawler_models
7th January 2006, 15:13
Hi:
There are photos of the North Company's 'S. Clair' and other ships of the company at the Simplon postcard website.

Built in 1960 by Ailsa at Troon.

http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/NorthCo.html#anchor322331

http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/NorthCo.html
Take a look at the 'St. Sunniva' of 1931---perhaps the most elegant coastal liner ever built.

Bruce C.

Ah...she's there, 1960-1977 - thanks Bruce :)

St Sunniva was indeed elegant.

yarrowdale
7th January 2006, 15:29
Hi
I have a small photo of the St Clair, i have attached it to you,

Bruce Carson
7th January 2006, 15:42
Welcome to the group, Yarrowdale.
It's a great site and I hope you enjoy it as much as the rest of us.
There's something here for everyone who enjoys the sea and ships.

Bruce C.

Chief Engineer's Daughter
7th January 2006, 17:06
The old pre Ro-Ro ferries used to dock at Victoria Pier right in the heart of Lerwick. The 1930s St Sunivia came to grief on the island of Mousa, I will check the dates and details, and yes, she was a most elegant lady. My friend and fishing partner's Dad was onboard as a mate that fateful night and I will ask him. (Thumb)

Bruce Carson
7th January 2006, 17:43
The 'St. Sunniva' came to a horrific ending during World War II. She began as an accommodation ship and then was converted to a convoy rescue ship.
She foundered in the Atlantic with all hands in January 1941.
It is theorized that her masts, rigging and superstructure iced over and weight of the ice caused her to suddenly capsize.

Bruce C.

bert thompson
7th January 2006, 17:44
Think a relation of mine Captain Johnson was in command of the St Sunniva on that fateful night. Always been told that an awful lot of furniture is still to be found in Sandwick.
On the other side of Victoria Pier the Earl of Zetland used to berth. Remember going onboard her at anchor in Mid Yell Voe on her maiden voyage. Think that would have been just prior to 1930. Looked down from the bow and the distance seemed massive. Recently visited her at her permanent berth in North Shields. The distance from the bow now seems so small and not as a little boy remembered.
Regards Bert

bert thompson
7th January 2006, 17:47
Should have said 1939 and not 1930 for my visit to the Earl of Zetland

Bruce Carson
7th January 2006, 17:54
Hi:
Just checked it out and it was the first 'St. Sunniva' that went aground on the island of Mousa.
Built by Hall Russell at Aberdeen in 1887, she was lost on April 10, 1930.
The second ship of the name was built the following year.

Bruce C.

trawler_models
7th January 2006, 19:12
I seem to recall that the Shetland Museum had a propeller outside the main entrance that (maybe faulty!) memory tells me it was from the St Sunniva wreck off mousa.

Victoria pier! I remember now C.E.Daughter - I'd forgotten the name, but I well remember standing in awe watching the cars swinging in the Northerly breeze...mind, cars then were built like tanks, so one dropping was more likely to wreck the pier than itself (*))

Thanks for the picture Yarrowdale (Thumb)

Stuart.Henderson
8th January 2006, 00:08
I seem to recall that the Shetland Museum had a propeller outside the main entrance that (maybe faulty!) memory tells me it was from the St Sunniva wreck off mousa.

Victoria pier! I remember now C.E.Daughter - I'd forgotten the name, but I well remember standing in awe watching the cars swinging in the Northerly breeze...mind, cars then were built like tanks, so one dropping was more likely to wreck the pier than itself (*))

Thanks for the picture Yarrowdale (Thumb)

The propellor blade outside Shetland Museum is from the White Star Line Oceanic which was wrecked near the island of Foula 1917

Chief Engineer's Daughter
14th January 2006, 01:32
Yes indeed the first St Sunnivia was wrecked off the East side of Mousa in 1930 and the second St Sunnivia sank during the war. You can imagine the reaction in Shetland when P&O Scottish Ferries announced that their second Ro-ro ferry on the "North run" was to be given that very name. Fortunatley she was a very happy ship and only very recently ended her days on a beach somewhere, need I say more?
The Oceanic went ashore on the 8th of September 1914 on the Hoevdi. I think there is a thread on the recently discovered bell.

