16th July 2008, 08:57
Mercantile Steamship Company Ltd
In or about 1851 John Ashforth Dunkerly set up in business in Hull as a shipbroker under the style J.A.Dunkerly & Co. A few years later his brother, Charles Henry Dunkerly, became a partner. The business prospered and as a result of experience gained as agents for the North of Europe Steam Navigation Company it was decided in 1864 to start a steamship service to the Baltic, orders being placed for the 970 ton iron screw NILE and NEVA. The 1,900 ton NYANZA, GANGES and TAGUS were added in 1867-8 to enable operations to be extended to the Mediterranean. Two slightly smaller ships, the 1,730 ton TRENT and TIBER appeared in 1870; the 1,210 ton SHANNON was bought on the stocks.
It was at this time that the Dunkerly brothers entered into partnership with Rudolph Steinmann, a Liverpool shipowner, the separate firm of Dunkerly & Steinmann being established with headquarters in Water Street, Liverpool. The advantages of this arrangement were seen in June 1871, when the TIBER, TRENT, TAGUS and NYANZA were chartered to the Warren Line, which was thus able to resume its steamship service between Liverpool and Boston.
Prospects seemed extremely good, but the Company was suffering from a shortage of capital. On 19 August 1871; therefore, the Commercial Steam Shipping Company Ltd was registered with a nominal capital of £300,000, but at the request of the Registrar this name was changed later in the same month to Mercantile Steamship Company Ltd owing to the possibility of confusion with another concern. Directors of the Company were the three partners of Dunkerly & Steinmann, together with John and R.R. Glover of Glover Brothers London. Largest shareholder was Sir Francis Lycett, which accounts for the fact that two of the new steamers under construction were named SIR FRANCIS and LADY LYCETT, respectively, both being of 1,833 tons. The other two were the 1,476 ton CHESAPEAKE and the 1,832 ton POTOMAC. Earlier Dunkerly steamers were placed under Mercantile management, but were not transferred to them at this stage.
The Company's fleet was shown as the SHANNON, LADY LYCETT, POTOMAC, TRENT, TIBER, NYANZA, GANGES and TAGUS, in that order, all owned by J.A.Dunkerly & Co, except the LADY LYCETT, which was registered in the name of the Mercantile Steamship Company.
At first the ships were used on the Liverpool Montreal run. The SHANNON went missing after leaving Sydney, Cape Breton Island, on 13 November 1872 on her homeward voyage from Montreal to London. All told there had been only four sailings including the chartered one. The withdrawalfrom the Liverpool Montreal service can be considered as due in no small degree to the introduction of a regular service on the same route in May 1872 by the appreciably larger steamers of the Dominion Line.
Instead, it was decided to start a service between Liverpool and Philadelphia by the TAGUS on 20 July 1872. She was followed by the GANGES in August, the POTOMAC in September and the LADY LYCETT in October.
Sailings continued fairly regularly until 15 April 1873, when the NYANZA was scheduled to leave Liverpool but was postponed in stages until 15 May and then cancelled outright, after the ABBOTSFORD of the Newly formed Red Star Line started a service from Liverpool to Philadelphia, this was to much of a competion for the Mercantile Steamship Company because the Red Star Line had considerable backing, particularly in the USA.
Thus, the Mercantile Steamship Company, as such, undertook only four round voyages between Liverpool, Quebec and Montreal and eight between Liverpool and Philadelphia, but its activities on the North Atlantic were much more important than this suggests. Its steamers were also responsible for upwards of 20 voyages under charter to the Warren Line, one of the last being by the SIR FRANCIS, which was wrecked on Salisbury Beach, New Hampshire, on 3 January 1873 while so employed. In addition, the LADY LYCETT made five voyages between Bristol and New York for the Great Western Steamship Line, and other steamers carried out six or more voyages for the Temperly Line between London and Canada.
