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Saturday, 8 July 2017

Sail Training Ship MERCATOR

It has been some time since I have been able to spend anytime on the Blog or the website, but happy to let you all know about the latest developments on another old ship built at Leith.

New lease of life for the last ship built at the famous Ramage & Ferguson shipyard, at Leith, Scotland.


Launched from the Leith Shipyard in December 1931 she was Ship No 269 according to the official shipbuilders list, she was an order from the Belgian Government for a 3 masted Barqentine for use as a sail training ship to be used by the Belgian Navy.

A barquentine is a sailing vessel with three or more masts; with a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main, mizzen and any other masts.
Ideal for sail training along with the advantage of having a smaller crew than a full rigged ship, they are capable of very good performance before the wind, along with the ability to sail relatively close to the wind.

The MERCATOR is a very striking looking ship that required extensive work after a long period of lay-up at the port of Ostend.

MERCATOR seen here at her berth in Ostend, Belgium
(Photograph from the official Mercator website)

Her extensive re-fit was carried out in Ostend, Belgium by
IDP Shipyard  (Industries des pĂȘcheries)

They did the masts and the rigging a few years ago. While last year they carried out repairs, cleaning and panting of the hull along with a complete refit of her inside, with the cost of the whole operation costing around 3.4 million Euro. She is now back at her berth in Ostend open to the public, who as you will see in the video below came out in great numbers to welcome the old Leith built ship home.

Return of the Mercator to Ostend

If you happen to be in Ostend and wish to be shown around the ship and the surrounding area then we would recommend that you contact Joris Surmont, who is a very knowledgeable guide working in Ostend with very good English as well, you can find more details of his guided tours below, just click on the link to be taken right there.

You can also visit the official MERCATOR museum site here at

She is a testimony to the men who built her at Leith, now eighty five (85) years after she first entered the waters of the Firth of Fourth and still going strong, she is supported by a marvellous organisation along with many volunteers who will ensure she goes on for many more years.

Saturday, 11 February 2017


The SS Gothland
“I spent some time as a young steward on this vessel,, and much of the time pulling men out of the north Atlantic and unfortunately attending their burial the next day This ship survived the war due, to its small tonnage. It is my belief that the (new) Artic Medal be awarded to its past crew members. The British historic organisation responsible for the awards is sadly and seemingly unaware of this vessel proud war history” John Hunter an old codger born in Leith

The GOTHLAND underway

 For more on the brave tales of the men who served on the rescue Ship SS GOTHLAND

The above was sent into the website by John Hunter now in Australia but originally from Leith. With more comment below, and indeed the crews of such vessels deserve all the praise possible and any medals going, the fact that someone has to contact through an unofficial website is a disgrace and perhaps something the Edinburgh Council members would wish to take up on there behalf, after all they are always looking into my website, although never any offer to pay anything towards the upkeep, so no surprises there.

 The inside of the SS GOTHLAND converted with extra bunks to take on rescued seafarers from the ships sunk while in convoy during World War Two, many a survivor would have been glad of such a bunk.

The above photograph is from the Imperial War Museum showing the ship while on resue practice sometime in February 1943

Rescue practise in the Clyde in 1943 in another Imperial War Museum photograph taken during practise exercises and showing how they would bring a survivor back on board, of course this was carried out for the camera in a calm sea, these men had to do the same in all kinds of weather with the constant threat that the German U-Boats may also have them in there sights, after sinking many of the ships in convoy.

At the rear of South Leith Church flies the Red Ensign of a courageous little ship that took part in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. Remarkable not for the great battles that it took part in but for saving men’s life’s at Sea.

They should all get medals, every last man who served in this dangerous mission of saving life at sea during wartime.

Monday, 6 February 2017

On the Beach at 47 years old

As with the vast majority of ships built they all eventually end up at the breakers yard (some may be lucky and get restored or preserved for the future generations to wander around and wonder at the workmanship) and is the case with the MV SPEEDWAY Ship No 507

With the name of
AHMAD N. (IMO 7011462) she was beached at plot 29 Alang 5th February 2017

Almost 47 years to the day she was launched from the Leith Shipyards at that time going under the name of Robb Caledon she was launched on 18th Feb 1970 and run onto the beach to be broken up after a very long working life.

I wonder just how many Chinese built ships of today will still be around in another 47 years time, not very many would be a resonable answer if any.