Regards
CED

mike nicholson
27th January 2006, 17:47
Reading the thread of the old St.Clair reninded me of the time I was posted to RAF SAXAVORD on UNST.
On arrival at Aberdeen station one was confroted with a large noticeboard
infoming us as to whether we would be able to continue the journey by air from Dyce to Sunbrough-Lerwick-ferry to Yell-ferry to Unst.However should the weather prevent this we were to report to the harbour and continue our journey on the old St.Clair and somtimes be billited in the Seamens Mission
untill the weather abated.
At that time the skipper was one Captain Gifford of Lerwick a cousin of my late father Captain E.D.Nicholson.

rickles23
10th July 2008, 08:18
Please go to the thread:

Nominated Rescue Ships For Convoys

and scroll down to the bottom and if you need more just let me know.

Regards

John Campbell
10th July 2008, 11:18
Reading the thread of the old St.Clair reninded me of the time I was posted to RAF SAXAVORD on UNST.
On arrival at Aberdeen station one was confroted with a large noticeboard
infoming us as to whether we would be able to continue the journey by air from Dyce to Sunbrough-Lerwick-ferry to Yell-ferry to Unst.However should the weather prevent this we were to report to the harbour and continue our journey on the old St.Clair and somtimes be billited in the Seamens Mission
untill the weather abated.
At that time the skipper was one Captain Gifford of Lerwick a cousin of my late father Captain E.D.Nicholson.

I did a two month trip on the St Clair as second mate in 1960. It was a great adventure and and Capt Gifford was Master. Despite being sesick many times
due to the awful motion of the vessel it was a an experience not to be missed.
Capt Gifford was a great seaman but being a coasting man on that run for many years he was terrified of loosing sight of land. They never put a position on the chart and the only chart ever seen was a blue fishing chart kept on a roller blind affair. Courses were all in quarter points and it was all strange tome just having completed a two year trip with Andrew Weir. I will always remember Capt Gifford as he conned the St Clair on the approaches to Lerwick -telling the Bosun who was on the wheel-"Keep her on Geordie's hoose" - a white house on the hillside.

The Captain's cabin was durectly behind the wheel and he only slept for brief
periods whilst at sea. He used to shout out from his bunk (in his broad Shetland accent)- "Has do seen the Fair Isle boy" and I would have to say that I had - to prevent him thundering from his cabin with binocs to scan the horizon to assure himself that we were on course. In fog he sat at the radar set all the way from Lerwick to Aberdeen.

When we were in Lerwick I remember he had the bosun and all the Shetland seafarers go home with him to cut his peats.

We had one night the whalers returning to Lerwick after a stint down in the Antartic on the Southern Harvester. Many wives went down to Liverpool to meet their men folk to get the money off them before they could spend it on drink. They were in a happy state when they boarded in Aberdeen and Capt Gifford was afraid they would do damage to his vessel. He ordered me to do patrols of the accommodation every two hours. Apart from vomit every where we arrived at Lerwick OK. The Capt. was terrified of them starting fires he told me they had set fire to a bunk on a previous trip (smoking in bed)

Being a deep sea man as Capt Gifford said he was going to use my knowledge to correct the standard compass on the monkey island. This terrified me as splitting B etc was not yet my forte - however I could take an azimuth and I set off to do that only to be confronted by a binnacle completely encased in three layers of green tarpaulin canvas. After half an hour of unwrapping this lot I got to the binnacle and lifting of the cover to discover no azimuth mirror.
Reporting this to Gifford - he was most perplexed and said that it must be stored away under the chart room setee. We searched amongst the usual gear but no azimuth mirror. Most dissapointed Gifford just told me to lash up the binnacle and forget about it- I was delighted as I was terrified he would have me correcting the deviation etc. I then asked him what about taking bearings , ascertaining collision courses if nothing else without an azimuth mirror
He showed me how this was done - you line up this stanchion with that stanchion - that's a four point bearing and you navigate like that. He alone used the radar and when it was on he sat on a high chair at the screen and you never were allowed to see it.

