MV limerick
1925 - 1943

A Northern Publishing Co Ltd postcard view of the Limerick on the Mersey early in March 1926.

The motor vessel Limerick was commissioned during July 1925 for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, London.

After launching from the yard of W Hamilton & Co, Glasgow the vessel was moved to the yard of David Rowan & Co, Glasgow for the installation of the engines and other fittings. After completion Master Alan Cain took the Limerick on her maiden voyage to Australia, being operated under the auspices of the Federal Steam Navigation Line (F.S.N.).

Excluding the Aorangi, the Limerick claimed the title of having the largest set of Diesel machinery installed so far in a British vessel and to being the largest cargo-carrying motor ship afloat.

The Limerick would settle down to traditional routes - sailing between the United Kingdom & Australia and between Australia & Halifax, New York and Vancouver. Inbetween its long voyages to the UK & USA it would make visits to may Australia ports.

The Limerick's maiden voyage commenced on August 27th, departing Liverpool for Australia, via Suez. A maximum speed of 15 knots attained. En-route near Aden crewman McLeod, a greaser died from the effects of apoplexy (stroke/hemorrhage?) and was buried at sea. The vessel's arrival at Fremantle placed it squarely in the middle of an ongoing British seaman's strike. The ship was delayed here for several weeks, sailing for Port Adelaide occurred on October 30th. A ship's officer detached the morning lines and the ship departed without the assistance of any tugs. Adelaide was reached on November 4th, about 1,500 tons of cargo were unloaded.

From Adelaide the Limerick worked its way around the East Coast ports finally arriving at Townsville on December 4th to load 2,000 bales of wool and other cargo, then onto Cairns the next day to load 600 tons of frozen meat, 1,000 dry hides, four tons of wool, 20,000 feet of sawn timber and fifteen logs for various destinations. By December 14th the ship had returned to Townsville to load further cargo.

March 27th departed Liverpool, via Suez for Australia.

On arrival at Port Adelaide on May 11th a cargo inspection revealed two cases of toilet soap were empty. After a police investigation two members of the crew were arrested and charged with being in the unlawful possession of toilet soap.

August 7th departed Adelaide for the United Kingdom.

April 2nd departed Port Adelaide after unloading cargo from Liverpool, then sailed for Eastern ports. Sydney was reached on April 11th, two days later Commander Alan E. Cain, master of the Limerick was found dead in his cabin. He had been in ill health for some time and had missed the previous voyage of the Limierick to Australia. He was buried at the Waverley cemetery, Sydney.

May 23rd expected at Fremantle to load cargo and fuel prior to departure for Liverpool. Called at Aden on June 12th.

September 6th departed Aden, expected to arrive Fremantle on September 21st, to discharge explosives and to refuel. Arrived Sydney October 9th.

November 24th Fremantle - an overtime strike by dockside workers delayed the loading of wool into the Limerick prior to its return to the United Kingdom. Reported passing Perim on December 11th.

June 12th at Colon.

July 14th arrived Sydney from New York, via ports.

September 5th arrived Sydney from Queensland ports. Fremantle had been reached by September 19th - en route to the United Kingdom, wool to be loaded at Fremantle, but delayed due to waterfront troubles. On October 4th at Fremantle ship's painter David Skinner fell from a ladder into the sea and drowned whilst chipping paint. Mr Leslie Neilson, the seventh engineer witnessed the event, entered the water but could not locate Mr Skinner.

November 26th a severe weather system caused much damage and disruption in the United Kingdom and the Western Approaches. At the height of the storm the Pommern, a German training vessel with 80 cadets on board (in the English Channel?) sent out distress signals. The Cunard liner Lancastria and the Orient liner Osterley provided immediate help, whilst the Limerick, en route to London along with the Chepstow Castle stood by.

February 6th departed Halifax then February 19th - 26th in transit between New York City and the Panama Canal. Expected at Port Adelaide on April 12th, returning to Sydney to load cargo for the United Kingdom, sailed about April 20th.

May 28th departed Adelaide for the United Kingdom, cargo carried included 24,000 boxes of dried fruit, 300 bales of sheepskins and 600 hogsheads of wine. (Wrong year?)

Whilst en route from England a cracked cylinder head was sustained, a spare carried by the ship would allow quick repairs to be made. Possibly the ship would be delayed in Port Said to effect repairs. By June 29th 380 tons of cargo had been unloaded at Port Adelaide ex-Liverpool.

December 31st arrived Brisbane from New York, expected to reach Sydney by January 5th 1930.

February 12th departed Sydney for Liverpool, noted at Suez on March 23rd, expected return sailing date was May 16th.

July 10th arrived Sydney via ports from Liverpool. Sailed for Newcastle on July 13th.

November 15th departed Liverpool, December 28th expected to arrive Port Adelaide with 350 tons of cargo, then to sail to Port Pirie to unload 220 tons of cargo and to load concentrates. Expected at Melbourne January 4th 1931, then to sail for Sydney & Brisbane.

