From: Commodore Ian Gibb, Wiltshire

Although not recognising the mystery ship in the March edition, I was reminded of an amusing encounter with the Cycle in the early 1950s.

I had been appointed to P&O’s Bendigo, being built at the time, 1954, at Alexander Stephen’s, Linthouse, Glasgow, and we sailed on our maiden voyage in November of that year for Australia. As an apprentice with less than year’s service with the company, it was all very new and exciting. I soon learned from passages through the Pentland Firth in a howling gale, rounding Cape Leeuwin and in crossing the Great Australian Bight that I was prone to seasickness, but memories of that soon faded and we embarked on a very slow progress around the Australian coastline, discharging our outward bound cargo and loading for the return to Europe. These were the days of innumerable Wharfies strikes and progress was slow indeed. Australian hospitality however, was hugely welcome.

We finally ended up in Newcastle, NSW in February/March 1955 to find already moored there, the British India Cadet ship Chindwara. I was advised by our agent that there was a British India Cadet aboard her also called Ian Gibb, and that I was invited to meet him! Thus, and for the only time in my life, I was able to meet a ‘clone’. The other Ian, I believe, was connected family-wise with Barclay Curle Shipbuilders, and as British India was a great supporter of barclay Curle, this is perhaps why he was with British India and not P&O!

Also in port, moored behind Chindwara, was the aforementioned Cycle, and as is the way with such things, during the night-time hours, the Cadets had managed to secretly paint “BI” in front of the ship’s name. As far as my memory serves me correctly, Cycle arrived in Newcastle as Cycle but departed as Bicycle!!

On the maritime grapevine many years later, I learned that the other Ian had left the sea and became a Glasgow solicitor. Even later, and a number of years ago now, I was glancing through the daily telegraph obituaries to see that Ian Gibb had died – a strange feeling indeed. Just glad it wasn’t me, but I did drop a line to his family to record our meeting of all those years ago.

From: Sholto Blackwell, by e-mail

I am writing to you about the feature you ran in the April 2016 issue of Shipping Today And Yesterday, ‘Through the eyes of the artist’. Firstly may I say what an interesting and well put together feature it was.


With regard to the above feature I would like to add how proud and honoured I was to see the painting of the Ohio by my father Robert Blackwell. The words about the picture and the following few sentences about the artist were both accurate and very nice to read. He would have been pleased to have read it himself.

Unfortunately dad passed away on the 17th January of this year, only 2 months shy of his 80th birthday. So to be flicking through your magazine and find some of his work featured was at first a shock, but quite quickly this was replaced with a profound sense of happiness. Having been lucky enough to have seen nearly all of the paintings he produced in the last 33 years, the quality of his work never failed to impress. Even as your article rightly states, throughout his 79th year, he never lost his eye for detail.

So on behalf of my family I would like to thank you very sincerely for your inclusion of dad’s work in that article and the words chosen to accompany it. It means a great deal to us and only reinforces the wonderful legacy he has left us.

From: Jim Stitt, ex sea-going engineer, Ocean Fleets Ltd. & Chevron CTC Ltd.

Re: Forgotten Fleets Australian National Line

I read with great interest the article in the May edition by Norman Middlemiss about The Australian National Line (ANL). It was an interesting article which I thoroughly enjoyed. On completion of reading it. I went through my photograph archives to find a photograph of the SS River Embley (above). I took it when I lived in Australia in 1990. I was actually going on a SCUBA diving trip to the Great barrier reef. I spotted the River Embley and took the shot as we passed by it’s stern with a telephoto lens. As I took the shot I mentioned, incorrectly to one of my diving companions that it was a motor ship. As there very few or hardly any steam ships being build in those days due to the high costs of bunkers and high consumption of Bunker fuel on oil fired boilers vessels, the cost of which had been steady rising since the Arab Israeli Yom Kippur war in 1973, and which we in the western world had experienced the harsh effects of when the World oil crisis was implemented by the Arab Countries with tough embargoes and restrictions of once inexpensive oil to the western world which had now trebled in price! It signalled the beginning of the end of steam ships which were powered by oil fired boilers, which most of the ULCCs ,VLCCs, fFast Container ships and big passengers ships and a lot of other ships were at the time. These vessels required large shaft horse powered output as there were no diesel engines at the time available to deliver the power output needed. Some years previously (circa 1983-1986) I had read in the Marine Engineers Review about the bulk carriers River Embley and her sister ship River Boyne being build in Japan for ANL. And to my surprise they were to be steam ships. The ships were to have modern pulverised coal fired boilers. This was because of the abundance of easily accessible and inexpensive good quality coal available in Queensland where the two River boat bulkers would depart from for a regular run to Japan and back to Brisbane. I would imagine both these two River Class bulkers have long since been consigned to the breakers yards or perhaps I’m wrong?

I was always interested to see how these boilers and steam plant etc operated, but was unable to get any information on them. Has any reader got any information on these two coal fired vessels built for the ANL?

Editor’s note: The 51,035gt River Embley was broken up at Chittagong, arriving there on 3rd June 2012, and her sister, the 51,994gt River Boyne arrived at Gadani Beach to be broken up on 12th April 2014. Although the River Embley was powered by steam turbine, her sister was diesel powered.



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