The MANCHESTER SHIPPER was built in 1943 and is seen here at the Port of Montreal. She carried Manchester Liner's first containers,
to Chicago, in the mid 'sixties and ended her career at Trieste, where she was demolished in July 1969
|Courtesy Malcolm Cranfield - SM FEB/87
Manchester Liners was an associate company of the Furness Group. This combine included Houlder Bros., Prince Line, Shaw,
Savill & Albion Lines and the Johnston Warren Lines Ltd.
Funnel markings were dark red with black top and black band. Hulls were black with red boot-topping.
(A) Manchester to Quebec & Montreal (summer) or St. John, N.B. and Halifax (winter).
(B) Manchester to U.S. Atlantic coast ports.
(C) (Small ships) Manchester to Toronto, Hamilton, Welland & Wallaceburg, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and
home calling at Preston.
For those unfamiliar with Johnston Warren Lines you may recall the following names:-
BEECHMORE 1954, 3,291grt
HEATHMORE 1945, 3,825grt
JESSMORE 1941, 7,061grt
NEWFOUNDLAND 1948, 7,437grt
OAKMORE 1939, 4,700grt
PINEMORE 1955, 3,450grt
ROWANMORE 1956, 8,495grt
SYCAMORE 1950, 3,342grt
|S.S.MANCHESTER CORPORATION - Courtesy Claude Meldrum Collection
Manchester Liners was associated with Furness Withy right from the start, as Sir Christopher Furness took up 150,000 pounds
of the company's shares on incorporation in 1898. The remaining 200,000 pounds required was raised by Manchester interests,
including the Ship Canal Company.
The Line's first two vessels were acquired for 60,000 pounds en bloc from Elder Dempster in 1898 and these also had Furness
Withy connections. Built in 1889/90 for Johnston Line as QUEENSMORE and PARKMORE, Elder Dempster took over the ships in
1896/7, together with the Avonmouth-Canada service on which they operated, and took the opportunity to sell them on to ML
in 1898 as the Avonmouth service was not proving a success. At 360 feet the QUEENSMORE was the largest ship to reach Manchester
from Canada, and just 10 feet short of what conventional wisdom believed was the maximum safe length for the canal.
|S.S. MANCHESTER REGIMENT - Courtesy Malcolm Cranfield
The first vessels acquired by ML direct from Furness Withy were purchased in 1921. The former START POINT and GRAMPIAN RANGE
were renamed MANCHESTER PRODUCER and MANCHESTER SPINNER and traded on Furness Withy's UK to West Coast US/Canada service.
In 1922 one of a class ordered by Furness Withy was delivered to ML as MANCHESTER REGIMENT and in 1929 the REXMORE of 1918
was purchased to replace vessels serving a Philadelphia-UK trade which had been decimated by slack demand and subsidised American
flag competition. She was renamed MANCHESTER EXPORTER and had a good career, not being sold until 1947 and eventually scrapped
|Courtesy Malcolm Cranfield & SM FEB/87
A major newbuilding programme was launched in 1935 with MANCHESTER PORT, the first of a new type of fast cargo liner from
the Blytheswood yard in Glasgow, three of which were delivered before the war and survived into the 1960s. The PORT was
joined in 1937 by MANCHESTER CITY and in 1938 by MANCHESTER PROGRESS.
Three more vessels were delivered during the war including the MANCHESTER MERCHANT of 1940 which was torpedoed in 1943
with the loss of 36 crew. The MANCHESTER TRADER of 1941 and MANCHESTER SHIPPER of 1943 were followed by a new MANCHESTER
MERCHANT in 1951, the last of the Blythswood series which successfully served ML's main East Coast Canada/U.S. services to
Manchester throughout the 1950s and into the 60s. They were joined in 1952 and 1955 respectively by sister ships from Cammell
Laird, Birkenhead, named MANCHESTER SPINNER and MANCHESTER MARINER. Also in 1952, the decision was taken to enter the Great
Lakes trade, tonnaged by small ships led by the Cammell Laird newbuilding aptly named MANCHESTER PIONEER and her sistership
MANCHESTER EXPLORER. These 1,800 grt vessels were only 258 ft. long.
|MANCHESTER FAITH Courtesy Malcolm Cranfield & SM FEB/87
The Lakes port of Chicago was added to the itinerary in 1955 and two new motor ships were delivered the following year to
serve the port during the summer months. Named MANCHESTER VANGUARD and MANCHESTER VENTURE, they were built by AG Weser,
at Bremerhaven, with engines and accommodation aft but with the same length of 258 feet as their Cammell Laird predecessors.
During the winter, they traded to the Canary Isles by arrangement with the Yeoward Line.
The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958 led to the building of two 378 ft. 4,500 grt motor ships by Austin &
Pickersgill Ltd. of Sunderland, named MANCHESTER FAITH and MANCHESTER FAME. It is not known why the Line adopted a new livery
at this time. The traditional black hull was changed to a light green for some vessels beginning with these new ships. In
addition, the name "Manchester Liners" was painted in large letters on the ships' sides.
THE CONTAINER REVOLUTION.
The much larger Belfast-built MANCHESTER MILLER of 1959 was the first ship to be built before the start of the 'container
revolution'. She was also designed with engines aft and bridge amidships but was 468ft in length and set the trend in sporting
a twin-funnel arrangement.
|MANCHESTER MILLER - Courtesy Claude Meldrum Collection
The 'revolution' began with a series of five new ships, 502 ft long with engines and superstructure aft, delivered by Smith's
Dock, Middlesbrough, between 1963 and 1967, and designed to carry containers in addition to general cargo. The first of
these, named MANCHESTER COMMERCE, replaced the MANCHESTER TRADER in 1963 while in 1964 the pre-war MANCHESTER CITY and MANCHESTER
PORT were scrapped, replaced by a new MANCHESTER CITY and MANCHESTER RENOWN from Smith's Dock.
