Boy trader

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Stephen next to a model ship in a display case

Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

I had my first newspaper column when I was 18 and this paved the way to a successful 30-year career in journalism.

However, I thought I’d chosen the wrong job when I read that the pop singer Cat Stevens – who was also 18 – earned £1,000 a week (this was 1966).

My starting salary was seven guineas (£7.35) a week – and I gave my mum £2 10s (£2.50) towards household bills.

Scotsman William McAndrew was just 18 when he founded his shipping line in 1770 to import fruit and wine from Spain, Portugal and the Azores.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, he got in early at the right time. By this time people from all walks of life could afford things that were once luxuries enjoyed by the few.

The McAndrews Line was based in London and had an office in Liverpool where many of its ships berthed.

The vessels also carried general cargo and often had passenger accommodation. William had eight sons and eventually the McAndrew family sold the business to the Royal Mail Line in 1917.

At Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Liverpool: World Gateway gallery there is a model of McAndrews’ cargo liner Ravenspoint (pictured with me).

Built in 1918, she was one of the last ocean-going ships constructed on the Liverpool side of the Mersey. Ravenspoint was built at the Garston yard of Grayson’s of Liverpool and was acquired by McAndrews.

By the mid-19th century most Liverpool shipyards had been swept away to make way for docks in the booming port. A slight revival of the trade occurred in 1901 when Grayson’s opened at Garston, an area well away from the main docks.

They built a number of cargo steamers up to 3,000 tons but in 1921 the company closed and switched to ship repairs.

In 1942 the 1,787-ton Ravenspoint was sunk in Gibraltar harbour by a limpet mine but salvage teams soon refloated her.

The 1:48 scale model indicates that Ravenspoint was a sturdy, well-built ship. A wealth of detail includes hand-operated capstan and winches fore and aft.

In 1935 the McAndrews Line became part of the Andrew Weir Shipping Group. Ravenspoint continued in service with McAndrews until 1956 when she was sold to Thomas Leitch Shipping Ltd of London, renamed Elespoint and finally scrapped in 1960.

The McAndrews Line was bought by the French company CMA CGM, the world’s third largest cargo liner company. McAndrews container ships still trade regularly from Liverpool to Spain and Portugal.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents and bookshops.