The North Atlantic boom which followed the Franco-Prussian War did not last beyond 1873 and the Mercantile Steamship Company wisely confined its subsequent activities to tramping. Following an increase of capital in November 1874, most of the remaining Dunkerly steamers were transferred to Mercantile ownership, periodical additions being made to the fleet from 1877 onwards. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 the Company owned a total of 14 up-to-date ships, only three of which survived the Armistice, two others having been added during the war. However, as a result of heavy war losses and poor prospects for the future, the directors made it known that the company was available for disposal. The P&O was interested and late in 1917, Hain acquired the majority of shares in the company at a cost of £ 1,484,944. The remaining shares were purchased in the years 1922 and 1923, and by 31st March 1923, the whole of the share capital was held by Hain and the fleet of five tramps: LENA, BOYLE (2), FOYLE (2), and PRUTH (2) transferred to Hain ownership.
For the first few years after 1917 the Mercantile fleet continued to trade as before, with Hain acting as managers. No new vessels were ordered, although in 1921 Hain transferred to Mercantile the contract for one of the ships they had under construction at Readheads. This ship was to be completed in July 1922 as the MIN (2). However, it soon became apparent to the P&O Board that there was little to be gained in running two separate companies in the tramping trades. Therefore on 21st June 1923 the Mercantile Board resolved to put the company into voluntary liquidation and transfer the fleet assets to Hain. Although the Mercantile steamers were promptly repainted in Hain colours, their traditional names were retained, and did in fact last until 1936. Then, at a board meeting in September of that year, it was finally resolved to preserve the uniformity of the fleet names. As a result, the former Mercantile steamers were all given “manufactured" Cornish names with the prefix “TRE".
Name Built Builder History Tons
Nile 1865 Oswald, Sunderland Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co., 970
Neva 1865 Oswald, Sunderland Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co., 970
Nyanza 1867 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co., 1871-1873 chartered to Warren Line, 1873 chartered to Temperly Ross Line, 1893 went missing at sea. 1,859
Ganges 1867 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co., 1871-1873 chartered to Warren Line, 1898 sold to Italian owners and renamed Mercurius, 1899 sold to Swedish owners, 11.10.1899 sunk in collision near Gothenburg. She was refloated, repaired and resumed service until 1913 when she was scrapped. 1,903
Tagus 1868 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co., 1871-1873 chartered to Warren Line, 1873-1876 chartered to Temperly Ross Line, 1898 sold to Germany, 1899 hulked at Kiel. 1,908
Trent 1870 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co.,1871-1873 chartered to Warren Line 1,739
Tiber 1870 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co., 1871-1873 chartered to Warren Line 1,410
Shannon 1871 Gourlay Bros & Co., Dundee Built for J.A. Dunkerly & Co., 1872 chartered to Warren Line, 1872 went missing at sea. 1,210
Sir Francis 1872 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow 1872-1873 chartered to Warren Line, 1873 wrecked New Hampshire. 1,833
Lady Lycett 1873 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow 1873-1874 chartered to Great Western Steamship Company, 1891 renamed Liffey, 1899 sold to Italy not renamed, 16.2.1901 wrecked south off Minorca. 1,833
Chesapeake 1872 Gourlay Bros & Co., Dundee 1872-1873 chartered to Warren Line, 1892 sold to Spain renamed Seebold, 16.1.1895 foundered off Cape Villano. 1,474
Potomac 1872 London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co., Glasgow 1872-1873 chartered to Warren Line, 21.11.1893 wrecked near Flamborough Head. 1,832
Indus 1877 C.S. Swan & Co., Newcastle 15.1.1883 wrecked near Le Havre. 1,907
Amoor 1879 C.S. Swan & Co., Newcastle 8.11.1893 missing at sea on voyage Malta Dunkirk. 1,987
Boyne (1) 1881 Wm Gray & Co Ltd, West Hartlepool 1905 sold to G. Nenciole renamed Giovanni,5.12.1906 missing at sea on voyage Piraeus Leghorn. 1,927
