TheShipsList-L ArchivesArchiver > TheShipsList > 2003-11 > 1069828225
From: "Rosemary Dixon-Smith" <>
Subject: Re: [TSL] Australia to South Africa 1910
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 2003 08:30:25 +0200
Sorry its taken me some time to reply - I've been looking for an
authoritative source on this very complex question re
Australian-South African shipping.
I don't think I can do better than quote extracts from "Ships &
South Africa" by Marischal Murray (OUP 1933). Rather lengthy and
editing it isn't easy, but it may be of interest to other listers
also and you can home on in the parts and dates that seem
relevant for you.
"AUSTRALIAN EMIGRANT LINES
Among the 'via Cape' Australian steamships that have been
associated with South Africa there must be included, in addition
to the regular mail and passenger liners, those belong to several
concerns chiefly interested in the emigrant traffic. After the
Gold rush of the (18)fifties the next great exodus to Australia
commenced in the 'eighties and continued steadily until the
culmination was reached just before the outbreak of the Great War
in 1914. During this period many emigrant steamers made their
way out to the antipodes by way of the Cape, but the homeward
route was generally via Suez.
Among the better known of the vessels which commenced running in
the 'eighties were the 'Gulf' steamers of the Thames and Mersey
Line and the 'Port' steamers of Wm. Milburn's Anglo-Australian
Line, while advertisements of the 'London' Line and 'Colonial'
Line also appeared, from time to time, in the Cape press.
The Boer War checked progress somewhat, but subsequently the
vessels of four emigrant lines, in particular, began to take
settlers out to Australia in ever-increasing numbers. These were
Wm. Milburn's 'Port' steamers, Corry's 'Star' liners, T.B.
Royden's "Indras", and the vessels belong to Tyser and Company.
Tyser's steamers and Milburn's were, perhaps, the best known in
Table Bay, and thousands of emigrants passed through Capetown in
them, especially during the years from 1910 to 1913.
In 1913 these four companies amalgamated to form what was known
as the 'Commonwealth and Dominion Line', and to give some
uniformity to the nomenclature of the combined fleets all the
vessels were later given the 'Port' names hitherto found in
Milburn's Line. Tyser's "Makarini" thus became the "Port
Nicholson" ... Royden's "Indrabarah" the "Port Elliot"... and
Corry's "Star of Victoria", the "Port Melbourne ... In 1916 the
Commonwealth and Dominion Line was acquired by the Cunard Line.
The War was then in progress and several vessels in the fleet
were soon sent to the bottom by German submarines.
After the Armistice the Cunard Company laid down a number of
high-class cargo-passenger steamships and motorships for the
Commonwealth and Dominion Service. The former title of the
Commonwealth and Dominion Line was retained, as were the 'Port'
names but the vessels now carried the red Cunard funnel and also
flew the Cunard flat in addition to their own. Thus for the
first time did the Cunard Line have regular connexions with South
The Commonwealth and Dominion vessels took both the Suez and Cape
routes on their way to Australia (& back), and large numbers of
emigrants travelled out in them during the years immediately
following the War. In 1925, however, the period of Australian
depression began, and within a short time the emigrant traffic
had come to a complete standstill. Shortly afterwards the
Commonwealth and Dominion vessels were withdrawn from the Cape
route, and those which remained in service were sent out via
Panama or Suez. Towards the end of 1931, however, certain ships
were once again sent out via South Africa, the Cape route at this
time being most economical.
[There is a paragraph here about the Australian Royal Mail Steam
Navigation Company but as its operations were rather earlier -
from 1852 - I haven't included the details; happy to relay if
anyone wants them.]
BLUE ANCHOR LINE: Wm. Lund and Company. (Including P & O Branch
William Lund, shipowner of London, had already sent a number of
sailing vessels to Australia when in 1880 his first steamer, the
"Delcomyn" ... made her maiden voyage to the antipodes. The Cape
route was taken, and during the 'eighties and 'nineties most of
Lund's steamers called at Table Bay from time to time, though no
very regular service was performed.
