Maritime tales - fit for a potentate

Article Featured Image

This story for me, Stephen Guy, typifies the versatility of Liverpool’s shipbuilders at the height of the innovations of the Victorian age.

The beautiful steam yacht Said was built in Liverpool for the viceroy of Egypt when the country was part of the Turkish Empire. His name was Said Pasha and he ruled the country between 1854 and 1863. Said’s reign was marked by liberal reforms which followed trends in contemporary Europe. Today he is best known for granting a concession to the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps to start building the Suez Canal. Both Said and the Turkish sultan later opposed the plan.

small wooden model of a long thin masted ship

Model of the yacht, Said

Despite official opposition, the canal linking the Mediterranean with the Red Sea was completed in 1869. It transformed sea travel between Europe and the East. Combined with the American Transcontinental Railroad completed six months earlier, the canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade, speeding up travel times across the globe.

Said tried unsuccessfully to abolish the slave trade which was long established in Egypt. However, there were too many important, wealthy people involved. 

There were successful important reforms in land ownership and taxation. The land reforms supported individual land ownership and reduced the influence of the sheiks who exercised almost feudal local powers. Said imposed direct taxation on big landowners, thus removing a burden which had rested hard on the peasants. Some land owned by the largest landowners was confiscated.

Said was born into an influential Egyptian family in 1822 and was educated in Paris. He joined the navy and became Admiral of the Fleet at an early age.

There is a very detailed builder’s model of the Said on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum. It shows the remarkably graceful lines of this elegant ship which was fit for a powerful potentate. The screw steam yacht was built of iron by Jones, Quiggin & Co of Liverpool for Said Pasha in 1858.

The 230 ft long Said was luxuriously appointed and the 1:60 scale model hints at the splendour of her unseen saloons below decks. Tiny details include her twin-bladed screw. Her 250 hp engines were of the two cylinder oscillating type, geared up to the screw shaft and made by Forrester & Co of Vauxhall, Liverpool. The 891-ton Said left Liverpool for Alexandria, Egypt, in October 1858. She must have made a splendid and exotic sight heading out of the Mersey with her white hull and two raked white funnels flanked by three masts.

A new Maritime Tale appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo.