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Story of the Anchor Line (1896) GG Archives

THE Anchor Line was commenced in 1856 by Messrs. Handyside & Henderson, of Glasgow, with the steamship Tempest (Note 1) to New York, and a couple of small boats running between Glasgow, Quebec and Montreal, one of which, the United Kingdom, was wrecked on the Bird Rock reef in the St. Lawrence.

They also established, about the same time, a line between Glasgow and various ports in the Mediterranean. However, in 1865 they transferred their American line to New York, dispatching a boat fortnightly.

Since then the service has been gradually increased to a weekly line, and during summer to twice a week, as the trade demanded. They have also greatly developed the trade between various ports in Italy, Sicily, Malta, Trieste, Naples, etc., and New York, and latterly they have extended their operations to India, vid the Suez Canal.

Their boats have gradually increased in size and power from 1000 tons and 100 H.P. nominal to 5495 tons and 720 H.P. They are specially designed for large carrying capacity, and some of them have good speed. At one time, the line consisted of no less than thirty-six ships.

The Anchoria, for example, is 4157 tons gross (408x40x34) and 617 H.P. nominal; the Bolivia is 4050 tons (400 x 40 x 33); the Ethiopia is 4005 tons (402 X 40 x 33), 720 H.P.; the Circassia (Note 2) is 4272 tons 2 (399 x 42 x 33), 600 H.P.; the Devonia is 4270 tons (400 x 42 x 33), 600 H.P.; the Victoria is 3358 tons (360 x 40 X 31.9), 480 H.P.; and the Furnessia is 5495 tons (445 x 44.8 x 34.5), 600 H.P. The early boats were all built on the Clyde, but most of the above named were built at Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire.

When the Inman Company threw up the City of Rome, also built at Barrow, in 1881, she passed into the Anchor Line, running between New York and Liverpool, and latterly to Glasgow. She is a magnificent ship, 8144 tons gross, of great length (560 x 52 x 37), and 11,890 I.H.P. Her boiler power at first being insufficient, she did not come up to the speed guaranteed by her builders, but it has since been increased; and although not a match for the Etruria she is very fast, quite equal to the Servia.

She has six cylinders, three of 46 inches, and three of 86 inches diameter, with six feet stroke. She made 18'23 knots on her trial trip, and her best time between New York and Queenstown was 6 days 21 hours 4 minutes. As showing the perfection to which ships' compasses have been brought, the accident to this ship may be quoted.

The New York steamships bound to Queenstown shape a course for the Fastnet, a little pinnacle rock with a lighthouse and signal-station on it, near Cape Clear, in the S.W. of Ireland. On the 8th June, 1890, the City of Rome, during a dense fog, actually struck this little rock, destroying twenty feet of her bow; her bulkheads saved her; she got off and reached her destination.

The company has not escaped other more serious accidents, some, unhappily, attended with terrible loss of life. Thus in October 1868, the Hibernia broke her screw-shaft 600 miles from Ireland, filled through the shaft tunnel and sank with the loss of many lives. In October 1870, the Cambria was wrecked on the island of Innstrahull (Ireland), and only one man escaped out of 170. In November 1890, the Ethiopia broke her shaft and was towed to Ireland by the Oregon, and in June 1894, the same boat struck an iceberg and stove in her bows in a fog; her bulkheads saved her, and she reached Glasgow eight days later.

Then one of the most terrible accidents of modern times happened to the Utopia on the 17th March, 1891, when bound from Naples to New York with 800 Italian emigrants. Entering Gibraltar Bay in a heavy gale, she struck the ram of H.M.S. Anson, and immediately sank with a loss of 562 lives, besides two brave men of the Immortality, drowned in a heroic effort to save lives. The Utopia was raised in the following July under the direction of Mr. Armit. Captain McKeague was tried and censured for grave error of judgment.

On 24 August 1892, the Anglia capsized near the mouth of the river Hooghly (India), and twelve lives were lost. The Trinacria, a Mediterranean boat, was lost on the coast of Portugal with thirty-seven of her crew and four passengers; and in October, 1893, the Ronmania, bound from Liverpool to Bombay, was wrecked on the same coast, near Peniche, 50 miles north of Lisbon, when, out of fifty-five passengers and a crew of sixty-seven, only nine persons were saved. The company still owns a fine fleet of ships, which are managed by Henderson Brothers, Glasgow. William Henderson, one of the founders of the line, died on 8 April 1895.

Anchor Line Fleet.

Tons gross.

  1. City of Rome 8,144
  2. Fumessia 5,495
  3. Belgravia 4,977
  4. Circassia 4,272
  5. Devonia 4,270
  6. Anchoria 4,157
  7. Bolivia 4,050
  8. Ethiopia 4,005
  9. California 3,410
  10. Victoria 3,358
  11. Scotia 3,287
  12. Britannia 3,069
  13. Hesperia 3,027
  14. Alsatia 2,773
  15. Elysia 2,714
  16. India 2,477
  17. Australia 2,252
  18. Italia 2,245
  19. Caledonia 2,151
  20. Olympia 2,051
  21. Columbia 2,030
  22. Assyria 2,023

And thirteen smaller boats in the Mediterranean trade.

Note 1: The Tempest sailed 26th February, 1857, and was never heard of again.

Note 2: Circassia was the first boat fitted with a refrigerator (in 1879).

Fry, Henry, “Chapter XII: The Anchor Line,” in The History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation with Some Account of Early Ships and Ship Owners, London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, Ltd. (1896): P. 187-189.

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