Known as Blue Anchor liners because of the blue anchor ... on
their white-banded black funnel, these vessels were, to begin
with, principally freighters with only limited passenger
accommodation. They were .... given characteristic Australian
names such as "Yarrawonga" "Murrumbidgee" ... or "Wooloomooloo".
The "Warrnambool" came to SA once or twice in the early 'nineties
under charter to the Union and Bucknall Lines, while another Lund
vessel, the "Wallarah", ... was wrecked off Dassen Island on
August 2nd 1891, on her first voyage from England.
It was not until 1896 that Lund's began to cater to any great
extent for passengers. The "Narrung" ... was then built, in
which provision was made for about 50 saloon passengers and a
large number of third class. In 1898 and 1899 respectively, two
sister ships followed her, the "Wakool" and the "Wilcannia". A
greatly improved type appeared in the "Commonwealth" ... 1902; in
1904 a slightly larger vessel was built, the "Geelong". ...
A regular monthly service between England and Australia via the
Cape was performed by the quintette, and between England and
South Africa a first-class passage could be obtained for the sum
of 26 pounds 15 shillings. Tickets were interchangeable with
those of Thompson's Aberdeen Line, and sailing schedules also
were so adjusted than in conjunction with the Aberdeen steamers a
joint fortnightly service to Australia was made possible.
In 1908 the Aberdeen Line brought its new "Pericles", which was
far in advance of any of the 'via Cape' Australian liners then in
service ... Lund also ordered a large new vessel differing in
type from any previous unit in the Blue Anchor fleet. She was
named "Waratah" ... placed in commission in Nov 1908 ... nine
months later her total disappearance ... etc
The loss of the "Waratah" ...was the death-blow of the Blue
Anchor Line. In January 1910 the fleet was acquired by the
Peninsular and Oriental Company, and what was known as the P & O
Branch Service took its place. The vessels which hitherto had
been provided with first and third class accommodation, were now
adapted for ... third class passengers only. Emigration to
Australia was at this time reaching its peak. ...
[More here on the post 1911 and war years, including losses of
various vessels, and then the great post-War rush to Australia. ]
From 1921 ... P & O maintained a practically fortnightly service
to and from Australia and their visits to Table Bay were a
regular feature of the port, where they would arrive crowded with
hundreds of passengers. The cheap passages which they afforded
between the Cape and England made them very popular ...
1926 ... (due to economic depression) P & O forced to cut down
its sailings via the Cape ... some vessels were sent out,
alternately, by the Suez route ... Finally 1929 the 'via Cape'
service was abandoned altogether. (alterations to the vessels
provided increased speed and reduced fuel consumption) They then
inaugurated the ... fast branch line to Australia via Suez ...
and the P & O flag was no longer seen in SA ports except ...
occasional freighter putting in at Table Bay or Durban.
BLUE FUNNEL LINE (Alfred Holt and Co)
...the Australian passenger vessels of this line were comparative
newcomers in the 'via Cape' service (but) associations of the Co
with SA go back to the (18)sixties when Holt's swift China
steamers frequently put in at Table Bay on the journeyings to and
from the East.
.... (Holt) founded in 1865 the Ocean Steamship Company ...
running between Liverpool and China via the Cape of Good Hope and
Mauritius. ... In 1870 the Cape route was abandoned for the Suez
Canal and many years elapsed before Holt's ships again visited
Table Bay. A freight service to Australia via the Cape was
commenced in 1903, but 1910 ... passenger service was inaugurated
by the "Aeneas", "Ascanius" and "Anchises" ...
these maintained a six-weekly service,...to Australia via the
Cape ... they carried first-class passengers only. ... so
successful that in 1913 two larger ships the "Nestor" and
"Ulysses" were built and the Blue Funnel service became a monthly
one. The "Nestor" was the largest vessel trading to Table Bay
and Durban and also to Australian ports.
[More on the period of WWI follows.]
This is R attempting (!) to sum up a large subject:
Suez Canal opened 1869 after which no P & O liners were seen in
SA waters until the Boer War period.
In 1910 through the acquisition of Lund's Blue Anchor Line the P
& O Branch Service to Australia via the Cape was commenced.
