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Union Castle shipping line memorabilia

Updated on September 21, 2012
The Kildonan Castle
The Kildonan Castle

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 1903

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This rather charming item still has the tiny pencil attached with which to write the names of potential dance partners into the applicable dancesThe inside pages of the programmeThe passengers had a grand supper before the Fancy Dress Ball that evening
This rather charming item still has the tiny pencil attached with which to write the names of potential dance partners into the applicable dances
This rather charming item still has the tiny pencil attached with which to write the names of potential dance partners into the applicable dances
The inside pages of the programme
The inside pages of the programme
The passengers had a grand supper before the Fancy Dress Ball that evening
The passengers had a grand supper before the Fancy Dress Ball that evening

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 1906

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The cover of the fancy dress dance programme for 14 June 1906The inside of the programme. Interestingly the programme of dances is not the same as that of 1903 above.The cover of the passenger listThe first page of the passenger listThe list of passengers in the Second Class Saloon. The Du Plessis' names are in the second column.The back cover of the passenger list
The cover of the fancy dress dance programme for 14 June 1906
The cover of the fancy dress dance programme for 14 June 1906
The inside of the programme. Interestingly the programme of dances is not the same as that of 1903 above.
The inside of the programme. Interestingly the programme of dances is not the same as that of 1903 above.
The cover of the passenger list
The cover of the passenger list
The first page of the passenger list
The first page of the passenger list
The list of passengers in the Second Class Saloon. The Du Plessis' names are in the second column.
The list of passengers in the Second Class Saloon. The Du Plessis' names are in the second column.
The back cover of the passenger list
The back cover of the passenger list

Grantully Castle 1922

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Front cover of the passenger listFirst page of the pasenger listThe list of First Class passengers. The Du Plessis' names are in the third column from the left.The passengers evidently had a lot of fun on the voyage, as shown by the Programme of Sports and EventsThe Bishop Gwynne listed in the passenger list and shown as the Vice President on the programme cover above, was Llewellyn Henry Gwynn, CBG, CBE, who was at the time Lord Bishop of Egypt and the Soudan (sic).
Front cover of the passenger list
Front cover of the passenger list
First page of the pasenger list
First page of the pasenger list
The list of First Class passengers. The Du Plessis' names are in the third column from the left.
The list of First Class passengers. The Du Plessis' names are in the third column from the left.
The passengers evidently had a lot of fun on the voyage, as shown by the Programme of Sports and Events
The passengers evidently had a lot of fun on the voyage, as shown by the Programme of Sports and Events
The Bishop Gwynne listed in the passenger list and shown as the Vice President on the programme cover above, was Llewellyn Henry Gwynn, CBG, CBE, who was at the time Lord Bishop of Egypt and the Soudan (sic).
The Bishop Gwynne listed in the passenger list and shown as the Vice President on the programme cover above, was Llewellyn Henry Gwynn, CBG, CBE, who was at the time Lord Bishop of Egypt and the Soudan (sic).

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 1922

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Baggage sticker
Baggage sticker
Baggage sticker

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

Comments

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    • profile image

      lee barnett 

      2 years ago

      I have union castle line menus 4 from sept 1930 and 1 from oct 1930 , these are original , could some one let me know if they are worth anything . billylee1r@hotmail.com

    • profile image

      France's-Gaye inggs 

      3 years ago

      I have a. Ships of the line book which lists all ships their tonnages how many passengers cargo etc all Union castle ships for 1938 it is handwritten one of a kind. Can anybody tell me what it is worth my email is gayeinggs@gmail.com thanks

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      3 years ago from South Africa

      The Union Castle Line no longer exists. I'm really not sure of the value of these items to be honest

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 

      3 years ago

      Very interesting - are these shipping memorabilia now defunct or something? Are they valuable, as in, could one find any on eBay?

      https://hubpages.com/travel/7-Amazing-Cruise-Ship-...

    • profile image

      Chris May 

      4 years ago

      My family are looking to sell their collection of SA Oranje memorabilia - are there collectors out there who are interested? If so, please contact me at cmmay@hotmail.co.uk

      Thank you!

    • profile image

      KAREN 

      5 years ago

      I have a very old roll top desk and I found an old miniature Union-Castle Line pencil in it...

    • profile image

      ckanka 

      6 years ago

      i have a triple dipped silver pail from union castle lines during ww11.how valuable would this be?

    • profile image

      Gary Kurten 

      6 years ago

      I have a set of Union-Castle Line playing cards still in the original packaging. There is a code, OTW/548 printed on the back of the box. Would there be anyone interested in these?

    • profile image

      J H Maarschalk 

      6 years ago

      I have a Union Castle Line Tuesday February 23 rd 1971 menu signed by certain passengers and a list of passengers R M S Pendennis Castle Is there any value on these or collectable?

    • profile image

      Margi 

      6 years ago

      Hi Tony, my Dad Norman Baard knew Murray. Norman was secretary for Ship Society formany years. I have LAST voyage of SA Oranje menus (Ship society memebers went on this cruise form CT to Durban) signed by the captian. the cabin key as well. Any idea of the value. I wish to donate funds to Ship Society in memory of Norman. Best regards Margi Daly

    • profile image

      ian potter 

      7 years ago

      My Dad worked as insurance dept manager approx 1950/1970

      He was member of swimming club..won river race...I have union castle postcards etc..[my dads name Eric Potter]

      my email..ianpotter100@hotmail.com...Would like contact

      THANKS IAN

    • profile image

      maxine reeves  

      7 years ago

      i have a few pieces of union castle line inscribed cutlery and i wondered if anyone would be interested in it.e-mail maxinereeves@hotmail.co.uk

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Ian - thanks for the comment and the link. I have added it to the Hub.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • profile image

      Ian Coombe ex U-C R/O 

      8 years ago

      Perhaps your readers would like to see some of the 'lavender hull' mob on my web site.

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Josh - you could email the pix to me and I would tell you what I can about them. Just click the "Contact tonymac04" button above.

      Thanks for the visit.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • profile image

      joshua 

      8 years ago

      hey there, i have found an old pack of 'Union Castle' playing cards, and i was wondering if i could email anyone some pictures of them, and they might be about to tell me something about them maybe?

      thanks heaps

      Josh

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Bill - thanks for stopping by and leaving such an interesting comment. I appreciate that very much.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • profile image

      bill flint 

      8 years ago

      my grandfather served on the grantully castle in aug 1937

      1938/39 as a lamp trimmer and other boats of that line and am always looking to find bits from ships that i know he was on regards bill

    • profile image

      glynhew40 

      9 years ago

      Some slight problem finding this, Tony, but wonderfully evocative and hugely enjoyable to browse - in particular the links to the other sites too. I love the way you have added in the commentary so clearly and informatively. A real delight to read and work through. I will work my way into hub pages - it is a bit intimdating at first like just trying to find a route into your writing. I shall get there.

      Love to you all as always

      Glyn

    • bgamall profile image

      Gary Anderson 

      9 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Very nice collection. I am sure it kindles memories. Thanks for being friends, Tony. Gary

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