We had some real rough seas on that route and it was an ordeal to keep your feet as the ship bucked and rolled and you had to wedge yourself in the corner of the wheelhouse to keep a look out.

Capt Gifford gave me a good bit of advice " Doos a young boy - this trade is not for thee - get thee back deep sea and get yer Master's and forget about coasting"

JC

Binnacle
11th July 2008, 12:31
Very interesting posts. Served on the old Ninian as crane boy when she was running to Scapa in 45. Joined with my own bedding, pots and pans etc. Bosun supplied me with a bucket, sweat rag and length of soap. Stout was master, Andrew Ramsay was mate, then "Black" Johnston. Sailed as passenger on St. Sunniva before the war. Spent the first night of WWII at sea aboard the St Clair as passenger bound for Lerwick. IIRC the master of the St Sunniva of Foula fame was known as Bonnie Willie.

Binnacle
11th July 2008, 17:08
IIRC the master of the St Sunniva of Foula fame was known as Bonnie Willie.
Oops - for Foula read Mousa.

John Campbell
11th July 2008, 17:56
Binnacle, being a crane boy must have been a great job for a young lad. I remember the fun that our crane boys used to have with two characters who used to frequent the quayside when the ferry came in and began discharging cargo. They were Whalsey Wullie and Jimmy Sheeksy(Jim Tait - I think was his name) - the lads used to get some abuse from Jimmy as they tried to overload his freight barrow with cargo. They used to hurl banter back and forth and it was great fun.
The Earl of Zetland had some great characters too I cannot remember the Purser's name but he hailed from Scrabster and he and I had a common heritage. I wish I had a diary. What entertainment we all had there.
JC

Binnacle
13th July 2008, 13:37
Memories are a bit faded now John, I do remember the after crane I worked was just outside the C/E's cabin door, which seemed to automatically open if I clashed the gears. One look from the chief was enough to remind me that crane boys were about the lowest form of maritime life. Being small the steam valve hissed and splattered just inches from my nose, but you had to look through that space to know what you were about. If you were in good form the cargo on the end of the hook travelled in an arc, slewing as you lifted and lowering on the footbrake, both feet on the brake at times. It was embarrassing at times if the hook came up to the jib head, as you had to slacken back the chain and clamber up to the jib head and pull the slack chain up to lower the hook.If you were lucky none of the AB's were around, otherwise they would shake their heads and shout insulting remarks.The for'd hold was also a troop deck so that crane was only used for deck lifts. As these ships were designed to carry passengers or cattle they were ideal for the carriage of service personnel. One voyage, before my time, I believe she had eleven hundred aboard, any safety certificates having been filed away for the duration. When I was on her the war was ending and most of the navy men were being sent south, often there would be much singing and jollification on the quayside at Lyness, fueled by large mess kits of rum. Many of them had endured a long hard war and had good reason to celebrate. The celebrations always eased off once we cleared Cantick Head and were at the mercy of the Pentland Firth. Troop toilets were at the for'd hatch and sitting nearby peeling potatoes for our next meal while weaker members of the senior service suffered from mal de mer was a bit off putting to say the least, as I was experiencing similar symptons. Probably I was all the better for the experience, bare boards and plenty of disinfectant did me no harm.

japottinger
19th July 2008, 22:02
When firts I left Shetland on the St Clair in 1951 there was no such thing as checking in ashore with tickets, once clear of Lerwick the deck lads manned all the deckhouse doors and exits and the stewards went around to check that you had paid!
Any of you recall a schoolmate of mine at the Central on the North boats, Magnus Tulloch, great fiddle player.

japottinger
19th July 2008, 22:05
My painting was St Clair II completed in 1937, was HMS Baldur in WWII.Renamed St Magnus IV in 1960