The 419grt Achill was built in 1890 by Ailsa Shipbuilding at Troon as the Lavinia for J. Weatherill. She joined Kelly’s in 1919. On 6th August 1933 she sank in the Gulf of Bothnia. © Jack Quinan Collection

This very well-known Belfast coastal fleet and business lasted 150 years from 1840 to 1990 and operated almost exclusively in the coal import trade into Belfast. Northern Ireland has no coal deposits of its own, so its industry and particularly shipbuilding needed big imports into Queen’s Quay, the home of John Kelly Ltd. The other Irish Sea trades of stone, cement, aggregates and other cargoes were also carried on occasion, with the fleet venturing as far south as France with South Wales coal. A maximum fleet size of 44 steam coasters in 1937 and 46 coasters in 1939 saw some ships taking charters on the East Coast from Stephenson Clarke Ltd of Newcastle. The Kelly fleet was taken over in 1948 jointly by Stephenson Clarke Ltd and William Cory & Sons Ltd., and the Kelly motor coasters of the late 1950s and 1960s were frequently seen loading coal in Blyth, Tyne and Goole for Belfast.

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PhotoTransport SeaSunday2023


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