The Furness Withy influence was intensified in 1965 when two ships left the ML fleet for a year, the 1958-built MANCHESTER
FAITH and FAME, to become CAIRNESK and CAIRNGLEN, while three vessels joined the ML fleet from Cairn, CAIRNGOWAN of 1952 became
MANCHESTER ENGINEER for a year's charter, and the 1958 built CAIRNFORTH the MANCHESTER FREIGHTER for 4 years, while the 1952
built CAINDHU was sold to ML to become MANCHESTER EXPORTER.
In 1966, the final pre-war ship, MANCHESTER PROGRESS, was replaced by a new MANCHESTER PORT and in 1967 the last Blythswood
ships were sold, these for further trading. The MANCHESTER REGIMENT of 1947 was renamed AZURE COAST II, which was scrapped
in 1971, while the MANCHESTER MERCHANT of 1951, renamed CLEO, was lost in 1972 following a fire off Angola.
1967 was noteworthy as the year when the last semi-container ship, MANCHESTER PROGRESS, was delivered while the need for
fully cellular container ships was recognised and an order placed for three ships, of 527TEU, with Smith's dock, for delivery
in 1968/9. These ships were given red hull colours and were the first cellular container ships to be ordered from a British
yard. The MANCHESTER CHALLENGE commenced the first UK deep sea container service on 5th November 1968, linking container
terminals built at No. 9 dock, Manchester with Montreal.
The Cammell Laird built sisters MANCHESTER SPINNER of 1952 and MARINER of 1955 were sold for further trading in 1968.
1969 saw the replacement of the 1943 MANCHESTER SHIPPER and the time-chartered MANCHESTER TRADER and MANCHESTER FREIGHTER
- both transferred back to Furness Withy-by the two new container ships MANCHESTER CONCORDE and COURAGE.
A sister ship was also ordered and delivered in 1971, the MANCHESTER CRUSADE.
|MANCHESTER CHALLENGE - Courtesy Claude Meldrum Collection
The decade which followed was the most eventful in the Line's history, starting in 1970 with the successful resistance by
the Board of a complete takeover by Furness Withy. However, the Line did become a 56.3% subsidiary of Furness Withy at this
time, increased from the 42% held since 1898. Ship sales in 1970 included the ex-Cairn MANCHESTER EXPORTER of 1952, scrapped
a year later as GEMINI EXPORTER, and the 1959 built MANCHESTER FAITH and MANCHESTER FAME. These two were replaced by two
chartered Spanish flag shipsrenamed MANCHESTER MERITO and MANCHESTER RAPIDO, while a sister ship was named MANCHESTER MERCURIO
on the stocks. The MERITO was very quickly purchased by ML and renamed MANCHESTER MERIT until 1972, when renamed FORTUNA.
Also sold in 1970 was the MANCHESTER COMMERCE of 1963, the first vessel from Smith's Dock. Sold to the Chinese, she
spent 4 years under the Somali flag and niminal ownership of Yick Fung, as BER SEA bwefore being renamed YANG CHUN. She was
lying at Khorrramshahr in October of 1980 when war broke out between Iran and Iraq, was trapped and bombed.
Two ships were converted into fully cellular container ships in 1971/2, the MANCHESTER MILLER of 1959 renamed MANCHESTER
QUEST, and the last of Smith's Dock semi-container ships, MANCHESTER PROGRESS of 1967, renamed MANCHESTER CONCEPT. In addition,
the last of the line's conventional ships were sold in 1971. The MANCHESTER RENOWN and the MANCHESTER CITY of 1964 were sold
to South Korea, the former being sold to Greeks in 1978 and renamed EDESSA, while the MANCHESTER PORT of 1966 was sold to
Yugoslavia and renamed BIOKOVO.
|Courtesy Malcolm Cranfield - SM FEB/87
The second half of the 1970s were deceptively stable for ML and the Line established a new service in July 1975 to Iran via
Iskenderun. More small container ships were taken on charter for varying periods, including the German flag MANCHESTER FAITH
for two spells, in 1976/7 and 1978/83.
ML's only newbuildings which were too large to use the Manchester Ship Canal were delivered in 1977 as MANCHESTER VANGUARD
and MANCHESTER VENTURE. These 9 million pound 936 TEU container ships were designed for the worldwide charter market, but
also with the Line's North Atlantic services in mind, presumably for operation from Liverpool.
|The 'new' MANCHESTER CITY - Courtesy Claude Meldrum Collection
While the Mediterranean service continued to operate from Manchester, ML withdrew from Liverpool & Greenock in July 1981
in order to pool the North Atlantic services with Dart, in which C.Y. Tung was a one third partner, with sailings from Felixstowe.
The last four Manchester Liners proper were sold in 1982, the MANCHESTER CONCORDE of 1969 and CRUSADE of 1971 going to Char
Ching of Taiwan, MANCHESTER RENOWN being sold to Indonesia and MANCHESTER REWARD to the quaintly named 'Famous Steamship
Line', a C.Y. Tung subsidiary.
Much appreciation to Malcolm Cranfield & Claude Meldrum for text excerpts and photography.