Exe 1887 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1912 sold to G.V. Montaruli renamed Gerly, 29.7.1913 sunk in collision near Cape Villano. 2,064
Iser 1888 C.S. Swan & Hunter, Newcastle 1914 to W. Johannson renamed Lisl’, 1915 renamed Iser, 23.2.1917 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine. 2,174
Foyle (1) 1887 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland Launched as Royal Jubillee, completed as Foyle for Mercantile Steam Navigation Co., London, 1888 sold to A. Kirsten, Hamburg renamed Miranda, 10.8.1895 stranded near Quessant and lost. 2,571
Humber 1888 Wm Gray & Co Ltd, West Hartlepool 5.3.1896 wrecked Sand Island, Pescadores. 2,198
Jordan 1889 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 27.12.1898 wrecked on Aceitera rocks, Cape
Kara 1889 C.S. Swan & Hunter, Newcastle 10.7.1916 mined and wrecked near Pakefield Gat Buoy. 2,338
Moldava 1890 C.S. Swan & Hunter, Newcastle 1896 August sank after striking an iceberg. 2,292
Obi 1893 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1916 sold to Alexander Shipping renamed Ledbury, 1917 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine UB-43 in Mediterranean. 3,046
Ayr 1894 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 8.3.1918 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine off Linosa. 3,050
Ness 1896 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 25.10.1917 captured and sunk by German submarine U.64 near Cabo de Gata. 3,050
Min (1) 1897 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 1920 sold to Destouni Freres, Greece renamed Vassilios Destounis, 1932 scrapped. 3,038
Dart 1898 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 14.6.1917 torpedoed and sunk near Ballycotton Lighthouse. 3,207
Foyle (2) 1902 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 24.9.1914 captured and sunk by German cruiser Emden 300 miles off Colombo. 4,147
Ganges 1902 Bartram & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 30.7.1917 torpedoed and sunk by German submarine 8 miles southwest from Cape Spartel. 4,177
Lena 1902 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 1923 sold to N.G. Lyras, Greece renamed Marigo L, 1934 scrapped at La Spezia. 4,146
Pruth (1) 1905 Wm Gray & Co Ltd, West Hartlepool 9.10.1914 captured and sunk by German cruiser Karlsruhe near St. Pauls Rocks. 4,408
Boyne (2) 1910 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 1923 transferred to Hain Steamhip Co., 1930 sold for £22,400 to Marmara Steamship Co. Ltd., Greece and renamed Ariadne Pandelis 19.6.1936: beached on fire at Itaparica, Brazil, and abandoned as a total loss. She was on a voyage from Gdynia to Mar del Plate. 4,445
Quebra 1912 Wm Gray & Co Ltd, West Hartlepool 23.8.1916 wrecked off The Blaskets. 4,538
Foyle 1915 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 1923 transferred to Hain Steamhip Co., 1934 sold for £9,750 to Rethymnis & Kulukundis (Hellas) Ltd., and D.E.and M. Lemos (Rethymnis & Kulukundis Ltd., managers), Greece and renamed Delphoi, 1936 owners restyled D.P., M.G. & E.P. Lemos and Rethymnis & Kulukundis (Hellas) Ltd., 9.11.1938 stranded at Chekka, Syria, whilst on a voyage from Gdynia to Chekka with a cargo of coal, refloated and reported sold to Italian shipbreakers who resold her to F. A. Bertorello, Italy renamed Volodda, repaired and returned to service, September 1943 scuttled at Bari, 1947 salved, repaired and returned to service. 1958 owners restyled as Febo Amedeo Bertorello fu Giacomo, 1960 sold to British Iron and Steel Corporation, allocated to P. and W. McLellan Ltd., and 10.8.1960 arrived at Bo'ness. 1.11.1960 demolition commenced. 4,739
Pruth (2) 1916 J.L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland 1917 Hain became managers, 1923 transferred to Hain Steamhip Co., 31.12.1923 wrecked on Natara Reef, Port Moresby whilst on a voyage from New York to New Zealand ports via Samarai and Port Moresby with general cargo. 4,698
Min (2) 1922 J. Readhead & Sons Ltd., South Shields 1923 transferred to Hain Steamhip Co., 1936 renamed Treminnard, 2.8.1942 torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U.160, S.E. of Barbados in a position 10.40 N, 57.07 W whilst on a voyage from Alexandria to Trinidad and Ciudad Trujillo via Durban in ballast, the crew of 47 was rescued. 4,694
North Atlantic Seaway Vol 2 by Bonsor and Miramar Shipindex