MacInnes Ships

When readers of this newsletter see the name Clan MacInnes, they may well think of our heritage or the association we are members of. However, those with an interest in the sea may well think of ships that bear the same name. 'Clan MacInnes' once sailed the high seas, belonging to a company called The Clan Line, whose ship names were themed mainly on Scottish clans.

The Clan Line story starts with a Charles Cayzer who set up a shipping business in Liverpool in 1877 to take passengers between Britain and Mumbai (then called Bombay) via the Suez Canal in wooden boats. A year later Captain William Irvine joined the company, and with backing from the Glasgow merchant John Muir, Cayzer Irvine and Company was set up. The first clan-named ship, The Clan Alpine, was launched in 1878. In 1881 the Clan Line Association of Steamers was created, operating out of Hope Street in Glasgow. Cayzer Irvine built and managed ships for the new company, though Charles Cayzer owned the existing six ships. William Irvine died in 1879 after only a year into the venture.

The Clan Line added South Africa to its routes and by 1890 was called the Clan Line of Steamers Ltd. The company bought the Persian Gulf Steam Ship Company in 1894, adding four more ships to expand its business into the Persian Gulf and North America. By this time, they were carrying cargo as well as passengers. The Clan Line continued as part of Cayzer Irvine with Charles Cayzer at the helm until his death in 1916, when his sons took over. By this time Clan Line Steamers was a limited liability company and Australia had been added to the routes. By World War Two, the Clan Line was one of the largest shipping companies in the world.

During both world wars, a large number of Clan Line ships were requisitioned by the British government to ship supplies to Britain, nicknamed 'The Scots Navy.' Some were requisitioned in 1942 by the Royal Navy whilst still under construction and converted to naval use, suitably renamed. Losses were suffered in both wars with as many as 28 in WW1 and 30 in WWII, lost to mines, U-boats or air attacks. After both wars the fleet was rebuilt either from new commissions or buying existing ships, some as part of takeovers of smaller companies.

After WWII, the company amalgamated with other lines in 1956, including the Union-Castle Line and the King Line, but its own days were numbered. Passenger shipping gave way to air transport, cargo shipping became containerized, and later came air freight. Cayzer Irvine diversified into other areas, including air transport, hotels, timber, finance and investments as the shipping part of the business declined. Clan Line still had 45 ships in 1965, but by 1961 the shipping part of the business ceased trading. The last journey was made by SS Clan MacGregor.

The Maclnnes name featured on three separate ships of the Clan Line. The latter two were built by the Greenock Dockyard Company, another Cayzer Irvine acquisition. The first SS Clan Maclnnes, a 3,755-ton ship, dates to 1907. It was purchased from Chesapeake & Ohio Steamship Company and renamed Clan Maclnnes. In 1914 the SS Clan MacInnes was sold to a company called Furness Withy, still in shipping today. The second SS Clan Maclnnes was a larger 4,672 tons and was built in 1920. In 1947 it was sold to Noemijulia Steamship Company, renamed San George and later Siva Shambu, then scrapped in 1955. The last MacInnes ship was built in 1952 and came in at 6,559 tons. It was sold to Lebanon in 1978 and was subsequently renamed Athoub and scrapped in 1979. In 1978, the year Clan Maclnnes3 was sold, the Clan Line business suffered its first trading loss. As the company moved out of the shipping sector, the rest of the fleet was sold, the last one in 1981. The Clan Line ceased to exist.

My father's eldest brother, Captain Allan John MacInnes, retired from Cayzer Irvine in 1972 having served the company for 47 years, including captaining clan-named ships, sadly not one that shared his name.

Text by Torquil MacInnes

The three Clan MacInnes ships, tonage and description

CLAN MACINNES - the 1920 version

Yard No: 727
Current Name: SIVA-SHAMBU
Previous Names: 1920 - 1947 CLAN MACINNES / 1947 - 1951 SAN GEORGE / 1951 - 1955 SIVA SHAMBU
Port of Registry: Glasgow
Shipbuilder: Lithgows Port Glasgow
Engine Builder: Rankin & Blackmore, Greenock
Propulsion: Triple Expansion Steam, 517nhp
Launched: 06 November 1919
Built: 1920
Ship Type: General Cargo Ship

Tonnage: 4672 grt
Length: 384.8 feet
Breadth: 52.0 feet
Draught: 26.7 feet
Owner: Clan Line Steamers Ltd, Glasgow / Noemijulia SS Co Ltd / Kenfig SS Co Ltd / Indian National SS Co Ltd
Status: Scrapped in India- 1955

The 1952 Clan MacInnes ship. These are photos or postcards of the ship.
This ship was builit in Greenock, a famous ship building yard.


Article by Torquil MacInnes, Clan Archer publication Spring 2018.
Pictures and other information from the internet by Steve McKinnis