Sea History 130 - Spring 2010

Page 8

60 were in I st class and 180 were in 2nd. The remainder were described as "unberthed" or "deck passengers" in the original configuration. The ship of the same name in my painting of D urban was built in 1931, was of9,900 tons and was sunk by enemy aircraft during the North Africa Landings in 1942. The Bl Line went out of business in 1986

Not all cargo ships are tramps: Ian Marshall's article in the recent issue of Sea History badly confuses tramp steamers with what are properly described as dry cargo steam ers or freigh ters. This type is divided inro two distinct gro ups of ships with different ro les and characteristics: the cargo liner and the tramp . As the author points out later in his article, a cargo liner operated on regular scheduled services, sailing whether full o r not, and usually carrying many small consignments of different cargoes. In contrast, a tramp went anywhere it could pick up a paying cargo. These were almost invariably bulk cargoes, usually coal, grain, ores or timber, and the tramp steamers had large, clear holds to accommodate such com modities. Cargo liners usually had more sophisticated cargo gear, holds sub-divided to stow smaller consignments of cargo usually with 'tween decks, and were often faster than tramps. There was some crossover between the types: cargo liner companies wo uld buy or charter tramps when they were short of to nnage, and aging cargo liners were often sent tramping, despite their holds not always being suitable for typical tramp cargoes . But owners of cargo ships invariably specialized in liner trades or tramping because th e two trades required a very different company structure. A liner company would have to supervise a network ofagents to book cargoes at the ports it served. A tramp owner needed to have staff who knew what cargoes were available and where and be in close touch with the brokers who had such cargoes on offer. To say "the quintessential tramp owner was the Clan Line" is nonsense. The company did at one time have the larges t fl eet of cargo ships, but they were employed on regular services, mainly from Europe to South and East Africa, and India. Likewise, the other co mpanies he cites were all essentially cargo liner operato rs. Examples from the UK of major tramp ship fleets were Watts, Watts of London; William Reardon Smith of Cardiff; Walter Runciman ofNewcasde; and


Ropner of H artlepool. Mr. Marshall was also wrong in claiming that "G lasgow shipowners were the leading operators" of tramps: the major British ship owning ports were London and Liverpool, with Newcastle and Cardiff being important for tramp owning because of the coal cargoes they generated . I also query the authenticity of his painting of Alfred Holts's Perseus in Calcutta. This company served ports much further east, including d1ose in China, the East Indies and Japan: Calcutta was largely the preserve ofT. and]. Brocklebank. This article wou ld have been much more appropriately tided "The cargo steamer."

the brigantine Albatros, which was lost in the Gulf of Mexico in 1961. (The Albatros was the same ship owned by C hristopher Sheldon, th en spelled Albatross with 2 S's, upon which the movie White SquaLL was based.) S TEVE GANN

Carmel, Cali fornia

I read the articl e by Lesley Lee Francis abo ut her mother's voyage on Wander Bird with great interest. I had heard stories of Robert Frost visiting my grandfather's (Clifton Johnson or "CJ") farm in Hadley, Massachusetts. CJ traveled widely and wrote, DR RoY FENTON edited, or illustrated more than 100 books. London, England His papers, photographs, and drawings are now at the Jones Library in Amherst. I Ian Marshall: Dr. Fenton is a real expert in enjoyed the article and its tone is correct, the history ofthe shipping trade. I am not, and but there are a couple of small corrections. I was pleased, therefore, to see that he reiterates My father Irving Johnson, did not "[disapso much of what I had to say about the era of pear] witho ut saying a word ro anyone." In the tramp steamer and the definition of the the fall of 1929 at age 24, after being the tramp trade. He takes me to task for too Loose professional captain of the yacht Charmian usage ofthe term as applied to ships. Neverthe- for fo ur summers and with the help of his less, he agrees that the same ship could itself employer, he was able to join the Ge rman be put to use during its Lifetime in tramping barque Peking for its voyage around Cape and then in regular service on a prescribed Horn. His fam ily kn ew where he was goroute. Some shipping firms, too, changed the ing, but, of course, did not know that the nature of their operations over the years. I Peking had arrived until they received a was intrigued to Learn recently from a Maine postcard from him. Also, my mother, Exy pilot that he recently brought in a German Johnso n, graduated from Smith College and tramp (motorship), part of a H amburg fleet then studied French at UC Berkeley, but stilL engaged in the traditional itinerant trade. she never studied music or art in France. I D r. Fenton's strictures seem to arise partly from do remember my mother telling me of her my neglect to mention shipping companies mother's reaction to her engagement to my that engaged exclusively in tramping, many fat her: "WHAT! That barefoot boy?" of them in more Localized operations rather ROBERT J OHNSON than oceanic trade, but it was the big firms Sherborn, Massachusetts that developed a worldwide cargo business that Port ofBalitmore's Champion, were highlighted in my article about the era. Helen Bentley Regarding the Perseus in Calcutta: Although their usual destinations were generally farther Regarding The Port That Built a City and east, Blue Funnel ships were certainly to be seen State: I enjoyed yo ur review of the DVD and in Calcutta. There is nothing "inauthentic" yo ur remarks abo ut Helen Bentley. What about the sight of SS Perseus in Calcutta in you did not mention is that Helen went on 1910. My father told me about seeing them. to serve for ten years (1985-95) as amember of the US House of Representatives, repreWander Bird senting the Second Congressional District I thought yo u might find it interesting that, of Maryland. Whe n she was championing when the Wander Bird was being restored by something she believed in, such as the US Harold and Anna Sommers, her new masts Merchant Marine, she could be rough as were donated by the Gann fa.mi ly in m emory nails. She knew the industry, understood of their son, George K. Ga nn. Geo rge Gann its termi nology, and knew how to debate was lost at sea while serving as first officer of and wi n her points. the supertanker Chevron Mississippi in 1973. E. KAY GIBSON Ern est K. Gann was skipper and owner of Camden, Maine


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