News from 1928: The end and a recap of Medic's White Star career

Mark Baber

Staff member
The Brisbane Courier, 16 July 1928
Retrieved from the National Library of Australia web site,

The Medic
Having recently sold the steamer Athenic from their New Zealand service for
conversion into a depot ship for Antarctic whaling, the White Star Line has
now sold her older consort, the Medic, for a similar purpose. The ships
being very much alike in appearance, with their typical Harland and Wolff
bow, one funnel and four masts, they have frequently been taken for sisters,
although, as a matter of fact, there are considerable differences between
the two classes designed for the New Zealand and Australian services
respectively. The Medic was 50ft. longer than the Athenic and her sisters,
and had three decks instead of four, being designed to accommodate one class
of passenger only, and being in fact the forerunner of the modern very
popular cabin class. It was in 1898 that the White Star Line determined to
enter the Australian trade, for which the name and house flag of Pilkington
and Wilson's Liverpool clippers had been bought in 1869, and immediately
laid down a class of three ships at Messrs. Harland and Wolff's yard at
Belfast. The three first ships were the Medic, Afric, and Persic, of 1898,
the Runic and Suevic following at the turn of the century. With a gross
tonnage of 12,000 and twin quadruple expansion engines giving a speed of 13
knots, the Medic had a cargo capacity of nearly 700,000 cubic feet, and
originally accommodation for 350 passengers in the one class, although this
was later altered appreciably. Her accommodation was considered remarkably
good when she was built, particularly for the fares that were charged, and
the monthly service by way of the Cape was a success from the first both as
regards passengers and cargo. Under the command of Captain Thornton, the
Medic took her maiden sailing from Liverpool to Australia on the third of
August, 1899, inaugurating the new service and maintaining a speed of
practically 13 knots for the whole trip. The Afric was launched before her,
and was scheduled to take the first sailing but, after a single run on the
New York route, she was sent back to her builders to have refrigerated
machinery installed. As soon as the Medic arrived in Australian waters she
was chartered by the Australian Government to take their contingent to the
Boer War and it was not until the peace that she was put on the service for
which she was designed. During the progress of the war she proved herself
one of the most efficient troopers in the fleet, and was equally successful
on commercial service avoiding all really serious accident until the summer
of 1914, when she had a serious fire among the copra in her forward hold.
The hold had to be flooded but unfortunately the smoke and water got through
the bulkhead into No 2 hold, and did a lot of damage to the meat stowed
there. A very short time was sufficient to put the damage right and she
arrived at Brisbane shortly after the outbreak of war. She was immediately
taken up by the Australian Expeditionary Force and carried Australian and
Imperial troops until 1917 when she was transferred to the Liner Requisition
Scheme, and employed principally on the Australian and American services.
Immediately after the Armistice she was taken up to repatriate Australian
troops, her first contingent being 2000 men. She then returned to service
until the summer of 1920, when she was laid up in the Gareloch for a spell.
Towards the end of the year she was taken up again for the Brisbane service.
The same programme was repeated last year, and she was laid up in
Southampton Water between May and November. When she was commissioned again
she was put under the command of Captain J. J. Peters, chief officer of the
Homeric. It was announced at the time that she would be sold to Dutch
shipbreakers in May, but Norwegian whaling interests were willing to pay
£35,000 for her and consider that her hull is worthy of extensive and
expensive alterations.