Shipwrecked


| October/November 1994



'Ohope', 23 Byron Avenue, Margate, United Kingdom CT9-1TU

Our story starts during heady days of the British Empire, in the Autumn of 1906. At the world famous shipyard of Workman Clark & Company, who were sited on the banks of the River Lagan, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The firm were builders of many fine steamers and other vessels for which the United Kingdom was renown.

On the stocks and nearing completion was official number 120717the steamship 'Star of Japan,' built as a cargo steamer 440 feet long, 55 feet in the beam and drawing just over 30 feet draught and of about 6,236 tons. Quite a large vessel for this period of time. She was built to the order of Messrs. J.P.Corry & Company of London but more correctly Belfast, for the general Colonial trade and was specially arranged for the conveyance of frozen meat and other products from New Zealand and Australia. Her three main holds were insulated and fitted with refrigerating machinery. Interestingly, accommodation was provided for a number of first class passengers. Her main engines were, of course, driven by steam taken from four boilers working under How-den's forced draught principle.

The engines of 601 nominal horsepower were in the classic style of the times, i.e., a vertical triple expansion. The vessel's sea trials were completed by 2nd October, 1906, and shortly afterwards she was put to work! As already mentioned, 'Star of Japan' was owned by Messrs. J. P. Corry & Company under the name of the Star Line, i.e., all the firm's vessels started with the title of 'Star of. . . ' and the Company's activities were worldwide, having been started by James P. Corry & Company during the mid-1850s. Both J. P. Corry & Company and Workman Clark & Company had very close working and business connections over the years, both families being connected by marriage.

My interest in the 'Star of Japan' and her cargo was fired after seeing the most excellent video 'Classic British Engines' by Tim Macaire and Patrick Knight, who are well known to readers of the Stationary Engine magazine here in England. In particular, one of the oil engines on the tape is a Richard Hornsby 'Lamp Start' of 6 HP, No. 29161, of 1908, and the story is told she was 'shipwrecked' on a vessel named 'Star of Japan,' then salvaged and returned to the United Kingdom and eventually re-sold.

Having always been interested in ships and the sea, I decided that a visit to my local library was in order to see what further details could be found. A quick look at the Dictionary of Disasters at Sea, Vol. 2, by C. Hocking told me 'The British cargo ship Star of Japan was wrecked at a place called Pedro de Galle, on the west coast of Africa, on April 8th, 1908.' She was on a voyage to Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, out of London, carrying general cargo.