Lost with all hands

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man looking at a ship model on display in the museum

Model of the Pinar del Rio. Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo.

Ships and the sea are sources of countless stories – to me they are totally absorbing and reveal so much about seafarers and all who step aboard vessels.

I know the buildings and things linked to this particular ship – however tenuously – and we remember those who were involved.

She had fallen behind as the convoy neared its destination when the U-boat submarine struck sending her to the bottom with no survivors.

Montreal City was part of convoy ONS-152 en route from Bristol to New York when she was torpedoed by the U-591 shortly after 4 am on 21 December 1942.

Captain Edward Chanter, 31 crew members and seven gunners were lost when the 3,066-ton steamer sank off Cape Race, Canada.

Montreal City was originally called Pinar del Rio and had the distinction of being the last ship operated by the well-known Liverpool shipping line, Thomas B Royden & Co.

When she was sold and renamed in 1930, a long-established business came to an end. Thomas Royden started trading in the early 1800s when he went into partnership with a timber merchant called Bland.

Both families eventually became very wealthy and lived in fine mansions. The Roydens resided at Frankby Hall, Wirral, and the Blands at Quarry Bank, Liverpool. This later became Quarry Bank School where pupils included John Lennon and many other famous people.

The two families intermarried but the Blands were not actively involved in the company. The first iron ships were built in 1864 and in 1888 Royden’s constructed its first two steamers, the Indra and Indrani which – as their names suggest – were on the India run.

Sir Thomas Bland Royden (1831 – 1917) was the son of the shipping line founder and a Conservative politician – he served as MP for Liverpool West Toxteth.

His son, another Thomas (1871 – 1950) became the 1st Baron Royden and was later chairman of the Cunard Line. He also served as MP for Bootle.

Lord Royden’s sister was the well-known preacher and campaigner Maude Royden (1876 – 1956) who fought for women’s suffrage and campaigned for women to play a greater part in the Church of England.  Maude began the official campaign for the ordination of women in 1929.

At Merseyside Maritime Museum there is a detailed model of the 331-ft long Pinar del Rio (pictured with me). It includes finely-detailed rigging and wood and brass fittings.

Registered in Liverpool, she was built by the North of Ireland Shipbuilding Company.

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, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1 p&p UK).