Las Palmas was solely for bunkers and Madeira for a few passengers and mail.
These ships were not cruise ships they were liners and time was of the essence. i.e. Little time for passenger jollies ashore
The passengers were by and large on a journey not a cruise and the journey was from UK to and from South Africa.
It was not a short stay in Las Palmas that brought about the end of the line. It was fast air travel, rising oil prices and those bloody boxes!
Because each of the mail ships carried a large amount of refrigerated and general cargo it made them not viable for conversion into cruise ships. I know that SA Vaal underwent this transformation successfully but two of the others Edinburgh Castle and SA Oranje were much older. Only Pendennis Castle and Windsor Castle could have survived, indeed Windsor Castle carried on in the Latsis Group for longer than she was with Union Castle.
Every hour the mail was late the company was fined a significant sum of money.
We always went at such a speed that should we get fog in the English Channel then we could still arrive on time.
If we had fine weather then sometimes we would go round an round in circles just off Lyme Bay to kill time until picking up the pilot at The Needles.
The mail run was contractually set at 11.5 days, the round trip was 5 weeks 2 days 17 hours and 42 minutes.
It was like a train service and the pride we had in running precisely to schedule was immense. The departure time from Southampton was timed to the second on the chronometers.
It may seem like bullsh1t but it meant a lot to those fortunate enough to serve on the oldest regular liner service.... 120 years it lasted and in all that time I dont expect we ever stayed a bit longer so that the passengers could see the sites.
At Southampton the boat train was scheduled in accordance with our service, in Cape Town the Blue Train was scheduled similarly.
And ........ in the final analysis, what is there to see in Las Palmas anyway?
I seem to remember that the three hours we were allowed ashore in Las Palmas were enough. Most of the passengers in the 60's were heading back to UK after two or three years contract work in Southern or central Africa and were not on the voyage for the ports of call. The generous baggae allowance and the chance for a party on the ship were more important. The food was not bad. I still go backwards and forwards to the African Continent but 10 hours plus in a Jumbo seem longer than the 11 and a half days on the Windsor.
I remember Ronnie Wright very well. I sailed with him on Reina del Mar, Rotherwick Castle and Pendennis Castle.
He was one of the gentlest men you could wish to meet. A religious man but not one to force it on others. Always had a twinkle in his eye and a ready wit. Like other mail ship masters he was not one to intrude and always placed trust in his officers.
He ended his time as Commodore of the fleet and Master of Windsor Castle.
Follow this link for more and photos of Capt Ronnie http://www.unioncastlestaffregister.co.uk/shipmates_Wright_Rony_01.html
He is described in the article as "dour" I have to say I never found him such.
I sailed with Captain Wright on Braemar Castle's last trip and then on the Reina. He was a real gentleman.
I agree with Chris, he was never 'dour', you often see this description for a Scot, but it fits very few. I always saw him cheerful.