David James

Memories of Clan Line


I joined her as a first trip Cadet at Tilbury Dock in August 1948.

A twin screw steamer with triple expansion engines with exhaust turbines. She had 5 scotch boilers that could be converted to burn either oil or coal. The engine room was a hells kitchen. To service this we carried a small army of stokers, greasers and trimmers. I can't now remember the numbers in each category of this Chittagong crew but they totalled over 100 and we therefore carried a doctor.

The deck officers so far as I can remember were -

Master  ? Pengelly

C/O   John West

2/O   ????

3/O   A Campbell

4/O   C Abbott

R/O   ? Saville

Cadets  D.S.Williams


HALESEUS  (ex Clan Murdoch)

I joined this beauty in October 1949 but was moved a few weeks later.

She was then more than 30 years old and therefore lacked most modern facilities.

65 Volt DC. electrical supply.

An icebox rather than a fridge. Sheep on boatneck for slaughter during long passages.

Salt water baths with salt water soap. Fresh water by the bucket. Hot courtesy of the cook.

The bathroom shared by all deck and engine room officers had two large baths that could be filled from a salt water tap. The engineers had modified the steam heated bathroom radiator by adding a small bore copper pipe that could be bent below water level. Much bubbling.

The deckhead of the Captain's cabin was the underside of the teak deck of the bridge. It had many small leaks each one of which had a round 50s cigarette tin suspended beneath painted red or green as appropriate.

The master was Captain F.H.Thornton.


I joined her in November 1949. My first motor ship. So different to the solid but cumbersome Clan Forbes. I suspect that she was the first of the Clan opposed piston Doxford  engined vessels. Does anyone remember the Doxford song?

The MacL class seemed to have a liking for me as I sailed on Clan MacLachlan as 3/O, Clan MacLay as 2/O, Clan MacLaren and MacLachlan again as well as Clan MacLeod as C/O and after I left Clan Line in 1965 I piloted Clan Maclaren from Sunk L/V to Gravesend. Captain ? Aitcheson, ex Marine Super, Glasgow, in command.

Early in 1950 after discharge at Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Tanga we loaded a cargo of army vehicles for discharge at Mtwara. Mtwara, in what was then Tanganyika, was to be the port for the ill fated groundnut scheme but at that time undeveloped. The British government planned to cultivate the jungle and grow groundnuts. It failed. At that time there was no alongside berth so our cargo was discharged into LCTs.

This cargo consisted of 2 Shervick tractors and a large number of ex army lorries and jeep type vehicles. The Shervicks were Sherman tanks stripped of their armour and fitted with a bulldozer blade.

I regret to report that we pinched much of the fuel from these vehicles to run our motor lifeboat for beach parties. The other cadet and I learnt how to start the Shervicks and drive them around number 2 lower hold to the detriment of the hold ceiling.

The only names that I can remember are

Captain  Eric Stone

C/O   L  Pitts  (Later master of Clan Keith when she was lost)

Cadet  T. Tait.


Sung to the tune of

'MacNamara's Band'


In the chorus, place two clenched fists in front of the face, vertically one above the other, and at the words Chuff! Chuff! puff them apart to imitate an opposed piston action.

At a 'ships party' six females (or anyone) would be numbered 1 to 6 and during the chorus, with hands on heads with elbows sticking out (to immitate the Doxford piston's transverse beam), the "conductor" would get them to bob up and down in the firing order that he called, to replicate the action of the engine!

1. Oh my name is William Doxford and I come from Sunder-land

They say my diesel engine is the finest in the land

The pistons bang, the cranks go clang and the camshaft grinds away

And it's the bestest engine you could hear about today


Dah dah dah dah Chuff! Chuff! Dah dah dah dah Chuff! Chuff!

Dah dah dah dah Chuff! Chuff! Dah dah dah dah.

Dah dah dah dah Chuff! Chuff! Dah Dah Dah - Dah

With action and reaction we'll go sailing on our way.

2. To see our engines functionals we open up a door

We find more cranks and crossheads than we've ever seen before

And then we pull the pistons out to calibrate the bore

And here for us to work on there are piston rings galore


Dah dah dah Chuff! Chuff! Etc.

3. We calculate the horsepower by scientific means

With bits of string and paper wound on little round machines

We measure round the diagrams the power it should tell

The outcome's automatic but the engine's aw' ta hell


Dah dah dah etc.

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