On the Waterfront: ‘13 was indeed unlucky’

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Among the forgotten shipyards along the banks of the Wear was the short-lived establishment founded by David Baxter at Sand Point, North Sands, in 1881.

Trading as D Baxter and Co, his company built only 13 vessels but still maintained a reputation for building fine iron steamships.

13 was indeed an unlucky number as each ship would ultimately meet an unfortunate end.

Their first ship was the 252-ton steamer, Equity, which was launched on June 27, 1881. She was built for Jenkins and Hammond of Swansea, with her compound steam engine being supplied by R Smith of Preston.

In 1882, she was sold to French interests, initially to operate in the upper Senegal River in West Africa. While serving as a troop transport in Word War One and having been renamed Bon Songe, she struck a submerged wreck on March 13, 1917 and sank near Birvidaux lighthouse, Brittany.

Built for Luebeck Koenigsberger Steam Shipping Co, the 282-ton Kant was Baxter’s second vessel, being launched in November, 1881. Smith of Preston also supplied her engine.

She was sold to Finish owners in 1908, being renamed Lyra in 1912. Following further resale between Finnish concerns, Emmi Fock of Vaxholm, Sweden, acquired her in 1950. On November 18, that year, she ran aground south-west of Grunkallens lighthouse, later being towed to Stockholm, where she was scrapped in 1951.

Four more steamers were launched during 1882, these being Vendome (418 tons), Ellington (703 tons), Albertina and Turgenief (both 688 tons).

Vendome was a coaster, built for Dansey and Robinson of London. Her compound engines were installed at Wallsend Engineering and Slip Co Ltd. On December 4, 1888, she was wrecked off Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire, while returning from the Isle of Man to Neath in ballast. Built for Humble and Thompson of Newcastle, Ellington’s engines were supplied by Baird and Barnsley of North Shields. She sank in 1917, after being in collision with the French steamer, Calbourg, off Flamborough Head, while sailing from Leith to St Malo with a cargo of pitch. Her owner was then J and A Davidson Ltd of Aberdeen.

Albertina was constructed for Fisher, Renwick and Co of Newcastle, her compound engines being manufactured by Douglas and Grant of Kirkaldy. During her career, she also sailed under the names of Rocha, Yturri-Gorri and Orsolina. She sank after being in collision off Capri on February 28, 1928.

Turgenief was renamed Hesleyside before delivery to Charlton, McAllum and Co of Newcastle, her engines being built by R and W Hawthorn of Newcastle. She was wrecked at Sosnowetz, Poland, in 1893.

Next time, we’ll look at the fate of the other seven Baxter ships and how the yard met an early demise.