History and News from 1899 White Star and Australia

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 July 1899
Retrieved from the National Library of Australia web site,


Messrs. Dalgety and Co. have received the following interesting particulars
of the projected new monthly steam service under the White Star flag:---

The history of Liverpool has been intimately associated with the development
of the Australian colonies from the earliest days. More than 50 years ago,
before the great rush to the Australian goldfields, fast sailing clippers
flying the well-known flag of the White Star line were regularly despatched
with her Majesty's mails from Liverpool to Australian ports, and when the
gold fever set in something like half a million pioneers were carried to the
new El Dorado by sailing vessels, the favourite White Star clippers
obtaining a large share of the traffic. Some of the larger vessels then
employed in the line---such as the White Star, Red Jacket, and others---were
as renowned for smartness, luxurious accommodation, and quick passages as
are their successors, the great steamship liners of to-day.

Until 1868, when Mr. Ismay purchased the White Star flag from the retiring
owners, wooden ships had chiefly been employed, but with characteristic
enterprise his firm signalised their advent in the trade by loading iron
ships, the first of which, the Explorer, 750 tons, sailed from Liverpool for
Melbourne on March 21, 1868, being followed by vessels of constantly
increasing size, culminating in the Hoghton Tower, of 1598 tons register,
built by Messrs. Clover, which sailed from the Mersey on June 26, 1869, with
a full complement of saloon and third-class passengers, under the
command of Captain Digby Murray, who later commanded the Oceanic, pioneer
steamer of the White Star line, on her first voyage to New York, and was
afterwards associated for so many years with with the Board of Trade as
principal nautical adviser. The Hoghton Tower was followed on July 24, 1869,
by the Victoria Tower, a vessel of the same size, built by the Messrs.
Evans, commanded by Captain Kerr, formerly in charge of the celebrated
sailing clipper White Star.

Since then the trade between London and Australia has developed rapidly.
Immense imports of Australian wool find their way to the London market,
augmented of late by the growing trade in frozen mutton, tallow, wines,
fruits, and dairy produce. Regular steamship lines between London and
Australia have been established, and foreign steamship companies have
instituted direct steam service between the Continent and Australian ports.
In all general cargo trades sail has been rapidly displaced by steam, and
Messrs. Ismay, Imrie, and Co having sold all their sailing ships, the last
of which was the large four-masted ship California (the last sailing ship
built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff), have now arranged with that firm for
the construction of five large twin-screw steamers, aggregating about 60,000
tons, for the Australian trade. These steamers will carry no saloon or
second cabin passengers, but will have very exceptional accommodation for
third-class, including smoking, dining, and reading rooms, so necessary on
such long voyages.

The sleeping accommodation will also comprise many two and three berthed
rooms, all lit by the electric light.

In addition to an unusually large capacity for general cargo, they will be
fitted with extensive refrigerating chambers for the carriage of dairy
produce, fruits, and chilled or frozen meats Thus it is hoped that the city
and port of Liverpool will be greatly benefited, for with the facilities
already provided by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, the great
improvements which are now being carried out, and the excellent railway
facilities existing, there is no reason why the port should not become a
centre for the distribution of a portion of Australia's products, as she
already is for those of North and South America.

Australia is on the eve of a great change. According to the present outlook
federation may be expected at no distant date, the irrigation schemes in
progress will tend to minimise the droughts from which the country has
suffered in the past, and the Colonial Secretary's (Mr. Chamberlain) policy
of bringing the colonies into closer touch with the mother country will be
furthered by the establishment of a connecting link of large cargo carriers.
Liverpool is the centre for the consumption of tallow and timber, and her
proximity to the wool manufacturing districts should attract a share of
those commodities. In addition excellent connections can be made for the
carriage of colonial wool to the United States and European ports. The first
of these steamers, the Afric, 11,815 tons, was launched on November 16,
1898, and is now in Belfast, being fitted with refrigerating machinery; the
Medic, of similar dimensions, followed on December 15 of the same year, and
will shortly be succeeded by the Persic, Runic, and Suevic, making
altogether a fleet capable of maintaining a monthly service between
Liverpool and Australia.

It is intended that the Medic shall sail from Liverpool on her first voyage
on Thursday, August 3, and the other vessels named will follow at regular

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