The Aberdeen Line (Geo Thompson & Co.) aka the Aberdeen White
Star Line had doubled the Cape on their way to Australia from
pre-gold rush days (early 1850s) ... gradually substitution of
steam for sail in this Aberdeen fleet ... and by 1894 a monthly
service between England and Australia - hitherto the vessels had
taken the Cape route outward, returning by way of Suez but in
1895 the Cape route was adopted both out and home - regular
four-weekly sailings. This line was from 1905 run in conjunction
with the White Star and Albion Lines - the "Pericles" was one of
their vessels - wrecked 1910 off Cape Leeuwin homeward bound from
Australia. These were prosperous times in th Australian trade and
all the Aberdeen liners that went out to the antipodes were
crowded to capacity with emigrants. So great was demand for
passages that in 1912 and 1913 the company had to charter extra
liners to cope with the rush. In the late 1920s the 'Bay'
steamers (because named after Australian bays) of this line had
route out and home by way of Suez.
Another line operating between New Zealand, Australia and SA from
1902 was the Federal Line - later as the Federal-Houlder-Shire
Line from 1906 made regular sailings between England, Cape and
Australia and "a considerable number of emigrants were carried"
on the tyical "FHS" steamers until 1912.
The Orient Line became established in the Australian trade as
early as the 'fifties, clipper packets later steamships; outwards
the vessels went by way of the Cape, returning through Suez but
until 1878 did not call at the Cape, after that the monthly visit
of the Orient steamer to Capetown was a regular event.. By end
1881 vessels were sent out alternately by way of the Cape and
through the Mediterranean - this was abandoned due to war in
Egypt in 1882 when they took Cape route both out and home. By
1883 the Orient service via the Cape ended, and associations with
the Cape not renewed until Boer war.
White Star Line: took thousands of Australian colonists via the
Cape in their early Liverpool clippers up to 1862; not until end
of the century was steamer service commenced to Australia - the
Cape route being taken out and home; then the Boer War disrupted
matters, after that the 'via Cape' service once again operated
and five steamers commenced regular four-weekly sailings. As was
the case with other Australian lines, Capetown alone was visited
on the outward journey, but homeward bound the vessels also
touched at Durban. The Durban call was inaugurated by the "Runic"
in November 1903.
In 1913 the "Ceramic" was added to the colonial fleet at 18,481
tons the largest vessel regularly using the ports of Table Bay
and Durban (until 1921 when the Arundel Castle of 19,023 tons
arrived). WWI dislocated this service and only in 1920 did the
'via Cape' service take off again - improved accommodation on
this line's vessels meant slightly higher fares - those who
wished for the very cheapest passages travelled by the P & O
Branch Service, which was now the leading emigrant line to
Australia via the Cape. (see above)
Jill, your chap could have taken any one of a huge number of
options : P & O, one of Milburn's 'Port' steamers, or Corry's
"Star' liners, Royden's "Indras" or one of Tyser & Co's vessels,
or the FHS line or others - I think the phrase "needle in
haystack" comes to mind. But it seems most likely that whatever
he took, SA would not be the ship's ultimate destination, it
would be going on to England, stopping at the Cape with a
possibility of a stop at Durban too.
Incidentally, I did a search on all RSA (on the SA National
Archives site) for any sign of McElvenney (any shape, form &
spelling!) and absolutely nothing emerged. Do you have any more
clues as to area in SA where this ancestor might have ended up?
You are welcome to contact me off-list for further discussion
specifically on McElvenney himself.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jill Glover" <>
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 1:21 AM
Subject: [TSL] Australia to South Africa 1910
> Hello everyone again,
> I'm sending this question again, in case
> joined ths list, and can help me.
> . When a relative left Sydney for South Africa, would
the ship be
> just headed for S.Af. only, or would it be on it's way to
> stopping at ports on the way? The year would have been after
1910, and my
> ancestor was Oscar
> Grenier McELVENNY. He was a jeweller in Sydney, and headed to
SA for the
> ?diamonds/gold. I guess I'm asking if there was just a ship or
> did the Australia to South Africa route.
> Many thanks,