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Archiver > INDIA > 2002-07 > 1025671434

From: "John Feltham" <>
Subject: (Fwd) Re: [India-L] (Fwd) Apcar Alexander Apcar
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2002 14:43:54 +1000

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent: Wed, 03 Jul 2002 09:10:20 +1000
From: Peter Wright <>
Send reply to:
Subject: Re: [India-L] (Fwd) Apcar Alexander Apcar

On Tue, 2 Jul 2002 12:24:41 +1000, you wrote:
Dear John:

Some notes on the Apcar Line

Brothers Arratoon and Gregory Apcar from New Julfa in Persia founded
Apcar and Company in 1819. Initially a trading company in Bombay, it
moved to Calcutta. Here it ventured into the shipping business and
soon carved out a niche for itself offering freight and passage as
well as transporting their lucrative cargo-opium.

By the mid 1840s, the 275 ton brig Arratoon Apcar was plying the
Calcutta, Penang, Singapore and China circuit, calling in at
nearly every second month. A few years later, the Ararat and the 400
ton Catherine Apcar, named after Arratoon's wife, had joined the

Keeping abreast of the times, the company began introducing steam
clippers in the 1850s. The 315 ton Lightning and 593 ton Thunder were
soon joined by a new 938 ton Arratoon Apcar and in 1858 by the
Armenia- large vessels for country shipping.

In March 1861, the much admired new 240-ton screw steamer Thunder [a
" fine specimen of naval architecture' ] arrived at Singapore having
made the journey from Hong Kong in only 5 days and 2 hours. However,
she was outdone by Lightning who lived up to her name, setting a 4 day
20 hour record for the journey in November 1862.

Newer and larger steamers joined the fleet. The first steam Catherine
Apcar built in 1865 was 1019 tons; a few years later she was joined
by the 1476-ton Hindustan and the 1471-ton China. .The Japan,
commissioned in 1872, rather appropriately called at Kobe, Yokohama
and Nagasaki. A modern 2153-ton Arratoon Apcar was built in 1873.

For about 25 years, until the 1870s, the Apcar clippers dominated the
opium trade departing with their cargoes from Bombay or Calcutta,
calling in at Singapore and then on to Hong Kong or Canton River. In
August 1856, Lightning was on her fifth Calcutta- China trip and had
transported 10,006 chests of opium to China, since October 1855. In
1865, out of the 43 listed sailings of opium ships to China, 17 were
Apcar ships: Arratoon Apcar, Armenia, Catherine Apcar, Lightning,
Thunder and T A Gibbs.

By the 1880s, the Apcar Line was running monthly services between
Calcutta and Hong Kong calling in on Singapore and Penang on each leg
of the trip. Their vessels, black funnelled and flying the Apcar flag
were a familiar sight in the roadstead and alongside the wharves.

The 1890s saw two new additions to the fleet. In 1891 a new 3,250-ton
steam ship Lightning joined the fleet. She was a "handsome schooner
rigged vessel with clipper bows and electric light through out. " Her
cabin passengers were accommodated, old style, in the poop. Deck
passengers were mainly In-dian and Chinese workers bound for Singapore
and Penang.

In July 1893 the Japan celebrated her 100th and last trip and was
replaced by a new 2715 ton Catherine Apcar. Lit through out, she
accommodated 16 first class and 9 second class passengers, with her
deck space designed for the China trade. She had a clipper stern with
a figure of her namesake.

The last upgrade of the ships occurred around the turn of the century.
In 1899, the Arratoon Apcar was replaced with a modern 4,510-ton
namesake while in 1902, the 4563-ton Gregory Apcar en-tered service.
The Japan, the largest and considered the finest of the fleet arrived
in Singapore for the first time in December 1906. By 1906 these five
ships maintained a ten-day circuit from Calcutta to Hong Kong calling
in at Singapore and Penang. The Catherine Apcar, Aratoon Apcar and the
Lightning were Royal Mail Steamers.

Maharaja to milk cow travelled on the Apcar Line. Be-sides the
well-heeled First Class passengers, there were others. Thousands of
workers desperate for jobs in Singapore, Penang and elsewhere in
Malaya, came as deck pas-sengers from China and India. Over 1,000 at a
time were squeezed on board. In March and April 1908 nearly 3,000
passengers were carried from Hong Kong to Singapore and Penang.
Livestock also formed part of large consignments. Sheep, goats and
cattle from India often upwards of 1,200 beasts were carried to
Singapore and Penang. Both expensive Australian race horses en route
to stables and ordinary working horses also sailed with Apcars.

The ships had a good safety record over the years being especially
designed to cope with the rigours of the region. Able to ply against
monsoons, yet sail with them and above to withstand the odd typhoon.

In 1912, the Apcars decided to sell their business. Lord Inchcape of
the British India Steam Navigation Company snapped at this opportunity
to enter the Calcutta - China run and bought the fleet. The ships
retained their names and were still referred to as the Apcar steamers
with sailings still advertised under the familiar and trusted Apcar

Until 1914 the Apcar steamers maintained their regular services
between Calcutta -Singapore- Hong Kong - Japan, their mainstay
continuing to be labourers and cargo.

During the war, all ships bar the Japan were used as troop car-riers
and then utilised under the Liner Requisition Scheme. P&O then took
over British India and sailings were advertised as P &O -British India
and Apcar Line. The Apcar ships plied their regular routes until the
outbreak of war in the East.

But new ships with new names had re-placed the old familiar ones. The
end of these stalwart ships was predictable and ignominious. The
Lightning, Gregory Apcar, Japan and Catherine Ap-car were sold to
Japanese scrap yards. The Arratoon Apcar was taken out of service in
1922 and turned into an accommodation ship for transient coolies at
Singapore. A decade later she too, was sold for scrap.

Apcar Alexander Apcar was a grandson of Arratoon Apcar. The sons of
the family were educated at Harrow, returning to India to join the
family firm or perhaps practise law.

Nadia Wright

>------- Forwarded message follows -------
>Date sent: Mon, 1 Jul 2002 09:17:18 -0600
>From: "david stewart" <>
>To: <>
>Subject: Apcar Alexander Apcar
>Rudyard Kipling suggested in 1889 that a man named Apcar (or Apear)
>ran opium boats from India? Hsave you any information about him?
> D. H. Stewart
>------- End of forwarded message -------
>Everything is always okay in the end.
>If it's not, then it's not the end....
> Anon.
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Nadia Wright

------- End of forwarded message -------


Everything is always okay in the end.
If it's not, then it's not the end....


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