Gerry Ryan

Email 30th July 2008

I had a very good browse recently and looked up so many names I had known. I have been inspired to put finger to keyboard to pen you a few lines. My service with U-C started in July 57 with a two month staff period in Soton before sailing on Winchester. After five years with EDs (Elder Dempster's) it was a different world.

Batchy LLoyd was the scooter riding Master,   Peter Carter 1/O, Jeremy Parkin 2/O, Tony Barnes was 3/O with myself as a lowly J/4/O. You have been on the ship, but I found the lifeboat races in PE memorable.  Passing smokey old Arundel near the Equator also stands out.   

Bos'un Brown was a character, one trip the officers challenged the crew to a tug of war, and Bos'un Brown organised two pretty girls in the shortest shorts to walk past our team just as we were pulling. needless to say, we lost!   After five voyages I moved to Drakensberg bound for E. Africa.   It was so hot in the Red Sea we all slept on deck.

On Oct 20 1958 I joined Bloem (Bloemfontein Castle) as 4/O for a voyage to Beira and back via the Cape.  This was just before she was sold to the Greeks.   I remember that we crossed from London to Rotterdam before proceeding S and I used VHF Radio for the first time.   Capt Wilford was the Master but other names escape me.  

I then spent 18 months on the reefers as 3/O and 2/O starting with Roslin with Charlie Lorains. He was too mean to stop for fresh water on a slow trip to LM and created a minor mutiny with water rationing for the crew. Next was Rowallan, Bill Anson Master and then two trips on Riebeeck with Piggy Carr. That second voyage I was promoted to 2/O at the princely salary of £60 per month.  Rhodesia was my next ship, out E back W. I managed to get ashore at St Helena to visit Napoleon's tomb.   I also remember that Scotch was 5/-  and gin 2/6 per bottle at Ascension! Lady May Cambridge was the Master.

Being RNR he ran the Crossing the Line ceremony like a Naval operation. The instructions were --- No running, jumping, singing or shouting all delivered with a slight lisp. On July 3 1961 I joined Tintagel  in Birkenhead as 2/O. Unfortunately I cannot remember much of that voyage.

Three very happy trips on the Warwick followed. I met my wife on the second one. Gerald Stephenson was Master for the first two trips and Frankie Pye for the last. I left Warwick for Cass (Sir John Cass College, London) to take Masters but had hardly started when the Summer hols started so I trotted down to St Mary Axe to beg for a trip out to SA to see Yvonne. Capt Culpin arranged a trip on the Athlone the first time he had been asked by someone to actually go to sea!   On Nov 12 1962 I passed Masters and joined Transvaal as J/2/O on Dec 19, Alec Hort master. He was relieved by N. Lloyd. When I arrived in Soton on 24 May 1963 I thought it would be my last voyage as I had resigned in preparation for emigration to SA and my marriage. My contract did not expire until June 21 so I was asked to do a coastal on the Kinnaird from Hull to Glasgow.

My six years with UC were very happy ones. The food was excellent, the pay good, we were treated like gentlemen and I for one gave of my very best.   It is sad that this once vibrant and profitable shipping co is no more.

As you probably know I retired in Dec 1997 worked on until mid 2001 and am now relaxing on a golf estate in Hillcrest 35 km from Durban and 700m above the sea.




Service Record



Winchester Castle

Jnr 4th Officer



Drakensberg Castle



Bloemfontein Castle

4th Officer



Roslin Castle

3rd Officer


Tantallon Castle

3rd Officer

Rowallan Castle

3rd Officer

Riebeeck Castle

2nd Officer

Rhodesia Castle

Jnr 2nd Officer

Tintagel Castle

2nd Officer


Warwick Castle

Jnr 2nd Officer


Athlone Castle

Jnr 2nd Officer



Transvaal Castle

Jnr 2nd Officer



Kinnaird Castle

2nd Officer



Left company


Union-Castle Home Page
Group Register