February 9th heavy rain caused flood conditions for the river at Brisbane, this caused serious problems for the larger ships in port. Three tugs were required to assist the Limerick from Borthwick's Wharf into midstream, with one tug remaining with the ship as far as Luggage Point. By February 12th the Limerick had reached Melbourne, the cargo loaded here included 4,000 cases of plums and 23,000 cases of pears. Also in the cargo were 16,021 carcasses of frozen mutton, 400 bales of wool & 24 packages of sundries (for London & Liverpool), 180 bales of skins (Dunkirk). By February 26th the vessel was stopped at Fremantle for engine repairs.

July 27th expected to arrive Melbourne with cargo from Liverpool.

February 2nd arrived in the United Kingdom.

April 5th departed Adelaide for the United Kingdom.

July 9th departed Liverpool, expected to arrive Fremantle about August 16th and Melbourne August 25th.

October 5th departed Melbourne for the United Kingdom.

December 25th departed Liverpool.

April 30th departed Liverpool. June 10th arrived Fremantle, Perth's first trolleybus was unloaded from the Limerick after three hours work, it had been loaded at Liverpool. Reached Melbourne June 19th.

July 13th due Townsville; July 17th enroute from Port Alma to Townsville, where 600 tons of frozen meat and a quantity of hides & general cargo was to be loaded before sailing for Bowen. Expected to depart Adelaide on August 11th for Fremantle, taking the Cape route to the United Kingdom.

March 1st departed Aden.

March 24th Townsville?? cargo loaded included 1,000 tons of silver lead bullion and a quantity of general cargo. April 10th arrived Brisbane after visiting Townsville, Port Alma and Gladstone. April 13th loading at Brisbane. May 2nd expected Fremantle to load a cargo of wheat before sailing for the United Kingdom.

February 26th arrived Melbourne from Liverpool.

April 8th arrived Adelaide from Sydney to load wool & general cargo.

January 12th arrived Melbourne, departed the next day via Sydney, Fiji, Apia and San Francisco for Vancouver.

March 15th departed Vancouver, expected Melbourne May 16th with general cargo from Vancouver. May 28th Mort's Dock, Sydney - Huge Sutherlands was killed after falling forty feet from the ship's deck into a hold.

February 15th arrived Sydney from Vancouver. Six passengers volunteered to become members of the crew, when 31 of her crew left the vessel at Honolulu in sympathy with American strikers. The action of the seamen and engine-room hands left the ship with a total crew, in addition to officers, of ten engineers, five stewards, three cooks, the carpenter, and wireless operator. The six passengers signified their willingness to assist in getting the vessel to New Zealand, and they performed numerous tasks on the remainder of the voyage. A fresh crew was picked up in Auckland.

November 2nd, included in the cargo being unloaded at Melbourne was a 21 passenger Douglas DC3 aeroplane for Australia National Airways, reportedly the largest aircraft to arrive in Australia to date. It was scheduled to operate on the Adelaide - Perth route.

November 10th the Limerick arrived Burnie to load 1,000 tons of concentrates for Selby, California. Vessel commanded by Captain A W Creese.

January 4th the vessel grounded at Vancouver whilst carrying a load of sugar from Fiji. Later refloated and moved to dry-dock for inspection, minimal damage occurred. The cargo of sugar was safely unloaded.

April 5th Sydney - about 25 engineers on the Limerick refused to work following demands for extra payment, claiming the dirty nature of the work involving the ship's diesel engines.

June 8th at Sydney(?) included in the cargo were three Tasmanian Devils being transported to the Los Angeles zoo.

World War Two

Convoy OC 43 Melbourne November 9th 1942 to Newcastle November 12th 1942, sevens ships, three escorts, Limerick was the largest.

Convoy GP 48, five merchant ships and two RAN minesweeper escorts from Sydney April 24th 1943 to Brisbane, but Limerick was sunk about 20 miles off Cape Byron NSW by I 177 on April 25th 1943, was largest ship in convoy and had engine problems require it to zig-zag to maintain position with the rest of the convoy. The attack was made after midnight, the torpedo hitting amidships on the port side. Despite a sharp list to port the Limerick took three hours to sink. The naval escorted rescued 72 of the 74 man crew, the 3rd & 4th engineers could not be located. The I-177 was not located by the escorts, but would be sunk eighteen months later by the USS Samuel S Miles on October 3rd 1944, with all hands lost.

Built: W Hamilton & Co, Glasgow
Launched: March 1925
Tons: ??dwt; 12,000 gross tons, ?? net tons
Length: 460ft
Breadth: 62ft 6in
Draught: 37ft 9in
Propulsion : 2 x 6ST68 Brown Sulzer diesel engines, total of 6,000bhp at 100rpm.
Auxiliary engines: steam powered.
Screws: 2
Speed: 13 knots
Crew: ??

National Library of Australia : Trove website of archived Australian Newspapers (
(on motor ship limerick next 21)
The Motor Ship October 1925
Sulzer List of Motorships approx 1933

Page added May 8th 2012:

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