Union Castle shipping line memorabilia
Introduction - for the love of ships
My father Murray McGregor was a life-long ship-lover whose main interests in ships and shipping were the four-funnelled cruisers of the Royal Navy (which were in service from the late 19th Century until the middle of the 20th Century) and the ships of the Royal Mail service between the United Kingdom and South Africa. This service lasted for more than a Century and was for that time a much-loved feature of South African sea-ports.
The people of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban looked out for the arrival of the “mail boats” with keen anticipation and certain of these ships became favourites of the locals.
Murray McGregor grew up in Sea Point, Cape Town, and was not far from the Cape Town docks. He was able to see the passing ships as they arrived in Cape Town, either from around the coast or from the United Kingdom, and of course, when they left for either the coastwise or the deep ocean trips.
As my father mentions in his memoirs, for his whole life he collected picture postcards of ships and masses of information about them. He also collected various odds and ends about ships and shipping, and was particularly fond of Union Castle Line memorabilia. His family was aware of this and so many odds and ends from Union Castle ships were kept for him. The pictures in this Hub almost all come from such sources.
They give a fascinating view of life aboard these ships and the experiences of the passengers. The accompanying pictures are of some of the items which I still have.
The oldest item that I have found among my father’s things was this Fancy Dress Ball programme card dated 15 August 1903.
Kildonan Castle 1903Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kildonan Castle 1903 &1906
I’m not sure who from his family sailed on the Kildonan Castle in 1903, but his Aunt Mina and her husband, the Rev Gerrit du Plessis certainly travelled in her in 1906, when they returned from the United Kingdom after he had been studying there. The almost identical programmes shown below are from that trip, as is the passenger list.
Kildonan Castle 1906Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grantully Castle 1922Click thumbnail to view full-size
Grantully Castle 1922
It seems that members of the McGregor family, including Gerrit and Mina (Mina was the sister of the Rev Andrew McGregor, my father’s father) went to the UK again in 1922, this time sailing in the SS Grantully Castle, an “Intermediate” ship which sailed to Europe via the East coast of Africa, rather than the more usual West coast route taken by the mailships.
The list of passengers in First Class includes the Du Plessis and three Misses McGregor, but I am not actually sure that they are of our family, though the Miss H.M. McGregor listed could be Helen Mary, daughter of Mr Justice Alex McGregor of Bloemfontein, brother of my grandfather.
Arundel Castle 1922Click thumbnail to view full-size
Arundel Castle 1922
The Du Plessis evidently returned to South Africa in November 1922 aboard the RMS Arundel Castle. Unfortunately I do not have the passenger list for that voyage, only some menu cards and baggage stickers, which indicate that they were berthed in cabin 232.
This time the Du Plessis were again travelling Second Class (I guess First Class was cheaper on the Intermediate ships), but their fare and fun were not insignificant for all that. The ship seems to have sailed from Southampton on or around 8 November 1922. The programme of events is shown below.
The Lavender Hull Mob
The above are just some of the Union Castle memorabilia I have kept from my father’s collection. My cousin Owen G. Keen has a website devoted to Union Castle matters. He, and his father before him, sailed for many years in what is called, after the hull colour of the ships the “Lavender Hull mob”.
Owen is the son of my mother’s sister Ruth, who was married to Capt CSG Keen, fondly remembered as Geff. My uncle Geff was for a long time Marine Superintendent for Union Castle at Southampton.
The link to Owen’s site is: http://union-castle.net
Another interesting site related to the Union Castle Line is http://www.allatsea.co.za/union.htm
Interesting links about ships
- Merchant Navy Nostalgia
Wonderful writings about the classic shipping lines, including Union Castle.
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